What an incredibly LONG weekend. Hopefully this will answer the question that begs “where was I” last week, or “what happened to my weekly ‘flogging?’” Haha!! I took yesterday off of work, and after returning today and coming home from a full day of work, I still feel like I got run over by a truck. This weekend was long, exhausting, mind-numbing and certainly stretched us to the limit. On the flip side though, it was awesome, exhilarating , fun and productive.
It started with a mid-monsoon jaunt to the Fubar in downtown St. Pete to rock with our friends Verse, as well as other local bands Tug and Head State. You can probably find the setlist in the Tourography to know that it was a cut a bit short. The night was full of craziness, as gig nights generally are. We hung out with Amanda and Rich from Sunshine & Bullets, caught up with Chris Cherry and watched Matthew Coombs do his thing. We went back and forth between the Fubar and the Local 662, who were hosting Smile Empty Soul. We caught some of 3 Pill Morning’s set and hung out behind the venue with J-Rock and Patty.
All the while the rain kept it’s incessant pitter-patter on us – particularly driving Derek nuts. So, as these things have a tendency to do – the Fubar schedule was already getting pushed back, and word has it that Verse went on extremely late. Gabe stayed and soldiered on, but I knew I’d be totally thrashed by Sunday if I had stayed. I knew I had to do vocals on Sunday in the studio, so couldn’t afford to stick around. I needed my rest (like an old man) and needed a reprieve from the smoky bar scene haze.
Now the fun REALLY began.
Saturday dawned bright and early (WAY too freaking early!)
Our gear was in the trailer at my mom and dad’s house, ready to go. Derek was the first to arrive, wondering where the rest of us were. Gabe came to my house and we went together to my parents’ house. Once there, they parked, and we waited on Ben, who’s mom apparently shut off his alarm clock. All the while we were slated to be in the studio in Orlando right at 10am…
He finally got there and we made a quick trip to McDonald’s for some nasty fast breakfast. We got on the road, and at the urging of my father, stopped on I-4 at a Flying J to top off the fuel tank and check the oil. All was good. We high-tailed it to Orlando, Universal Studios area. We came to the studio which was in a nice secluded area with a lake behind it. We met up with Matt Brown of 10 Years, who had extended us the invitation to come up and record a song.
We got loaded in, set up drums and jammed on three potential songs. Me, Ben, and Derek were in the control room, and Gabe jammed in the studio with headphones. We got done, and Matt liked the third offering the most. Of course, haha!! That was the one with the quirky odd-metered riff. Being a drummer, he seemed ready to try a new, weird thing, even if it was 5/4, 7/8, 9/8 WHATEVER, lol… We took a break for lunch and went to Gator’s, which had AMAZING grilled wings. It was the calm before the storm. I took the guys back to the studio and went to check into the hotel while they got set up and got drum sounds. They were still doing this when I arrived.
Matt wasted no time in assuming a true producer role. He wanted to make changes off the bat, which we were more than happy to oblige: we’d never experienced a studio setting where the producer was pushing and prodding to get the best out of you and your material. We sure were about to, though.
It even came down to changing the main riff around and adding some stuff to extend a meter here and there. That was particularly tough; this was a song we’ve been playing for some time, and it seemed like an act of God was going to have to take place to dispel the muscle memory we already had in place. We jammed through the song with just the metronome, to give Gabe a framework. Once it was on the grid, he and Matt were good to go.
And “go” they went.
Matt was very persistent and detailed and specific about what he wanted on the track, right down to the beat. What some might have considered minutiae was carefully weighed, torn apart, built back up, thrown away, recycled, and resurrected. Gabe sweat out his performance for nearly FOUR HOURS – backtracking and rethinking and trying to put into place what Matt needed as a firm foundation to construct this song. Or rather, this “becoming” of sorts as the song was growing and mutating in a new, cool way.
At the end of the hours for the drum tracking and countless takes later, we broke down the set and moved the amps in. Gabe came into the control room and collapsed. Rightly so. His job might have been the most difficult, sweating out a performance to a crappy scratch track, having to imagine the big wall of sound that would be to come.
I was next. It was the end of the night, I was dead tired, hungry, and I had to regurgitate this riff that I had played so many times before, but now with new parts and flurries of notes that hadn’t been there before. Take after take, Matt patiently explained to me to relax and feel the beat. I have a huge tendency to get over excited and anxious and speed everything up.
