Many moons ago, echolyn released an album in 1992 titled "suffocating the bloom." Not long after its release, the band members created something for it called The Gardener's Guide — a typed packet of information for fans, handed out at live shows, to peruse and read as they were listening to the album, complete with band commentary for each track and from each band member's perspective.
In 1995, echolyn released the album "as the world," and released The Global Guide on their newly created Sony website; a similar perspective check into the music on the album for those listeners who wanted additional insight to how a lyric was inspired or written, where a musical part came from, what gear was used, etc.
As echolyn embarked on this new album's release, we realized how long it had been since we created something special like that for our fans; something that provided direct insight, personal perspective and feedback about our music — allowing all of our fans, via technology, to access and peruse while they listen. So, for the new album release of "i heard you listening," we have created for you The Listener's Guide, 2015.
We hope to hear you listening... and reading!
Acoustic piano is where I am most comfortable writing and playing - it's the keyboard instrument where I am most 'at home.' This song captures that fact best as I was just reacting and responding to pseudo-chords and melodies that Ray originally brought to the band for this song – writing my way into new harmonic territory with piano and synth lines that help bolster his vocal melody while telling another understated musical story that this song demands. I know, and fully understand, that my role in this band is often to be the sonic glue — it's something a keyboard player knows and accepts, as I don't "riff" often – instead it is my unspoken job to look for, and find, the uncommon chord(s) or change(s) that take our songs to places or levels they haven't visited yet or deserve to go next. Adding low-end Moog lines at recording time was also a great texture to ground the song in low end Moog-i-ness. A slower, darker album opener, this song churns, tugs and pulls the listener into its grasp — reminding us that sometimes the avalanche of life takes us all by surprise. For that fact I remain both humble and thankful.
"There is one who would pull me out..."
3, 6, 9 and 12
I loved this song the minute Brett brought the opening instrumental ideas to the band. I also love playing in a band where we are constantly teaching each other new things like chords, ways to write or play a melody, new riffs or rhythms, etc. This song is a perfect example of Brett writing a keyboard line for me to play (2:41-2:47 & 2:53-2:58) and me writing a guitar line for him and Tom to play (3:28-3:50). Being willing to be open minded and trust the music for the good of the song, and set aside one's ego, is what continues to make us a forward-thinking musical force when it comes to writing songs and being a band that is always the sum of all our parts. "Warjazz" is classic echolyn — it burns fast out of the gate, pushes back with angular/dissonant lines that demand your attention, and drives deep with introspective and honest lyrics and vocal melody lines that reflect on life without being preachy. I also love the dynamics this song uses as it arcs, bends and dives throughout. Brett brought the A section which, in turn, inspired my B section — a great example of why echolyn is (still) echolyn. Oh yeah, and there's lots of phat Moog in this one too!
"So I can go wide and long..."
4 + 7 + 4 + 7 + 4 + 6 + 4 + 7
The original spark and music to this song hit me like a lightning bolt two summers ago while I was vacuuming (no, seriously, I was vacuuming). I saw my piano from across the room, turned off the vacuum, sat down, and 5 minutes later the bulk of this song had given birth to itself — falling right off my fingers. Different than other songs I've written that required thru-composed parts after I had written chords or harmonic progressions, this song flows from one section to the next using the arpeggios of the RH to spell out the basics of the harmonic progression. When you add Paul's great rhythmic feel and side-stick/shuffle drumbeat, Brett's soaring vocals, poignant guitar interludes and inspired guitar solo, Ray's pocket bass lines, and Tom's spot-on intro ethereal guitar and this song quickly became another echolyn classic. This is also one of Brett's best vocal performances to date, IMHO. Songs like this remind me why I became a composer but work collectively with others in a band.
"Find your way, one step further..."
6 + 4 + 6
I love songs driven by piano, as it's an often-overlooked instrument in rock music — yet it demands your attention when purposed properly. One of the best, and toughest, parts of being in a band is the "falling down the rabbit hole" factor — i.e. just when you think you've got a musical idea that is Spot.On. your fellow band mates look at you and say: Not.Really. This song fits that bill to a T. I was traveling back and forth on weekends to my DE home in 2013 and working one Sunday morning on a new musical idea in my studio while my wife was downstairs making pancakes (I can still sometimes smell pancakes when I hear this song (true story). What started as a rhythmic hard-hitting heavy chord and upbeat side-stick drum pattern on Garageband (it's all I had with me to make drum loops) quickly turned into this slammin' in-your-face rocker of a tune. The 3over2 bridge section is one of my personal faves on the album — I love how it sways with an edgy off-kilter swagger that counterbalances the smooth groove of the verses. This song is also a great example of how the echolyn songwriting machine ebbs and flows in taking one person's original ideas and churns them into a band effort = a new musical journey every time. I also love that Brett grabbed a hold of the melody and lyrics on this one and had a chorus mapped-out quickly to help frame the song's arrangement. His melodies and words take the song in the direction it was clearly meant to go. And the opening and closing keyboard solo is actually something I scatted to myself and then taught my fingers how to play it; that was fun = always an adventure!
