US Tour Blog #1 – Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago

Ayria and Project Pitchfork on the Road:
June 15th – 20th Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago

Jenn in Minneapolis, June 15th 2010

Jenn in Minneapolis, June 15th 2010

That’s me with the Minneapolis sky line behind me.  I flew into Minneapolis on Tuesday, June 15th and met up with my new keyboardist for this tour Kevin, a nice Irish boy from Atlanta who is aparently second cousins with Collin Farell.. but we’ve decide to call him Wolfgang Hans-Hemut as Peter from Project Pitchfork thought he needed a German name for this tour to fit in more (Oh how I love breaking in the new guy!).  We made our way to the hotel and waited for everyone to arrive from various parts of the world.  Mike drove up to the hotel a few hours later with our van and trailer, he’d made the trip all the way from Seattle. A few hours after that, the guys from Project Pitchfork (headliner band, members: Peter, Achim, Jurgen, Axxle) all arrived from Germany  (Hamburg and Berlin). Our kickoff show was in Minneapolis, MN the following night and that show did not disappoint!  The crowd brought all of their energy that night and danced until the last song had been played.  I got to meet a lot of new people as well as greet familiar faces who I’d seen at so many of our shows before.  Apparently, my gay fanbase tells me that “Lady Gaga is out, and Ayria is in!” which made me laugh pretty hard. They also thank me for adding Kevin the keyboardist as some eye candy to the show ;)  It was a great show to start this month long tour and to get me back in the mindset of being on the road.  Besides a spontaneous 3 show stint with VNV Nation back in March (which was amazingly fun but brief), I haven’t actually toured since I got home in January after the month and a half long tour with the Cruxshadows.  Switching gears back into touring mode.

The next day, we had off due to a last minute cancellation in Champaign, IL which was disappointing, since last time we were there, I recall was quite fun!  We ended up in a city called Mauston, WI and had our first official tour family dinner in a typical American diner where everything came smothered in cheese.  The second show was Milwaukee.  We played at the Miramar Theatre and this show, has so far been my absolute favourite of the tour.  Some nights, a band is lucky enough to have everything click and that night, for me it did.  The sound was totally flawless, the energy of the crowd was insane, and I just felt the show went off so perfectly for me personally. Then the after party at club anything, where I fear I’m starting to get a bit of a party girl reputation there (haha)  but we had a lot of fun and want to thank everyone that came out and supported both bands in Milwaukee.

Chicago! What can I say about Chicago.  It’s always amazing to play there.  We played at a venue called the Abbey and I have a bit of a story about that place since it reminds me of the first time I’d ever been to Chicago.  Back on my very first tour ever with Razed In Black and Glis, we were booked to play a show there but they had already booked a local act to play that show, and therefore Ayria wasnt’ given a slot since we were ‘unknown’ then, so I just hung out that night and didn’t get to play.  I think of our crowd reaction there last night reminds me how far I’ve come since then! I really hope someone got footage of “The Gun Song”  and posts it.  A girl in the front row brought a pink toy gun and busted it out for that song and handed it to me!  I was actually going to bring my blinged up gun from the “Hearts For Bullets” cover on this tour, but didn’t want to risk travelling with it through homeland security as I’ve had problems even with bringing a “bullet belt” in the past.  Thank you Chicago, despite a few sound issues and the venue being a million degrees (my face was melting off through the set), we had such a fun night! We recommend the fish and chips dinner at the Abbey Pub!  I would have loved to have gone to the after party at Neo, but we were pretty tired that night,  so we chose to get some rest at the hotel.

I’ve written this post while in the van, driving to Pittsburgh.  We’ve been fortunate to stop for full breakfasts at amazing little dinners almost every day so far.. Project Pitchfork guys are amazingly cool, I can’t understand a word they are saying when they go into “German Mode”, this tour is being dominated by the latest scores of the World Cup games, but it’s all good and we are already all bonding and becoming the dysfunctional tour family that always happens on the road when you’re forced to share confined spaces, all meals, and long drives.

I’ll see some of you soon I hope!? Lots more shows to go!
Much love from the road (currently Sandusky, Ohio)
Jennifer

Thanks to: Plastik Wrap for the stage clothing & merch collaboration. We spent several weeks planning out the new line for this tour and I know they worked well into the nights the week before I left, I also want to thank Neko Hair Designs for my new dreads! (they actually blend perfectly with my own colours and hair length), and Cinched Tight Corsets for the cute pink skull corset.. more pics will be featured of all these awesome collaborators and supporters.  I’ve been given more gifts along the road from other awesome and talented designers that I’ll be wearing and promoting too and  I can’t thank you guys enough!

Here’s a video filmed in Chicago yesterday morning before we left:

Song Dissection #7: Blue Alice

Photo Credit: LostFish

Clip of the Blue Alice:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/ayriaheartsforbulletstrack08.mp3[/podcast]

Interesting Tid Bits about this song

1. This is the song that got me an “explicit” warning for the Hearts For Bullets CD since it has swearing in it.  I thought this was a GOOD use of the “F” bomb.

2. This song was a collaboration and is the only song on Hearts For Bullets that I didn’t do the majority of programming and writing for.

3. I occasionally get tagged as “rap” on some sites. I think it’s because of this song, and The Gun Song.  Despite the fact that I hate when people try and categorize my genre of music, I DID think it was very entertaining to be called a rapper!

4. The tempo of this song is 101 BPM.  Which is such an awesome speed that’s rarely done these days.  This tempo used to be more common in Industrial (think Nitzer Ebb’s Belief album and NIN songs) but with club music that’s taken over, DJ’s and/or artists seem to think that if a song goes under 130 BPM, they might explode… or something.

5. The original working title for this song was “I look better from the floor”.

6. The lyrics for this song were inspired by a movie I saw and it was NOT Alice In Wonderland

7. This was the very last of all songs to be finished in production for Hearts For Bullets around mid June 2008.  After which, I had a glass of red wine to celebrate!

The Dissection:

This song is a collaboration between me and my amazing friend Jeremy Pfohl who happens to run Storming The Base in Toronto.  I actually love collaborating with other people. Some amazing vocal ideas have come out of collaborations since I’m free to concentrate just on the vocals which has always been my number one passion. Jeremy had started writing this loop that eventually became the first verse of “Blue Alice”.  He played it for me, and I thought the synths were just amazing, and it had such a cool groove and such a rawness to it, that I asked him to pass the loop on to me so I could play around with ideas since he tends to just start loops just for fun.  I then recorded vocals over top of it, that ended up staying in the sonng as the first verse.  I had started chanting about fairy tales through a distortion effect, and he loved it so we decided to develop it further and complete it as a full song.

The Chorus

Writing the chorus came next but we found it really difficult to transition into something big and powerful.  Both the music and the vocals in our first draft, neither of us liked completely. The first draft of the song, I had kept chanting in the chorus but it really needed some vocal melody to change the chorus completely.  Then one day, the “Hey You Black and Blue” came to me and it was a line that instantly stuck in my head and forced Jeremy to program percussion around that new idea. It’s like everything clicked once a powerful chorus was created.

The Bridge

Jeremy  ended up working on a bridge “synth solo” that comes in after the lyrics: “Little Pig Little Pig Put Her Down!” that  he was having so much fun with, it would have gone on for another 5 minutes if it were up to him.  But me, usually forgetting to take a pause in a song to STOP singing for a bit, found the synths leading a nice refreshing break and change.  And that synth solo part is so ridiculously sick! Seb enhanced it in production by adding breaks, and adding really amazing percussion in that part and in the chorus.  Here is the bridge synth solo in all it’s glory:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-BlueAlice-Bridge-produced.mp3[/podcast]This week  I’m changing things up again, instead of isolating the raw vocals, I wanted to isolate the raw synths before production so you can admire their sick beauty and what they added to this song:

Here’s the Verse Synth:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Verse-Synth-Solo.mp3[/podcast]2 Chorus Synths that layer together for a thick sound:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Chorus-Synth-Solo-1.mp3[/podcast] [podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Chorus-Synth-Solo-2.mp3[/podcast]Finally the Bridge Synth “solo”!

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Bridge-Sick-Synth.mp3[/podcast]

The Lyrics:  This Is One F*cked Up Fairy Tale..

The song is whimsical with dark fairy tale concepts running throughout in a sick and twisted, somewhat modernized way.  Here are the lyrics:

I hope I’m dreaming because this can’t be awake
I hope I’m dead just for my sake
Who knew all this would come from a dirty gun
Son of a Bitch who thought he was a cowboy
The mad hatter Bashes your face again
Look into his eyes to see where evil lives
Bullet through window and down the rabbit hole
This is one f*cked up fairy tale

Hey You! Black and blue
Watch out, you’ll end up like Alice
Hey You! Black and blue
Watch out, don’t end up like Alice

You’ll get what’s coming, you and your children
The wicked witch has OD’ed on pills again
And the Dragon, lights up a cigarette
He’s blowing smoke right into your face again
It’s off with her head
Her snakes are seething
The big bad wolf is rabid and teething
Bullets through windows and down the rabbit hole
This is one f*cked up fairy tale

Little Pig little pig put her down
Slapped around choked and drown

I was inspired to start writing the lyrics to this song after watching a movie called “Running Scared” directed by Wayne Kramer. It’s not uncommon that a book, an article, a show, the news, or a movie sparks my mind to start writing lyrics. It doesn’t mean the whole song is completely about this movie, it just started my imagination down this dark fairy tale lyrical path.  This movie is a bloody, violent, cowboy, mob, fairy tale with a pretty gruesome UV lit hockey torture scene like no one has done before! It had all of these characters throughout the story that were modernized version of classic Grimm Fairy Tale characters. I debated explaining here which parts specifically from this movie I used in my lyrics, but if you’re that interested, you can just watch the film yourself and try and figure it all out. I’m not saying it’s the best movie ever, it’s quite over the top, a strange plot and violent, but you might enjoy that ;)

Don’t End Up Like Alice: The rest of the lyrics, I took from other favourite childhood stories, like Alice In Wonderland of course, which became the premise of the chorus and tied the whole song together, matching the tone of the verses by portraying a bit of a battered Alice who ends up black and blue and slapped around. I was already writting these dark lyrics, so there was no turning back and I created this image of an abused Alice that you have to be careful not to end up like.  A bit unnerving, but striking.

I recently purchased this Alice in Wonderland book and was thrilled with the illustrations in this version done by Camille Rose Garcia.  They are so wonderfully creepy!

Alice In Wonderland Cover

The Little Pig reference was obviously a nod to the childhood nursery rhymes only mutilated to be about the pigs being nasty masochists, beating and choking Alice.  The “Off with her head, Snakes are seething” is a reference to Greek Mythology’s Medusa, but also tying it in with the Queen Of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland, linking the fabled beheading of Medusa with the Red Queen’s constant cry of ‘off with their heads!”.   Medusa is one of my favourite “villains” in stories.. although, arguably, not a villain at all, but that’s another discussion..

I also really liked the anachronistic images of the characters.  Like the wicked witch overdosing on pills. Taking a fantasy character and giving her more modern qualities.  Same with the image of the dragon, except in his case, he’s also a creature not a person, so having those modern qualities is even stranger.  Instead of breathing fire, he takes a drag of a cigarette and blows the smoke into your face.  Almost more insulting since you know he can breath fire, but is instead taunting you.  And that being both anachronistic and anthropomorphic (yes, I looked that word up, I learned something from this blog too!) was interesting to me.

To end the disscetion, I like sharing interesting youtube videos I stumble accross!  This one is a slide show created by fearandloathinggirl,  it uses a lot of Alice Pictures that I’ve never seen before!

