Sunday, March 29, 2009

Twelve Minutes, 48 Seconds

Let's start with the bad: Nothing.

Let's talk about the not-so-good: Nothing.

Let's talk about the awesome: It was tiring to work for fourteen hours yesterday.

Let's talk about the really awesome: 12 minutes and 48 seconds recorded of the history record.

Josh and Kelly spent the night at my house to expedite getting started in the morning. We had breakfast at IHOP before we hit the studio bright and early at 10am. We started the session by playing through three songs from Whimsical in Reverse to grease us up. It was more worthwhile than the whole night's practice before, which had concerned me since we sounded so rough the day before entering into the studio. I received copies of the three songs we did, and I hope to use them somewhere sometime.

Daniel (who will hence be referred to that way as opposed to our guitar player, who will be Tha D or one of the many Catsnatcher variations he's been dubbed over the years...) and Aaron have exxentially joined the band to record us, and their input is so very valuable. They know recording and had lots of great suggestions for individual parts for all of us throughout the session.

I think the easiest way to break down the rest of the day would be to go song by song.

Know It All At four minutes, this song will hopefully be the longest on the record. We spent the last part of the day recording Daniel Cat's Dick Dale leads on the song which, in conjunction with the Les Paul rhythm track he put on it, made this song sound so much bigger than we'd have guessed before. I told Tha D that the leads on that song express the voice of Daniel Cat more than anything I've heard him do as long as we've been in the Distractions. "Eli Whitney" expresses the voice of tha D pretty well, but not so much his unique personality, like those lines. I told him that the breaks between the choruses and verses are like he's a bull, and the gate flies open for him to run wild for 8 1/2 seconds until the next verse started. To play that part, just like the "Eli Whitney" solo, Danyacat used his Fuzz Factory pedal. We laughed as Daniel came out of the control room because he thought something was mechanically breaking on the amp when it was coming through. He checked, and it wasn't, and we said, "It's just the pedal."

Whiskey Rebellion We completed all of this track except the solo, which Barnyard Cat will complete when they go back {hopefully} next week. We threw around some last minute changes, but all of them would have taken away from the momentum we already had with the song. The main change was the hilarious suggestion by Daniel and Aaron to emphasize the fact that it's a question when Kelly sings about the people involved in the insurrection. We now laugh whenever we hear it because of the way he asks, "Father Stilson???" before skipping right back into the rest of the chorus.

Bring Out Your Dead I had to sit alone while everyone went to play outside because I had a rocky time getting the bass right on this one. I knew it would be that way, but the end result sounds better than anything I could have planned. We definitely pulled off the 60s sound we wanted for this one, I think. It's pretty glorious. I had my 12-string overdubs ready and practiced, but after a lengthy set-up time to play them, it was pretty unanimous that they didn't have a great effect on the song. As a result, there's one chord of my guitar on that song. We were losing steam, but I wanted to finish, so I quickly did a tambourine the backing "ooh"s at the tail end of the night, with an extremely tired Danyacat joining me on the backing vocals to round it all out.

The Great Stink This was the last song we played when we were tracking the whole band, and after so many rocky takes of all the other songs, I expected this one to be very long and grueling, that we would finish the track of this one and probably have to pack up after that. Then we did it one take. We recorded a second one, but it really wasn't as good as the first. I had to punch in on the all three pre-choruses of the song, except on the most difficult walk-up that leads into the chorus, which I nailed in that first take. Kelly had to re-do his guitar on this one after that, and Danezbueno chose to wait until next session to record his lead. The song sounds empty without it, but it is much more of a beautiful pop song than I had ever guessed when we first started playing it. All the chorus guitar really made it shine. The live version has a grit to it from the way I play it and the drums and slight fuzz that Kelly and Dan Yuck At use live, but all that was gone in the studio to make it an even greater contrast to the lyrics about trash up to the sky and cesspools and things. Kelly did one take of the vocals for this one, the only one he didn't complete, but he had to go and was too exhausted to do anymore.

As Daniel was putting together the rough cuts for me to take with me at the end of the night (by that time, we were the only ones left), I asked if they had changed the settings for each song. He said they didn't, which really amazed me since we succeeded so well at making each song so different from the rest. Most of this is in the guitars, but we really did create a diverse set of sounds for just under 13 minutes of recorded music. It also felt so strange at the end of a long day to listen to the song and think about how we had recorded it out of thin air just that morning. Aaron had said we could have stopped at lunch and had a truly good day of recording, but instead we pushed on and got a whole lot more done after that.
This has inspired me to push ahead and work on new songs, and I'm all the more excited about the results of future days of recording.
And I also shot about 40 minutes for the making of documentary.

