Headroom DOUBLE-HEADER! New Kississippi and Hop Along out today!!!
How crazy is that? Of all the days of the year, the two of the records I was most excited about working on last year came out the same day ?! Hop Along has released their 4th LP, 2nd on Saddle Creek, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Kississippi is self-releasing their debut LP, Sunset Blush. Wait? “I thought you said Kississippi announced signing with Side One Dummy records?” you might ask. I would tell you, “Wow, thanks for reading all my posts!” but then I’d also direct you to the article about the very unfortunately timed mishap that occured to Kissi as a result of some shit going down at that label that was written about HERE.
I’ve written a couple posts about recording Hop Along’s new record (click here or scroll down), and since I’ve been so looking forward to writing about the Kissi record, I think I will devote this post to recording the single, and my favorite song off of Sunset Blush, “Easier to Love”.
Easier to Love was the first song written for this record, and it was the first one that Zoe Reynolds of Kissippi and I got together to do pre-production on. I think the story behind this song is special, because it shows that you don’t necessarily need sick gear to make an amazing song. I also think its a great story about someone finding their voice in an artistic sense. In July of 2016, I ended up having a free day in the studio and invited Zoe over to do some song work-shopping and maybe record a demo. In advance of the session, I received a pretty fuzzy iPhone demo; vocals barely audible. I had little to go on, so I just decided to wait until we all got together and we’d work it out.
The band had been switching members all year since I’d known them, and Zoe brought along a bass player and a drummer who had been playing with her off and on recently. I’m not really sure what we did, but we definitely spent 6-8 hours on a demo that she and I were kind of underwhelmed by. The parts were cool, but they just weren’t gelling, and the song just didn’t grab you. At the end of the day, Zoe said something to the effect of “Well, I have this demo in garageband of the song from when i wrote it, but it doesn’t sound very good.” IT SOUNDED AWESOME! I don’t know for sure, but I kind of got the feeling that someone along the way had heard it, and kind of shit-talked the song/demo, and she had perhaps pursued a rock band version because of that, but it really blew away what we had been fooling around with that day. Sometimes you definitely need to take constructive criticism, but I guess the lesson is; consider the source, especially if its not constructive!!!
From then on Zoe and I decided to meet just the two of us at her house as well as mine once a week or so for a few months to put demos together in garageband, and then eventually switched over to Pro Tools. For “Easier to Love” we really used a lot of the stuff from the original garageband demo (tho we might have changed the tempo??), as well as the subsequent Pro Tools demo that we made at my house (which expanded on the original one from garageband). The opening of the song is pretty much exactly what Zoe showed me that very first day, the synth pad and bass were stock samples from her demo. At :49, I took the bass track and duplicated it, and shifted it down an octave to give the track more low end, as well as programmed the drum machine samples that I got from a library of classic drum machines that Shane Woods, our studio manager had bought off of Ebay. The washed out guitar chords that come in along with drums are actually just my Rickenbacker going direct into my old Motu 896 that I bought in 2006 with a bunch of plug-ins on it. At 1:14 we chopped up and super auto tuned Zoe’s vocals singing “oh’s” as an extra texture to fit in between lines of the song. It was an idea Zoe had that was inspired by this banger by Chvrches. We knew that we wanted it somewhere in the song but we just had to figure out where. Orginally we had the “oh’s” doubling the entire bass part, but ultimately it felt too cluttered so I muted everything except for the parts that fell in between lyrics.
We took the lyrics that were in the demo and arranged them to make 2 verses and 2 choruses, and that only got us up to the 2 minute mark of the song. If I remember correctly, I think I took some chords from the song and either strummed something that was in key, or perhaps inversions of other chords in the song, but in any case, I had a rough idea for a chord structure for a C section. I remember Zoe taking the chords and coming up with lyrics and melody for the new section in 20 minutes! Fortunately, the chorus melody of the song worked over the chord progression of the new section so we decided to end with the chorus over these chords. However, it felt like the final chorus that was going to be on top of big guitars and drums needed something extra. We copied and pasted the final line from the c section and VOILA! it worked between the lines of the chorus!!!
The C section and final Chorus of the song have the most stuff recorded in the studio. The drummer from Thin Lips, Michael Tasjian, laid down the drums. He played our old trusty C and C kit along with a vintage (dare i say kinda cheap?) japanese maple snare from the 60’s that Mark from Hop Along graciously leaves at our studio. Its nothing fancy but it honestly sounds amazing! Zoe and I laid down the guitar and bass guitar (which basically reprises synth bass line). When the drums hit we have a synth noise patch land on the “1” and fade out with a similar decay that a crash cymbal might have (its more audible on the last note of the song) as well as some square wave chords from a Prophet 08 that Jeff Lucci from Mo Lowda and the Humble was gracious enough to lend us (and then i bought my own because its just such an awesome synth). Kaylen Krebsbach at that point had joined Kississippi and came by to add her backing vocals to the “I didn’t think it would be” part in the final chorus, but at that point we liked the chopped up vocals that had recorded in my kitchen for the demo so much, that we left those in along with Kaylen’s!
I can’t say too much about mixing, except that it was really really hard!! I think it was maybe the 3rd song I mixed and the last one to be completed! It was a challenge to make the different parts, arrangements, low end and vibes fit all together as one song. If we had the budget, I think I would have rather had Joe or Ryan Schwabe mix it because at that point, i was just too close to the song and a fresh perspective would have been great BUT we didn’t so I did my best!
Kississippi’s new record Sunset Blush can be streamed, downloaded or buy the preorder HERE
Hop Along’s new record Bark Your Head Off, Dog can streamed or downloaded, but you’re a music lover right? order the vinyl HERE and keep amazing curators of music like Saddle Creek in business!!