Have a great week! I’m not going to post a new dissection this Friday and we’ll see how crazy things get, but this might be the last one before the upcoming tour. I will instead be tour blogging from the road! The Song Dissections will resume when I’m back of course! In the meantime, tell me what your favourite fairy tale, fairytale related movie, or childhood fable is?

xo
Jenn

Previous Song Dissections:
1000 Transmissions
Bad List
Invisible
Analog Trash
Suck It Up
Insect Calm

If you’ve enjoyed reading this and wish to own this song and want to support me directly, please either check out my shop (I personally ship & sign anything you want), or you can purchase the mp3 of Blue Alice from iTunes for a mere dollar:

T-Shirts and Draw For a Prize June 1st!

I will be leaving on tour soon (in 3 weeks!).  I currently have a few left of each style and size of the Hearts For Bullets ”Gun Crest” shirt designs but after this tour, I DO NOT plan on re-printing these!  If you don’t want to miss out on EVER owning one of these T-shirts, Girlie-T’s, Tank Tops or Hoodies (I won’t be getting any more hoodies for a while since they are bulky and expensive for me to stock)  you’ll need to order from my shop in the next week (before May 31st, 2010) before any remaining shirts get shipped off  for the tour!   For further incentive for you guys to grab up these shirts from me, any shirt orders during this week only will be entered in a draw to win your choice of either a signed Ayria Tie or the first ever Ayria “Bicep Band” made by Plastik Wrap and signed of course!!  The draw will happen on June 1st, 2010, winner notified.  So order shirts before they are all gone or everything is shipped off!

Shop Link:  http://www.ayria.com/shop/#merchandise

xo
Jenn

Gun-Crest-Shirts

Song Dissection #6: Insect Calm

From the CD: Hearts For Bullets
Music, lyrics & vocals: Jennifer Parkin
Production, mixing, mastering: Sebastian Komor
Hearts for Bullets (cover)

Lyrics:

I’m withered inside. I’ve never wanted something so blindly.
How does one comprehend dissatisfaction with the unknown.
I’ve been bound too long to this confining shell, like a tiny hell that can’t calm this wrestless mind.
My blood pulses, fuels desire.

I’ve left all behind. These winds have changed and there is no way back.
Why can’t you see this all will fall, this microcosm is not eternal.
My thirst will not subside. I’d rather face the storm and get ripped open wide.
Then my insect eyes will see this wretched world for all it hides.

Insect Calm.
My limbs are numb.
Resistance gone, I’m shedding skin.
To feed and breathe in.

Insect Calm
The fear is gone.
Itching and feeling with my new skin
Inhale this world in.

The Dissection

So the surprise for this week’s song dissection is that I made a little video to change it up a bit! The video doesn’t get as detailed as the write ups can though, so it’s a bit more brief than other dissections but, it includes the visual element of me in my appartment, and some impromtu live singing by me just for you!  I’m sorry for the quality of the built in MacBook camera, but it’s the best I can do for now so please be kind with your comments, and enjoy!

AYRIA – Song Dissection #6 – INSECT CALM from Ayria on Vimeo.

One additional thing that I didn’t have time to touch on in the video was this amazing and very old and very rough clip I found that was the original idea for the song Insect Calm.  This audio clip is from back in the days when I was working on the Flicker CD.  I sometimes start loops with a vocal idea but have no idea where to take them, so they sit on the “idea shelf”.  You can tell this one is a rough idea since the vocals aren’t really cohesive between the layers and I was in the brainstorming phase.  This idea loop sat there for several years until I revisited it while writing Hearts For Bullets.  This demo clip comes accross sounding pretty gothy with the reverbed synths and vocals, and from here, it was obviously re-worked into a full demo, that  was more bass and percussion driven, glitchier and sparser, before being passed to Seb for his never less than amazing production.

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/OLD-Demo-Clip.mp3[/podcast]

I’ll try and come up with more surprises for next week.  There are 2 songs that I know people are specifically waiting for and I’m getting excited to dissect them! This week was a bit crazy for me, having just returned from Montreal but I was glad I could pull this video together in time for today for you guys! ♥ I know the video is brief and doesn’t get into too much detail, so if you want me to answer further questions on the lyrics or concept behind this song, post it here and I’ll reply!

xoxo
Jenn

If you’re a new reader, make sure you check out previous week’s Song Dissections:

1000 Transmissions
Bad List
Invisible
Analog Trash
Suck It Up

Song Dissection #5: Suck It Up

From the CD: Hearts For Bullets
Music, lyrics & vocals: Jennifer Parkin
Production, mixing, mastering: Sebastian Komor
Hearts for Bullets (cover)

Lyrics:

When I see you there facing your rival
To everyone it’s clear you’re in denial
And now it’s come to this
I thought it never would
Now I see you here facing your rival
You’re stuck

Elimination time pending survival
When it comes to pricks you take the title
You’ll have to suck it up! Suck it up!
Don’t you look at me I’m not your rival
Just stop!

Faking. You’re faking it.

You find yourself in the same situation
When will you learn to avoid mutilation
You’ve missed again
And there’s no telling when you will
Recover from this one
It’s a big deal
You’re dead inside is a minor understatement
More like guts scraped on the edge of the pavement
Tiny words, tiny thoughts, things that make you fear
You play dead but we know that you’re faking it.

This song, both the lyric and music content, has always been very visual to me like I simultaneously directed the video in my head while writing the song.  I have a picture in my head of a showdown with 2 people standing face to in a blistering hot dessert with the bluest sky imaginable, the two people are all sweaty, and dirty like they’ve been taken right from the set of a Mad Max film. The music compliments this vision when I hear the gritty, scraping synths.