Day One Part One Take One

Marathon recording is the only true way to make a record. I can now say this and mean it.

Where do I start? The last 48 hours just seem like a dream. On the drive home Josh and I kept saying "Did WE just do that?" I think everyone felt some sort of cosmic creative cloud showering the power of the rock and roll from start to finish. Even during the first few takes and just setting up the studio, we couldn't believe how good everything was sounding.

This part will discuss the friday night set up and how cool it was....


There are 8 channels/tracks of drums. That is 4 more than what we had last time. I think in the somewhat spread out room combined with the "forts", Aaron and Daniel managed to get Josh's drums to sound powerful and thundering. 8 tracks. It's just the right number we needed. I really felt like Josh had a "Dave Grohl" type sound going for him. Especially since he pulls alot of drum influence from him and many of those others that play like him. Plus, in the closed doors of a studio where there is no audience, Josh plays different and let's himself go more.

It was nice to walk into the room on Friday night and see all the mics set up ready for us. The drums took a long time to set up, but I feel the sound of the drums will dictate any recording and be the leader in determining how the rest of the band will sound. Josh isn't picky and melted right into all the set ups. Plus he got a new bass head and snare head which to me makes all the difference. He now has some punch.

Guitar: Tha D

Tha D jumped right in during set up, found his sound, and that was it. The producers built a fort around his amp to deaden the bleed. Tha D was not very particular about the set up, which was new for him. He only brought the Fender amp, his red strat, his Les Paul, a tube screamer and a few other pedals. Pretty simplistic. It also took no time to find his sound. It's almost as if it was there waiting for us!!

Tha D has a great sound. It has not been perfected over night. He's building his sound for the last year in the band, so I think just like Peach, he knew what we wanted. I wish I had paid more close attention to the microphone he used, because it makes his amp sound HUGE. Glad he brought the Les Paul, but my favorite is his red strat.

We went through alot of mics. The producers are very particular about which mic they use for what. Which is very fun and exciting especially since they enjoy experimenting with amp sounds and tones. They were also very "econo" about mic set up. Which means, sometimes they placed 2 at a time to save set up time and listen to them seperately to find which one we/they liked better. This would be repeated on all the other instruments and my vocals. Even Tha D was being creative with some sounds, which Peach might have a better story for because I left before he did his over dubs.....


Matt changed his strings. Good call......and yes he practiced. Peach put alot of thought into his bass these last few days. Peach went back and forth on many bass issues during practice and prior to set up but one thing was for sure....THAT AMP ROCKS SOME BASS BALLS!!! The new strings were perfect. Once again, after all the second guessing, Peach melted right into the bass set up. He tried the direct in box for a moment, which was quickly shot down by me. I wanted that amp sound...badly. It's his sound on stage, and it's great. But we like to try new things, right? If we could do both I would say yes in case we need a "beef" later, but as soon we moved some knobs and Matt started playing, it was grand. Peach wants to be Mike Watt and kept asking me about how I felt about a "Watt sound." You are who you are influenced by and just from the new strings, the amp settings, and some nice mic placement Peach and the producers got his sound. Sometimes worrying is a good thing. Which brings me to me....

Guitar: Kelly

I had to travel without my Fender tube Deville....which sucks. I had Peach's VOX. We scratched our heads on it for about two days, Peach kept saying he would bring it just in case because the sounds we got from the last album were the best the amp had ever sounded. Why not? It's a good thing he brought it, but we didn't use it. During practice it was fine, but I felt naked without my Fender. I was worried I wouldn't get that "sweet" fuzz sound from Elvis Costello's "Blood and Chocolate" or "When I Was Cruel"...I feel more and more influence by Mr. Costello these days, mostly from the writing stand point, but his sound is great because of all the greatness from the band behind him, kinda like us. I'm not picky, but I felt like I was being picky. Josh and Peach said it was ok and to take my time. We ended up using a Marshall that the producers had. We tried it in the bathroom and it had to much treble. I wanted low and smooth. So, we used the direct output from the amp. After some knob twisting, pedal setting changes, Peach comes into the control saying "Thats the best your guitar has ever sounded. Keep it!" Josh spoke into the mic, "That's it! Don't touch it!" I scratched my head for a moment and agreed. Another pedal setting change and a quick run through "Know It All" to test all the level together, they were right. I got my Costello sound. I have also learned that Fuzz Face pedals are great, and I want one. Even though I'm not using one on the record....

