Sunday, September 17, 2006

Band Story Part IV

Christmas break of Sophomore year my buddy and I started on what was to be my first "solo ep." With the first song already recorded before I left for school, I began composing a handful of other songs and started on what would become a 5 song outing.

The recording equipment we used was as rudimentary as it could get. I had an old 4 track recorder that recorded directly to cassette tape with a cheap microphone and a beat up acoustic guitar. The songs in general weren't very well developed and for the most weren't anything better than a glorified demo tape, but nevertheless it got me back into playing again and gave me the confidence to strike out on my own. After we recorded everything my friend was able to mix them down to his computer and burn them to CD and the rest was history (well not really)

The whole acoustic thing was still very new to me at this time. I was used to writing punk rock and ska songs full of power chords and distortion cranking out of a marshall half stack. It really took me a while to transform from bashing out loud punk tunes to more reserved acoustic rock stuff.

The following Easter Break I came back to Illinois to record another demo of 4 songs I had begun working on during the second semester. By this time I was heavily into Bob Dylan and it was slowly starting to take over in my music. There was something about Dylan that I immediately connected with. I guess mostly that he was about as close to punk rock as one person with an acoustic guitar could get. His whole persona and style of music seemed contain a constant message of "fuck you" to anyone and everyone. He was willing to take risks even if it was at the expense of his fans and everyone around him and I dug that.

Now what does that have to do with me? Well to be frank, absolutely nothing as I was merely singing poorly arranged drunken songs about girls and beer, but after constantly listening to Dylan I decided to start playing the Harmonica which made its first appearance on this second recording.

After I finished this second demo I started passing it around amongst my friends and everyone seemed to get a kick out of it, which convinced me to keep going and writing songs. I'm not really sure what I was trying to accomplish with all of this. I guess I just really missed playing and enjoyed that I was still able to write and record new songs and that people were actually somewhat interested in what I was doing. I never really had any intention of playing shows or anything other than recording for fun, but over time it was just something that naturally happened.

Once the second demo was completed I started writing more and more songs, incorporating more folk influences and more harmonica and crafted what ended up being my first full length album. Once the summer hit I came back to Illinois to work with some friends on one of those shady "college house painting crews." During the days we'd destroy houses all over the suburbs of Chicago and at night I'd go into my parent's basement with some friends and record the album. By this time we had upgraded our recording equipment significantly. We were now working with a digital 8 track recorder and an actual mixing board.

I also recruited my cousin to come in and play lead guitar on a number of the tracks and we incorporated alot more instrumentation on the album than we had on anything in the past. I had harmonicas, keyboard, a jaw harp, bongos, shakers, and all kinds of shit. By the end of the summer we had completed the album in entirety and I was really happy with how it came out. 13 songs about chicks and beer and the extreme difficulties of being a white kid from an upper middle class family attending a private university.

Soon after I was convinced to play my first actual show at a recently closed Cowboy bar turned after-work cocktail lounge with a bunch of punk rock bands playing. At the time it seemed crazy to play acoustic shows with a bunch of punk groups as the audiences are known for not having the openest of minds, but for some reason that actually got what I was doing and laughed their asses off with everyone else. There was actually some dude in the back of the bar rocking a cowboy hat and at one point in the show he tipped his hat to me in gratitude. And it was at that point that I knew I was onto something.

I soon went back to school with an newly recorded album in hand, ready to bring my brand of acoustic rock/comedy to the campus.