Hold On

Fitz Pub

 

LYRICS:  Good lovin’ ain’t that hard to find, but it’s hard to hold onto, & what they never tell ya, the best things in life are free, but that don’t mean they’re easy, & yes it’s true that the times they are a-changin’, but people stay the same, & that’s just the way it is, so hold on to the love you know is true.

INTERPRETATION:  “Love is the crazy, mad, & perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life, of seeing it as worthy of our embrace…”  ~Peter Rollins

INSPIRATION:  it’s only fitting that I quote an Irishman above, as Hold On was inspired by & written within an Irish Pub.  While playing an open mic session back in the mid 00’s, one of the pub patrons drunkenly suggested that I write a song on the spot, which I agreed to – provided that the rowdy audience would join me in song.  I channeled my inner-Damien Rice & began to play a slow four-chord waltz, assigning a simple la de da refrain to the audience.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t a complete disaster.

INSIGHT:  The original intention for Hold On was to track the song with live gang vocals for the sing-along sections, though after tracking guitars, the arrangement began to feel somewhat mechanical.  Matt & I eventually decided to record the song in one live performance to naturalize the tone, echoing the song’s initial inception.  Ironically, the gang vocals became the tracks we overdubbed – & by we, I’m referring to Matt & I repeatedly recording the la de da refrain… purposely out of tune… purposely out of time… & purposely un-sober.  & to top it all off, the marvelously multifaceted Mrs. Amy Lynn Hess provided some kick ass brass to round everything out.

Bittersweet

Bittersweet

 

LYRICS:  What I learned from love left a bitter taste in my mouth, but it was just enough to keep me coming back for more…

INTERPRETATION:  “You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you’ll know what love truly is – it’s the sour AND the sweet.  & I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet…”

~Brian Shelby (Vanilla Sky)

Of all human experience, love is perhaps the most immutable.  Regardless of how potentially devastating its ramifications, we’re inevitably drawn to the elusive, yet existential essence of its nature; something readily manifest, despite its mystery.

INSPIRATION:  Like many tracks on Shadowlands, Bittersweet was largely influenced by the abstract minimalism of a passing thought.  Much as I love progressive long-form songs & thoroughly layered productions, I’m also very intrigued by the concept of simplicity, both thematically & structurally.

INSIGHT:  Bittersweet was recorded live with one room mic.  That track was then run through a digital bit crusher in post-production, which accounts for the tone’s warm distortion (aka the bitter).  Matt then added a few subtle alternate chord voicings near the end of the track using a syrupy chorus effect (aka the sweet).  Bittersweet is also something of a sister-piece to Forty-Four Divide, as their chording patterns are intentionally very similar.

Waterfall

TP Waterfall

 

LYRICS:  Tears flow like a waterfall, drown the pain in alcohol, there’s nothing left to fear at all, because there’s nothing left to feel at all, the cliffs will break my lengthy fall.  Oh, here I come.

INTERPRETATION:  “Dying is an art, like everything else… I do it exceptionally well.”  ~Sylvia Plath

Waterfall is my minimalist variant of a murder ballad.

INSPIRATION:  For all its moody melodrama, Waterfall was initially motivated by a tongue-in-cheek jest.  While playing a solo gig some years ago, an audience member commented on how depressing my songs are.  I responded by saying that I don’t intentionally set out to write sad songs, they just usually end up that way.  The audience member then quipped, “Well then, I’d hate to hear how depressing your intentionally-written sad songs would be!”  I laughed, & told the audience that I was now determined to write a song solely predicated on gratuitous sadness.

INSIGHT:  Like many of Shadowlands’ more minimal compositions, Waterfall was tracked live with one room mic.  Matt & I wanted something of a claustrophobic tone for this particular recording.  We set the gain level a bit higher than usual, & positioned the mic up against the wall in close proximity to myself so that the slap-back reverb is naturally present (under the heavily saturated reverb from post production).  Minimal chord voicings are again used throughout the song to underscore dissonance & dysphoria, which is most prevalent during the outro section.