Well that was the Friday night set up. We were very tired by the time 1am rolled around. The free set up time was also good bonding time with our new producers. It was very relaxed, almost like when you were in college and all you did was sit around and talk about music ALL NIGHT LONG. The four of us talk about music religiously, but recently, we have been going into more depth in discussions. It's important to talk about these things. Our band has derived a lot of its energy from discussion. We talk, then we do it. Josh and I have similar tastes. Peach and I have similar tastes. Tha D and I have their own with each other. This really came out this week and during set up. It was nice having our rythm section knowing what they wanted from the start. It relieved alot of headaches I thought we might have. I was worried we would be TOO meticulous. But our vibe was nice. very nice.

Part 2 coming later....Peach will post sometime in the few minutes...

Day One: 14 Hours

We started just after 10am, and I left from Gravity Boots Recording Studio at exactly midnight with rough cuts. Daniel left a little before that. I will post a full breakdown tomorrow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Solo Practice

"Practice is free," Aaron told us when we met him at the studio, referring to how we can do the work ahead of time and cut down on the amount of paid studio time we'll use for take after take if we'll practice the material before going in. The band can't practice as a whole this week, which is what ultimately cut out a day of recording for us this weekend, but I've been working at home to develop the parts I want to bring to the songs.

I did change the bass strings. I got a thick gauge of strings thinking that's what I'd picked before, but it turns out that I was playing on some very thin bass strings before. I sat last night and readjusted all the knobs on my amp to get a more high end punch to my bass than I used on the last record. I wanted to remove the pops and slurs last time, so I just turned up the bass and turned down the treble tone.

Listening to the Cardigans' first CD recently and a practiced performance with some older gentlemen has led me to re-think my way of playing bass, especially getting ready to go into the studio. I've been so happy with my basslines themselves since playing with the Distractions that I've patted myself on the back a little too much and not focused on how I'm playing them. As a result, I'm kind of a limp guitar player hitting low notes, not a bass player. So I simplified some of my bass lines last night, particularly on "Bring Out Your Dead," envisioning the basslines as pillars on the beat. I hope it will translate to the record. I also spent a lot of time working on my touch of the notes, practicing playing without slurs and hitting solid, precise notes. There were a number places, particularly in "The Great Stink," where I'd kept saying, "I'll fix that later." Well, later is now on the brink of recording these songs, and I went through and worked out the fills and runs as best I could in a one-night, one-man jam session.

With the last record, the song I developed the most vision for was "Elephants," coming up with several parts to overdub that made a significant change to the song. For this record, the song I've had in mind has been "Bring Out Your Dead." Shaking a tambourine requires a lot more precision than one might think, and I've played along with some live recordings trying to get my shimmy just right. I also envisioned a 12-string part for the song, and I practiced it while I'd let my aching and now muscular wrist get a break. I kept thinking that I could just tell Daniel what to do, and he could play it better than I could even with my practice. It may be humbling, but I may just pass that off to him in the studio tomorrow.

The final practice is tonight.
Then we set up at the studio.
Then we have a band slumber party.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Change or Not to Change

The time to enter the studio is near, and I'm being forced to make a decision that I finally voiced with Daniel (He needs a nickname to distinguish him from Mr. Catsnatcher. That's how we roll. When you have 2 Matts, make one of them "Mattfi," but I digress...). I have been exceedingly pleased with my bass tones. After we played the first Distractions show back in '07, I bought a new amp and changed the original strings on my bass. I don't know when I felt I was sounding better than when I was playing a much more expensive bass through a much bigger and more expensive vintage amp, but it was shortly thereafter.

Now, on the way into the studio, I'm trying to decide if I should change my strings or not. The argument not to change stems from James Jamerson, who recorded all of the electric bass parts for Motown on one set of strings on the same bass. They sound great with a very worn-in sound. With that in mind, since I'm happy with the sound I'm getting, why change it? The other side of the argument is Mike Watt, who breaks strings so regularly in his live shows that he is definitely always playing on a new set of strings. I would say that I hope my bass sounds for this record mimic Double Nickels on the Dime more than Motown, and I'm also afraid that the tone I love so much won't come through on the record as it definitely didn't on Whimsical in Reverse (though, admittedly, we're playing in a completely different ballgame now).

But the conundrum doesn't stop there. A bass doesn't usually sound like a bass should with new strings on it. There's a metallic sound in the way the strings pronounce slurs when you don't carefully move your fingers along them, more like an acoustic guitar does.

I plan on buying new strings this evening and popping in a movie while I change them, but the reservations I have are not completely done away with. And who can remember what gauge or brand of strings to buy from one time to the next if one waits so long to change them?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whiskey Rebellion Video

Check out a melding of two live performances of "Whiskey Rebellion." The first is from Springwater and features guest Distraction Mattfi. The second part is from the night before at the Boro, where I wasn't flailing about nearly as much.