"It's the moves you never make inside... see the bottom rising..."
4 + 3over2 + 4 + 3over2 + 4 + 3over2
To my ears, this is the perfect exhale/welcome to the middle-of-the-album track. I left this Charlie Parker inspired 9/4 LH piano line (played on my Wurly with some added distortion on the album) with Brett via several wave clips of me working on new ideas at my piano in DE back in the summer of 2013. Brett liked the line and started comping and transposing it into ProTools and sent it back to me with all new chords and an entirely new arrangement based on the original line — and voila! — this song was indeed carrying itself home. I love songs with subtle parts that grow and swell with time and repeated listens – this is one of those songs that, like peeling an onion, reveals more with each listen, as the layers comprise the song but each carries its own part and storyline. Crafting piano parts and a unique almost-soloistic bridge line that bolsters/supports the vocal lines while being its own independent idea was also challenging, but it came together very naturally, as I used octave figures in my right hand as my inspiration — writing parts for this song in between classes at the start of the 2013 school year at AFS. Oh yes, and try not to sing along with the chorus — I dare you; it's addictive!
"Back and forth it never ends, when anything is everything again..."
9 + 7 + 4 + 9 + 7 + 4
Hammond organ playing is often quite misunderstood and definitely under rated... so I set my sights high in tackling some seriously heavy, aggressive organ for this song. With electric piano parts in the verses that respectfully tip their Mahavishnu-hat, the choruses have a screaming angst that is barely held together by clusters of dissonant chords — add some crazy fun Buzby chord changes at 2:45 + a RATM-inspired middle section that is pure, sandy grit, 'cause it all sticks. Crank.This.One.Up!
"It doesn't matter what you get..."
4 + 5/6/5/3 + 5 + 5/6/5/3 + 5 + 6/6/7 + 6/6/9 + 6/3/6/4 + 4
This is one of Ray's most moving vocal performances — ever. The lyrics are deep and make me question anytime I've ever criticized someone else out loud — reminding me that not everyone has the same layer or depth of skin 'thickness'. The piano line I wrote for the verses was my way of creating a repetitive, constant groove that co-exists alongside the rest of the track; a similar concept to the noise of life around you that remains constant while trying to stay focused on your own routine of living your life to its fullest, without being distracted or thrown off balance too often. I also love writing and co-writing harmonies, textures, counterpoint lines and B sections to Ray's original song ideas; this song is no exception.
"The bees have their wishes with their steely little kisses..."
ATTWG churns with a slow purpose, driven by an opening bass riff that winds its way throughout most of the tune. Again Brett and I share the section A (BWK) and section B (CBB) songwriting duties — a great way to provide balance and counterbalance to the song with different composer perspectives. I worked really hard to keep my keyboard lines and parts in this song as complementary as possible — keeping my harmonic motion understated and balanced with the guitar and vocals throughout until the majestic piano outro leaps out of the track at the 6:00 mark. That piano line is my homage to the wonder, blessing, power and beautiful conundrum that is life. I also feel the ending of this song provides incredible hope to the human experience — something Ray's lyrics bolster in speaking truth to power.
"Won't you shine on us again..."
4 + 6 + 4 + 6/4 + 6/7 + 4 + 6/4 + 6/7 + 6/6 + 4
This song is the yang to ATTWG's ying. Hello rock piano — sure is nice to see and hear you again... along with screaming Hammond organ and multiple synth leads. As with "Empyrean Views," "Different Days," and "All This Time We're Given," the ending of this song could be played on repeat for hours. Bottom line: Epic.SongOutros.Rule! Play on, oompa loompas... PLAY ON.
Ray's lyrics to this song also inspired me to write several haikus in reply:
Walking and running
When one needs to get away
Enough is how far?
AC and DC
High voltage and amperage
Both burn just the same
The vanishing ones
Are often not forgotten
Remember their plight
The sun often sets
On those who never say die
Alone: left to try
"All he ever wanted was to take his life back..."
