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Post  James on Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:58 pm

First off, forgive me if I come off as controlling or condescending, I know I have a tendency to do that. If I give didn’t have any faith in you guys I wouldn’t even bother giving you shit. I don’t really feel like writing around the bush…very inefficient. If we’re going to work together, we’re going to have to communicate openly. Which brings me to my second point…

Why are we not using the forum more??? This is a three-person project and we’re having very little three-way communication. We need that. Really. Take advantage of all the internets.

So what this message is really about:

Fred, I feel like there is a rift in aesthetics between me and Rachel, and you. I want to make something eclectic sounding, but I feel like there’s inherent incompatibility between the two thought processes. I want to compromise, but I don’t know how to without sounding compromised. I don’t want any personnel changes, I just want to find a way to make this work. We all need to figure this out.

We had this same problem with Psychodevilia. We were never a fully conceptualized entity. There was always an ambiguity as to what we were or what the songs were supposed to be. It never felt like it was in a fully matured form. I want this to be a seamless album. The songs don’t have to sound the same, but there needs to be a certain correlation between all of them, you know.

I don’t want this to be another project that never quite got there. Please don’t take this as, “My ideas are better than your ideas.” We need to have one identity that we all understand and we all support. We need to all be building the same puzzle. You know how artists with bands and solo projects and side projects will say they wrote a song and they knew it was a (project) song? We need to figure out what Physical Video is, so we’ll know Physical Video songs and riffs when we come across them, and if we have songs that aren’t Physical Video, we’ll then be able to figure out how to Physical Videize them.

The first conceptual difference I see is you’re writing different songs emulating different genres, (i.e. All the Same is 60’s psychedelic, War is Michael Jackson, Earth is that whole Coldplay genre, Hard is Lenny Kravitz, etc.) Every song is almost like a cover of a specific style. Not that I can speak for Rachel, but what I feel we’re trying to do is create a consistent style comprised of bits of styles. I’m not sure how fixed you are on the arrangements when you upload them, but my first reaction to the songs I get from you that are single-style emulations is usually, “How can I make this song not this song?” I think if all our songs were like that, we’d just sound like a cover band playing songs no one’s heard before.

The second thing, I guess, is what we want to communicate with the music. I’m not going to presume what’s in your head, but please share. What I want it to say overall is, “Hey, this is what it sounds like in my head, in case you were curious.” I want the music and lyrics to really reflect each other and fit together seamlessly. For example, I think War, as is, seems too goofy/upbeat to really protest anything.

I’m not opposed to a semi-mainstream sensibility, but I don’t want the vocals to be jutting out of the music. Of course, they need to be loud enough to be heard, but they’re one part of the music, and if they overshadow everything else as is commonplace in Top 40 shit now, then they essentially become THEE part of the music.

One of the biggest places I see this style-rift hindering us right now is in vocal-layering. You have a tendency to sing in an almost grandiose way. Sometimes it comes of as, “I had vocal lessons and I want you to know it.” It doesn’t always fit what the song is about. It’s also difficult to mix operatic, projected vocals with smaller vocals. I’m totally for the layered vocal thing, (as long as all our songs aren’t Because,) but our voices all need to compliment each other.

I don’t want our lyrics to be place-holders in a catchy melody. There are hundreds of sounds that can make catchy melodies, why say words if you’re not actually saying anything? Place-holder lyrics dilute the meaning of the meaningful words around them. I know it’s easier to write that way and I do it too, but I really don’t want any place-holders in the final product.

I think those are the main issues standing in the way of us having a developed, homogenous sound. Please voice your opinions (you too Ray Ray), critique me back, etc.
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Post  James on Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:45 am

To clarify, I believe all the minor differences are symptoms of the main problem of what we want to communicate with the music/why we're making music. I think if we can align our motives and expectations, what the project is or isn't will become more obvious.

I want to make something that I want to listen to, or that perhaps another me out there would stumble across and enjoy. I want to use the music to communicate internal thoughts that can't really be communicated otherwise, and also to just sound cool. I'm honestly not expecting anyone outside our circle of friends or random internet traffic to ever hear what we're making.

