What the hell is S.E.N.T.?
If you’ve no idea what we’re talking about you can catch up with previous weeks over on the S.E.N.T. page.
Before we get into the quick witted literary delights below I wanted to add a small preamble about discipline.
Discipline is something that is entirely non-existent in this band. There are three simple tasks that we have to complete each week.
-Make some music
-Write a short paragraph about it
-Upload one picture
An easy set of instructions to follow……you’d think. This week, Fletch forgot to upload a picture, Huxley uploaded two (IN THE WRONG FORMAT!!) and Ed decided to re-write War and Peace. Don’t get me started on last weeks Gary Stewart debacle or people leaving weird plugins on tracks that they shouldn’t!
As punishment, Fletch is a banjo, Huxleys words are upside down and from next week there will be a strict 250 word limit.
Let this be a lesson to you all.
Enjoy the weekly prose.
Week 3 – Vegetative
IDEA #1 – SIMON
I’d heard James had decided to play guitar on this one and so was expecting the worst. James is one of the most talented musicians I have ever met but when he plays guitar he looks like a teenager who’s been told to empty his bottom drawer. But, credit where credit is due, it sounded like a keyboard. I listened a few times on a long journey and started to get some vocal ideas…but with a sense of their total worthlessness.
I’m finding it hard. This writing together but apart. Enjoyable, but hard. Writing with H&S relies upon momentum. Even when the initial idea comes reasonably fully formed we are lovers of the jam, working the song into a frenzy in order to get where it needs to go. When writing on my own I rely upon obsession. Going over an idea again and again into the night. This is neither. It’s imagined momentum and controlled obsession. Nobody to jam with and no time to obsess. It’s hard, or at least, I’m finding it hard.
Anyway – I’m away in Essex with nowhere to sing so I take myself off one evening and sing my ideas into the laptop in a lay-by near the sea. There are many worse ways to spend an evening! Over to you Fletch…
IDEA #2 – FLETCH
Yeah……Sorry about this one. This is not what music should sound like. Not totally sure what I thought I was doing with this, got a little bit lost so I just chucked in a build again. I guess we might be able to sell it to Huge Jackass for his next musical venture. Or delete it. We could definitely delete it.
IDEA #3 – ED
I really should get a t-shirt that says “SQUASH, DELAY, RUIN”.
So what cameth down the Hope and Social musical waste pipe this week? A repeating fractured line of vocal, a slightly disjointed drum beat, a very cool glitchy acoustic guitar (made in a very cool old school way with a simple gate and a simple delay) and a full on indie thrashout ending. There’s some cool swooping keys and a slightly 60’s sounding organ. Knowing that Si did this one purely on a little home keyboard I smell Fletch all over this bad boy. It has a vibe but it ain’t finished. So what to do?
My first thing was that I liked all the bits but it didn’t quite feel like a thing yet… My brain is kinda slow and I wanted to hear something more complete before I decided what to do next. Also I’m deffo on the spectrum somewhere and if it don’t sound a like a record I get all grumpy. So I just set off to give it a little mix so all these individual bits felt like one congruent thing rather than something that might be something else. And as usual that involved those 3 key words at the top. (Third word is optional. Although it doesn’t always feel that way…)
First I tried to make the drums sound more real. It was simple part with loads of space and that space meant that I could really here that it was made by logic’s drummer. I compressed it pretty hard with the Kush AR-1 (AWESOME tube compressor. Love it so much. It can be aggressive, soft, expensive, dirty and just always seems to make stuff sound more like music) and added some Sansamp with the Nembrini plugin. I’m loving that so much as well… I love Tchad Blake’s mixes and he uses it on everything. The original was a pedal guitar amp sim and then a rackmount version. He uses it as a distortion box, a compressor, a reverb, a sludgifier, an exciter (see a quick interview here https://youtu.be/yi3Cm2DtMmg). To make things fit in and stick out all at the same time. I’m enjoying it so much. Often using it in parallel and messing with phase and eq. The Nembrini version has a built in phase switch and a spread knob which essentially does a simple trick to make it more stereo. Here I was trying to get some more room and attitude to the drums. Finally added a room reverb based on the Hansa Studio in Berlin (Where David Bowie recorded Heros, Low and Station to Station to give it more of a sense of real) and did a load of tweaking and…. it still felt too false.
