Thursday, January 29, 2009

February is short on days, long on heart

February is a big month to be so short, particularly this year. On February 2nd, news reporters give groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil in PA and General Beauregard Lee down here in the Atlanta area their annual fifteen seconds of fame while I become officially one year older. Sharing a birthday with large weather-predicting rodents isn't the worst thing, I guess, but I'd like to go ahead and say that if you're planning on asking me whether I saw my shadow or not, just know that you are MOST DEFINITELY NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO USE THAT JOKE. Okay, moving on...

This year is especially marquee in that this will be my 30th birthday, which is certainly a milestone. No longer bound by all the things you're "supposed to do" in your twenties, I will finally breathe a sigh of relief and experience the freedom of doing the things I need to do, or dare I say it, the things I want to do. Things like driving a minivan or admitting that I don't particularly like going to large music festivals with crowds of drunk people. Yeah, I'll be more honest and possibly more "old man-like" with my straight talk and black socks, but I'll also just still be the same old guy I've been for the previous 29 years. And I'll really only be one day older...

Maybe the anticipation of all this freedom is setting me up for disaster. A big fall. Embarrassment. Ridicule. Well, that wouldn't be all that different than my previous 29 years, either, would it? At any rate, I've decided to mark this milestone by recording an entire album during the month of February as part of the RPM Challenge. It's pretty simple - 10 songs or 35 minutes just for the sake of doing it. Yeah, this sounds exactly like what I imagine 30 year old me will be like - living on the edge and all.

So here's the deal, though; it's possible that I could do this on my own, but I imagine the 30 year old version of me is going to want some other folks involved. And that's (possibly) where you come in. This project is an excuse to put writing and recording music first for a month, but I'd also like to use it as an excuse to spend time with people that I really care about. People I may not get to see as much as I'd like. So if that's you - and you can make it to Athens sometime in February - I'd love to get you involved. I'm sure we'll find lots of places for handclaps and foot stomps and kazoo ensembles. And cowbell.

See, the process of recording can be too inclusive, too "mystical" and "magical," and though I kind of like the idea of treating the studio as a place where special things happen, recording is really more about the "magic" inside the folks making the sounds. Sure, the right environment can get set the right vibe, but it's up to the musicians to make something exciting. I certainly overuse this analogy, but recording is a lot like Punxsutawney Phil - you can predict the weather, but you can't make it rain. In other words, the conditions can be right, but it's up to the performers to make something happen.

And odds are, if you're going to record 10 songs from start to finish in a month on zero cash in the Warm Fuzzies' rehearsal space, the album is going to have some rough edges. Especially if I'm the one engineering it. But in honor my 30th birthday, I want to share something I care deeply about - making and recording music - with the people I care most about. And I hope we capture some real magic, if for no other reason than because I'm getting older and all seasons eventually come to an end.

Here is my overall outline of the project, something I'm currently calling "J. Harwell & the Alltogethernow:"
1. Satisfy the official requirement of recording 10 songs/35 minutes during the month of February.
2. To make the process of recording inclusive, and to share this process with people in my life who may or may not have recording experience.
3. To capture the process on video, and to update social media as I embark on the process
4. Return to the process of creating/capturing music in my own life and to improve in both areas.
5. To make music fun again.

1. I will utilize our Warm Fuzzies rehearsal space as my primary base of operations for this project. This allows me the freedom to leave instruments prepped to record and an unlimited amount of time/volume.
2. The rig will need also to be mobile, though, in the event that I need to record in spaces other than Pigpen due to geographical, noise level, or other reasons.
3. Songs must be completed between February 1st and February 28th
4. Nothing new will be purchased - I must use the instruments/sounds I have currently available.

We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Rentals' "Songs About Time" project

It's no secret that I've been spending the bulk of my music creation time with The Warm Fuzzies, and it's no surprise that a large sonic influence on what we've done to this point has been the music of The Rentals.

Though I never would have thought that Matt Sharp would have been the one from Weezer to do something really artful and creative, their new photography/film/music project called Songs About Time is simply amazing. Great concept, great execution.

Simply put, they're documenting a year's time by posting a photo each day, a short film each week, and four EPs throughout the year. It's all black and white and visually amazing.

It's the kind of good that makes you mad that you weren't the one to pull it off.

check it out here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009