Happiness in the home studio
I spent last Friday night in a pretty joyful state. Allen came over to my place and set up his portable studio and we got to work on the penultimate session of the new EP.
After our last session, the plan was to get together to finish guitar overdubs on two songs: It’s Too Hot to Larp and You Have the Worst Taste in Men. In “Larp,” I had hoped that adding some sweeping chords on my Spanish guitar would elevate the bridge a little. That’s what we tried last time. But it didn’t work. So we thought, we’ll pile on a few electrics with possibly some crazy effects playing big power chords.
We didn’t even really try that. I know I warmed up the power chords with some Pete Townsend whirls but I don’t know if we even did one pass with the red light on. Pretty quickly we both thought it needs some kind of echoing, ringing guitars. So with the help of a capo and Allen’s magical tremolo, overdrive and chorus pedals (was that a chorus pedal, Allen?), we made that bridge ring. But then the fun really began.
We both thought that the chorus that follows that bridge should probably have some electric guitar on it to carry that sound through to the end of the song. I think I tried some chord picking and sweeping and then just plucked a few riffs out. Allen grabbed my Spanish guitar and played through the chords while I just played around with a little riffy melody to add to the chorus. Through the pedals it sounded really cool. And the process was so fun. I’d play an idea and Allen would say, “go to the F sooner.” So I’d try that. And then I’d find a better note to go to after that. And then Allen would make a suggestion. It was a really exciting experience to find the melody that fit that part of the song.
AND in the middle of all that, I said, “I know what we’re doing next.” The ukulele. I’ve never played my ukulele on a recording before (except the odd YouTube video). It was just the timbre we needed. We also added hand claps which was awesome. Allen set up the mics to get some good roominess on the sound and we tracked our handclaps in stereo about 4 or 5 times to make it sound like a crowd.
In “Worst Taste,” Allen had originally wanted me to track a melody that I played on my Spanish guitar with his electric and a real “spaghetti western” sound. I agreed that the melody lent itself to that reverbed-out sound but I didn’t really want to cover the Spanish guitar which I thought sounded awesome. But I was going to humor Allen. We got the guitar set up how we wanted it but once we started recording, Allen said it wasn’t the sound for that part and thought the Spanish guitar should stand alone.
But then I clicked on the tremolo and chorus and kinda played different things through the song. Allen recorded the whole thing and then went back and told me what he wanted to do in specific parts. So in one part, he liked how I just let the root notes ring. So I re-recorded that. And in another part he wanted some kind of descending arpeggio to come in right as the voice starts. So I noodled around there while he would advise. It’s a great relationship because Allen doesn’t give me a melody that he’d create himself but he’ll say something like, “don’t play the root of that chord when you let it ring at the end.” But his immediate feedback pushed me to come up with something more melodic than if I were just overdubbing on a demo of my own. We were both editing what I was playing and it had a tremendous effect.
It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had in a recording session. I’m extremely grateful to have found someone in Orange County with whom I can connect musically. I can’t wait to wrap this project up and get it out there. Thanks, Allen!