Song Dissection #9: Hearts For Bullets

One thing I always tend to do is name a release before I’ve written the title track for it.  I did it with all 3 releases where a word or phrase sticks in my head and I use it for the title of a CD without yet writing the song nor knowing what it will be about or how it will sound.

The phrase “Hearts For Bullets” came to me, and I knew it’s what this CD would be titled.  Origianally, I had these images in my head about war and the trading of hearts for bullets, or what the weight is equivalent to.. hearts vs. bullets, etc. but nothing was really developing out of that thought pattern beyond that.  The awesome thing about this title for the CD though, was that it lead to some incredible design work and cool guns & hearts crests, and logos that became the Ayria look and identity for this release.  It also tied in perfectly with the EP for this release “The Gun Song” which I have still to dissect, but this was a CD filled with guns, violence and love.. and pink!

The song “Hearts For Bullets” became more about some good old fashioned girl hate.  Not directed at anyone in particular, and if anything, a bit self-directed too (only a bit, I’m not that evil), so wrap your brain around THAT!  Have you ever seen a friend fall for someone so hard, and they can’t recognize that the object of their affection is just toying with them, because they know they can.  OR  known a girl (or boy), so angry that they’ve isolated themselves to a point where they have become somewhat of a monster capable of causing others around them that want to love them, to suffer by their actions without caring?  I’m not always inspired to write lyrics based on other music I’ve heard, but in this case, I did find some of my inspiration in a song called “Chinese Burn” by a 90’s band called Curve.  I loved them and would consider them an early influence for sure!  If you’ve never heard of them, please check them out.  The songs I’d recommend:  Crystal, Men Are From Mars, Chinese Burn & Doppleganger just to name only a few from this great band that created a unique style with a pretty wide sonic wall of sound compared to the more upbeat sparser style of my own music. Anyways, I like pimping other great bands, and like the song Chinese Burn, my own song talks about some pretty evil girl traits. Hearts For Bullets focuses on a  girl who will shut you up, demand you bow down, has no remorse, watches you hold your breath for fun, and enjoys seeing your suffering.  Though you want her, she can’t possibly love you back, she’s incapable and she just wants a reaction from you, she uses her heart for a bullet, to kill her target.. because she knows she can.

“What are the side effects when another heart it starts to defect with no warrenty?”

This is my favourite lyric in the song mainly because I like the imagery, and I think it’s harsh yet cute.

“I think we’ve met the enemy.  Conquest is on her mind today. She can’t help it.”

This lyric in the bridge sums everything all up perfectly before the song goes into it’s final, droning yet epic repetitions of the chorus and all my added “Ooohing” and “Ahhhh”ing.

Other Weird and Interesting Facts About the song “Hearts For Bullets”:

- It was the last song to be written, recorded and produced for the CD already titled “Hearts For Bullets” so I felt an added pressure for this title track to be good!

-  This song is 133 BPM, which is one BPM higher than “Six Seconds” @ 132 BPM although Six Seconds FEELS like a faster song to me. Am I crazy? Perhaps, but I think it’s mainly because Six Seconds is more aggressive.

- I’ve been told by a few fans that the synth melody reminds them of a remixed version of another 90’s song by a band called the Sneaker Pimps called “Spin Spin Sugar”.  It was unintentional but I did love the Sneaker Pimps Becoming X CD, and often my voice has been compared to their singer at the time.  Although, she only sang on one CD.

- The belting out of the chorus always reminds me of Pat Benetar, but I don’t know why. I think Pat Benetar could have sang this song well!  Ahhhh Pat. This is funny because on the limited edition of Hearts For Bullets there’s a cover of Pat Benetar’s “Invincible” and I only did that cover specifically because a dear friend in San Francisco asked me to cover that song for the anniversary of his long running club night “Death Guild” there.

- Off topic fact that’s related to cover songs:  I never even thought about attempting a cover song until my 3rd CD: Hearts For Bullets, and even then, they were only put on the special edition CD.  For this special edition, I covered Deftones: Change, Pat Benetar’s: Invincible, and to date, I’ve also covered Depeche Mode’s: In Your Room and worked on a U2 cover of: New Year’s Day with Aiboforcen that never got completed unfortunately.  I don’t have a problem with covers.  It’s a lot less work to sing what others have already written, I just didn’t want a cover song to be the reason my music got attention.  I preferred to rely on my own stuff to make a mark.  It’s been my opinion that bands that get popular only by the exposure of a cover song, never seem to last. That being said, with 50 original songs under my belt now just as Ayria, I feel free to have fun doing covers when the opportunity comes up!

- My live band members Mike, Jeff and Kevin, have ALL told me at some point that Hearts For Bullets is their favourite song from the CD, and the always request we play it live.  I don’t listen to them since I’m the boss and get to make up the set list ;) , So we’ve only played it on the 2009 Canadian tour, where Ayria was the headliner, a few times on the Project Pitchfork tour, and maybe one or two other headlining shows.. It’s not that I don’t like the song, it’s just not my favourite to fit into the live set and I have so many other songs from HFB that I love to play over this one (sorry!).  It’s clear I have too many songs!