I'm not sure what your motivation for pop-ifying is. Are you really that awe-stuck by pop or are you just hoping to get more followers that way? I really think we're all too off-beat at heart to fit that general mold. Even if popularity is important to you, I think we have a much better chance at attracting 10 art-rock fans than 100 pop fans, but any compromised integrity would easily scare them off. Pop acts rely on performances, image, and budget to attract people.

Lady Gaga is popular for the following reasons:
1. She's an "attractive" girl with no modesty
2. She has an army of suits behind her determining at every juncture what choice will result in more popularity and thus more money
3. Said suits hired a producer to write all her music and make it as painfully catchy as possible
4. There were 100 failed cash cows the suits signed before her that put the odds in her favor
5. Said suits own most TV stations and magazines
6. Said suits purchase airplay to repeatedly drill some catchy chorus into America's ears until they think they love it
(Yes, 99% of airplay aside from college and public radio is PURCHASED!)

We have none of those things, we are just noises coming out of the internet. I think if we did try to go a pop route, we would easily fail by those standards.

I also have a philosophical problem with favoring potential popularity over honest communication. If popularity is the priority why not just form a cover band or try out for quarterback? The difference between saying exactly what you want to say and watering it down with some things you think people want to hear, in my mind, is as big as the difference between a parrot and a poet. A parrot can say the same words as the poet and jumble them up in his own way, but he never actually communicates anything, he's just mimicking observed gestures.

I'm really not sure what the criteria for "good" popular music is, which makes it hard to make writing and editing choices.

Don't take this as a personal attack on you or anything, I just don't understand that philosophy and don't see any light at the end of that tunnel.
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Post  frezericks on Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:04 pm

i guess i'll start with, it's all cool.

i don't really know what music i want to make. i made a lot of my music when i was really young, and i didn't care then and i made whatever i wanted and didn't learn instruments or songs. now i'm regretting that i'm not able to integrate with other musicians as well, and i'm not able to play or write down all the music that's in my head because i never learned how to properly write or play.

now i just want to make music people can have fun to. i've never been comfortable sitting in one genre of music, but i never really deliberately move from one to another, it's just whatever comes out. and i know i'll never be pop, i just want music that's more chillaxed without being gloomy. fun instead of depressing.

i'm constantly miserable and depressed but i want music to be something positive. i have infinite potential right now and i have no idea what direction to move. I'm getting newer and better equipment which will certainly aid in creating some sort of sound, but right now, i don't know what that is. i'm not really sure who i am. i assumed i would have a band that i led by now, but instead i have worse than nothing. i love making music for myself, but that's never been my problem, my problem now is i really love performing in front of lots of people, and i have no outlet for that, yet.

maybe i'm taking it too seriously and i shouldn't care about a career in music, but right now i have very little self-confidence and i'm not sure what i'm trying to say. people i see on the street who seem cool are then wearing avenged sevenfold or disturbed shirts. maybe it's art rock i need to focus on. i just have no direction right now.
like a complete unknown, with no direction home.
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Post  James on Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:14 am

I know the feeling, I've never practiced as much as I should have.

Aside from some basic reading on music theory, the most significant thing I think I've done to advance my abilities is to wedge myself into other peoples’ creative spheres.

Before I joined Reprover, I totally sucked.

I couldn’t write beyond Am - C - Em. I had a year of guitar lessons in fourth grade, never practiced and quit. Noodled no more than once a month for five years, then after ninth grade I started taking lessons again and tried to find people to jam with.

The closest thing to a band I ever played in was jamming in your above-garage space with Jessi, Fairweather, Nick Prozerov, and someone else. It really wasn't anything until your dad came up and showed us how to play "how many more times" and even then it really was just him playing and me and Nick following kinda and Jessi being mad that her step-dad was stealing her band.

Point is: I had absolutely no anything.

My skills really didn’t get any more ill until spring in 11th grade, I think it was. On the way back from my aunt’s house one day, Tom wanted to get dropped off at some house show, and on a whim I decided to go with him. (I didn't frequent local shows too much at that point.) The show was in Dan Keytard Ryan's abandoned guest house and I signed up to join Reprover before hearing them.

They were retarded. Mind you, it was Evan singing, Dan on keys, and some bass and drum players they picked up earlier that week who I don’t think I ever saw again. When I saw them I was thinking equal parts "Did I really sign up for this?", "Well I guess they’ll make me look good", and "What can I turn this into?"

