A Tale Of Two Discos, pt. 1
This was no one’s fault, but let’s put a pin in that for a minute. Oklahoma has never been a traditional band. It started as a one-off recording project and grew little by little over the past five years into what it is today. Countless friends and musicians have helped out and played with us live since 2013. Because of that wildcard element, some shows have been better than others, but I've always walked away having learned something new about what the band can be and how I can do better.
We started Fever Dream’s pre-production around the time Death Cab For Cutie’s 2015 album Kintsugi was released. That record was so full of great sounds & incredible guitar parts that I’d be lying if I said it didn’t influence our creative process.
Ben Gibbard (DCFC’s Songwriter/Guitarist) has a distinct way of playing where he’ll sneak parts of the vocal melody into his guitar work. That was a thread my brother & band mate Justin wanted to follow when he first heard Disco.
Justin and I were living a street apart from each other when we started working on Fever Dream. We were sitting at his dining room table going over our album-to-be when he found the Disco-by-way-of-Gibbard guitar part. It was so much different than the rocker I’d imagined it would be when I wrote the song, but I was captivated, I couldn’t help but be on board.
I went home that night with a voice memo of Justin’s part and found myself doing a major overhaul on the song’s lyrics. The guitar had a sadness that matched my original intent; I needed to dive deeper into the ‘expectation v. reality’ theme I’d set up, really explore how that’s played out for me in the past, and bring that back to the song whole-hog.
We’d booked four days at The Hideaway Studio to record the base tracks for the album. Four days of bass, drums, rhythm guitar, & keys for 10 songs seemed reasonable. We did it in three*.
Dah, that asterisk!
I believe there were seven of us in the studio's control room when we were talking about how to approach Disco. We had this delicate, morose song that a needed a certain, illusive form of support. We listened to the scratch track (a recording of the song with only voice & guitar) once or twice and then it happened. The biggest red flag I was completely oblivious to.
“What do you think of having an acoustic song on the record?”
This was no one’s fault. It’s a tall task trying to lay the foundation of a record in a few days when the band isn’t a band. The songs had lived and grown with the core OK folks, but the friends and musicians we brought in to help make the record didn’t have the same relationship with the tunes as we did, and looking back, that’s totally understandable.
Like I said, I was completely oblivious to the red flag. I said, “No,” and the fella’s proceeded to the live room and tried a few different passes at Disco. Their professionalism and my optimism masked the fact that the song just wasn't working. But hey, we got it tracked, right?
More on that next week!
In the meantime, have a listen to the voice memo of Justin’s DCFC-style guitar & my re-written lyrics.
For all you tech heads, in order to record this, I played Justin's memo off of my phone speaker and used my wife's ("My wife," Borat Voice) phone/voice memo app to record my voice & speaker playback.