- Oh and “HFB” is the abbreviation and code for Hearts For Bullets and I’ve used HFB in so many emails to band members when talking about sets, merch, etc. Much like MROTW has become the new name for “My Revenge On The World” since I hate typing it all out!

- One of my tricks to “hype” up a song is to layer a 4×4 beat with a sampled beat.  This song has this technique and you’ll hear in the chorus, this is the beat that comes in, it’s subtle but I love the effect. This was that underlying beat:  [podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/HFB-beat-tube-and-compression.wav[/podcast]

- This breakdown part where the vocals are just me going “Ahhhh,Ahhhhh, Ahhh, Ahhh” always reminds me of the lead guitar solo of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.  Yep, I said it.  It was completely unintentional. Here is is, and here you can also hear the sampled beat in this breakdown I mentioned above.    [podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/HFB-Blog-Clip1.mp3[/podcast]

- There are some pretty heavy guitars on this song at the end played by and added in production by Seb Komor.  There were no guitars in the original demo and I thought they added a lot to the textures and depth of this song!  I love how rocking it all gets by the end of the song.

- I do some “ah ah ah ahaha ahhhh” before the second verse starts.  I had fun putting this in the song, I don’t know why. It’s just really fun to sing.

- I found this clip of the song we cut out of the final version before mastering, it’s never before been heard!  This was in the first verse, but Seb and I decided the song didn’t need this “bridge” type part in both verses as it slows down the flow of the song before the “No more girl next door” chanting part.  We decided it was effective enough happening just once in the second verse:    [podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/HFB-Blog-Clip2.mp3[/podcast]

That’s all I can think to share about this song, if you have any comments, questions or points I might have missed, let me know! For now,  I will reveal to you that once again, on my next upcoming release, I have titled it before recording the title track, and it wasn’t the last song to be recorded, but the upcoming CD will be titled: “Plastic Makes Perfect”.  More news to come soon on this I hope.  Otherwise, note that a mini-tour of the American East Coast is currently being booked with the first confirmed show on April 23rd in Philadelphia so far! If you are a promoter who wants a piece of the touring action, contact me asap! ;)

Have a wonderful start to 2011, and I hope to see everyone of you soon!  3 more song dissections to finish what I’ve started with Hearts For Bullets: The Gun Song, Six Seconds and My Poison. Then, possibly more!

Much love,
Jennifer

Previous Song Dissections:
1000 Transmissions
Bad List
Invisible
Analog Trash
Suck It Up
Insect Calm
Blue Alice
Girl On The Floor

If you’ve enjoyed reading this and wish to own this song and want to support me directly, please either check out my shop or purchase the mp3 of Hearts For Bullets from iTunes for a mere dollar:

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

Song Dissection: Bad List

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

Lyrics:

Somehow it feels I’m getting more frustrated
With every tongue tied, wild eyed, overrated
Narcissistic self absorbed spawn of a generation bored

Want to see you vulnerable
I am not your equal
Ruling with an iron fist
And you are on my bad list
A routine casualty
Razor sharp beauty queens
Bridges built are bridges burned
You will get what you deserve.

And now I think I’m done caring
Too many mindless self obsessed overbearing
Misogynistic, plastic hearts. Can’t wait to see you torn apart.

What did they do?
Made you so awful
Why do you say?
The stupid things you do
The ones you’ve hurt
I hope they hurt you too
The things you’ve done
Will eat away at you

You’ve made this list
You won’t be missed
You’ll have to learn
Some things you don’t deserve

The Dissection:

I was actually surprised when I went back through all of the working files for this song to realize that it took exactly one year from it’s beginning to it’s glorious finish.  That may seem like a long time to finish one track that comes in at just under 4 minutes but during this period,  I was working full time, trying to work on music in the evenings and any spared moment I could find, and also went on 3 different tours that took me to faraway places such as the U.S.A. and Europe!  When working on music, I tend to work on lots of songs simultaneously meaning the full “Hearts For Bullets” was all being worked on in various stages, all taking about 2 years to complete every detail.  I use a draft approach where songs will go through various lyrics and structure tweaks until I’m happy with them. I can’t create a song in one day.  I need to step back, sleep on things, listen again, re-work and re-peat the cycle.

“Bad List” is one of my favourite songs from this CD and that’s why it’s placed as track #1 on “Hearts For Bullets”. There is a science to ordering songs on a CD. I guess this concept has become less important in this digital age as listeners don’t often hear a full CD in order anymore.  Hearing single songs is more the norm now, which is fine, but I miss the days when you’d put a CD in and listen to it start to finish, anticipating each track.   So, back to the science of old-school track ordering:  track #1 should be a strong and immediate song that will instantly grab the listener and draw them in.  I personally felt that this was THE one.  Musically, It blends so many elements that I personally love including a strong gritty bass synth line, a big beat, loud crunchy snares and vocals somewhere between chanty but slick enough that you can hear them. I know it’s not one of my more complex songs lyrically, it’s fuelled by anger, frustration and a bit of good old fashioned passive aggressiveness but I thought the very straightforward lyrical approach was effective for this song to make it catchy.

