... I realized about a week ago it's been a while since I've even looked at my site... which is and isn't a good thing... I always remind myself (and peers), typically that's the case when things are going good!
Since getting home from tour, I had a couple days "off" then went into the studio March 1st (Phase One) with The Sole Pursuit to start (producing) their new album (12 songs).
We booked 4 days for drums with 2 different session drummers (Riley O'Connor and Tony Nesbitt-Larking).
... both were great... really great actually. The realist part of me was all "yeah, it'll sound like drums!", but I/we can really hear the different styles and approaches they brought to the 6 tunes (each) they played on... and their experience and ability to take direction helped keep the sessions running smoothly.
This is always a major variable when working with new musicians... generally pro's are easy to work with, but again, it's a variable that can really bung up your schedule if your run into any roadblocks... insufficient ability, politics, personal taste... or worst of all... ego.
... the days went super smooth though and it was a pleasant rolling stop to our 4 days up at Phase One.
Shout out to Dajaun Martineau and Darren McGill for keeping things rolling along... it's always nice to work with people who make you feel like you don't know what you're doing!
We've been knee deep in (electric and acoustic) guitars since March 6th I think... typically getting through 2 songs a day for either Kyle or AJ... made a list of songs we'd like acoustics on and chipped away at those since last Monday.
We ended up renting a 12-String and Mandolin from Long & McQuade... nobody here really "plays the mandolin" but we got the sound we were after on the songs we were thinking of trying it on... all said and done between the 2 instruments... well worth the $70 rental... for the month... not that I'll keep them that long.
... seriously, a decent sounding 12-String was $22/month! Just throwing it out there... if you need gear (or have admittedly crappy gear), look into rentals. Bad sources won't (or very very rarely) make for a good recording.
It's worth the couple dollars.
... speaking of... rental drum kit for a 3-song EP I've also been working on with a younger band called Scarlett's Hand. I think the drummer practices on an electric kit, but we needed a live kit... so it was off to L&M, and then over to Phase One (March 17-18)... kit needed a bit of love, but even swapping out for old skins and some moongels... sounded great!
... player was pretty good too!
It was a tight schedule tracking 3 songs in 2 days but we got through the instrumentation then finished off the vocals the following Saturday...
... another case of why I feel working with a producer has major advantages over simply booking a room.
If the guys had of just booked a room, they probably would've either had to cram their vocals in at the end... which is a bad idea... or book more time... which is understandable but let's be honest... studios totally encourage clients to book more time. They sell the experience, but on paper, they sell time.
Producers sell the experience, but also a final product.
... and it's never easy to tell a band we need more time... unless of course it doesn't affect the budget... in which case people are generally cool with it.
We were scheduled to finish up at 7pm and I had the singer ask me at 6pm if we're going to finish everything... we had 2 lead vocals, backup vocals, and I think a guitar solo left to do...
I left the control room for a minute to think about where I wanted to track vocals... and to triple check we were cool to stay an hour or 2 longer at Phase One to finish up guitars.
... I hate rushing vocals and there really wasn't any need to.
... I almost want to tell bands off the top, consider instrumentation and vocals 2 separate things. Focus on getting the music down (or at least what you need to sing on top) then think about vocal sessions as a different beast. It really is switching gears... plus in situations like this... it's tough to track vocals with so many people around... I'm a big fan of vocalist + producer / engineer + control room.
Much more efficient... resulting in better takes and a better result.
So this week it's been finishing up acoustics with The Sole Pursuit and into lead vocals... and mixing the tracks for Scarlett's Hand.
I'm in talks with a couple more projects May/June I'm pretty stoked about... I'll be blogging about it if it goes through... I'm always down for adventures... especially blog-able ones.
- Mike :-)
Sunday - February 22, 2015
... well... I'm home now... and trying to avoid watching the Oscars. For some reason watching any of these award shows makes me feel ill. I'm not against the hardware... it's just that if people understood how they really worked, they might think twice about the amount of value that's placed upon them.
... but anyway... I'm home now.
We left Baltimore around 8am to attempt heading back to Harrisburg. The roads were in way better condition but you could see the aftermath of yesterday's storm on the sides of the road. No real damage, just a few parked and abandoned cars. The temperature had gone up quite a bit too which helped.
The highway was pretty clear... and empty... smooth sailing back to Harrisburg which took just over an hour. Again, it was painful yesterday because we really weren't far apart... just the weather was terrible.