When I was finally done, it was Ben’s turn. By the end of the night, we were all feeling a little wasted as far as being put through the ringer. That was when things got interesting. None of us had eaten, so we went to the hotel to veg out for a bit before heading out to get food. It was just past midnight and a lot of the places we had hoped to maybe go grab a bite were closed. Derek and Gabe spent a long time waiting for pizza at this Domino’s Pizza and Ben and myself walked to Walgreen’s to get some drinks. We got back to find Derek and Gabe chilling out, eating pizza and watching “Fast 5” on the TV.
I was hoping to eat and immediately hit the pillow for some sleep, but it was not meant to be. I ended up driving Derek to Disney’s Fort Wilderness – a trek that took 25 minutes each way. Once I got back to the hotel I definitely felt (and no doubt looked) like a zombie. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, watched a little “Hangover II,” and lights out. It should be noted that Gabe and Ben – nestled sweetly in the same bed – were both out and breathing heavily – right on the edge of snoring. How I WISHED I was one of them – in the grasp of dreamland. Later on, I finally dozed off, my mind filled with everything I had to do the next day.
I woke up to Gabe listening to music on his iPhone from inside the bathroom. I wasn’t happy about being awake already, but dozed for as much as I could. I got up, made my way to the bathroom for a shower, got out, then we had to get Ben motivated – no small feat, lol…
We gathered our things, loaded the truck and came back in for the hotel’s freebreakfast. It was already 9:45am and we were slated to be at the studio by 10. It should definitely be noted that the secluded spot the studio was in was inside a gate, so we were able to leave the trailer there. That was AWESOME – I didn’t have to lug that thing everywhere and figure out parking and such.
We rolled into the studio a little late, but Matt was already there, and had warned us by way of a phone call, that a water moccasin was already there to greet us at the studio door. Sure enough, there it was, sprawled out and sunning itself. We’re so heavy metal we ran past it like scared girls, haha!!
Not content to stick with the guitar tones from the other night, Matt had Ben and I re-do two rhythm tracks. I did my coloring parts and Ben rocked through a screaming solo. I was feeling better. I had had some sleep, and food in my belly. Guitars were done. We moved the guitar rigs out and the bass rig in. Then Derek, aka Zeus, the god of Thunder, thundered his way through a rumbling and beefy bass track. Then it was go time. The bass rig came out and the makeshift iso booth went up. We got levels for vocals and then took a break for lunch.
It was a quick one this time. I wrote the song lyrics out and Matt had me do one pass to feel the song out. Then I came in and we went to work on the lyrics. I prayed in my head that I wanted to welcome change and move things around, but asked for the strength to still be bold in what I wanted the chorus to say.
A lot of our songs are big and bold about God on our choruses and this one was no different. I let Matt know I still wanted it to be inspiring and a positive catalyst for people. I also wanted a big hook and something easy to sing.
He was very receptive to the message of the song and actually opened my eyes up to try to be more focused within the context of a song. “What does this line mean?” “What are you trying to say here?” These were frequent questions. We would cross lines out, then add them back in. Erase whole sections, and flip-flop certain lines or words.
Matt really worked with me on the vocals, but I’m sure by the end I knew how Gabe was feeling at the end of his drum track on the previous day. I must have sung through the bridge of the song more than 20 times. Matt was all about the attitude behind the singing and not necessarily being completely screamo the entire time – like I usually do, lol
He was very into the human element – the performance – and giving it everything you’ve got. We came out exhausted and beat – and as time was running out, we were literally loading the trailer up and still recording background vocal tracks!!
My vocals were pretty much thrashed even through the next day – which is crazy. I usually sing for at least 2 hours if not longer during a band practice. When we were done, we said our goodbyes and headed to Bubba’s Bodacious Barbecue – Ben wasn’t impressed but Gabe loved it, mwahahaha!! We proceeded to leave in one of the craziest storms we’d ever been in, finally got home in just over two hours, unloaded at the band practice space, parked thetruck and trailer at my mom and dad’s, and had Gabe bring me home.
If you feel exhausted just reading this, then you have an idea of what we were all feeling at that moment! Until the next day, where I started clearing out major stuff we had in boxes and moving them into the storage unit to make way for Baby Bell – but that’s for another time.
Going into the studio with Matt was a very eye-opening experience. I know we will absolutely use it as a positive catalyst for us, to never give up, and always push the boundaries of our craft. Spending hours practicing drums and guitar and vocals and writing the best songs we can – which will be on the next FTF record!!
Matt Brown is a very humble and very talented drummer, engineer and producer. It was an awesome weekend, and we look forward to doing it again with him sometime!!
As for you Firestarters still looking for the official FTF Kickstarter campaign… well, it’s right around the corner!! Our next meeting to firm up all the incentives is tomorrow night. See you guys soon, Drew Bell, 06/12/2012