Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New MP3 - three songs featuring Laurie

Today's blog is about recording with my new vocalist, Laurie Reade. First a bit of set up....

You might have a fantasy of how a band works. The story goes that musicians are people who sleep till 3 pm (after a night of partying), stumble out of bed and decide, "Hey, let's go and record something." Yeah, it's a nice fantasy, but reality is different.

( Image of Laurie by Sam Rosenthal )

Inch Worm / Marmalade Cat / Caught by a Stranger
almost final mix.

Most of us have day jobs, and we wake up at 6:45 am like the rest of the world (often with a kid banging us upside the head asking if he can play on the computer). Sigh. Myth dispelled. I am luckier than most, because my day job is running the Projekt record label. Yes, I get into work very early, but I can take the day off and make music if I feel like it.

Usually, I go into the studio nights and weekends. In the spring and summer of 2008 (early in the recording of 10 Neurotics) I would only go in every couple of weeks to start a new song or work on something that was half-complete. However, since December - when recording really switched into high gear and I started working with Brian Viglione - music has taken up every minute of my non-work / non-dad time. I mean seriously! Yesterday, Brian and I worked 11 hours on rough mixes for the album, some of which are excerpted into the MP3 you are listening to.

Generally, I work with my vocalists during the last third of the recording process. By that time, I have lived with the songs for a while and have refined my lyrics to express exactly what I want to say. I get together with Athan or Nicki to record vocals on a song and then it is a week or two before I get into the studio again to lay down more vocals.

That is different when a vocalist comes in from out of town. Then it's like a working vacation. We spend all day in the studio, getting amazing stuff down. This is when it's more like the scenario in the opening paragraph. We get to be full-time musicians!

10 Neurotics actually has three female vocalists. "I strike you down" was recorded with Elysabeth Grant for Projekt200; recently I revamped the music to fit the sound of this album. Nicki Jaine (who joined the band for the Halo Star tour and who I collaborate with on the side project Revue Noir) sings two songs. I wrote "Rotten Zurich Cafe" on Xmas Eve and recorded Nicki's vocals within two weeks. It is rare that a song comes together that fast.

And then there's Black tape for a blue girl's new female vocalist, Laurie Reade.

Attentive Projekt fans know Laurie as the former U.S. vocalist for Attrition. She toured America from 2004 through 2008 with the band, impressing fans in over 50 cities with her beautiful interpretations of Martin's operatic female vocals. She often performed with her own band High Blue Star (now defunct) as the opening act. Laurie and I met in January 2005 when Attrition camped out in my living room for a few days while on tour. Sasha was two and a half then, and he took to calling all the people in the living room "Martin" - the real Martin, the other guy named Martin and the female Martin - I dubbed the band "the Martins" (it seemed to make sense to us!)

Whenever I caught Attrition's show, I was impressed with Laurie's vocals. But, ya know, I already had a vocalist.

[In a future blog I will detail why the following sentence is true:] Fast forward to mid-2008 and I realize I did not have any vocalists. I had to find me some new ones! Laurie was the first female singer to come to mind. While ability is the #1 criteria for a band member, a very close #2 is compatibility. I really don't want any drama in my band. I don't want trouble. I want to have fun and make music. That's something I realized on the Halo Star tour. Some people are lots of fun. Some people are, shall I say, less fun (my mom always told me "be diplomatic.").

I invited Laurie to audition. I sent her the live backing tracks for "All my lovers;" a few weeks later Laurie emailed a demo of her singing the song. "That sounds like my band!" I said to myself, enthusiastically. Things were moving along. Next up was trying out some of the new material.

The original plan was to do two separate sessions for 10 Neurotics. But family logstics prevented Laurie from making the first trip. Instead we decided to do all the recording in one session. That sounded like a bit of a challenge, having never worked together in the studio. What if we didn't get what I was looking for? It would be sort of late to find a new NEW vocalist! We always got along well at shows and festivals where both our bands were performing, I knew she was a good singer, I knew the songs were strong. So, why not go for it?

Laurie came to record vocals on four songs ("Inch Worm," "The Perfect Pervert," "Marmalade Cat" & "Love Song") plus another song without lyrics ("Caught by a Stranger") which we ended up writing in the studio. She also sang backing vocals on "Sailor Boy," "Tell Me You've Taken Another" and "Curious, Yet Ashamed." Wow! That's a lot of work for two and a half days! But it was really great work!

I think there's something you will notice when you hear this album. In the past, the female vocal styling have been consistent. In a certain sense, even though the songs told stories, stylistically the vocals were written to blend from album to album. This is not a knock on the great vocalists I have worked with; they always performed stunningly. This time I wanted to do something different.

When you listen to these songs, you hear the different characters. Here are the lyrics in the MP3 excerpts:

Well, I showed them, yes they now see, they see less of me each day.
I proudly give the finger to the jackass who found it easy to walk away.
I now look great by the pool, in bed, when I'm waiting for the bus -
watch me blow away, that’s it, that’s it! I'm light as a feather, I wanna fly away.

Inch worm, inch worm - always measuring
Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful you are.
How beautiful you are.

My second skin is a marmalade cat.
I feel at home as a marmalade cat.
I’m big and fat, an old lazy boy. I’m sleepin’ in the sun.
So, why do they fear what makes me feel at home?

Oh, my love.
Nervous but unafraid.
I want our bodies on display.
The hunger in their gazes.
And we'll feel the world fall away.

Laurie captures exactly what I was looking for in these songs. If you saw her with Attrition, you know about her full operatic soprano and striking stage presence. But that wasn't all I wanted for this album. 10 Neurotics is an album of first-person narratives, and I wrote each song with a particular character in mind. "Inch Worm" is from the perspective of a young anorexic. "Marmalade Cat" is about a woman who feels more like herself when she dresses like a cat (Yiff! Furry alert!), and the woman in "Caught by a Stranger" is an exhibitionist. The idea was that each song had its own personality. Delivering them all in the same voice would not have made sense. Laurie GOT what I had in mind! It shows the diversity of her talents.


(What do you think? Your comments are most welcome. )


  1. Very good and quite different from each other. I like it. Jim K

  2. Inch Worm sounds not blacktapeish, not that good for me.
    Caought by a stranger - weird, but too short to give an opinion.
    Marmelade Cat is what i wait for, sounds realy great :)

  3. Wow, I'm really impressed at how the vocals on each song do seem to be coming from a different "character"!

  4. I never listen to Black Tape for a Blue Girl. I know the band Attrition but I listen to their music many years ago and my knowledge was so superficial.

    I think Laurie has a beautiful 'emotional' voice.
    I was a great 4AD music fan during the '80s but the label is currently producing music that's very different from the one I was used to listen more than 25 years ago.

    The voice of Laurie and the music of Black Tape for a Blue Girl take me deeply into a new mesmerizing and sensual journey. Great work!

  5. The variety is nice. "Inch Worm" reminds me a bit of Big Hat's "Limousine," full of energy. I can really hear a lot of enthusiasm for the different styles in the vocals and music. I often need the "old" Black tape but this new CD sounds like it will be refreshing.