So, I tried to add another copy of that drum track so I could maybe get more control of the snare drum and because I don’t know how to use Logic it just started playing the default beat for that kit (a shuffle I think?) over the top of Fletch’s beat and it all started to make a lot more sense for me. I added some more sansamp to give it more width and flatten it out so that it got a bit out of the way of the original kit and then added a stereo tape delay using Valhalla Delay so that it skipped from left to right a bit shuffled the shuffle and after some futzing it took on a bit of a Can type vibe and let the other parts speak out a little bit. Was kind of doing a thing for me where they were both big but the focus was on the original part and the other part was just a support… I think. It really helped to ground everything for me. Did some general stuff to the vocals and guitar. (I say general stuff. It’s the first time I’ve ring modulated a vocal so probably only general stuff if you’re making 60’s sci fi soundtracks I guess…) Distorted the crap out of the organ so it sounded a bit more real and 60’s. Did a load of stuff to the keyboard swoop. Made the indie guitar rock at the end go big by… yup… you guessed it… distorting and compressing it a lot. It would probably be more interesting if it wasn’t so big but I just wanted it to fit with everything a bit better and although I was much happier with the drums they wouldn’t let me leave that much space in so I just flattened them.
And then I ran out of time. Fell like it is bit more congruent but it possibly it ain’t more of song. Which would no doubt have been helpful!
Reading below Hux will be probably tutting because I didn’t do any “music” but I did do some drums and I’m rhythmically dyslexic so that’s pretty wild. And I see my job in this process to try and make sure that when it leaves my hands it just makes more sense and hopefully inspires the next person to do something awesome. Whatever it takes to do that. Sometimes it’s the three word mantra, sometimes it’s more notes. Sometimes it’s deletions or moving stuff around. And also… fuck it. I’m just really enjoying playing with toys and mixing at the mo even when it’s these half finished ideas.
IDEA #4 – HUX
Sooooo, what’s in this weeks music box for me? (opens box) Lovely tune, guitar and bass. Cracking. Aaaaand Ed’s resolution to write zero melody continues. I mean, it’s an awesome sound, made from bits of long-wave radio and dramatically futzzed with, AND it absolutely sets the vibe, but c’mon Ted, as The New Radicals once sang “you’ve got the music in you”, and as Ed Sheerean once sang… “let it out”. Anyway, enough $h!t music references… what did I do?
Different approach this week (after much back and forth). No multi-layered electric guitar from me – oh no. I copied an extra verse of Fletch’s guitar in *before* Fletch’s lyrics, and wrote a new verse, one that prefixes and steals vowels and rhymes from Fletch’s verse, and thematically links to our last album. So, maybe it’ll keep?
I’ve put on an Organ that started off as a Shepard Tone idea (a rising/descending line that sounds like it’s ever increasing/decreasing in pitch)) but the kids broke me off half way through that, and when I came back, I just layered the rising scales, and crushed ‘em with Kazrog True Iron (On SALE!), muttered it in Vallhalla Freq Echo (FREE!)
I wanted something grumbly/warbly, and as I haven’t yet got James’ sample-making skills, or the new version of Logic, I found an awesome sound in Spitfire Labs (free virtual instruments) called “modular piano”. It doesn’t quite have the warble I was after, so after laying down a pad type part, I crushed it a bit with Kazrog True Iron, and added a second glitchier part at the end.
Bit of banjo. Done.
IDEA #5 – JAMES
As much as Ed may have an aversion to producing an idea from scratch (and he shouldn’t because this is great) I am equally self conscious about writing a lyric. It’s not what I do in or outside of the band much. Seeing as Ed had to put himself on the line publicly maybe I should go outside of my comfort zone this week. It turns out I don’t pay much attention to lyrics, I have no idea where to start. When Si does it he just mumbles around a bit, finds a melody and then poetry flows out. It’s great to watch. When I try it, all that I capture is rhyming cliche but the melody feels good and it gives the song a bit of an anchor.
The drums that Hux added last week sounded like he’d nicked them from an anemic mid 90s indie band that hadn’t stood the test of time. The first fill at 40 seconds made me vomit all over my keyboard. They make me feel much better about my lame attempt at lyric but they needed sorting out with distortion and MUCH more of Eds drums from week one. Some other bits of music and FX were piled on until it started to smell very faintly of a song.
No, the gated snare does NOT get “a bit relentless”
IDEA #6 – GARY
Yes!! It’s a 6/8. Not only that but Hux probably doesn’t realise he’s using the Cascara rhythm here(it means ‘shell’)as the 6/8 pattern(which I have put down as claps)is traditionally played on drum shells. Every day’s a school day!!
I love this track thus far. It’s got a really nice whimsy feel to it. There’s a LOT in it already so I took the approach of augmenting what was implied and stuck aforementioned claps on and also a shaker to give it some space. I then thought that my LOVELY hi-string guitar would sound nice (you may have seen it in such shows as ‘Gary Stewart presents Graceland’ ;) so i stuck that down too.
At some point it will probably need a vocal melody and words but hey. I’ve spent all those tools on my new Album. Did I mention I’m doing a new Album…