We started practicing semi-regularly and cycling through drummers until we hit Kevin, but we were still an amorphous blob of suck until Ty came along. Everything I know about song structure and arrangement I learned from Ty...kinda. He got me over the first major hump.

The whole time I really wanted to push for some kinda gothy-industrial type thing, but Ty was the one that could play and write so I bit the bullet, played power-metal and learned a shit load from it. From the moment Ty joined I was at a fluctuating level of disgruntled-ness about the creative direction of the band, but the partying was awesome, and it was way better than anything I'd be doing otherwise. You know that standard rock/metal thing of playing muted power chord eighth-notes for measures on end and un-muting the accented notes? I couldn't even do that before him.

There was this band we played with a bunch of times who changed their names more than their underwear, the only name I remember is Black Bacarra, but anyway their rhythm guitarist went to college at some point around that time, so I volunteered to fill in for the time being. I was pretty aware that I wasn't really good enough to play for them. (I wasn't really good enough to play Ty's material either.) But I went to one practice and fucked around with them. That's when I learned to pitch squeal. Never jammed with them again, they brought the other guy back.

I think my biggest regret of the Psychodevilia period was not involving myself in other projects, because that's where you learn new tricks the fastest, and that's how you get different views of the whole of music.

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it, but the first thing I recorded that I didn't write was this elementary school teacher from steel city. At open mic she asked if anyone knew someone that could record, and I really had jack shit on my schedule, so I signed up for it. When I showed up to record she told me her friend that was going to play bass had bailed on her and asked if I'd do it, so I signed up for that too. We got through all four or five songs in an afternoon and then I took it home to bassify and mix. On one song I felt really compelled to add this multilayered 12-string solo, so I just did it, and it felt really rewarding because it totally made the song, and I somehow felt connected to this woman I didnt know and the dead grandfather she was singing about. I'll find that one for ya, I haven't heard it in years.

When I got down here the first thing I got involved in that wasn't my own creation was my classmate Kyle’s material. All his stuff is rhythm guitar and vocals, with a consistency of Dave Matthews/Goo Goo Dolls. I would track those two parts and then talk him into layering as many guitars as I could get out of him. He never recorded much, so he was always reluctant to add stuff, but always got it after it was on tape. After that I would add strings/piano/drums/leads/etc. He was so happy with some of the stuff I did that he's asked me to play lead for him at open mics a few times. I've also noticed he's recording with fuller arrangements himself now.

When you’re working FOR an artist, rather than with them, as was the case with Kyle, or Kelly in Phoenixville, you have to be creative in a whole different way. You can no longer pull out anything from the archives of your musical memory that amuses you. It’s easier in a way. There are no longer an overwhelming number of possibilities. You’re not responsible for content AND context. The context is there and you just have to paint by numbers. The hard part is seeing the context as they see it, and not just your first impression of what it is. There’s been a few times when Kyle’s material has sparked oddly syncopated ideas in my head that didn’t really line up with his vision. Trial and error on that front, however, has given me a clearer idea of what he’s trying to do, and it’s now easier for me to write something he’ll like, or at least filter out ideas he won’t like on my own.

When you start forcing yourself to look at music through other peoples’ eyes and understanding their musical vocabulary and value system, it really expands your own vocabulary. There are things Kyle would do that I wouldn’t necessarily think of, that when shifted from a major to minor key would easily fit into something I would write. It’s all little things like that. Discovering other peoples tricks and then tweaking them to serve your own needs at some later time.

Two years ago, I hated grindcore. Towards the end of last summer I started looking for bands that I wasn’t a part of to record, as a new challenge/portfolio experience. My friend/dealer/booking guy for this venue, Mike, was looking to record his band Fuck Everything. I was turned off by the constant tempo/time signature changes of the style, but we had played shows together a few times, and I would hang out with them on a semi-regular basis, so I signed up for the job. I really didn’t have a clear picture of any of their songs at the time, they all just sounded like Zappa farts to me. We also really rushed through the recording so they could have something to hand out, so none of it came out that great, but by the time we were done I started seeing the intrinsic sense of logic behind what they were doing.

