This Was Hardly A Moment

August 5, 2010 10:17 AM

I decided this morning that it'd be fun to try getting involved at long last with Song Fight, but it turns out that submissions for the next round were due this morning. This is probably the most frantic writing-and-recording I've done in a couple years.

So at about 8:00 this morning I looked at the website's 9:59 deadline and thought "nah, there's no time".

But then the prompt of "Hardly A Moment" made me think of people talking in like romantic comedy terms of "having a moment" and the idea of a song that's mocking that phenomenon started to come together. So I wrote half a verse and part of a chorus and banged out a quick demo on my iPhone to fix it in my head.

And then I biked into St. Johns to deliver a couple packages, trying to flesh out the lyrics along the way. And the post office wasn't open yet, so that killed precious time, but it gave me a chance to spend from like 8:55 to 9:00 finishing the first verse and writing a bit of the pre-chorus and second verse.

Then mailed some things, biked home like a motherfucker and started recording at 9:15 or so. One take on piano, two takes on drums because the first one went even more wobbly than the second does, two-miced my guitar amp near and far, couldn't find a pick, tried without and didn't get anywhere, went looking, still didn't find one, used a penny instead which wasn't great (def. use a nickel at least, maybe a quarter) but did the job okay, squawked out a quick second guitar line late in the song for some more fatness.

And then vox, trying to do takes on a melody that still wasn't really written from brand new lyrics I hadn't memorized using phrasing that wasn't remotely firmed up yet, all this reading lyrics from two places, off both a notebook and a different virtual window on my laptop from the one Garageband was on. The clock was really ticking at this point, by 9:50 I hadn't gotten the vox anywhere near to feeling comfortable but gave the last third of the song a brute-force go of it and sat down to instamix the thing, encode it, and figure out the proper instructions for mailing it.

Basically zero mixing other than a few blind move-the-dials-and-hope-for-the-best tweaks (a bit of panning, some compression on a few tracks and a little limiting on the whole thing to try and duck any peaking problems likely to result from the non-mixing).

And I forgot to put my kick mic back on the kick drum before doing the kit, which is probably for the best since that would have eaten a few minutes minutes putting it on the kick and then putting it back on the guitar amp and as it is I mailed the thing all of five minutes before the deadline.

This was tremendous fun. I should probably rerecord the song a week from now and take a skosh more time to really do what I wanted with it, though.

posted by cortex (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite


You're staring deep in my eyes
You think you're gonna hypnotize me
Like some magic's gonna happen
If you sit real still and stare at me
And smile at me and glare at me
And put on all the faces that your magazines
Convinced you were
The trick to make me care

But darling
There's no there there

Yeah this was hardly a moment
What this was was an uncomfortable pause
Yeah that wasn't us clicking
That's just the sound that teeth make
When someone clenches their jaws

This was just you saying yes
And me saying no
And that's the way it goes sometimes
I'll be as clear as can
Darling I'm hardly your man
And this was hardly a moment

You gotta shake this misconception
You can't pull some sly inception
You can't trick us into being
Something other than we are
Cuz this is all we'll ever be
Single you and single me
Disjoint sets named A and B

Step away from the car

posted by cortex at 10:26 AM on August 5, 2010

Actually dude, not bad at all. you can feel the frantic; the clock ticking underlies the 'not-clicking.'
posted by mwhybark at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2010

Awesome! Do we get to vote on it later, because it's freaking awesome.
posted by mathowie at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2010

I gather from the FAQ that it takes a day or two on average for a new fight to get properly posted after the deadline, so this weekend or next week it should be up.

Needless to say, voting for it is totally okay but if you're gonna go there go ahead and give everything else a listen too and vote for everything else that you like as well. The whole idea of Song Fight is exactly the sort of "competing for nothing but the fun of the whole thing" that kind of plays into the Music Challenge aesthetic over here as well, if with a little bit of explicit competitive structure to the proceedings over there, so a storm of loyalist votes from offsite would be kind of silly. Like Freepers storming a poll or whatever.

I've always liked the idea of Song Fight, but never quite got involved before—I think the last time I really took a close look at the site was several years ago when I wasn't feeling as confident about knocking out full-on productions quickly. But between talking to Frontalot a little bit about it back during that radio interview with Slappy Pinchbottom during SXSW, and talking a little bit more about it with waxpancake the other day, I figured it was time to jump in.

