Recently, my good friend Jamie Paul asked me to mix a song that he recorded. Although I did go to school for this sort of thing, mixing is not a passion of mine, so I don’t pursue these gigs often. I’d much rather be on the music-making/creative side of the glass (I’m not saying that mixing isn’t musical or creative; it is both of those things. I’d just prefer to have an instrument in my hands than a mouse). However, the occasional mixing gig is pretty refreshing.
Anyway, Jamie sent me the files, and we had a few exchanges over the phone about the general direction he was going for. Jamie’s style has evolved considerably over the years. We were in our first band together back in high school, which was a little punk and lot embarrassing, looking back on it. He was the main songwriter for that group, and since that time has grown and gone through phases of sorta emo, sorta folk, sorta Tom Waits, and other influences. These days, he lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina, which has had a profound impact on his world view and consequently, his writing. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened the session. I knew it would be quality – I’ve always dug his songs, but I wasn’t sure what the vibe would be. Amazingly, Jamie still sounds like Jamie, even though his is currently in a much different place musically than he was years ago. His songs still have identifiable traits to them through the years, which I think is the mark of a good writer.
I’ll spare you the nerdy techie talk about what I did with the mix, because it’s unimportant. Here, the song is king, and my job was to showcase the song and arrangement as best I could, while keeping things minimal.
The latest sketch from The Beans was released yesterday, entitled “Bear Hands.” When I received the rough cut of this short, I really didn’t know what to make of it. In talking with the director, I came to realize that it’s really just supposed to be awkward and absurd; this I can handle. For some reason, I was just feeling a quirky funk groove, so I picked up my bass, ran it through a fuzz/wah, and plugged away. The score part of this sketch really didn’t take very long. But when I was done with the music, something still didn’t seem quite right. Sure, I added the sound design elements of some generic football game going on in the background, and found a funny excerpt to use (from a real game, where player #69 is flagged for “giving him the business”), but we needed other elements to complete the sketch. So the director called me, and asked that I put in animal noises and other elements to build the awkward factor. He wanted a different animal sound to happen whenever you see a close-up of the “bear hands.” I took this and ran with it, and also added some voiceovers of my own (with a creepy reverb/delay to imply either an inner monologue or a “big brother” effect).
The end result had the director laughing over the phone, which is always a good thing. From this sketch, I learned that the sound design elements can create a score of their own, since my music really just acted as a header/footer to the sketch.
“like…totally” was my first score for The Beans, a comedy troupe that started in LA but is now producing work on the East Coast as well. It’s easy to be jaded by all that technology can offer as far as convenience, but I still think it’s great to be able to collaborate on projects with others who are thousands of miles away, in some cases with people whom I’ve never met.
The sketch is a not so subtle commentary on something that most of us have experienced: being subjected to a mindless conversation where nothing is really being said. Musically, I wanted to mimic the action by writing a completely obnoxious score. As a nod to the 80′s Valley Girl “language” being spoken here, I took a very minimalist approach by scoring the entire short with just my Moog and a drum machine, trying to tap into a synth pop style that I imagined these girls might listen to. As the conversation becomes harder and harder to cope with, I tried to build momentum in the music with added layers, changing the beat, and generally just building the tension.
I hope that you are thoroughly annoyed after viewing this: