After After the Laughter

The new album entitled After the Laughter has been posted. We are getting ready for its digital release by Max Recordings. Soon after that, we will be pressing a few physical CDs. Stay tuned for updates.

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For those of you who like to know the Behind the Music type details, here are a few.

  • I think that’s pretty obvious that I was listening a lot to records by Bobby Charles, Ry Cooder, and NRBQ when I wrote this album.
  • There was a conscious decision to include more backing vocals on this record.
  • The backing vocals on ends of I Was Wrong, I Ain’t No Poet, and The Pills Are Different Now are inspired by those on Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”
  • Jason and I are uncredited for playing piano and vibes, respectively, on the title track, After the Laughter.
  • The verses for Stayed On Too Long were originally in a song I wrote called We Lost .
  • Many of the chord changes in these songs were intentionally kept simple, but I tried to use non-obvious key changes as a mode for sophistication.

So that’s just a little bit of extra information about this record. If you give it a listen, I hope you like it. It was definitely fun for me to make.

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On Bey’s Lemonade

It’s been one week since I watched Lemonade. I haven’t read very much about it. I haven’t kept up with any sort of dialog. I even missed the NPR report about it. Nonetheless, here is my honest visceral reaction to it.

It was great. It was visually stunning and sonically compelling. I left the experience of watching it highly impressed and positively affected.

Perhaps the thing I felt most drawn to in the film was its southern rural imagery. As a first-generation southerner who has since left the south, I get nostalgic about southern imagery from time-to-time. Living in an extremely dry climate, I daydream of my youth spent in moisture. It’s an entirely different feel to living that’s hard to explain. When there’s moisture everywhere, things look and sound different — dark is darker, heavy is heavier, and deep is deeper. How light and sound cut through this part of the world is totally different from where I live now. These sorts of things affect how you live and how you shape your days.

Lemonade is filled with images that conjured up these memories for me. I got transplanted momentarily to a wetter place. Glass always has condensation. Walls feel softer. The earth always gives a little with each step you take on it.

I make no claims of understanding Lemonade. I have no insight into its purpose nor its intent apart from being a really innovative way to promote a new record. To be completely honest, I was not a fan of her work prior to this one. That being said, Lemonade did make me think about the things I tried to describe above, and for that I’m grateful to have had that experience of seeing it.

Finally Taking the Plunge

I have been able to work on writing several new songs that I believe will make up the fourth YHP record. There are still a few final decisions to make and I may try to write some new songs to see if I can beat some of the older ones, but I think I have the bulk of the songs ready for the record.

Now comes the anticipation of getting everyone together to make this record. Scheduling is always tough, but it’s gotten much tougher. Some initial pings to people to check their availability have revealed that they’re ready to make another YHP record. It’s certainly been too long since I’ve gotten some decent Little Rock BBQ, catfish, etc. I think the band feels the same. Stay tuned for updates, but it might take a while for this new record to come together. Life is complicated.

The new songs are largely written from a rather specific perspective of getting the band back together and writing for that band. Because of that, I don’t want to work on them anymore until I get to work with the band. I need something new to do. I have decided to finally take the plunge and learn more about recording at home.

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Here’s my new drum recording setup based on Glyns Johns’ method.

Up until recently, I have always tried to keep my home recording setup pretty simple. I haven’t wanted to get particularly fancy or good at recording because (1) I was hesitant to invest in the right gear and (2) that was never my main focus. I have always just wanted enough to record demos of my songs to document my ideas preferring to leave the recording to the professionals.

Circumstances have changed. I am not able to get to the studio so easily and it can be difficult to find the time to get everyone together. I have also started to think about trying to write different kinds of songs — songs that weren’t so tied to the band that I could record myself. That’s when I finally accepted the idea that I should spend some time thinking about how to record things better than I have been.

Jason has been hugely supportive and helpful. He donated some mics and got me started on finding the right kind of gear that I would need. He’s also patiently dealing with tracks that I’ve recorded and helping with notes on how to improve my recording. I’ve recorded one new song so far, and things are progressing well. If I do more and I think they’re interesting, I may post things to soundcloud. Maybe I’ll come up with a different moniker.

For these songs, I am trying to keep things much simpler. I am focusing on more standard chord changes and considering more experimental sonic elements. Lyrically, I’m trying to explore different kinds of voices and streams of thought. I don’t have broad themes identified, but it’s fun to think about songwriting by thinking about doing something different from what I have been doing.

The one thing I have committed myself to is having everything be performance-based. I would like to adhere to the idea that things should be happening before the box rather inside of it. If I can’t play the thing with the sound that I want to have on the recording, that means I have to practice until I can. In that way, I am hoping to get better at everything I try to do. It’s too easy to fall back on old habits or compensate for my shortcomings through avoidance. I need a mechanism to force myself to push beyond my capabilities. Otherwise, I’m not going to be interested in what I’m doing.

We Live in Exciting Times

I sometimes wish I was a different guitar player.

There are so many amazing pedals out there nowadays. We really are at some kind of pedal renaissance right now. People are making all kinds of amazing pedals that I never thought I’d see. It kind of makes me wish I was more into complex signal chains with tap tempos, expression pedals, etc. But to be honest, I have no idea how to deal with those things.

I went through my Radiohead phase. I’m happy to report that I’m over it. I got into Wilco for a girl (true story). That was when Summerteeth was current. I got out. I walked away. As a result of all of this, I bought a few strange pedals that I thought would give me “art” cred.  I still have them. They sit on a shelf waiting for me to change.

Nonetheless, I find myself drawn into all of the demonstration videos about the latest pedal and how to arrange them in a signal chain. For example, I spent some quality time watching the Jason Isbell Rig Rundown. Side note: it made me very happy to learn he got gigs just because he has a Coodercaster. I have one, too! Anyone need me to show up and look awesome for your gig? Email me! At the same time, all of those pedals he uses are overwhelming. His controller is crazy.

I’ve been conflicted. Lately, I don’t find a lot of time to play as much as I’d like. So checking out the latest pedal trending is a relatively easy thing to do, especially when I’m procrastinating at work. I subscribe to several pedal-based Instagram handles. It lets me see all of the amazing stuff coming out these days. But when it’s time to think about what I’d do with the latest and greatest thing, I get completely confused. Do you overdrive a compressed signal or add a delay before an overdrive? I have no idea. I do know that the real answer is that you’re supposed to experiment around, but I don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. I just want to sound awesome and I want to look awesome, but I don’t want people to see how hard I am working to sound and look awesome.

The dangerous thing is that I have a job that pays pretty well. I can buy pedals now, so I have. Let me know unveil my new pedalboard.

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My latest pedal board setup.

It’s a Pedaltrain Metro 16 pedalboard. I posted a first draft of this pedalboard setup a while back on my facebook page, but I spent this past weekend revising it. Basically, I had to include a few old and new items, so I rearranged and rewired things. To satisfy all of you gear nerds out there, here is the signal path.

  • Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal (tuner)
  • JHS Pulp ‘n Peel (compressor)
  • Mojo Hand FX Superlative (overdrive)
  • Behringer UV 300 (vibrato)
  • Catilinbread Adineko (oilcan delay)
  • Old Blood Noise Endeavors Black Fountain (oilcan delay)
  • Keeley Magnetic Echo (tape dely)

The compressor is always on. It’s got a very nice blend knob which is handy when I’m switching between different guitars. The Superlative models an overdriven small amp really well. Since I play relatively small amps, it allows me to keep the amp at the sweet spot just before breaking. Those pedals are mounted on the top of the pedalboard since I’ll never be punching them on or off very much.

As you can probably tell, I’m trying to figure out delay. It’s not so intuitive for me. The Adineko is set to be very sloshy, viscous, and uneven as an oilcan delay should be, but it’s not set to be a long delay. The Black Fountain is set to a lower viscosity, but with a longer tail. The tape delay is set to be a slapback. They’re all rather crazy delay pedals on their own. I’m hoping to figure them out even more with this new setup.

For me, the main revision to this board is the inclusion of the Behringer. I really love this pedal. It’s cheap and it gives me the Boss VB-2 vibrato without having to pay for a Boss VB-2 (as much as I’d like to have one). Ever since I learned that Big Al uses a Boss VB-2 that he bought at Real Guitars in San Francisco, I feel validated in wanting a vibrato pedal in my pedalboard. Most rececntly, I was checking out Taylor Goldsmith’s pedalboard and I saw a VB-2 prominently sitting there.

I’m pretty happy with my setup now. I can’t think of anything else I want although I’m sure you could show me something to make me take that back. So I guess that means I have to refocus back on my playing. Good. I was getting scared that I’d never get out of this whole pedal craze. It’s too much for me to handle.

Back to work again

Moving has always been traumatizing for me. I dislike it greatly. Ask anyone who has had to watch me move and they’ll confirm that I’m not very good at it. I hate how it forces me to reflect on my life as manifested by my goods and objects. There’s a reason I put something in a box in my closet. It’s because I didn’t want to deal with it then. To have to deal with it now is worse. That being said, I have moved my studio space recently.

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My new studio space is a work in progress. The vacuum is for cleaning the floor. I’m not going for that “Phish sound.”

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Getting the new space set up is fun, but I’m ready to get back to work!

Having this new space to work has taken some time to get built, but it’s finally done. It’s a finished garage space. It’s a big and open room, so that’s very nice. There’s a “lounge” area with a couch and TV. The rest of the space is dedicated to creative things (no bathroom, so not that kind of creativity). Now come the hard parts. First, I have to set it up to allow for creativity to happen easily. Then, I have to get myself in a state of mind to be creative. That last one can be difficult for me.

I’ve come to realize that when it comes to working on something, I really need to free myself, at least momentarily, from distractions and obligations. I can’t think about finances. I can’t think about my work to-do-list. I can’t think about dirty dishes. I really need to be able to free up my mind to get to the point where I can create things. This might sound obvious and dumb, but at the same time, I’m sure you can sympathize with how difficult setting up moments like these can be. There’s always something else that you should be doing, which usually means something done for someone else’s needs. One email or text can ruin a moment that took all day to set up for yourself. Being brought up to be obedient and think about others before me, I sometimes find it selfish and self-indulgent to carve out time for myself. At the same time, if I don’t, I’m rather pissy and unpleasant.

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The new workdesk has plenty of room for various cables to interface in and out of the rig.

Let’s talk about the room now. I’ve been worried about the really live reverberation in the room. It’s hard to tell how things are going to sound in an empty room. Plus, I can hear some street noise. But now that most of the furniture is in the room, that echo has been tamed a bit. I set up my pro tools rig and started to record some parts for a new song I wrote a while back. I watched a few instructional videos a few days ago about how to mic drums, so I tried a new approach involving a stereo mic setup over the kit. I only have a draft of the song recorded, but the drums sound pretty good! I recently picked up a modified Gibson Falcon GA-19RVT which sounds fantastic with several of my guitars, especially the Reubencaster. The song I’m working on is a slide-based song, so I played the Reubencaster into that amp with some delay and it worked out great on the track. Now, I just have to shape up the lyrics and turn it into a real song. My first effort in my new music room. Here’s to hoping that it turns into something.

There remains a bunch of things to be done for the room. I need to continue to organize stuff. I managed to organize my CDs, which is no small task, but I have books, cables, and all sorts of other stuff I have to figure out where to place. This will probably take a decent amount of time since I have a bunch of other stuff in the queue. Still, it seems like the space works. I just need to carve out the time to work in it.