Excitement about going to the studio grows.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Well, KELLY says he won't post anymore betwixt now and when we enter the studio, but I'm sure I'll have plenty of mundane minutiae to share with you.

We are confirmed to enter the studio the week after next. Daniel will be out of town this coming week, so we'll be practicing the following week. We have the option to set up on Thursday, March 26th, but that will depend on our practice schedule. After that, we will be in the studio recording on Friday night, March 27th, all day Saturday, and part of the day on Sunday morning, unless something comes up to deter us.

It feels good to have some news on this front. We've brought these songs to a certain point, and it almost feels like we can't concentrate on writing any more of the record until these are escorted by the hand to the next level. I intend to take a step back after that and really ask where we want the record to go after we can listen to and begin to digest the first half of recorded songs. There are some serious questions to be asked and plenty of new songs to be written, and I'm glad to have the first dates scheduled so we can move along with this grandiose project.

Back and Forth

We made some plans to go into the studio at the end of March. Those plans got shattered. Now there are new plans for the same weekend. Maybe those will get shattered, maybe it will happen. Tha D told me today i should stop talking about the studio and my anxious feelings will go away.

So...Our next post will from the studio. It gives you, the reader, something to look forward to reading.

We had to cancel a show on friday. I hate doing that. Actually, it's a first for me. But come ready to rock on April 25th at the Boro. We will have stories of the studio by that time and possibly a few new tunes.

Fingers are crossed that the stars are aligned for us to be in the studio two weeks from today!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Demos and iTunes

According to Peach, our EP "Whimsical In Reverse" will be available on iTunes in the next few weeks. How cool is that?

I've been busy making more demos for this record. Our plans to get started in April may be skewed a bit but thats ok. Just more time to prepare. Getting 6 people in the same room for two days straught is easier said than done. And we want everyone present and involved.

The recent excitement has caused a little bit of writer's block. The last few songs have come so quickly, my brain is telling me to take a rest. I have been working on some non-history songs to curb my creative drip. A newer song called "How Do We Make It Fly" is in the works. This song will be about theWright brothers and their flying machine. How people were present at Kitty Hawk? 12. And it was history. The smaller the crowd, the more legendary the event becomes.

I have also discovered the use of our PA mixer with the 4 track. Hello reverberated vocals!!

We are playing next friday March 13th @ The French Quarter Cafe in East Nashville. Come out if you want to rock.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We Actually Do Stuff

It looks like we may get started on this new record sooner than we expected. Some details and scheduling need to be ironed out but I feel confident that it can happen.

I would call us "unstoppable" these days. Every show we "bring it." We get better and better. Which is why it's time to go capture all this in the studio. We harp on practice, and "getting ready to record" but I feel we are ready. Never been more ready.

Details. I have been sitting at my piano for the last few weeks trying my hardest to come up with parts for the record. These need to be somewhat thought out so it doesn't take up too much time. I've got piano and organ ideas for 4 songs. I have always felt that overdubs are mundane and take away from the true spirit of the band but thats what live shows are about. I don't people expect us to bust out the boys choir on stage. Although, I do have a patch on my synth that emulates that. Certain songs will get "overdubs" and some special treatment, while others have the ability to stand alone. I don't want to fill up the tracks with a bunch of noise for the sake of having something there, so these pre-game ideas are handy. Most of my piano and organ parts are simple. They just need to be present and not drive the song. There are plenty of other elements that drive our songs, whether it be a bass line, drums, or riff. Little details are fun and exciting. Just like pedals. Which is another set of rambling I could save for another blog. At the end of the day, no matter what we do, the "live" feel will be preserved. I want people to "feel" this album. or atleast have the listener get "pumped" to come to a show.

This band actually DOES STUFF. I have been in many other bands before and we play some shows, rock a few parties, and when it comes time to make something out of it for the sake of preservation, it all falls apart. The fact that we made an EP and are now going through the motions of doing another record like any other band we love and enjoy seems a tad bit unreal to me. But then again, having people show up and sing a long seems unreal also. It makes me happy that this small unit has been creatively stimulated for almost 2 years now. Having a drummer that cares is a plus. I like to think we don't care, but it's more like we are grounded in reality rather than "not caring." Being grounded in reality allows you to continue to write, oerform, and make records all seem exciting every time you do it. Nothing is mundane or feels like a chore. Thats what the history album is all about, we feel lucky, so we're gonna do it! Ian Mckaye once said "running a record label is my something to do, without it, I would be bored and in jail." He's right. The Distractions are "something to do" and even after all this history stuff, there is PLENTY more to do. As long as there is a show to play, a song to write, a recording to make, an album sleeve to design, etc etc. We will keep trucking.

Most of Our Visitors Are Belgian