Waver

Grim

LYRICS:  Grim & I go way back, to the very day I was born, told him I’d have to take a rain check, because I wasn’t ready to leave just yet, & till this day we still talk, calls me on his cigarette break to catch up.   I’m ready for you now, I’m ready for you, are you ready for me?  Loveless & I have made amends, to this day we remain close friends, on occasion we’ll share the same bed, but weighted down is not the way that I intend to stay.  I’m ready for you now, I’m ready for you, are you ready for me?  All this time, life has been the danger, & death won’t sign the waver, all this time, love has been the mistake, so lonely takes her place.

INTERPRETATION:  In Raymond Carver’s short story Whoever Was Using This Bed, the narrator trudges through a late night conversation with his wife on the touchy topic of life support, specifically regarding its hypothetical termination.  This dreary discussion, initially induced by a random drunk dial, wanes through the evening & into a sleepless morning.  Consequently, the protagonist is left to pass the day in a dazed state of dejection.  It was as if he’d arrived at some strange place; crossing an invisible line where he never expected to find himself – this place where a little harmless dreaming & then some sleepy, early-morning talk gave way to considerations of death & annihilation.  The power of Carver’s laconic narrative lies in its ability to emphasize the all-encompassing weight of an idea, & how these concepts can saturate our time & temperament.  Waver’s narrative is concerned with these same conceptions, as the emphasis on death & loneliness is expressed through a personification of these experiences respectively.  The heavy idea contemplated here is one of tempered intimacy, as expressed through that of an old friend or a casual lover.

INSPIRATION:  Waver was written in the lonely bridal suite of a desert motel in the tiny town of Easton, Texas.  I was there for about a week or so back in 2008, building out emergency room mobile computer stations for Easton’s only hospital.  Given the hectic nature of this project, I was working 3rd shifts to accommodate Easton’s ER staff.  Needless to say, the combination of late nights, little rest, & hospital hazards made for an interesting experience.  At the time, I had been reading a lot of Poe & listening to records (chiefly Say Hello to Sunshine & Juturna) with considerably dark themes.  These influences, along with the general gloomy aura of Easton’s ER, permeated my thoughts & set the tone for my writing.  Waver is ultimately the culmination of sober meditations on death & loneliness.  Concerning death, the Grim Reaper reference alludes back to my own cessation, having been pronounced dead shortly after birth due to complications of being born 3 months ahead of schedule…

baby GB 1

baby GB 2

Fortunately for me, that pronouncement was only temporary.  As for the Loveless reference, that was largely inspired by the motel room itself.  It’s hard to ignore the incisive irony of lonesomeness within a bridal suite.  I couldn’t help but think of the newlyweds, adulterous moonlighters, & possibly even the solitary songwriters who may have occupied the room previously.  The concept of two small-town lovers who occasionally convene at a desert motel to escape the boredom of their simple lives began to play out in my head, & eventually reserved a room within my narrative.  Alas, the waver itself, literally denotes the dense amount of documentation I had to sign off on while working at the hospital, in addition to a metaphor regarding the personal responsibility & acceptance of life, love, & eventually death.

INSIGHT:  if reading Poe in the bridal suite of a small-town desert motel between awkward shifts of constructing tech equipment for a Texas hospital’s chaotic ER isn’t weird enough, then Waver’s production aesthetic most certainly is.  Blending elements of free-time & measured metre, live room & dub-tracking, folk & funk, house kits & brush-beats, shoegaze & doo-wop, Waver is undeniably a kitchen-sink conflation of sorts.  Matt & I room-mic’d & live-tracked the intro/1st verse in a free-time metre (aka every drummer’s worst nightmare).  As this was recorded on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you can hear children playing, birds chirping, & a serenade of cicadas in the background.  This wasn’t initially planned, though does ultimately contrast the composition’s thematic tension nicely.

Matt's APT

Other sections of the song were tracked traditionally, & then some (mainly the transition/outro section) were significantly over-dubbed.  Our running joke was that the song should be subtitled “Guitarmageddon”, as nearly every guitar in the studio was used at some point on this recording, in addition to plenty of Rhodes, Mellotron, & other synths.  Due to my love of all things Lynchian, I couldn’t resist adding in some Twin Peaks-esque backing vocals to accompany the outro melody.