Lyrically: it’s not about one specific individual as people always tend to think about my songs, but again, I take my deepest and sometimes scattered emotions and use them to get out some frustrations at various people and situations.  I do have a few people in mind of course, but generally, this song is for those I’ve encountered in my life who act like the world is out to get them and end up treating everyone like a rival or competitor when they’re not. I want to tell them to suck it up, get over it, move on and stop blaming  me or others for their own short comings and failures in life. These people always seem to be stuck and left in the same situations over and over, their only way out is to “play dead”, which is the ultimate attention seeking move, to act like everything is over, but we know that they are faking it and they’ll be back, which is the last line of the bridge.   That pretty much sums up the general meaning of this song. My favourite line of this whole song is: “when it comes to pricks, you take the title”.  It just came out so naturally in a brainstorming session, it made me laugh and I knew I had to keep it in the song. So, yes, this is another angry song inspired by, and directed at more than one specific individual who I’ll never name names of, but again, I use anger in song so that I can remain the happy cheerful person I am.  ;)

Musical Inspiration: I was listening a lot “Sick Like Me” a song by Traumschmiere and specifically the version that was remixed by Motor. That song had this amazingly aggressive energy and these dirty synths (yes, you’ll get used to how I use the term “dirty” as a technical term!) that keeps rising up in the song and I liked how they added a sense of anticipation that I wanted to try having a song with a similar element in it.  Overall, I was going for a more edgy, electro-rock vibe with big percussion for this song which was achieved.  I would say another band that subconsciously influenced me in the creation of this song, was Filter whom I really liked in the later part of the 90’s.  I later said to myself  “Hey, Suck It Up reminds me of that Filter song “Nice Shot” how I sing the verses!” even though I hadn’t listened to that song since the 90’s!

Structure: The one part of this song that I had such a hard time with was writing a chorus!  I never really wrote one for this song!  Not like the kind I usually have in my songs.  We used the “faking it” lyric as the chorus and structured around that, which ended up working well.  I spent most of my efforts on the bridge part where I had played with layering percussion elements and having this rhythmic chanting part going on and on while the music and percussion built up.  It was more fun for me to keep progressing the main bass line and feeling of the song than to spend time on a chorus apparently! ;)

I’m doing the dissection of this song a little differently this week because I had something special for this song to share with you guys,  and also because I’m in Montreal for the week, currently in the hotel with the WORST internet connection ever, and haven’t had as much time as I usually do for a write up but in a way, this is much better!  I’m giving you a glimpse into the recording process.  This video was made by  my good friend SGoetz (aka Blepharisma) she had recorded behind the scenes footage during the studio session while I recorded the final vocals for “Suck It Up”.  Now knowing this would eventually see the light of day, I’m wishing I dressed up that day for the shooting instead of wearing my comfy recording clothes! ;) Also, I can’t believe how short my hair was back then!  This is  not recorded in my own home studio (I wish I had that kind of set up!), but we were able to use this space for a day, and you’ll see my good friend, keyboardist & producer of the “Flicker” CD: Joe Byer (v01d) manning the controls. I hope you enjoy seeing something rare that you don’t usually get to see everyday.  Have a great weekend! I’ll be enjoying my stay in Montreal for another 3 days!

xo
Jennifer

If you don’t own this song, you can spend that dollar on it on iTunes! Or visit my web shop where I personally sign and send you stuff:

Previous Song Dissections:
1000 Transmissions
Bad List
Invisible
Analog Trash

Song Dissection #4: Analog Trash

Analog Trash - Header

From the CD: Hearts For Bullets
Music, lyrics & vocals: Jennifer Parkin
Production, mixing, mastering: Sebastian Komor

Lyrics:

I’ve got a secret
I’ve been watching you
I know you’re damaged
But I still want you
You’re analog trash
When life is digital
But I prefer you
I think you’re beautiful

Pull back realign
We are flawed by design
Unplug just for fun
Stop before we hurt someone
Standard Uniform
Corporate life has gone too far
Excess Commodity
I want you just for me

This little secret
Gives me something to do
My new obsession
To be like you
You’re analog trash
When life is digital
But I prefer this
unreplicatable

Come On, It’s not what you think
Come On, Just come away with me
Come On, There’s so much more to this
Come On, That life you will not miss

The Dissection:
I will make a big statement in saying this is my favourite song off of the “Hearts For Bullets” CD. Although, choosing a favourite song is like choosing a favourite amongst your children I’d assume. I personally felt that this song achieved a light, sexy, fun feeling while still having some darker, grittier elements to it. It combined so many influences and elements of electro that I love, that it became my favourite, but again, that changes monthly depending on my mood. ;)

For me, the word analog makes me specifically think of analog synthesizers! Analog synths have qualities that can’t quite be replicated by digital, and lyrically, this song takes the traits of any analog device, and uses these traits to describe an individual, mainly in the line repeated in the verses: “you’re analog trash, when life is digital. But I prefer this, unreplicatable”.

Here’s a cute picture I found online of “Analog Trash”:
analog trash pic
photo credit: “Analog Retirement” form busted tees

I knew from the beginning I wanted to call this song “Analog Trash”. The biggest decision I had regarding this song was the spelling of the title! In Canada and the UK, it’s actually spelled “Analogue” but I thought the American spelling for “Analog” looked slicker so I, for a moment, abandoned my Canadian roots and went with the Americanization of the word! It’s funny because I was playing a show in Manchester, UK, in December 2009 where I found out that they named their regular club night after my song. The night is called “Analogue Trash” and it made me feel guilty seeing the spelling like that ;)

THE VOCALS: I was so very happy with the vocals of this song. The melodies were simple, sweet and fun. When I sing this song, it actually feels light and sexy to do so. I also felt the vocals had a sophistication and maturity that maybe I hadn’t experimented with in the past, especially how the chorus vocals seem to swell and drag from one phrasing to the next if that makes sense? I love diversity. It’s the key to who I am and what I do. I really hate writing the same song over and over, so I TRY my best not to. Let me tell you though, Its getting tougher after 3 releases.

THE LYRICS: I admit, it’s a bit of a mash of ideas and ends up being kind of abstract, especially in the chorus where each line is more of a statement and could stand on it’s own rather than tell a story. The verses are sung as a secret love song that comes off a bit stalker-esque “I’ve been watching you”. There are some lyrics relating back to the analog vs. digital concept. Being “flawed by design” is a trait of analog that I’ve related to individuals as well. My statement on how our corporate lives and craving for commodity hinders our relationships and life balance. Personally, I was feeling overworked at the time, things were out of whack, and I was trying to find balance while I was working on a career, doing music, and still trying to have a life somehow. I think having the life suffered the most. I wanted my world to “Unplug, just for fun” and I wanted to convince the world around me there had to be more to all this. Again, they are not all completely straightforward lyrics, but they seemed to all flow nicely together while capturing what I was feeling at the time: The bridge just lets loose with: “Come on, just come away with me, come on, there’s so much more to this, Come on, that life you will not miss”.