7 + 6 + 3 + 6 + 6/4 + 6 + 6/4 + 4 + 6 + 6/4 + 6 + 4 + 6 + 6/4 + 6/7 + 7 + 6/8 + 7 + 4 + 3
I'm not entirely sure what I think about this album yet. Below are some snapshots of my impressions. But I think it's worth noting that describing songs from the artist's point of view can be a bit cumbersome and overwrought at times. It actually makes me uncomfortable. I think part of the equation that imbues meaning in a song comes from outside those that created it. It comes from the perspective of the listener, you.
I obviously love the new album and would certainly defend it as something I am very satisfied with. I can adamantly say that we worked hard on these songs and for me they are perfect. The entire project was akin to a grand funnel effect or focusing of a lens, all bent on (1) simply trying to write a "well arranged" song and (2), trying to tap into very real emotions couched in something unique and yet ubiquitous. Sometimes the songwriting process flowed easily and sometimes we had to knuckle down and get our hands dirty. There were moments of both of these on this album. Ray and I got a bit emotionally dirty by exploring things deep in a metaphoric cellar. We peered into the darkness with no judgment; just openness to what we could potentially find. Some of what we wrote about was from within us, and some of it was not.
Music is certainly not beholden to anything, except perhaps our human want/need to somehow be part of its potential. As a band we try to get out of the way of creativity and let it happen. But in that hope and want for transparency is a tenacity to find newness. There's no "phoning it in" with this band and we don't subscribe to any stylistic manuals of form. This is one of the reasons it takes us so long to start and finish a project — in this case a solid year and 7 months (September 2013 to April 2015). It has to feel new and different for us to feel inspired. Repetition bores me.
So, what are we trying to say with these songs? Personally I'd like to leave much of that up to you, the listener. I can share with you our impressions of the process and what we saw behind the cellar door... but I'd love for these songs to unlock and allow you to take a glimpse behind your own door. Music is, after all, an excellent conduit for human connection, as well as a catalyst for individual release. I hope our songs connect with you and somehow amplify an emotional experience, or cause you to give pause towards some thought or occurrence in your own life. I think that's the greatest payoff for a songwriter willing and wanting to share their music, i.e., eliciting a reaction that is either visceral or intellectual from the listener. At the heart of it, I just want you to enjoy the music! I sincerely hope you do.
A song about the healing power of music. Ray started this one in his own awesomely potent way.
A song about the debilitating effects of depression. One of my launch pads that explores different guitar possibilities, fear, rage, and anxiety.
A song about the human proclivity to attach meaning to perception. This is one of my favorite songwriting styles of Chris. I knew when I first heard it I wanted to write the words and vocal melodies.
A song about the debilitating effects of depression and the cycle you can feel helplessly lost. This is another of Chris' styles he taps into every once in a while and I loved the possibilities of where the vocal melodies could take it. I jumped on the words before Ray could and elbowed him out of the way.
A song about the inevitability of death and those that help care for people in those final moments. Chris had a piano riff (ostinato) that I simply wrote some chords under. It took about 5 or 10 minutes to shape the verses, b-sections and chorus. This is a great example of a song manifesting very quickly.
A song about rage and the psychological blinders we sometimes wear to elevate our actions as just. This is one of mine that, like Warjazz, I wanted to be aggressive and uncomfortable. Ray did a great job echoing this in his words from his personal experience.
A song about the debilitating effects of depression and the noise it creates in our psychology. Ray's song — which I hijacked and put into the collective soup of the band.
A song about the debilitating effects of depression – yet with hope to overcome it. One of my inceptions… and probably my favorite on the album — It really shows our collective, collaborative power as a band.
A song about the debilitating effects of depression and the want to control it to gain your life back. One of my inceptions that was treated with the song writing talents of my bandmates to great affect and effect.
Over the past three years, we have all made changes in our lives that have greatly influenced these nine songs. We've pulled from these joys and struggles to give you our most personal album to date. In my new job, I have shaved the dying, washed and dressed the dead, and stared into wounds from neglect that are so deep you wonder how anyone could let this happen. I have become an ear for stories, a shoulder for tears, and a hand for friendship. In short, I have finally become me. These experiences have given us "All This Time We're Given," "Carried Home," and "Vanishing Sun."
My second job has opened my eyes to see just how arrogant, low, and despicable a person can be to another person and not think twice about it. All of this over a plastic seat. This has given us "Once I Get Mine."
"Messenger of All's Right" is about finding my old friends Thin Lizzy just when I need them. When I'm down and out, I can always count on Phil and the boys to kill the rumble and set me straight. "Sound of Bees" is for my daughter, Jessica. Unfortunately, she shares the same dark side as I do. Together, we trudge through hell.
"Warjazz" is the soundtrack for our day. We wake up with the best intensions only to have Murphy start to throw curve balls. So, by the end of our day, our best laid plans have fallen by the wayside and put on the pile to sort out tomorrow. It's an endless cycle of frustration that suffocates the best of us. We suffer the same, alone.
