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"Monday, April 6, 2009

We spend most of today working on drums for Not Gonna Love, the first of the next four songs we'll work on. Just to recap, we're mostly done with the following songs:

What Are You Waiting For
Ground Beneath My Feet
Make It Through

We have several demos of Not Gonna Love; one of them has a real drum performance and the more recent one is programmed drums. We want to capture a vibe somewhere in between the two so I play a few parts and we copy and paste for several hours. There's a LOT of rhythm/percussion in this song (think Close To Me by The Cure) so I get to play lots of fun instruments, including shaker, cabasa, claves, goat toes (seriously), finger cymbals, wood block, toy ratchet, castanets, and a triangle. I also get to record the sound of aluminum cans being crushed under my feet. It's really a very fun day for me. I don't know what the other guys did all afternoon but I had a blast. I also play a bass drum with a mallet and overdub some cymbal stuff. Brad adds some hi-hat samples and it all sounds fantastic.

By the time we're done Nate is ready to sing Make It Through. This is a relatively short song (under three minutes) so it doesn't take him long. The guy's a pro.

We watch the NCAA men's basketball championship game over dinner. The game is unfortunately boring after the first ten minutes, as North Carolina gains a huge lead and keeps it the whole time. None of us follows sports that closely, as we are on the road quite a bit with little access to what's going on in the world. It's fun when we have the opportunity to follow something like the World Series. We went to a few MLB games when we lived up in the Bay Area last year, and those were really fun (see the "A's vs. Angels" album in our photos section for pics of Nate catching a foul ball and Mike's face on the jumbotron. Nice!).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Once again I sleep in too late to get a morning bike ride in. Instead I walk down to Starbucks for some coffee and pass a neat little cupcake shop along the way. I purchase four big cupcakes and bring them back to the studio. Unfortunately I have a harder time convincing everyone to eat them than I planned. Brad already had a Cinnabon at the mall waiting for the Apple store to open; Dan is watching his carbs; Nate is not much of a cupcake guy (apparently); Mike says he'll eat one later. Only David is up to the task. Later in the day I am able to convince Brad's younger daughter Vanessa to have a quarter cupcake. Oh well, more for me! The Red Velvet one is especially tasty.

We start work on the drums for Maybe This Time. Dan has a few structural changes he wants to make. After we nail down exactly what we'll all be playing, Brad and I take some time to select the right snare. First we try the seven-inch wood Slingerland we used on Everything. Too ringy. Then we try a thinner wood one (whose brand I forget at the moment) but it's way too high pitched. Finally we throw on the ol' standby, the stainless steel Keplinger. It's got a good sound but we can't seem to tune it exactly right so I change the head. Perfect! I also switch some cymbals up -- there's no ride cymbal on this song so I put a third crash on the ride stand. We spend some time figuring out a sweet drum fill at the end of the second verse. It takes me several takes to get it right, but after a few times through the song we've got what we need. For a big crescendo in the bridge we overdub some hi-hat sixteenth notes. To mix up the sound I use some of Brad's hi-hats AND make my own from a pair of 17" crash cymbals (a trick I learned from my friend Jordan who played drums in a band called Number One Gun with our original keyboardist Chris Keene).

We take a short break which I spend on a quick bike ride (only to have my left brake handle fall off; it needs a few small parts). I then go swimming and try to work on my farmer's tan (results pending). This part of the day reminds me of childhood summers. It's very nice.

Next we get ready to do the drums for Hit the Bottom. While discussing the song, Dan expresses concern that the bridge (which we wrote here three weeks ago) is "good, but not great." We decide to wait on recording that song until someone comes up with a good bridge idea. Instead we work on No Better. Our current arrangement is pretty new, and a lot of the instrumentation is undeveloped. I'm a little confused as to the order of parts so we run through it a couple times, come up with some new drum fills, and record it all. I'm waiting to see how this song develops; it's still very 1990's alternative (see Studio Blog #2).

When I'm done, Brad asks Nate to come in and re-record a few lines from Make It Through. It's a breeze. Dan and I watch a movie called All The Real Girls. It came highly recommended from a good friend of ours. It's a really quirky, sad, and beautiful movie. I almost get a little teary-eyed, which is saying A LOT. I cry about once every two years, which is partly why Nate sometimes calls me Joe-bot. Whatever.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mike gently wakes me up saying, "We're gonna do drums for Around You today." "Cool," I say and roll out of bed. I have slept in surprisingly late considering I wasn't up that late the night before. After a little breakfast I head over to the studio. We listen through the various demos of Around You and talk about drum sounds. This song requires a very simple drum setup -- kick, snare, hi-hat, and one cymbal that I only use briefly toward the end of the song. We decide to use my Pork Pie Big Black Brass 6.5"x14" snare. I found it brand new at a Guitar Center last year for about 65% of what they normally sell for. I didn't alert the sales staff to this obvious oversight, and snatched it up. Because the song is so repetitive on drums I am able to get it all in one take, save for a small build-up part that Dan thinks I played better on the demo. After listening to the demo a few times I write out what I played exactly (years of reading music in school pay off!) and perform it in the tracking room. Afterwards I feel like overdubbing some cymbal hits and hi-hat patterns in the non-drum outro. Brad spends some time arranging my ideas into something good and we're done with the drums for our second batch of songs! For those of you not keeping track, those songs are:

Not Gonna Love
Maybe This Time
No Better
Around You

We break for lunch. I walk down to Subway for a tasty $5 footlong (such a deal!) and use the downtime to return some phone calls to friends. Among them is our friend Jonathan Jones (from Waking Ashland/We Shot The Moon) with whom I haven't spoken in a while. He tells me he's on tour in Richmond, VA which reminds me of one night three-and-a-half years ago when I was on tour playing drums for his old band Waking Ashland. The guy that was filling on bass for that tour lived in Richmond and we slept in his incredibly tiny apartment that was half-filled with enormous bass instruments and antiquated keytars. Four of us squeezed onto a single mattress on the ground. Good memories.

When I come back to the studio Brad is tracking Dan on bass guitar (our Fender Precision bass, which we've been using for all the songs). They used a little bit of flanger on Around You, which is an interesting choice. Flange effects are new territory for Sherwood. Sounds cool. He then does bass for Maybe This Time. We reference two Killers songs for bass tone, but one is softer and one is more aggressive so we split the difference. Afterwards, Dan's fingers are getting tired so Brad tells Nate to get ready to sing.

I run down to the bike shop to see if they have the pieces I need. The young fellow at the shop has never seen them and has no idea where to get a hold of them (a bad sign). I go to a hardware store, where they don't have the parts but point me in the direction of another bike shop down the street. I head over there. It's a little shady, but the guy inside takes one look at the parts I need and says, "That's from a bike that's about thirty years old, right?" I am dumbfounded by his astutement. He digs around in a box, produces a brake handle almost identical to mine and says he'll give me the whole thing for $5. Amazing! I go back home and fix my bike. Nate is recording vocals for Everything. Dan says he needs to go grocery shopping. I do also so we both go to Trader Joe's and pick up the essentials. A very productive day."

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