I killed some precious time this morning listening to the current fight's stuff, before I realized that I was gonna commit and try and get this shit done. It's a fun collection, eclectic in the same way that Music is.
posted by cortex at 10:43 AM on August 5, 2010

It feels like the kind of thing that gets shouted into the voicemail of the person you're telling to honk off when they've hit ignore on your call after you've spent an hour or two working out exactly what you're going to tell them. In a good way.
posted by togdon at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2010

This is great. Love the raggedy sound. Ok, it's pretty rough if we're talking about polish and balance (who needs polish and balance?), but the urgency of it - as someone else has remarked - really works for the track. I'd bet if you tried to re-record it you'd struggle to recapture the feel. Don't go there. But ff you can't resist messing with it, I'd urge nothing more than a modest remix - to my ears the vocal is just a little hot in places and consequently a bit detached from the backing track - not quite sitting in it. All things considered that's a minor and inconsequential quibble. Good stuff.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:20 PM on August 5, 2010

nice. As I've said before, I'm really digging the rushed songs a lot.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:28 PM on August 5, 2010

I'd bet if you tried to re-record it you'd struggle to recapture the feel.

Yeah, distinct danger. If I were to redo it it'd be for the sake of feeling really good about the vocals and having the bits that are supposed to kick a little bit of ass kick a little bit more ass, mostly, I don't see fundamentally changing the song, but that possibility of the wind just going out of it remains. We'll see what happens.

The little break after the first chorus just sort of waves at me feebly when I listen to it, that should be like ten seconds of powerpop guitar solo shouting FUCK YES I AM MAKING THE BEST OF THESE TEN SECONDS but on this recording I didn't have a plan and just noodles with the main guitar part and it shows. And in the repeat of the chorus on the end I want that to be more of a kick in the balls—bring a second guitar line (or guitar and something else, piano maybe or even a bit of synth, in unison) to really nail what's currently just a little buried ghost of a secondary line playing against it.

The idea is very right, I'm totally pleased with the overall structure of the song and the recording is a pretty decent demo of what I was thinking of when I set out to track it, but it really does fall way short of what I had in mind by the time tracking started.

Which, again, though: frantic is fun, and insofar as I do different things when I'm not comfortable or rehearsed (to the degree that I'm ever rehearsed, at least) I think you guys are right that there's something interesting about what is on tape here and how that franticness really comes through.
posted by cortex at 2:45 PM on August 5, 2010

Also I will use an actual guitar pick next time. And maybe record some bass. And put the kick mic back in front of the kick drum. And and and.
posted by cortex at 2:46 PM on August 5, 2010

The idea is very right, I'm totally pleased with the overall structure of the song and the recording is a pretty decent demo of what I was thinking of when I set out to track it, but it really does fall way short of what I had in mind by the time tracking started.

Well - best of luck! I'll look forward to hearing the new version. One thought crossed my mind when reading your response.....: why not try to record using the same approach (i.e. quick and highly-charged)? Set yourself a deadline just like you had when you did the demo. Thing is - now you know where the weak points are you'll deal with them. Just might be a way of kind of tricking yourself into recapturing the feel? As I said - just a passing thought.....
posted by MajorDundee at 2:54 PM on August 5, 2010

Yeah, trying to do it fast and high energy is a decent idea. It should be a coffee morning, maybe ride the stationary bike for a half-hour first and then jump right in. The guitar stuff I have in mind is nothing fancy so it wouldn't be hard to run the line a few times before hand just to make sure I know what I want, and I mix the current demo down sans vox to have something to refine the melody and lyrics against to get that polished up before I jump in as well.

This morning really was just kind of a fantastic setup for feeling like This Is Impossible And I Will Fucking Succeed Nonetheless, all else aside, and that would be hard to recreate. But I enjoy recording fast, it's a very fun experience, and doing it fast but not feeling like I have to give up on a good take because I literally have only five minutes left would be a good 2.0 approach.

I used to do a lot of this a few years ago when I was doing the Aural Times; there was no strict time limit, but I'd usually want to get stuff written and recorded in the gap between when I got home from my earlyish-shift job and when my wife got home from her 9-5, so there was a natural incentive to work quickly and invent aggressively but I still had the freedom to take an extra fifteen minutes to work out a specific part if I really wasn't happy with it. Two hours is a pretty reasonable amount of time to track something that's not super crazy ambitious and doesn't need to be spitshined. 45 minutes is really kind of pushing it, though. Heh.
posted by cortex at 3:02 PM on August 5, 2010

that's impressive on a lot of levels.
posted by peterkins at 3:19 PM on August 9, 2010

i was just thinking it probably took you less time to come up with this than it did pink floyd to mic up a bass drum during the making of 'the wall'. i know which one i'd rather listen to.
posted by peterkins at 3:24 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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