Crunch Time Questions
We're now just a few weeks away from tracking. The band has been recording multiple demos of each song at home to practice for the real thing and to start flirting with different performance nuances. I'm working with an orchestrator to get the sheet music into the hands of the choir and instrumentalists so they can start preparing. The piano is rented. The rehearsals are scheduled. The hired musicians are on board. The engineer is on board. Everyone is on board.
Everything is going according to plan. But as we're all sort of traveling on unfamiliar territory, questions rattle around in my brain. Are we going to execute the best arrangements of these songs? Is the band going to "click" when rehearsals start? Are we going to have enough time in the studio? Will the string and choir arrangements sound the way we want them to when played by real people?
In all honesty, I'm confident that the answer to all those questions is yes. This project is getting more and more fun by the week. Everyone involved has a positive outlook. The only thing left is to just do it.
It’s been a while. Since our last blog post in August, we’ve been busy recording demos, writing arrangements, renting pianos, visiting studios, coordinating musicians, tuning accordions, and drinking a little alcohol with the band. We’re getting close to the good part. Exactly one month from today, we’ll be heading into the studio. So, what’s the goal? What are we trying to make here? What are our hopes and dreams about the sounds we’ll make in the studio?
In Questlove’s book, Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, he writes about the importance of reviews and how he writes a review for each album he hopes to create before starting work in the studio. I tend to look at creating art as just a part of my life rather than as a product, but it seems useful to take a look from the outside and imagine the review I’d like someone to write about our album. I’m just going to go ahead and give it a try. Let’s see how narcissistic I can sound!
Here is my fake review for our still-to-be-recorded album:
The Fremonts’ first full length album, We Don’t Live There, paints a landscape of big open spaces and distant city skylines. The protagonists of these songs are driven by deep unspeakable instincts, but live in a world where all the maps are a little blurry. The title track begins the journey, elegantly summarizing the feeling of abandoning youthful dreams only to be haunted by them as the wheel of life cranks on. These characters ignore their fears and embrace chance, living on credit and planning to settle their accounts in another lifetime. The key trait here is blind ambition with an almost fundamentalist belief in the glory of self-will. As the audience to these adventures, we are the wise doubters, knowing full well that in this life, failure is a likely outcome and death is always at the end of the chapter. We hear the story of a young woman escaping a crumbling romance by driving a long highway all alone in “Back to the Mountain.” “Tillman’s Wall” tells of a group of devoted young soldiers who embark on an aggressive military action that ends with needless bloodshed. “Boys and Girls sing patriot songs,” but in the end “those children shot each other dead.” The songs “Olivia” and “Holding Place,” both inspired by the plights of Shakespearean heroines, invoke lovers that aren’t certain of where they stand, but desperately seek love and clarity from their partners. As the album progresses, the inevitable end of life grows even nearer with “Tell My Mother” and “Joanne.” The women in these songs have seen death and have lost people close to them. They cry out for their own happiness, knowing that their time here is limited. The album closes with the seemingly ultimate ode to ego and self-reliance. “Who fears the devil when the devil fears me?” asks this male protagonist. But in the middle of the song, he doubts and asks for God to remember him. For a moment, he becomes audience to himself and realizes his own fallibility. This is a much more focused album than The Fremonts EP, which had some lovely tracks, but swung wildly among several themes. It’s clear that they, along with their producer Chris Tucker, have been long preparing the ground on which to build this transporting, haunted work. The Fremonts have gelled into musically and conceptually adept artists who seem to have many more stories left to tell.
Yeah, I hope someone writes something like that.
I spent the majority of my 20s dealing with a pretty gross anxiety disorder. Due to the fact that I didn’t have any insurance for half of that decade I spent most of it off meds. My anxiety took a number of forms but the most consistent theme of my panic attacks was death. Curled up in the bathroom doorway, I would bang my head my head against the threshold in an attempt to jar my brain to think of anything but the moment of my death and what would come next. I’m not a religious person so I don’t believe in an afterlife and at the same time I am thoroughly freaked out of the thought that there is probably nothing to look forward to after I shut my eyes for good. That’s the thought that gets me. That’s the fear. The Nothing. (Seriously, The Neverending Story ruined me when I was a kid). 13 years and thousands of dollars on therapy and meds later, I’m happy to say that the crippling anxiety is no longer an issue, but The Nothing lingers. It’s always there looming as a reminder that I’ve only got this one chance to be a human.
To say that I have used that as inspiration to successfully turn my life around and become the best musician I can be would be a lie. By nature, I am a lazy person and I fight with that every day. The couch, the good beer, the list of movies I want to see, the shameful addiction to fantasy football; these all pop up as huge obstacles. Dumb as it is it’s the sad truth, but opposing creative forces are rallying and the internal war for my remaining years has begun to rage. This album is going to be a symbolic battle won by creativity. I've never worked harder on anything in my life as I have this album and it’s given me a chance to clarify what I want my story on this planet to be. My anxiety (when it occasionally pops up) continues to circle around The Nothing but is now coupled with a voice that says, “Go pick up your guitar.” I’m not a fan of the fact that I’m going to die one day, but I’m done letting that prevent me from doing everything I can while I’m here. Am I the best songwriter in the world? Not by a long shot. Am I the best guitar player in the world? Shit no, but I am proud of where I am as a musician and I think this album is a pretty good representation of the journey that Steph and I have put ourselves through since leaving New York, ditching the dream of being actors and setting our sights on music.
We Don’t Live There is a collection of songs that deal with ghosts. Each story is a last breath that asks the listener to be haunted by what could be and what could’ve been, how it was and how it never was. In exactly one month we are going to lock ourselves in a studio for four days and bring this sunnuva bitch to life. I would love for it to whisper like my ghost long after I’ve succumbed to The Nothing.