... arrived at the hotel around 9:30am... made a few jokes about my first trip to Baltimore but I assured Mark I'd be back! Eventually! lol...
We bro'd our farewells again and I headed up to the room... which was void of life.
I had some pretty funny first lines rehearsed in my head but they were centered around opening the door to the room. I figured they were downstairs at breakfast so I made my way back to the elevator.
... I get in and hit the first floor button.
... doors close.
... doors open.
... Adam and Dave are standing there.
"I'm so sorry guys."
That's all I could say... meanwhile they're all smiles and hugs, just happy I made it back. Kyle and AJ weren't far behind but it was more of the same... it was nice to be back... even if it was just to load the van and make the trip back to Toronto.
I bumped into a few more familiar faces from hanging out at the panels on Friday, then stopped by Nancy and Scott's room to say bye and safe trip home.
Nothing exciting on the drive back though... roads were clear, highways were quick... border crossing was smooth. Again, they seem easier to deal with if you always show them your hands and let them know you're just trying to do the right thing. Once you get familiar with their "tone" you understand that's just how they talk to people.
We arrived in Toronto around 7pm. A thought crossed my mind... aside from the snow storm, this was probably the first serious traffic we've encountered all trip. Good ol' Toronto!
In the end... aside from missing 50% of the shows and 33% of the rehearsals... I think I did a pretty job filling in as a bassist! Might not get a pass in college but definitely good enough for a conditional pass in high school!
I had a blast though all things considered... I like to travel... I like traveling with bands... and even though we were only together 10 days... you feel like a band after... you bond... and you wish you were still out.
... looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow though... I've been wondering all weekend how the studio is doing.
- Mike :-)
Saturday - February 21, 2015
... what a difference an hour can make. Long story short, I'm still in Baltimore... and missed the show.
I woke up at 9:30... Mark was already awake and tiptoeing around the house as to not wake me up. We chatted for a bit in his studio about music and his newly built space, then headed out to iHop for breakfast.
The roads were clear.
We went in and it was sorta busy... short wait though. We ordered and chatted... I had to finally mention if it's crazy we're finally hangin' out in person. Again, we meet and interact with so many people "digitally" it's nice to finally meet them in real life.
One of the staff came by the table to grab an empty plate.
"... weather sure is getting bad out there."
... looking back it was like a scene out of a movie... foreshadowing.
We left around 11:30 and snow was blowing around pretty good. Mark and I chatted briefly and decided maybe it'd be best if he pack a couple things so if the weather is bad, he could crash in Harrisburg.
During the drive back to the house the truck was having problems on the road... fishtailing... there's a lot of hills but the main roads still seemed to be alright. It took a while to get back... the side roads told the real story though. Mark's house is in the middle of a bunch of hills... getting in was tricky enough... getting out of the area was getting worse by the minute.
Mark packed a small bag and we were back in the truck... even getting away from the curb was tricky at this point.
It. Was. Snowing.
... neither of us are stranger to snow storms but this accumulated fast.
We tried and failed to make it up 3 different hills... including going the wrong way on a one-way street.
I convinced Mark to abort and we headed back into the house.
Just looking out the window you could easily tell this was bad news... the hindsight started kicking in that we should've left as soon as we got up... just in case.
I texted Kyle the update and Mark and I started looking into options. The Greyhound bus had already left at 10:30am... there was a train at 2:30pm and 5:30pm... maybe the guys could come down and get me. I had faith in the van but I really didn't want the guys driving into this... this was getting bad.
Another hour quickly went by and it was not looking good to get out of here... couldn't even find a cab to take me
to the train station... hindsight, I should've walked... it was only 1.5hrs away according to google maps!
We asked if one of the guys in the studio downstairs (in the band recording) with a 4-wheel drive vehicle if they could give me a lift to the train station but they weren't (and totally understandably) interested.
Mark kept calling and texting people but everyone was in the same boat... roads are a mess. Besides, you know things are bad when even the cab companies are like "nope... try again tomorrow."
... anyway... the dilemma with the train is it's further downtown, which is further away from the highway... which was near the iHop... closer to where the guys would be coming in if they drove down.
Looking out the window I saw an Orange truck with a plow go by... I told Mark... he grabbed his bag and keys.
"... might as well try!"
We attempted to get up the hill and did end up getting up the hill... sideways.
I felt a lot of hope at this point... we both did. The glorious sight of a main road was... within sight!
... but the main roads also have hills... and the thing about main roads... they are main roads because lots of people use them.