Here’s another lyric brainstorming mess of purple! This was the messiest song brainstorming I think I’ve ever done so naturally, I wanted to share it! The funny thing is, if you follow the numbers, it’s how the first verse turned out (except for number one happening twice… Ah, beautiful creative chaos!) If you can follow this at all, you should get a prize:

Purple Mess of Lyrics for Analog Trash

Purple Mess of Lyrics for Analog Trash

THE MUSIC & PRODUCTION:
The music and melodies came to me fairly easily which is not always the case as you’ve seen in a few of the previous dissections where I’ve discussed how some songs need demo after demo, drafted 10 times until it feels right. This song started so simple with just two synth lines going through my analog pattern sequencers in Reason software, a lead and a bass, and what you may notice in this song, is that the bass melody actually never changes through the entire song, maybe not a great song structure trait on my part, but for this song, it really works. To change it up, other synth layers and different percussion come in so the verse and chorus sound different. I wanted the song to stay fairly sparsely programmed, acheiving an overall 80′s-electro feel to it. Here’s my first demo loop of the music that started with the lead and bass synth and introduced a few other layers this loop is the brainstorming so I could start writing and structuring the song from here.

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Analog-Trash-Demo-Loop.mp3[/podcast]

My producer, Seb, said this was one of his favourites off the album (between this, and the title track “Hearts For Bullets”). I thought “Analog Trash” turned out so slick. All of the elements pop out at you since there’s not a lot of clutter with only a few layers of music going on at any one time. Also, this song sounds amazing on a dance floor! Pointing out my three favourite contributions by Seb to this song in production: the lead synth that comes in at the one minute mark sounds so gritty, draggy, and added so much to the song, this song also had some of the most amazingly clear vocal production I’ve heard on my voice (listen to it in head phones, the chorus is pure ear candy!), and lastly, the percussion, specifically, those beautiful snares! I’m a total snare freak!! Our biggest heated discussions during production on this whole CD were the snares. I love really loud snares that are short explosive bursts that just punch you in the face. If you listen to this entire CD, you might (NOW) notice how loud and clear the snares are on almost every song… or maybe it’s just me. I think I actually drove Seb crazy with how picky I was. No matter what volume he was going to put the snare, he did it a few DB louder to not have to hear me complain ;)

This clip is for you guys who wanted me to continue sharing the raw vocals, the first clip is the first verse and chorus. Notice there are 2 layers of vocals that come in for the chorus? Those are 2 different vocal recordings which, when layered together create a true “natural chorus” effect. It’s used in a lot of Ayria songs as it ends up sounding so sweet! You’re more likely to have imperfections when doing a chorus this way, when the vocals aren’t sung exactly the same, which they can’t possibly be, but I tend to like some of the little imperfections. It gives it character.. unreplicatable.

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Analog-Trash-Raw-Vocals.mp3[/podcast]

This second clip is the same vocals in the final produced version of the song:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Analog-Trash-Produced-Clip.mp3[/podcast]

I wanted to share two of my favourite videos of us playing this song live that I’ve come accross:

First it at The Knitting Factory in Los Angeles on October 13, 2008. The crowd was so energetic in true L.A. style! I was blown away at the crowd’s reaction in this clip because, I have to point out, Hearts for Bullets had JUST been released, out less than a month, but it seems like it’s an old crowd favourite! The sound quality, as for most of the live videos, isn’t the best, and I get kind of out of breath, but it’s still cool to see. The very end of this video, someone screams so loud and long. It’s ridiculous and I love when crowds are having this much fun (thanks to twistedgraven who posted this video!)

This is November 29, 2008 in the Outback Lodge in Charlottesville, VA. A small and intimate show with a fun crowd. I love it!

(Thanks CompTechMike for posting the video!)

If you don’t own this song, don’t let the guilt consume you! Spend that dollar on iTunes! Or visit my web shop where I personally sign and send you stuff:

I had to start numbering the dissections so that new readers know how far we’ve come and so I can keep track! I’m working on something special for the week of the the 6th dissection which will mean we are pretty much at the half way point in dissecting “Hearts For Bullets”. I also think next week’s dissection will be presented really differently! I found a gem in my archives to share that’s never been seen before, plus I want to shake things up. Some people have asked about possibly continuing on and dissecting a few songs from “Flicker” and “Debris” this is a possibility since I’m having a lot of fun working on these but I won’t promise anything at this point. I have a feeling the next few months are going to get pretty busy with the upcoming U.S. tour and I want to do some tour blogging from the road too!

Have a great weekend! I’ll be celebrating my Birthday this Sunday and I want to ask you for a present: I’d love for you to please share my music with some one who hasn’t yet heard it, or post a link to my web site, or facebook users, please click that little “share” button down on the bottom left corner of the Ayria page. That gift from you, helping to spread my music, would be so much appreciated by me! I promise to post pictures of my disgustingly pink fairytopia cake next week ;)
xoxo
Jenn

Previous Song Dissections:
1000 Transmissions
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Invisible

Ayria Style: Meet “Head”

Head

Meet "Head"

This is my giant travelling make up case I’ve named “Head” only it’s not pronounced “head”, you have to say it like Mike Myers’ Scottish Father in the movie “So I Married An Axe Murderer” and pronounce it “Heed!” and usually yell it out! This case contains everything that makes up my head for an Ayria show such as my make up, and hair accessories. Head has had all kinds of  touring adventures. He’s been to Montreal for the Kinetik Festival, he’s driven across Canada, he’s seen the entire U.S.A., been on a tour bus with VNV Nation, and he always gets to hang out backstage. He couldn’t come to Europe last fall unfortunately, I think I’d need to get him a passport or something ;) We had on ongoing joke that I had an actual head inside the case, that already had full hair and makeup that I simply could screw on and replace with my own head for the shows. Creepy, but  funny.

