A STUDY ON THE WESLEY HOOK and THE INDIE POP SONG. We’ve written you an indie pop song. Yay!
First of all: I’m feeling very overwhelmed by the generosity of the artists who have thus far participated in this project with me. So many hours are being spent writing and recording these songs: every single musician I have worked with has been so generous, giving, and enthusiastic. I’m so honored, and, frankly, feel very undeserving. Very undeserving. Thank you so much.
*This is a revised article. The original posting is still here, but, as you’ll read, I started falling asleep. This morning at 6:30, I am making additions with a new, rested capacity for thinking in complete sentences.
Just a little bit about hooks today. I’m not really good at them and, frankly, have avoided them because I always had it in my mind that it was a sell-out gesture (not true! Hooks can help drive a song’s direction and aid in people remembering it for all time!), but my dear friend and Pearl and the Beard manager is great at identifying a hook. (A great example is contained in the song Lost in Singapore [accordion by Franz Nicolay!] from PatB’s album, God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richarson. The music box plays a melody that Wes’ came up with!) So, I asked him to write a song with me. (As a side: Nadia Ali, my ultra gorgeous, incredible singer friend, is FAMOUS for creating hooks. We spent a good chunk of time once going through her iPod identifying hooks as a help for me. I never realized Radiohead hooked so much in their music. It was a weird realization for me.)
I’ve just had a really lovely evening with Wes Verhoeve of Family Records‘ fame, PatB’s friendly family record label. Wesley V., the Dutchman, and Family Records, has taken Pearl and the Beard under their wing, fostering us and our music. We love him. I thought it only made sense to ask him if he would write a song with me for the 365.
Hook: A means of attracting interest or attention; an enticement.
The Construction: I met Wes at his office at Engine Room Audio down by Battery Park at about 3:30. (Though we were in an office that had a $1,000,000 recording studio, we were across the hall using my crappy little stereo mic and garageband: it was awesome! I much prefer this to a studio at the moment.) We worked until about 10:00 pm. We began writing at about 4:00. Wes had in mind a specific topic for this song, and we used a lot of images from Wes’ experiences in a relationship from a while back which were very endearing and lovely. This song was really challenging for me lyrically. Wes brought with him an interesting guitar riff he’d had on him for a while which we began molding into the start of our song. Again, I was challenged by the style of speech the song was requiring, as my writing is much more cryptic usually, so this required a lot of my brain power to come up with something a little more Ben Gibbard than EHP. So, I did my best. A lot of inspiration actually came a Death Cab for Cutie song. I like Death Cab for Cutie, but I’m only a casual listener, and I’m not totally familiar with the specifics of their music. I did my best to keep up, drawing from things in my past that I thought paralleled.
Early on, we decided that we’d split things up: he would write and sing in his perspective, and I would write and sing in the girl’s perspective. I found a good the chorus, and he shaped hooks and found initial melodies and together, we finessed it as a whole, finding our own voice within a conversation between two people who once were lovers, now meeting as friends. (I’m really proud of those chorus lyrics, actually. I literally asked myself, “What would Ben Gibbard say right at this moment?” I’m not sure that’s exactly what he would say, but that’s what I would say thinking of myself as B.G.) These kinds of songs based on someone else’s actual event can be difficult I’m finding. In order to choose language and make smart word choices that I enjoy hearing and reading, I have to dig around in my own actual event, too, or use empathy. I used a lot of empathy here: How would it feel if this happened to me? If I were this woman, what would I say? How would I think? It’s a fascinating study in the human mind and healing actually. Also, I found my own intensely personal experiences turning up inspiration like dry wells, but the experiences I haven’t really weighted as being that significant are helping me out the most in this circumstance. This isn’t always the case but certainly was here.
Recording: Initially we wanted to track the song (do everything separately), so we initially recorded the guitar first, then laid down Wes’ vocals. (I’m am learning I need to organize my time better for this project when it comes to recording. I haven’t been very realistic. It needs to take less time or we’re both just too tired at the end of it all.) I realized after finishing all the recording that it was 10:00 and there was no way I was going to be able to make it home, over-dub my vocals, a cello part, maybe something else, mix everything and write about the song before tomorrow. So, solution No. 2 was to just record it live, which is what you’re hearing here. I would have loved to have recorded cello on this or redo my vocals because they’re very quiet and hard to understand, but it will have to wait. When I got home, I had Jon listen to the basic mix I did on the one live track. Not getting home until 11:30, I was already discouraged and frustrated and felt I didn’t have enough time, he said, “It sounds great and lo-fi. Ben Gibbard did the same thing in his basement on a 4 track recorder.” Maybe it’s a good sign?
I must tell you, it is taking me quite a bit of personal persuasion to not stay up half the night rerecording this or that or trying different instrumentation. (I, personally, am shuddering at my performance in this song. But, whatever.) It needs major cleaning up: I messed up on the end when we performed it live. Wes was supposed to sing that by himself, so we overdubbed his last vocal, but as I tried to put it in, it sounded just slapped in there no matter what tricks I tried and now it sticks out like a sore thumb. I will revisit this song, but in the meantime I did my best with what I have to give today. Today will have to be one of those songs that needs to be an uber-demo song, so I apologize if the experience listening to this song isn’t as nice as it could be.
I don’t think I have been to bed before 3 am in the past week and a half, and my body wakes me up at 6 am. Literally. Even then I can’t get back to sleep, so I’ve just been staying up all day until the next night when it’s 3 am again. (I’m falling asleep at the computer!) I need sleep or I won’t make it through tomorrow, so I’m offering this song to you as a very low-fi version of a pop song. So I’m off to bed then:
THANK YOU WES! I HAD SUCH A GREAT TIME WRITING THIS SONG WITH YOU! YOU’RE THE BEST!
So, tonight I’m ending it here, with a kiss goodnight to you and see you tomorrow!