I have a mountain of song demos on my computer. Actually, I take that back. I have a mountain of idea demos on my computer. Rarely do I actually finish a demo for a complete song. More often then not, I get an idea, and I record it using Garage Band just to get it out of my head. Just as my notebook (the paper kind) is filled with lyric ideas–some song’s complete, most are not–my recorded ideas are not complete. Some of them could stand alone, many of them really require having the rest of a song built around it. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. If I have an idea that fits whatever band I’m playing with, I might present it to the band and we might jam on it, and it could turn into a song.
A handful of interesting things happened in the summer of 2012. Hey Stranger, the pop-punk/ska band I was playing in called it quits. I left The Hard Times, the early reggae band I was playing in. My girlfriend and I were talking about moving in together and she was looking to move to Boston for work. I had resolved that my next band was going to be a ska band. This is nothing new, except, it was entirely new. I had been playing reggae, but not ska, and since high school, I’d been playing ska-punk and pop-punk, but not ska. I really wanted to play some traditional ska, dammit! But, I also didn’t want to be limited to that. I really admired bands like Mad Caddies that played ska, punk, reggae, rock, and their own brand of dixieland inspired ska/punk. They were a single band playing a variety of sounds under the same musical umbrella. I wanted to do the same. I wanted to play many things under the ska umbrella: traditional ska, two-tone/second-wave, rocksteady, early reggae,
dirty reggae skinhead reggae, and more. The only thing I didn’t want to do was ska-punk, and not because I don’t like ska-punk, but because it’s all I’ve ever done and I needed a break. (more…)
Releases? Release? “The Hard Times” is a single unit, but it’s more than one person, but… whatever.
With not a lot of fanfare, my reggae project The Hard Times released our first 3 song EP “Two Bucks For Bob” on Whatevski, a boutique online store that specializes in b-sides, live songs, rarities, and side projects from the world of NYC ska/reggae band The Slackers. So how did we get in? I’ll start at the beginning but I’ll jump around. (more…)
Fri 11/12 gig with Hey Stranger at National Underground. The venue treated us very poorly and barely had their shit together. Super Mirage was so good! We crammed in 6 songs before they through us out. It was basically a basement show with an overpriced bar, but great people stayed to watch.
Sat 11/13 gig with The Hard Times in strong island. Suprisingly cool crowd, lots of dancing, bittersweet send off for Juan (bassist leaving for LA). Got noticed as a CTSka Alum. Accidental EP release party for “Two Bucks For Bob.” Details to come. I’m so impressed how fast The Frighteners have created a crowd and a following for themselves.
Sun 11/14 recording with Hey Stranger out in Queens. I sat in the producer chair for day 2 of horn recording. Really proud of what we got done today, lots of energy from the players today. Here’s a video I snapped on the ol’ blackberry of our horns bustin’ their asses. (more…)
The yet-to-be-named Hey Stranger recording is now 7 months along and more importantly about half way done. We joke about this being the band’s Chinese Democracy, but given the limitations of time, the availability of bandmates, our engineer and the studio, we’re not doing half bad. We started off in March and April with drums and bass and by summer we were recording vocals and guitars. Vocals and guitars I thought would wake the longest just given there’s more of them than anything else (lead vocals, backing vocals, clean ska guitars, distorted punk guitars, lead guitars, etc).
It’s been a really unique experience for me given that besides our loyal engineer and friend, Dave, I’ve been at more sessions than any other person. I’ve only missed one weekend of recording for a work commitment and the fact is it was probably for the better that I wasn’t there. I really enjoyed sitting in the producer seat for the times when I was there, judging takes, pushing people to play better, suggesting ideas and tackling the unexpected hiccups that come up along the way. I think from the start I wanted to be there for the whole thing and really own that producer role. However, it’s a Hey Stranger record, not a Jake record and I think not being there was good for the process. It was a heavy weekend with a lot to do and it means anything recorded that weekend was done in a different different atmosphere with a different vibe. These things matter. I will admit that it’s a little weird to have yet heard everything that was done during those sessions (I’ve gotten spoiled, our poor horn players haven’t heard much of anything yet!) so I’m somewhat nervous, but I have to trust the process and the creative minds that were present… and be prepared with a drink when I finally hear the mixes.
What’s left? A few small things have to be done on guitars and vocals but nothing that couldn’t be done in a couple hours. I actually have to go back and re-record bass. We got this far before realizing I’d screwed up playing a bars in one song. Then we just have to cram the horns into our Queens’ sweatshop. I’m very psyched though it just makes me that much more impatient to finish this record. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made and I think things sound great so far because we haven’t just rushed into completing anything.
We’ve been doing our best (we could be doing better, let’s be real) to blog and video blog about our time in the studio. We’ve got two videos so far with clips from recording, some goofy commentary and a lot of shirtless drummer.
I’m actually in the first clip, the background music is just from our demos we did back in March 2009. Download them now before we completely bury them:
I’m not in this second clip (it was recorded the weekend I wasn’t there) but it’s pretty funny and all the background music are rough mixes from the sessions:
The playlist I’ve been working to all day is about as manic as I’ve felt all day. More updates to come…
I’ve never been a fan of recording. There’s too much pressure! You have to play the song over and over again until you get it right. I’m a live performer; a showman. Nailing a jump on stage is way more important than hitting a note. If you hit the note, great, if you miss it, oh well, you just keep playing. Songs that I don’t think twice about playing live suddenly become great challenges. My hands tense up, I forget arrangements, and I’m an all around mess. For these reasons, I’ve rarely been happy with any of my prior studio recordings.