... and we all know what happens to a large percentage of drivers when bad weather hits.
... this is bad.
Huge props to Mark for making it up a couple more hills... a lot of people were stuck and/or sliding all over the place.
We finally ended up 3ft from fishtailing into a large SUV parked in front of a Chinese restaurant. I joked it's probably their delivery guy picking up orders.
... we waited a few minutes.
I got out to check if anybody was actually in the SUV.
I ended up pushing the back end of Mark's truck to keep it from hitting the SUV while Mark tried to drive forward. It was getting really dangerous though once they were side by side.
... I mean... the thought of my vital organs getting crushed between two vehicles doing something sorta stupid in snow storm in Baltimore isn't how I want to go out... I was beginning to feel like I had to make a choice here... and that this was a possible outcome.
A large fellow came out and I asked him if it was his truck. He said yeah... they were asking the restaurant if they wanted help with deliveries today... "serious money to be made!"
Hindsight... "How much to deliver me to Harrisburg?"
I got back in the truck... I could tell Mark was stressed... he was still texting/making calls. We both knew we were stuck.
The SUV backed up a little and we fishtailed the rest of the way to the curb.
I called Kyle and gave him an update. I could tell he was a bit angry/annoyed on the phone that we left the house because Dave and Adam were on their way to get me... now I'm on the move and could mess everything up. I assured him the van would've had trouble in Mark's neighborhood... unless you're out here you don't know what's going down though. This is bad... and getting worse.
I asked Mark...
"How far is the walk back your house?"
"About 15 blocks."
"... how far is the highway from here... what's around it?"
*Mark checks his phone*
"... straight shot that way mile and half. There's the shopping center with the iHop."
*I look dramatically out the front window... then at Mark.*
"... I think we should split up... I got a better chance of getting picked up if I get to the highway and you can still get home."
... mind you, the thought of all this effort to get "a bass player" to a gig is making me laugh now but I was (still am) feeling sick about someone getting into an accident and/or hurt since nobody should be on the roads now. That'd be on my conscience... and as cliche as it sounds, safety first... people, places, and things.
... well unless that thing is a rental van.
People, rental vans, places, and things... in that order, always... today.
Mark and I bro'd our farewells, I put on my snow squall shades, and we went our separate ways.
I had hope walking... I felt like I was simply paying a debt for leaving the group. This kinda stuff happens... I'm a
realist but still felt like this was gonna work out... slowly but surely.
The snow was deep on the side of the road.
Sidewalks? What sidewalks at this point.
It was a cat and mouse game of walking past stuck and sliding vehicles then watching them pass me once they were going again.
Highlight was the yellow Jeep with a Batman spare tire cover... that's dedication to awesome.
I stopped to help out a couple people stuck trying to turn corners. Walking by someone who needs help is something a cat would do... but I don't think it comes natural to people. Plus I was still riding the adrenalin of pushing Mark's truck around a few times... I had super strength now of course!
Batman jeep ended up stuck behind a little Prius trying to turn a corner... he hopped out with a shovel (surprising/disappointingly not dressed as Batman or Bruce Wayne) and started digging him out. I caught up and offered to help.
I pushed the back end of the Prius out and everyone was on their way.
I walked a couple more blocks then heard a voice call out to my left...
"Hey... did you want a ride? Where are you headed?"
"The iHop near the 695... I need pancakes f'n bad!!!"
(I didn't actually mention the pancakes)
"I'm headed there too... wife is stranded."
So I'm now in the Bat Jeep.
The driver's name is Mike and he immediately asked me where I'm from.
"Yeah I could tell you were Canadian by your accent."
(me half joking)
"I'm a big wrestling fan... not sure if you are but ya'll sound like Bret Hart."
I can accept that... at least I don't sound like Macho Man or Ultimate Warrior... then again he probably wouldn't have picked me up if I sounded like Ultimate Warrior... then again... again... I probably would've ran back to Harrisburg by now if I was the Ultimate Warrior.
I'm going to make it.
We arrive at the iHop and behold... a McDonald's! Wifi!!!
Wifi is up there with a hot shower in modern times while traveling.
I go in...
"Hi. Can I take your order?"
"... hi... what's your address?"
(Just so you understand the context, I'm asking this question to a clearly gay petite black man.)
I put it (McDonald's address) into my phone and tell him I'll be back in a bit.
I update the guys and have a seat.
Dave and Adam are well on their way. I'm close to the highway... this is going to work.
I sat for an hour or so watching many cars get stuck on what I think is the last hill before the highway.
