A playlist from your girls to you
Our guitar player Rob and I are writing songs together for the first time. We’ve always listened to different stuff, so I was anxious about how it’d go. The process has gotten us talking about what really excites us about music and has opened us up to new sounds.
So we’re documenting the process as we go. Follow the playlist on Spotify here.
Drums are the oldest instrument, and there’s evidence they’ve existed in almost every culture. I think they tap into something deeply human.
Brian McTear, the producer of our last album, once told me that the drum beat determines the genre of music. It’s an interesting theory — take a chord progression, put two different beats behind it, and you can have two very different songs.
I could write a hundred pages on Bowie’s Blackstar and how it ruined me. But musically, it’s what got me thinking about how a heavy, hip-hop inspired beat can drastically change the feel of a song and freshen an idea. A few tracks on the record go down this path, but the one I really blast in my headphones is “Girl Loves Me.”
Two other songs in this realm are “Ffunny Ffrends” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra and “Stillness is the Move” by Dirty Projectors — both have repetitive beats and chord progressions throughout, yet keep you grooving without boring you.
We’re experimenting with this idea on a few of our new songs.
For me, there are very few instances in which the melody of a song trumps the beat of a song, and coming from a guitar/mandolin player, that’s fucked up. A beat’s pairing with instrumentation is one of the finer points in the production of music (IMHO).
“Limb by Limb” by Phish starts as a typical “decent” studio Phish song (live version’s better, obv) — you can just hear the “bro” beat coming. But Jon Fishman kicks in and the song becomes a rhythm juggernaut.
My attraction to when a drummer goes ‘above and beyond’ continues in Nine Inch Nails’ “Only.” A simple drum pattern, turned jarring yet fitting once the other instruments kick in. It sounds like Reznor may have made the drum beat after the instruments were figured out, and then through the magic of Pro Tools, did a classic ctrl+C ctrl+V for the intro.
My love for a simple beat is given to Steely Dan’s “Black Cow.” What can be heard on an elevator can apparently cross genres and sampled into hip hop Lord Tariq’s “Deja Vu (Uptown Baby).” Overall… simple yet piercing, unexpected but completely called for.