I bought this case for myself last year for my birthday and I know it’s a bit excessive, since there are a lot of things in there I don’t even end up using, but it can hold absolutely everything I need on tour, and it’s great for storage of everything here at home. When I can bring head on the road, I do. It really just depends on how we are travelling and for how long we’ll be away. This is an item you’d only get to see  backstage, so here are some photos of Head in all his colourful, glittering glory:

Ayria's Head #3

Ayria's Head - Travel Make Up Case

Ayria's Head - Face & Hair Bows!

Ayria's Head - Face & Hair Bows!

Ayria's Head - Eyes!

Ayria's Head - Eyes!

Ayria's Head - Travel Make Up Case

Ayria's Head - Travel Make Up Case

Here’s a few pics I could find of Head on the road, here are some backstage shots of Head in New York City (yes, the Ayria dressing room was pink!):

Head in NYC

Head in NYC

Here’s head and I goofing around backstage in Washington D.C.

Jenn & Head hanging out backstage in Washington D.C.

Jenn & Head hanging out backstage in Washington D.C.

And finally, here’s Head and I in Salt Lake City, UT.  I’m obviously looking for Head, who’s hiding near the back.

Jenn & Head in Utah

Jenn & Head in Utah

The weird thing is, I also have a teddy bear named “head” (pronounced the same way) who lives on my bed and has a head too big for his body to ever be able to sit up right! I love plushies with disproportionately large noggins. Here’s my other Head who stays at home while I tour:

Other Head

Other Head

Anyways, hope you enjoyed this silliness!  I thought I’d ease into some make up stuff by first introducing you to make up case Head, the keeper all things colourful needed for a big sparkling head.

Much love ♥
Jennifer

Song Dissection: Invisible

From the CD: Hearts For Bullets
Music programming, lyrics & vocals: Jennifer Parkin
Production, mixing, mastering: Sebastian Komor

Hearts for Bullets (cover)

Lyrics:

I sit next to you
You look the other way
You saw me falter for one second of the day
Why am I so invisible to you?
Sometimes I hate you more than you could ever hate yourself

But I love you would do anything for you
You don’t even see that I’m in pain
Frustration became humiliation
Waiting outside for you in the pouring rain

What’s left of my self worth you crushed it in your hand
Wicked game to torture me because you can
You toy with me then pull back
We’re never synched in time, we blew that
The sad thing I’ve done the same before to someone else

I tried so hard to be someone
I never was nobody
I tried too hard to play this game
I never was the winner

The Dissection & how song brainstorming works:

Something I found interesting about this song:  at 136 Beats Per Minute this track has the highest BPM of all the songs on Hearts For Bullets, making it the “fastest” tempo song on the CD even though it really doesn’t seem like it is! An “average” (if you can call them that) Ayria song falls into the 125-135 BPM Range.  Examples:  125BPM (Disease) – 127BPM (My Revenge On The World), 130 – (100 Transmissions) – 132 (Six Seconds).   Just to compare.

This song was such an odd one for me to develop to be honest.  It went through such big transformations and incarnations from the concept to completion.   Starting as a simple synth loop I recorded, it was originally a ballad! To dissect this song, instead of focusing on the final demo versions of the song that were passed off for production, I’m going to go back even earlier, to the rougher stages of inception, and take you to the brainstorming stage of how I came up with vocal ideas and lyrics that started with a simple recorded loop.

When I start to write a song, I don’t repeat the exact same processes each time.  Sometimes I start with the sequencer – using Reason software for you techies! – building on synths and a basic percussion loop. Other times I’ll start playing notes on my keyboard or I even start with my guitar. The guitar is my primary writing tool and first instrument I learned to play, though not very well! For this song in particular, I was playing around on my keyboard, THE Nord Lead 2 (remember kids: fancy gear and toys will not magically give you the ability to write better songs! But they are shiny and fun to play with!!). I just play random stuff, trying to come up with an idea, a melody or a vocal idea that would inspire me to develop a song out of.  I want to point out that I’m not technically trained, I know some stuff, but I’ve been blessed with a pretty good ear, able to figure out what sounds good, and write harmonies, which I inherited all from my dad who played a wicked guitar and had music flowing through his veins. For this song in particular, I was recording myself just playing the keyboard and I ended up getting stuck on these 3 notes: D,F,B-flat.  This is that recording of me doing some live synth brainstorming from the original session, nothing particularly fancy or interesting, just to show how simple an idea can start! :

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Invisible_Nord_Brainstorming.mp3[/podcast]

Then, I turned on the microphone and just started singing over this, to capture anything that came out of me.  I sometimes do this and sit there for a long period of time.  I try and let myself go and sometimes not even real words come out of me because I haven’t written any real lyrics at this point yet, and have no idea what I’m singing about! Sometime the notes go way off because I’m not sure myself which way to take the melody in the moment.  This experimentation is full of lots of misses and fails, but then the few parts that stand out to me, eventually become pieces of the song.  Having recorded every idea, no matter how good or bad, means I can go back, analyze it and then refine, tweak and develop a song from it.

So, once I decided this had potential to turn into a song,  I created some basic percussion and sequenced the notes into a very rough and simple loop. At this point in the brainstorming phase, I’m not yet ready to flesh sounds out until there is a worthwhile song idea shaping up. The rough loop is basically a tool for me to develop vocal melodies and potential structure further.  To me, the most important element of song writing, and my main passion, is the vocal melodies.  I actually found a solid 5 minute recording of this loop where I was singing randomly over it to get ideas.  Here were the two most interesting vocal clips that came out of the session, you can hear some of the song it’s to become in these clips, but not all of these ideas were used or developed further. I can’t believe I’m sharing this very early brainstorming phase of the recording with you guys because it’s so very rough, and, as I mentioned above, it’s still more of a ballad here, than the danceable  electro song it became!  You’ll notice, compared to the final recording, that my vocals sound  lazy.  This is because I’m actually sitting there trying to feel inspiration and get a melody from the loop and have no idea what’s going to come out. This is how I brainstorm.  Nothing is polished here, but that’s the point!  The way I record final vocals is obviously much different since I know what’s supposed to come out, with the lyrics and melodies 100% done.  When I record brainstorm sessions or complete a demo, I always slap on a mod delay and chorus effect in Cubase so even they have some moodiness:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Invisible-brainstorm-1.mp3[/podcast]

