Category Archives: recording

XLI. Sneak Preview: “For My Favorite”

https://soundcloud.com/jack-alberson/for-my-favorite-unfinished

Now, a little insight: this track was recorded with the first batch with the Near Reaches crew – J.D., Eric, and Jason. It is something of a rarity, as I walked into the studio with barely a sketch of an idea. J.D. suggested the chords for the chorus. I finalized the lyrics sitting in the floor at Five & Dime – the song is about my lovely girlfriend.

I suppose it’s safe to say the song takes musical inspiration from stuff like Slowdive, Mazzy Star, and a lot of that 4AD stuff. The Boss Vibrato pedal makes yet another appearance here on the washed out rhythm guitar.

Feel free to share this with others.

xo

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XL. Studio Update!

Hit the studio to overdub guitars for the new batch of songs, just Harry and I. It was a far more grueling session than I had counted on – two of the new songs (“Brakes” and “Ampersands”) are the fastest I’ve ever recorded, pace-wise, and I definitely felt my shortcomings as a guitarist come to the fore. Pushing my own guitar skills to keep up with Stephen’s precise, uptempo, drum parts got frustrating at times. Harry kept me grounded, and we got through it.

On a positive note, we experimented with multiple guitars, including a Rickenbacker 12-string and a sweet Fender baritone guitar! “Ampersands” now boasts a somewhat strange lead guitar part on said baritone. It’s a crazy tone. Allow me to get all studio nerd on you for a second:

*dons studio nerd glasses*

We ran the baritone through my Big Muff fuzz pedal, and then through my Boss Vibrato pedal. That’s a crazy pedal, sorta rare. I guess the Boss pedals manufactured in Japan are harder to find? Anyway, I dialed in the rate to a somewhat slow, watery speed, and pulled the depth back so it didn’t wobble too much. We may have run it through the Hall of Fame reverb pedal as well (I like the modulated setting on it A LOT), but I don’t recall.

We have been using Harry’s Fender Twin Reverb amp for most of the recording, but he has this small tube amp that has a real biting tone and we used it to record some of the more distorted, fuzzy guitar parts.

*removes studio nerd glasses*

One thing I really look forward to, especially on these two songs, is adding synthesizer parts. Both songs in their original demos nod to groups like New Order and Tubeway Army (Gary Numan’s early band project). I’m a big fan of both, and the thought of some of that influence seeping in really makes me happy. So far, the record is far more guitar-driven than a lot of my work, and that’s not a bad thing … but to come full circle, I am by and large a keyboardist and synthesis. Guitar does not come easily to me!

xo

XXXVII. Big Exciting Recording Update, In Yr Face!

TEN SONGS in. Yes, you heard me right. Bashed out the beginnings of four tunes with those lovely gents, and the results are above and beyond my own expectations.

I think what really surprised me is how a couple of the songs transformed along the way. “Texas Can’t Have You Back”, which I have long considered something of a shoegazey beast, magically reshaped into old-guard Country-and-Western in the beautiful picking of one Tony Manard. And “Ampersands”, which at various times has been a glorious New Order homage and an upbeat country rock number, has become drunk from the beat of Stax Records – Tony and Eric “Wolf” Wilson and the tight time of one Stephen Chopek. I think the consensus is that it should open the album.

We also laid down “Quiet Houses”, which is a very very old song of mine (14 years, at least?) and took a stab at “Brakes” which became a fuzzed-out 90s alt.rock throwback. It was sort of a mistake. Well, are creative moments ever truly mistakes? I had the Big Muff on, when I had originally considered only using some overdrive. Voila, Nirvana!

So I tip my hat to Harry K (once again!), the Wolf, Tony, and Stephen. My goodness, boys, what have we here!

XXXVI.

With some new people following this blog (picture me frantically waving hello) I figure I should make an update on the record I’ve been working on.

First off, there are some incredible people playing on it. My Near Reaches friends J.D. Reager, Eric WIlson and Jason Pulley have been in and tracked on five songs so far (“We Died Laughing”, “Lost In the Fire”, “Sunday Drunk”, “For My Favorite” and “An Episode”). There’s a lot of energy in these performances. I tracked one song alone, several months ago (“Treat Yourself”). Soon, I’ll be working with Eric again, along with Stephen Chopek on drums and Tony Manard from The Switchblade Kid on a couple more tracks (at least … depends on how fast we work!) Then at some point, hopefully, my dear friend and Pneumatic Girls guitarist Matthew Trisler will come in and play some incredible guitar bits.

There is a GoFundMe site up for this project – please consider chipping in and get yourself some lovely music as well as a few other perks.

 

XXIX. Studio Talk: Session Three

Another session at Five and Dime with J.D. (and Eric dropped in … as it turns out he was an integral part of things) for acoustic guitar, hand percussion and vocal work.

Harry and I *did* sneak away to watch about five minutes of Happy Days, and managed to catch the end of Gilligan’s Island, too. Ahhhh, Tina Louise.

Let’s be honest, here. It got pretty silly last night. We did some “gang vocals” – for the uninitiated, it’s where you do a vocal take with several people all at once. It can be powerful, or it can sound a bit like a bunch of drunkards singing a song together in a pub. Well, we sort of hit both with a little bit of “chorus of Muppets” (I’m so sorry, Jim Henson) mixed in. Specifically on “Sunday Drunk”. On “We Died Laughing”, the gang vocals carried the song in more of a Queen-ish direction. Or Journey … to be honest, maybe more like Journey than Queen. We did some on “An Episode” as well, but I don’t think they come off as silly in the least.

