the engine’s headlights were shining and horns screaming leaves rustling ground trembling. there was a great wind, a great sound, and click! dammit. a split second off from catching the front. so mad at myself. another one didn’t pass again until after the sun left with its perfect light. what is a train picture without train headlights? a sailboat without a sail, that’s what.

Passing Train.

if the lake was the object that defined the setting for our michigan recording sessions, the icon here is the tracks. it’s an ongoing joke. we crank up the speakers when a train goes by, or sit and wait it out. for a little while, everytime we would hear a train coming we would start recording something, so that it might appear in the background on a cello or vocal part that makes it to the album. for better or for worse it’s basically inaudible on those recordings within the rest of the music, although we might put one in louder intentionally somewhere on a song out of respect (we recorded the lake too).

i guess it makes sense that we’re here. train tracks are a rock band photo cliche. every band does at least one photo shoot on train tracks or at a trainyard in some point early in their career. we have done both. it’s hard to shoot an interesting picture of train tracks though–pretty much only two ways to do it: boring horizontal lines, or one point perspective vanishing point demonstration like so:

Trenton Ohio Train Tracks
my cheap digital camera is great for ghostly multicolored lense flares (cheap digital for lense flare, holga for interesting light leaks. that’s all i know about photography so far).

enough about train photos. today was an extremely productive fun day in the studio.
we were able to get to almost everything on yesterday’s list. lots more cellos and bg vocals. mostly working with T. he always has so much to do, but it’s really his fault for being so unbelievably talented. his cello playing has been beautiful over the last few days. so much emotion and feeling. it’s an amazing instrument anyway, but he really makes it sing. we are using much more cello than guitar on this album.

here’s some sheet music T wrote out for his cello part on Pray the Stars (by the way, for all you classically trained pianists out there, i have a pdf of some sheet music we made for this song. i have been meaning to post it. i will eventually).
Pray The Stars T's Cello Sheet Music

we have since re-written the bridge, so the part transcribed above was recorded but won’t make it onto the album. actually, i stole a bridge from a song i wrote with my sister Amy. just transposed it to C and plugged it in here, since the old bridge pretty much sucked (or at least didn’t fit the character of the song…). so that’s cool! co-writing credit for Amy afterall.

our old friend and former guitarist Travis Delaney came in to lay down a part on a song called Virgo. at the moment it is one of only two songs that have big distorted guitar choruses, and called for his special touch with ear candy guitar work. we are still excellent friends and it was great to see him as always.

Travis Delaney Guitar on Virgo

also guest starring on the album are my three sisters, LeeAnn’s fiance’ Dave and Amy’s boyfriend Josh. on the song mitral valve prolapse (leaking heart) i wrote a big anthemic moment of “Whoo oo oo ooahs” that kind of calls for a crowd singalong. so i thought it would be fun to record my family. we had just finished dinner at my mother’s house and it was like “let’s do it. let’s do it right now.” so in the spirit of creative spontaneity we rushed over to the studio and put it down. it was a blast. to my surprise, it was very good. that sounds mean. i just kept thinking if i rounded up a bunch of people i know to sing, it would sound a little pitchy in places. but i hadn’t really thought it through–Amy is a musician, my other two sisters are good singers, Dave plays guitar and sings occasionally for fun, and Amy’s boyfriend Josh is in cool indie band Delhi Drive. surprise! i’m not so special. turns out everyone i know can sing my song just as well or better than i can.

finally, we did some more work on the dark. two days ago we were very worried about the song. now i am convinced it will be one of my favorites on the album. we experimented affecting some guitars to the point that they no longer sound like guitars. later dan came over and we used a drum pad to trigger some sweet 808 sounding samples.

Dan McQuinn Drum Pad Programming

now the song is a little electronic, a little 80’s prog rock, and over the top dramatic. we love it.
good day today. tomorrow is our last working here.

go bengals
joe