... I'll admit... my gut told me even if the guys get here... that hill will be our downfall.
Again, I've felt sick all day but watching what unfolded every few minutes on that hill... cars, trucks, SUVs, an 18-wheeler... all took turns getting stuck and dangerously close to wrecking on that hill.
It's the lights at the bottom. If you lose your speed and you're toast in these conditions.
I made friends with an older lady (Karen) who sat beside me and made a comment loud enough to provoke a response.
She was the type bordering on homeless or just forgotten by her loved ones. Obviously a local there (brought her own McDonald's coffee cup she refilled several times) and stared out the window commenting on the same few things over and over.
She told me her favorite place in the world was Amsterdam and she moved to NY from Baltimore when she was young to become an actress.
I kept checking in with Adam and Dave... Adam's responses got more concerning... they had been stuck several times and highway traffic was crawling... eventually hinting they should turn back given the chance.
I agreed... safety first.
I asked them where they were? Closest landmark?
"Pottery Barn Mall...?"
I scanned for it on GoogleMaps... they were a 10 minute drive under normal conditions away.
I told myself while walking earlier "don't get mad... just keep moving forward."
It was starting to get dark. It's funny how much daylight and darkness can affect your mood.
I was starting to get angry.
The sound of Karen's questions, comments, and "huh?" after my first attempt to answer any of her questions was beginning to really eat away at my nerves.
There were no more buses and trains going, or rental vans coming. It was 5:48pm... it was a 3.1 mile (1 hr) walk back to Mark's house. I wasn't going to make the show.
I was officially that guy.
I texted Mark the update... he said hold tight and he'd see what he can do... he thought I was already picked up and on my way.
I would make the walk back to Mark's but I was dreading it... 3.1 miles in a snowstorm... literally uphill both ways because it's all friggin' hills everywhere!?
"My stepdad is on his way! Blue Silverado!"
... dad powers and a 4-wheel drive pickup truck... this could work!
They pulled into the parking lot 40 mins later. A tall and large fellow wearing a Baltimore Orioles hat and Baltimore Ravens shirt underneath an open coat hopped out and pointed at me through the window.
I ran outside without my coat or backpack to greet him.. and that I just got a food order from the guys at the house if they're ok to wait a few mins. He told me Mark's Mom had packed spaghetti for us.
Mom spaghetti!! This could work!!
I went back in, grabbed my stuff and hopped in the truck.
We made it around the corner until I caved...
"... sorry, but can we go back? The guys sent their food order, I'm not sure how many are stuck there and I'm gonna feel really bad if we could've brought enough food and didn't."
"Yeah no problem!"
Parental understanding and understanding of the kids!!!
... yeah we're in our 30's... we're still kids to parents.
I have to admit... this truck was awesome... this snow storm was no problem in this thing.
I ran back in, asked Karen if she wanted anything (3 times) then ordered a pile of food for $21.47. Fast food is hilariously/frighteningly cheap here compared to Canada.
We made our way home.
We were passing a liquor store and Mark's Mom wondered if they should grab anything for "the boys".
A confident left-hand turn, monster trucking several snowbanks into the liquor store driveway told me Mark's stepdad thought the boys did!
As angry as I was about the whole situation, the ride back to the house cheered me up. The comforting effects of parents caring had taken hold.
We arrive back at Mark's house and everyone gathered in the kitchen.
Mark's Mom asked me if I wanted a beer or wine or anything... normally an easy no 100% of the time... but today... even though it tastes like rotten poison... today... let's give that glass of wine a try.
They must've been here almost an hour... I was still messaging back and forth with Kyle... I guess the weather was bad in Harrisburg too... Dave and Adam had made it back but a lot of shows were cancelled (yes!! - selfishly to pacify my guilt and anger)... but it looked like our show was still a go (frig... - throwing a gasoline soaked log into my garbage can fire of guilt and anger).
Everyone seemed to be safe though... and this winter storm apparently had a name now... Winter Storm Pandora!
I made peace I was missing the show but wouldn't move on mentally until midnight... once the set was for sure done.
There's a plan to head back asap tomorrow... fingers crossed it's smoother than today.
... speaking of... as bad as I feel, thumbing this adventure out the last 3 hours on my phone has made me feel a bit better.
Thank you to whoever took the time and made it to the end. I can joke about how much trouble was made getting a bass player to a gig tonight but it's so much more than that to those who understand...
... live music is one of the best things ever... and it's even better if you're the ones performing it.