J.D. and I played a few takes on acoustic – meaning we both played acoustics at the same time. I am NOT known for my acoustic guitar prowess, so I really hope his parts come off a lot louder. Also, he threw down some percussion on all five tracks. This will be the album for tambourine lovers, that’s for sure! He did actually do some electric guitar on a couple tracks last night, too. Rhythm stuff. I think that worked out well, because my electric guitar work is usually pretty moody and murky, and a couple of these songs kinda needed straight up distorted guitar. There’s a good rhythm bed now, and Matthew’s guitar work will take these songs to yet another level.

Then there was the matter of “Lost In the Fire”. It, in its original form, definitely bears a strong resemblance to Radiohead’s first big hit, “Creep”. Honestly, I don’t mind that too much, but we felt like we could make it a little more interesting by making it less so. So we fired up the organ and I ran through a couple droney takes. The first organ-driven shoegazer song? Hmm. No, probably not, but I like what it brings to the song.

Lastly, there was some work on the mix. Eric sorta called me out on wanting to fuss over the mix too soon, but to be honest I would prefer not to spend a lot of time at the end cooking up the right sound. Let’s catch it on the front end as much as possible, I say.

XXIII. If It Has Keys, We Can Play It…and What Was It Anyway?

Session two was myself and Jason Pulley. He played piano, organ, and Rhodes. I played melodica, toy piano, and synthesizer.

I don’t think I’ve even discussed what this first batch of songs consists of. Well…

“We Died Laughing” began its life as a Near Reaches song called “The Bailer”, but I wasn’t really satisfied with the lyrics. The musical structure is fairly identical to how we played it as the Reaches – like a Costello/Attractions tune with more bite. Also, it’s worth mentioning that personnel-wise, the core members of the Near Reaches recorded it. Full circle.

“For My Favorite” was pretty much made up on the spot – I had come up with the verse chording and vocal melody while sitting around with my girlfriend a couple nights previous to the first recording session. J.D. was shooting for “Wonderwall”, and I think I was shooting for Slowdive. I think we’ve landed somewhere in between. This song is for her.

“An Episode” was originally “Our Spacecraft” which I’ve recorded solo, and brought into the Reaches where it became quite a monster of a song. It’s still huge, but now it’s way more of a late-Seventies Bowie art rock tune. Harry wants me to come up with a spacey line for the end part. I don’t know. Mental illness as explained through a crashing spaceship analogy. Another situation where the Near Reaches ride again.

“Lost In the Fire” was a Pneumatic Girls song that we had played out regularly. It’s a letter to myself. We determined in the studio that it’s a little too close to Radiohead’s “Creep” for comfort, so we did weird it out a little. Maybe it will be more “My Iron Lung” when we get finished with it. This one desperately needs Matthew Trisler, and I think I’m going to get my friend Kathryn Brawley to lend her angelic voice to this tune as well.

Last in this first batch is “Sunday Drunk”, which used to be “Juicebox”, then in the Pneumatic Girls repertoire as “Sunday, Drunk, and Dumped”. It started its life as a slacker rock song (think Pavement) and ended up being the hungover cousin of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”. I don’t think my sense of humor really manifests itself in my music, so maybe this is me turning a corner. Again, Matthew’s sweet guitar action is needed. Robert M. Jones did a great cover of this song on his Near Reaches tribute EP Reaching.

XXI. Album Update

Stepping back into the studio Thursday to add keys…toy piano, melodica, Rhodes, organ, synthesizer…should be fun. Also pretty sure Jason Pulley will be in there making magic as well. Looking to add some textures to three tunes. Two of the songs are rock songs and will stay straightforward.

After that, lead guitars and vocals…then moving on to the second batch of songs.

No album title yet, and no idea how I’ll put it out.

XIX. Everything Dead Is Probably Still Dead Again

In case you hadn’t heard, The Pneumatic Girls are no more. No more hiding behind a band name or guise, no more group identities. It’s time I just embraced making music as ME, Jack Alberson.

And so demoing has begun, and five songs have been started on at Five & Dime with the honorable Harry K presiding … having done such a fine job with the PGs, why WOULDN’T I go with him for this?

J.D. Reager, mighty drummer extraordinaire, and as usual Eric Wilson (or The Wolf, as I like to call him), and a blatant disregard for grammar and sentence structure in this blog post. Key ingredients.

Funding is a bit hard to come by but I’ll figure it out. I welcome your suggestions, gentle readers. Also, this site has been ported over from the now-deleted thepneumaticgirls.com so I apologize if its individual identity is slow in coming. Baby steps, babies.

JA

XI. Getting Social

Testing…1…2…3…

The blog here at thepneumaticgirls.com is now connected to our Facebook and Tumblr pages, and also to our Twitter. I’m told that’s supposed to be a good thing. Mind you, each will still have unique content, but most of our major announcements (in theory, at least) should originate from here.

As referenced here, earlier today, there’s been some recording going on. Again, Harry Koniditsiotis is at the helm at the mighty Five & Dime studios. I laid down tracks for a song we played a few times last year…with the aid of that strange old drum machine, as well as guitar and trash can (!)

I believe three of the four of us will be spending a little more time in the studio this Sunday as well. If we’re lucky and get all this laid down, maybe the follow-up to Imperial Lanes will be finished by the fall.