You can hear the randomness of this whole process and what I filter through. Some of these vocals are unintelligible!  Enjoy! Hahaha ;) :

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Invisible-brainstorm-21.mp3[/podcast]

I don’t know exactly when and why I made the decision to scrap the ballad approach and pick it up to a fairly fast tempo song but over time as I worked out the full structure to this song, it became more of an electro-pop track. The structure for this complete song that I developed stayed the same in the final produced versions, but, of course, in production, Seb transitioned this song to something almost commercial sounding which blew me away with delight at how slick it turned out! When I passed the production kit to Seb, which includes all the files that make up the demo song so it can be produced (raw vocals, midi, separated instrument file), I said: “This song is structured like a pop song! The influence is electro/80’s while still having a darker, grittier edge.”  From there, he added that main synth lead in the song as well as some other great synth layers and beefed up the percussion. I’m sure he could write a chapter on production, but that’s a completely different beast! Here’s a clip of the final produced version, obviously VERY different from the brainstorming and I’ve skipped a lot of steps in between that got us to here, but I wanted to show how dramatically a song can change and develop from it’s inception:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Invisible-produced-clip.mp3[/podcast]

Yes, but what’s this song all about?  The Lyrics:

Verse 1:

This song turned out to be a classic tale about young love and feeling rejected by the object of your affection.  Trying to gain their attention, love and respect but realizing that all attempts have been futile and you remain invisible to them. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they completely relate to this song, and it’s their favourite track.  Both comments that touch me.  The line “You saw me falter for one second of the day”.  I’m not sure I totally landed that exactly how I wanted to.  In my mind, it’s about the one time that person does see you, it unfortunately happens to be a moment of weakness when you screw up. “Sometimes I hate you more than you could ever hate yourself”. I just love this line, it’s so painful and harsh and you could hear it’s beginnings in the very early demo stages.  It’s self explanatory.

The Pre-Chorus:

“But I love you, would do anything for you but you don’t even see that I’m in pain. Frustration became humiliation waiting outside for you in the pouring rain.”

I just wanted to point out a moment of self-growth I had in song writing!  This song was the first in all of my history that I developed a “pre-chorus” in a song.  This song structure element wasn’t something I’d ever experimented with or even thought about before.  I heard a song do it once and thought, “Hey, that part is really effective!  A complete change in melodies preceeding the chorus! I want to try that!”. I was proud of myself for expanding and introducing a new element to my song writing.

Chorus: Rain!

If you know me, you may know that I love rain.  I’ve wanted to work rain into an Ayria song forever and here, I really got to belt it out.  Plus the imagery of someone humiliated, standing outside in the pouring rain, waiting for someone who’s probably not going to show up.  It was just so sad.

RAW VOCAL SHARE:  Here’s the raw, unaffected final vocals that were produced in this song. I thought you guys might find this neat since you only ever hear the vocals in the music.  This is the last minute of the song and there are multiple layers going on.  There were 6 vocal tracks in the production kit, which means 6 wav files that layer together to complete all the vocals in this song.
Final Raw vocals:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Invisible_raw_vocals_Layered-2.mp3[/podcast]

The Bridge? (I think that’s what this is):  “tried so hard to be someone

I don’t know what this part is really.  It’s a transition before verse number 2, and acts as a bridge later in the song. I’m just not sure a bridge typically makes an appearance in a song more than once?  I took a pop-music history class in University and I don’t remember this coming up to be honest. I love the lyrics here with the life is a game and I’m never the winner analogy and the “never was nobody” sadness of trying so hard but never getting to be what you want, in either life, or noticed in the eyes of another. This song is not exactly autobiographical, but as always, I can’t help but inject honest parts of myself into it.

Verse #2:

Favourite vocals: “a wicked game to torture me because you can” when you love someone that much, and they know it, they can take advantage of that.  Also the “sad thing is, I’ve done the same before to someone else”.  This has been true in my life personally where I know I’ve put someone through what I’m going through now.  It’s karma.  Everyone wants who or what they can’t have. An awesome production element in the second verse that I want to point out, is during the “you toy with me, then pull back”. Seb put a break that sounds like the music starts going backwards “pulling back”. It only lasts for a second, but keeps it interesting.

My thoughts on playing this song live:

It has an awesome energy to it.  My flaw in structuring this song, from a live perspective, is that I NEVER STOP SINGING!!  That’s right. There are no musical gaps in this song once my vocals come in, making this song difficult to perform live.  Also, pulling off the “tried so hard to be someone, never was nobody” even the recording was done on separate layers so I wouldn’t have to sing more than one repetition at a time. There’s not a lot of space to breathe, especially difficult going right into the second verse! It was in the set list for the full European Tour I just came home from and my keyboardist for Europe, Justin, LOVED playing the parts live, but it’s slightly challenging to sing, move, dance and breathe all at once in this song!  Which is weird because I tried to keep in mind the element of live shows when I worked on Hearts For Bullets because I knew that touring was such a big part of what I do! Here’s a clip of us playing it live in Dortmund, Germany in December 2009, and if you’ve seen me live before, you know this isn’t a fraction of how much I usually move around, but honestly, I was pacing myself to make sure I could pull off the singing, and NOT pass out.  Did I mention how hot it is up on stage too? Excuses, excuses!

Thanks Josaustsoest for posting this video!  If you can’t see it, click here:
Ayria performing Invisible Live in Dortmund, Germany (Dec 2009)

Here’s my obligatory pimp on where you can buy the song “Invisible” or the full “Hearts For Bullets” CD.  This link takes you to my web shop where I personally sign and send you stuff:

Or you can purchase the song or full CD digitally from iTunes:

I’m sure you have felt invisible at some point in your life and can relate to the frustration portrayed in this song!?