In December we started making plans to record a new demo in 2010. There was this other band, Vampire Woman, they were good friends with, who I had seen a few times before but never really got, that I now understood as well. So we decided to up the stakes and try to make a split demo. We started tracking in February. We got through all of Vampire Woman’s instruments by the end of the month if I remember correctly. The lead singer stretched vocals out until the end of May. (His lack of motivation was why they kicked him out a few hours before the last vocal session. Most passive aggressivest session ever.) We got Fuck Everything’s drums done in early February, but then their guitarist’s dad died so he had to go see family in Indiana for a bit, then the band had to move. It was a month or two before we started vocals and guitars, and we still have all bass, keys, and half of guitars to do. One of these days…

Working with both of them has done a number of things for me, aside from just showing me the beauty of grindcore. Every band has it’s own systems of order and communication, functions of instruments, unwritten code of what their songs can and can’t be, specific lingo for abstract ideas, etc. Recording a band, especially when you go to their house to do it, lets you really get in their inner circle and see how they work in their natural habitat. It’s as if crocodiles invited Steve Irwin to hang out in their living room...section of their swamp. Vampire Woman is also a band that’s very cognizant of what each part of their music is doing, which has a way of rubbing off on you.

Their guitarists also inspired me to cut the umbilical cord to my pedalboard.

I’m kinda rambling at this point. I guess the main thing to take away from what I’m saying is get involved with other people’s projects and play a part your not used to playing.
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Post  James on Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:25 am

In more direct response to some of what you were saying,

I'm not really sure what I want to say either. I'm not sure if I really have anything worth saying, which is why I want to avoid super prominent lyrics. I want to make the music groovy and quirky and moody but not necessarily depressing. I think it's the lyrics that will make that distinction. If you don't say anything the music can be a lot more things. I think maybe overture needs to lose the lyrics, or have some sort of attitude shift. Lettingo I really want to not sound mopey. That's the problem I see with lyrics there. I think it has a lot going for it, but my singing annoys me there.

I want to aim at the middle-ground between fun and depressing. I want to be a painting that you can't stop staring at but your not sure why.

Also, the thing about dissonance is, if you put the right beat on it, it magically turns into funkyness.
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Post  James on Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:47 am

I'm sorry, funkitude.
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Post  frezericks on Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:53 am

yeah, my biggest problem right now is patience, because i sat down to really work on stuff and found myself more out of practice than i wanted and that sent me into this shame spiral of rage.

i uploaded a bunch of stuff just now. three songs (fall, forget me thoughts, filter) that are the barest skeleton of a song, but there might be some good melody in there. the lyrics are depressing, and i'm fully ok with anyone rewriting my lyrics at this point.

also uploaded "before" which is a basic finger picked arpegio dealy that i was just fooling around with. and "lost the way" which is a bass line and vocal melody, which i think you might like as peaceful but moody.

these are all bare bones but it's what i have right now.
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Post  James on Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:17 pm

i really like crappyawesome, lets develope that more. i dunno if you wanted to keep it that short but i think it works, maybe a few seconds less, i really like what rachels doing on it too, pjharveylicious

i like the core of filter a lot. i hear it getting kinda my bloody valentinish. big guitar wall type thingy.

i like fall too. i feel like you're hitting on something real now. a stronger kernel to build your songs around.

i feel like making stuff spacier and more shoegazey lets the lyrics be kinda emo at heart, and the songs still have that kind of moving feel, but without sounding whiney. i'm always afraid of crossing that line, it's very easy to accidentally step over. i think some of my songs need it too
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Post  James on Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:34 am

what do you know about theory?
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Post  James on Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:37 am

im kinda feeling spacemen3ish for lost my way
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Post  frezericks on Sat Jun 19, 2010 1:40 am

I'll start working on music for crappyawesome.

And the theory pages you put up are awesome. gives me lots of reading.

if anyone wants to redo any of the songs i put up, i know there's no midi and it's poor quality, but attempt away, or tell me what you think i should do, like with crappyawesome. I'm gonna work on some bass drum vocal stuff too.
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Post  James on Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:19 pm

look at your chord progressions and analyze their keys. look up other chords. mix it up. you can level them up fast.
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