Seeing Helmet last night was an event I didn't want to miss... the show tonight with The Sole Pursuit was something I didn't want to miss... but I missed it and regardless how unimportant it might be to people who don't understand, it's really important to bands.
... just keep that in mind before you poke fun.
... I mean... you can still poke fun... just know where to pick your spots.
... I should try and get some rest... let the rumble and grind of street plows put me to sleep.
Thursday - February 19, 2015
... it's probably been 14 years since I've played an instrument standing up... on stage.
... so I get a text from AJ (The Sole Pursuit) a couple weeks ago... told me Chad (bassist) couldn't do the shows and if I wanted to (half jokingly) come play bass for a couple US dates they had coming up.
"... for f#&$ sakes."
... that's actually what I wrote them back... I thought it was funny and I knew it'd make them laugh.
... speaking of funny... funny enough this all went alongside a trip I was already planning to the US. I told Kyle and AJ to keep asking around but if they're stuck, I'll do what I can to shuffle around the schedule... Wednesday morning I found myself at Long & McQuade looking for an appropriate bass for the gig.
I'll be honest... it's been forever since I've had to stand and play an instrument... I mean... I play guitar all the time in the studio... but sitting vs standing... your wrist just does this... weird... so uncomfortable... it's better if I shorten the strap... but now... I look like that guy.
... playing drums is so much easier.
Long story short... 9 days and 2 rehearsals later, here I am in Harrisburg, PA, playing bass guitar for The Sole Pursuit for 2 shows at the Millenium Music Conference.
(... because I totally had time in my schedule to learn 10 songs on an instrument I can't stand and play!)
... it was for a good cause though! The guys are planning to get their P2 visas this year and tour as much as possible. I don't think they mind having me tag along just for piece of mind though... especially calming some nerves at the border... which went pretty smoothly.
#DearBands - Show people you've done your homework and trying (that thing that sometimes takes time, effort, and money) and they might not give you a hard time.
The drive was around 7hrs... plus 1.5hrs at the border... plus lunch. We left Toronto at 8am, arrived here at 7pm... I slept most of it though which was nice... it's been a long couple days to say the least...
So tonight we played the hotel bar of where the conference is taking place.
As soon as we walked in all I could think was "ok great, we're playing a Kelsey's." Not much will get you more stoked to play your first vertical show in 14 years than knowing people are eating chicken pot pie and wondering when you're going to start playing some Third Eye Blind covers or something.
I rehearsed the set again by myself in the hotel room... got my gear on... headed down at 8:45pm for our 9pm set.
It's funny what happens to your body during "game time". You can practice and practice, having fun, playing things perfectly... but your body is somewhat relaxed under those conditions. You change the conditions and you change the variable that makes the biggest difference... in my opinion. Studios and rehearsal spaces are very controlled.
The show went well though... I hit a boatload of wrong notes (maybe 3-4/song) but I don't think many people noticed.
I wished I'd had moved around more on stage... but again... different conditions from the stages I've played the last few years... it felt like a Kelsey's... a small stage and I didn't want to get in anybody's way... that's my excuse at least.
I found myself looking at the frets a lot too... which I don't/didn't really do in rehearsal... either of them.
Kyle (singer/guitarist/band leader) seemed pretty happy with the show. We all sorta need to police ourselves but at the end of the day someone needs to give the band a thumbs up or down after shows... can't all be up, can't all be down... but he gave thumbs up. We got through it... started strong and ended strong... looking forward to the next one now... it's addictive.
... it was nice finishing a set without "swamp ass" too.
Highlight of the day though was meeting Nancy Matthews... Scarlet White's manager (EOS Artist Management) and sponsor for my O-1 Visa. There are so many people these days you only know through texts, emails, skype meetings and phone calls where it's nice to finally meet them in person!
I emailed Nancy last week that my Visa had been approved and that it was looking like I was heading to Harrisburg to do a couple shows and finally confirm some meetings. She immediately called me to ask if it was the MMC we were playing... her and Scott (Husband) would be there... she's speaking on one of the panels!
... small world sometimes.
We all hung out after the set... had a few drinks and some good laughs... good times.
... just got word... it's looking like I'm officially off to Philadelphia tomorrow to see Helmet. I'm super stoked about that... stoked enough I feel the use of the word "stoked" is appropriate.
The guys (The Sole Pursuit) are doing an acoustic set tomorrow but it's full band again on Saturday.
- Mike :-)
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!