3 songs down now!  Let me know if you guys have any other questions or ideas you’d like me to cover for future songs. As each song is unique, I’m trying different approaches for each one ;)

Jennifer

Ayria style: arm stuff & my love of jelly bracelets

Ayria arms from Flicker Photo Shoot

Ayria arms from Flicker Photo Shoot

Welcome to my first entry where I discuss elements of the “Ayria style”.  I want to post semi-regulary a mix of different topics from music (of course) to touring, inspiration, etc.  So, I have no idea how this will all turn out, but for this post I thought it might be fun to post about the elements that go into the look that I’ve cultivated for the stage. Having toured quite a bit now (I’ve been on the road about 3 months out of a year for the past 3 years), I’ve learned that everything I need to pack, needs to get compartmentalized so I don’t forget anything.  All the stuff I’ve been piling  on my arms has made them a signature part of my look I guess, but a more important self-discovery is that that I’ve realized that I feel completely naked and incomplete if I haven’t put this stuff on my arms before getting on stage! It’s become an obsession, a weird sense of security (maybe a disorder of some kind, who knows ;)) Through the years some of these arm pieces have been on tour and onstage with me since I started Ayria, which makes this kind of a historical collection of little things I’ve amassed since the beginning of my touring advenures! So, I hope you enjoy this post which showcases what I pack on tour that’s just for my arms alone plus any stories behind them.

I guess it all started with my obsession for black jelly bracelets and from there grew to more bracelets,  cuffs, gloves, bicep bands, etc.  and I’ve even lost a LOT of stuff on the road too so the collection was actually larger before. Losing stuff is a part of touring. It just happens when you’re packing up your stuff every night in different cities backstage, hotels, busses, etc. (Luckily, none of my accessories are expensive!) Here is a picture of how the arm gear gets stored and packed:

arms in bags

Ayria - arms in bags

Yes, those are giant plastic zip-lock baggies.  This was one amazing tip I learned from Jessica of the Cruxshadows while touring with them.  She has this insanely organized system of putting things into plastic baggies.  Not only can you reduce the space things take up by pushing the air out, but it also makes things easier to find and keeps clean outfits separate from dirty ones.  I of course was the only one on tour that had a baggie just for arm accessories, but anyways,  Pictured are the 2 bags I store at home, one is labelled “Ayria Arms” and the other bag is “Ayria – Back Up Arms”. I know. Crazy stuff.  I only bring one of the bags on tour, but this shows how much crap I have that I even have back up arm accessories not in the main rotation! ;)  Here is the content of the “Ayria Arms” bag laid out for everyone to see:

arms on display

Ayria - arms on display

There are 4 componets that make up my arm accessories: # 1: Jelly bracelets.  Here in this picture I have over 80 black ones.  A few noteable ones were the gifts I got like the “Deathguild” ones from one of my favourite club nights in San Francisco, California, and the Cruxshadows one that I got while on the road with them (I have a pink one too that I couldn’t find, typical), plus some of them are from fans that give them to me at shows.

Jelly Bracelets

Ayria - Jelly Bracelets

2. Bicep Bands: These get pulled up over my massive muscles ;) The one on the right with the zipper is famously from the cover of the “Flicker” CD (below is a pic of me wearing it during the”Flicker” photo shoot) and was made by my friend Amy in Seattle, along with the army green heart ones.  The pink Plastik Wrap logo is visible in there too.  The rest I was crafty (or cheap) and just made from pieces of  cut up fishnets and interesting tights that got holes in them and needed to be recycled to a higher purpose.

Biceps

Ayria - Biceps

Ayria Flicker photo shoot - showing off bicep band

Ayria Flicker photo shoot - showing off bicep band

3. Gloves: No real stories for these, kind of boring (but still very important).  Mainly just bought at places like Hot Topic in the U.S. and Ardene or Claires while I’m home here in Toronto.

gloves

Ayria - gloves

4. Other wrist accessories: studded bracelets, cuffs, rhinestone bracelets. I bought the pink studded one in San Francisco on Haight street.  Bracelets sometimes become my souvenirs of a city!  I’m quite the collector of arm stuff!

more stuff

Ayria - more arm stuff

bracelets and fishnet arms

Ayria - bracelets and fishnet arms

My all time favourite “wrist accessory” is pictured below and is an elastic lace wrist cuff I got when Ayria had the privledge of playing in Japan.  I needed a souvenir from Harajuku and thought this was lovely!  It has a bow, studs on the lace, a chain, safety pins and a hilarious tag:

Japan wrist decoration

Ayria - Japan wrist decoration

Japan wrist decoration - tag

Japan wrist decoration - tag

The back of the tag cracks me up and I’m considering titling some songs from my next CD based on this.  Like several things in Japan, something got lost in translation.  They had a whole culture of hard core punk rock fashion, but Japanese culture was so positive and not rebellious that it all comes out kind of funny.  For example, a knock off Sex Pistols shirt where instead of printing lyrics “No Future For You!” it said “Good Future For You!” In a totally bad ass font!  It was awesome and hilarious! I ♥ Japan so much (but that’s a whole other story I should do!)

Wow, never knew I could have so much to say about arm accessories! Thanks for reading the first instalment dedicated to other things making up the Ayria world and aesthetics.   Since I’ve dedicated this year to working as a musician working on the new material, I’m trying to look for creative ways to generate a bit more income, while trying to offer those who already have all the music, some neat little keepsakes.  So, here’s the deal, if you enjoyed reading my blog and want to have a little piece of Ayria history, if you donate any amount of your choice (minimum of  $5.00 please – so I can cover  the costs), I will personally send you one of my jelly bracelets pictured above (Gasp! Yes, I’m going to part with some of them), with a fishnet bow with a signed tag, plus a card with a personalized message to you all as pictured below ;)


Ayria Bracelet Offer

Ayria Bracelet Offer

Ok, so I’ve shared one of my obsessions with you (I ♥ jelly bracelets)…. what’s your obsession? ;)

Much love,

Jennifer