The story of “Laura’s Song” is two-fold. The first part involves a garage sale last spring where we found an ancient German 6-string banjo, branded Korri. Despite it’s less-than-playable condition at the time, we fell in love with it and probably overpaid. Though if I’ve learned anything about buying new gear it’s that, given all the stuff I buy that she begrudgingly puts up with, I damn well better buy the odd thing Laura actually likes.
The second part stems from wanting my partner-in-crime more involved in the writing/recording process. She’s become so integral on stage that it’s time we really showcased her on a release (that and after every show people always say “why doesn’t Laura sing more?” …jerks).
We were looking for a simple, bouncy ditty to end the new album and it seemed Laura was inspired by that beautiful relic of vaudevillian charm we’d had hanging on our wall for months, so the aptly titled “Laura’s Song” was born.
This demo is the two of us huddled in the living room around the on-board mics of our Zoom R24. She’s got the six-string banjo and I’ve got an old Casio.
The closer we get to going into the studio to record the new album the more I feel the need to post demos for some feedback. “Stan & Georgie” in particular has been a live favourite since we started playing it last spring. Personally, I enjoy watching audience members try to clap along and then pull the rug out from under them*.
The song itself is simple in accompaniment and details the faulty foundation and ultimately bitter dissolution of an elderly romance. The bridge lyrics and title are borrowed from the classic traditional tune “Frankie & Albert” (Look up the Taj Mahal version if you want a thrill).
As for the recording, this demo comes from the same live reel we recorded in our living room that yielded both “Tortoise” and “People.” You can hear the old analog trappings at work during the bridge, as the tape garbles lovingly.
For the album version I doubt we’ll add to much, but feel free to leave suggestions!
*There’s a funny video from one of our recent sets at Broadview Espresso where a good friend of ours started clapping along just as I switched back to the verse. I couldn’t hold in my laughter and had to pause the song to recuperate.
Sometimes a song takes a while settle. This particular tune has been around in various forms longer than just about anything on …Makes Ghost Noises, but didn’t make the cut for that album because it just wasn’t ready. I had pretty much written it off as tied too heavily to a specific time and place.
It’s amazing what a slight tweak can do (…or in this case completely ditching the chorus along with a change in tempo).
Suddenly the newly christened “She Said (to the Robot)*” has become a song that we’re not only excited to debut tonight at Rancho Relaxo, but also to have on our soon to be recorded new album.
As for the demo itself, Laura was away, so it’s just me doing my best “reverberated Springsteen.” It was her decision to put it up as is, but I can assure you that she’s got some backing “oohs” in the new arrangement that will make you melt.
Oh, and forgive the huge cough at the end. I was really sick when this was recorded and could barely make it through the take without hacking up a lung. Whiskey was the only thing keeping me going…
The result is a live demo of “People.” This is one of our newest songs and has only been tried live once or twice, but will probably be the most irreverent and playful on the new album.
As usual, it features yours truly on my Hollowbody Saturn and homemade 5F2-A amp with a tambourine on my foot, and Laura on Polysix—she came up with the idea for the second half based on that sweet organ sound. Oh, and apologies for the f-bombs at the end…it’s a fun way to close out the song, but we’re still deciding if they should make it to the album version or not.
Everyone’s always optimistic in early January. After all, there’s a shiny new year ahead of you brimming with potential. Of course, you have to wonder what became of the promises of the year before, and the year before that…
The result is a first attempt at “Little Dragon Slayer,”* a song based around a guitar progression somewhere between Stan Rogers and Velvet Underground, but haphazardly arranged on the spot for the keys. Laura’s backup vocals and Anna Atkinson‘s viola give a much needed classy contrast to my club-fisted and graceless bashing of the piano.
*We couldn’t decide on a name for this one, so opened it up to our friends on Twitter. Their great suggestions (almost went with “No Treasure”) turned us away from the obvious and also helped decide whether “Dragon Slayer” should be one word or two.
In honour of the festive season, here’s a guitar pedal I built a while back that has become a necessity live. It’s a homemade Snow White Auto Wah on one side with an Easy Drive distortion on the other. I call him Santa Wahs (I hope that’s an obvious enough pun for you…)—makes for some very funky Jingle Bell Rock.
In fact, the wah portion featured heavily in the recording of “Hot Air Balloons (and Submarines).” You can hear it mostly in the lead guitar (along with a homemade phaser, for extra warble—starts about 13 seconds in).
Also, for Laura’s sake, let it be known that she sat patiently nailing her glockenspiel and vocal parts while I bumbled through take after take (listen to how happy she is at the end to have finally made it through the song). She’s the rock, I’m the roll.
A few months ago we came across an old Fostex R8 1/4″ reel to reel recorder with matching mixer for a great deal. I’ve been wanting to try analog recording for a while, so this was perfect—there’s something just so damn satisfying about hitting a big “record” button and watching reels spin instead of clicking a mouse around.
We set it up in our apartment a few weeks ago and recorded an entire tape of live demos with a bunch of mics strewn about the room. “Tortoise” is the best of the bunch. It features Laura on backups and Korg Polysix/shaker and myself on hollowbody guitar through my little homemade Fender Princeton with a tambourine on my foot.
“Tortoise” is a live staple these days and also likely the title track for our next album.
2005. Taiwan. I’ve got a thrift-store Vivitar camcorder microphone* balancing off the back of a kitchen chair. The acoustic guitar in my hands is an Ibanez that I bought used and wouldn’t make the trip back to Canada with me.
Always one of my favourite songs, this recording of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is one of the earliest recordings I’ve got that I don’t cringe at. Played and sung in one take (screw-ups intact) while hoping the mic didn’t fall off the chair, the backwards guitar and sputtering distortion was added afterward.
It’s funny the things you find buried in your FTP when building a new website…