"Empyrean Views," or "travels as humans" as I like to remember it, is about evolution, baby! We have been pushing ourselves forward since the first travelers left the safety of their immediate surroundings. Using fear as a tool and ignorance as a weapon, "women and men" took their chances and pushed blindly into that good night. To that I say, keep on truckin'!
"Different Days": We get away to hide, to change ourselves, again, to try to find a spark that will start the "first day." Sadly, the everythings and everyones stay the same. This tune is kind of the end result of warjazz. The frustrations of knowing who and where you could be begin to drag you down. The only escape is to jump into the river to see where the current takes you.
I recall, not long after our "Windows" album release, sitting down to discuss our next move. Some of us wanted to play shows — throw together a little tour, go somewhere just to get out and do something! We had been writing and recording for what seemed like a decade. I'm not sure how long it had been, maybe 6 or 7 years, but it felt like forever! Even though some of us were so busy, we still somehow managed to get together and stay committed to each other and stay in this "thing" to figure out our next move. I am not sure who said it, but it was determined that "Hey, F it, let's just write and record another album while the juices are still flowing." In this band, majority rules and those that were on the fence, quickly warmed up to the idea. Besides, writing together is something we all love and putting together a tour then would have been a giant undertaking and would have taken away from the creativity we were feeling at that time.
Thinking back (my mates will correct me if I'm wrong), we had all been chatting back and forth with all these ideas. We met up, I believe at Brett's place, to discuss and listen to any ideas we each had come up with. It was fun to listen to what everyone was writing. An idea may have just been a couple chords or a few simple musical phrases or, in some cases, complete songs. Kicking back over a couple ("two tree") beers and laughing our asses off is what I remember to be the beginning of our new album "I heard you listening."
I love my job in this band. I bring the thing you tap your foot to, shake your head at — the heart beat — the ground floor, and foundation of the songs. I hold that down and the guys create their beautiful chords and melodies over top. It truly is my favorite thing to watch and listen as these things develop and turn into completed songs. You need a lot of patience to sit and listen to Brett and Chris work out the chords. Tommy and I are always ready to put the "thing on the thang" when our turn comes. We are always challenging ourselves to come up with the right rhythms, flushing out the ideas, hopefully choosing the right ones. We usually know when it's the right direction and we are not afraid to say if something "sucks" - we simply say, "that sucks... moving right along..."
The connection we have in the room is fantastic and respectful. We are always willing to listen to someone's thought and we're never afraid to argue if one of us feels strongly about the way a part should go. While working, I always find Ray's eye for a good laugh. We work at a fast pace and the excitement builds as things come together. We try to leave on a good note at the end of the night and lay down a rough recording of what we have, as we will forget (unless Chris charts it) by the next time we get together. I remember in most cases with our writing and recording process how we'd create demos of the music and take them home to listen and "live with" for bit. We did this to see if we heard anything we'd want to change and whether it was even the right direction for the tune.
At that point, the lyrics were being developed and added. Ray and Brett took up that enormous task. They stepped up and kicked butt laying down vocal performances that would ultimately change when and where a drum fill was appropriate, like if what I was playing was too busy and ruining the lyric or the intent. For me, this phase is the most important. It's about finding the right windows and know how and when to put my stamp on the thing and doing that without crapping all over a beautiful melody just because I had to play every beat I ever learned in my life in one single bar of music. Ha ha! The trick is to be aware of and sensitive to what the song's story is trying to tell while still playing cool, crafty and musical parts.
Once this was all worked out and we were all completely satisfied, it was time to pick out recording days and tackle this "bad boy." Bring it! Turn the red light on!I I love love love drum recording days. This is when the sexy magic happens. This album, in my opinion, has great warm grooves all over it. This is very important because it sets the tone for the rest of the performances yet to come. It's a very exciting time. Now collectively we can see where this thing is going.
For this album, as we usually do, drums were recorded as some of us were playing live together with the other instruments isolated from the drum sound. Brett drives the ship behind the mixing board. All the tracks are recorded in case any great "accidents" happen. Sometimes someone will play something that it is magical and must be kept because it was just too good. This can be a very hard process at times because sometimes the vocal performances are not ready so I'm playing to just keys and bass, but somehow we make it work. We call this "guerrilla recording." We set them up and knock them down and create the momentum needed to get it done!
We, as a band, have a great connection and incredible drive to play music together. We are friends and have been mates for 25+ years. We love what we do. I think you will feel the love and care this album exudes. I hope you can feel the "good hurt," I know I do.