Who is on your Bad List?

We all have a Bad  List. Don’t’ lie I know you do! It’s a list of those jerks that have done you, or the world around you wrong.  It’s those individuals that, if you could, you’d just like to smack and say “what’s wrong with you?”, or better yet, you’d love to sit back and watch their world come crashing down around them in a big mess and it would be totally what they deserve.  Now, if you’ve met me personally, this all sounds very shocking coming from sweet little me!  I’m not a mean or spiteful person, I swear! But I do like to express my darker self through music occasionally and  this song simply allowed me to vent some frustrations using a simple concept of having a “Bad List” but to avoid getting myself into trouble, I’m not going to print names… ;)

Lyrics & Words (plus a bit of venting..):

“Generation Bored”:  This was the original working title for this song which is from a lyric in the song “You’re all spawn of a Generation Bored”.  This became my term for those negative individuals (usually hanging out online) participating in circular arguments, ripping each other apart, being rude and mean to each other,  doing nothing seemingly positive or good with their time, etc.  It occurred to me how bored our generation must be for this to be a regular acceptable way of life.  The other title I now give this this song is “sound-check song!”  It’s the song I always check levels with on tour because of the dynamics.  I also have great tour memories associated with band members of The Cruxshadows singing along to this song , making up dances and even doing a surprise guest appearance with me on stage in Hannover and Hamburg, Germany in December, 2009.

“Misogynistic, self absorbed”: One of my pet peeves is to hear a comment like: “I hate female vocals in electronic/industrial/<insert hip genre classification of the moment here> music!” These people are on my bad list.  It’s unclear what they hate exactly, is it ethereal vocals, gothy, rock style, contemporary  pop styled, distorted or effected until it sounds like a man, cookie monster or killer alien robot from another planet? Or do they hate that it’s a woman singing at all?  It’s a big category to hate, it’s sexist and it bugs me.  Anywyas, to focus on the positive: the musicians, artists, awesome people I’ve worked with and met over the years have been such creative, talented, passionate, and open minded people. I respect them not because they are men, or women, that shouldn’t matter. They are on my “Awesome List” which is longer than my “Bad List” ;)

The rest of the lyrics, I think are pretty self explanatory but if you have questions about the meaning or motivation behind a specific lyric, please just comment here and I’ll reply to you!

Creative Process:

I want to share how do my lyrical brainstorming.  For every CD I work on, I buy a pretty little notebook (or two) that I use to jot my thoughts, ideas and eventually attempt structuring my final lyrics for a song. Yes, I’m old fashioned and I find actually writing with a pen and paper helps me stay outside of the lines!  I found some ramblings that eventually became some of the lyrics to “Bad List”. I know it’s hard to read. My hand writing is terrible at best but I thought it was kind of neat to share this part of the process that never gets to see the light of day and (big surprise) there’s even stars in my brainstorming. So predictable.

My Beautiful Mess of rough lyrics

My Beautiful Mess of rough lyrics

My Beautiful Mess of Words Part 2

My Beautiful Mess of Words Part 2

Production:

The produced song used some of the the origianal synths and demo elements, but Seb of course used his studio magic to make things sound bigger and better.  Here are clips of  the two main incarnations of the demos along with a clip of the finished produced version:

This was my very first demo file of this song.  It captured the main loop of the gritty synth that the rest of the song was based on:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Bad-List_ROUGH_DEMO_STOMPY1.mp3[/podcast]

This version was a bit more flushed out.  I got my good friend and keyboardist Joe Byer from the band v01d to help me add some sweet moog synth and other sounds. The vibe was a bit more electro-y.

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Bad-List_ROUGH_DEMO_ELECTRO1.mp3[/podcast]

I wanted the song to be somewhere between the above 2.  Here’s the final produced version that captured the perfect blend of stompy and electro.  You can hear the chorus in here too. Seb worked on creating a layer of synth sounds for the chorus that would lift  it up a notch and make it stand apart from the bass synth in the verse that runs through most of the song:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Bad-List_Produced_verse11.mp3[/podcast]

Ending Thought:  “The things you’ve done, will eat away at you”

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, and want to contribute to my 2010 journey and mission, as a musician working towards finishing the new CD, please check out my shop (I personally ship & sign anything you want)

OR you can purchase the mp3 of “Bad List” from iTunes for a mere dollar here:

Next Friday I’ll post another song dissection but I’m not yet sure which song I’ll do.  If you missed the first one, check out “1000 Transmissions” from last week!

So, what type of people or behaviours make your Bad List?

Jennifer

Song Dissection: 1000 Transmissions

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

This is my first dissection of a song from this release and it happens to be one of the most emotional tracks for me, but I went for it and I’m here bearing my soul about the making of this song to the fans that care, appreciate the music, and wanted to know more :) I don’t go too much into production details here, since that’s better left to Seb, but I do discuss some of the additions, and I do discuss the motivation, lyrics, melodies, some of my favourite parts and share some clips as well as personal memories. I hope you enjoy!

Lyrics:

Just when I think it’s getting better, I relapse back to this place where the scenery has changed and it’s terrifying.  How can I go back, when it’s much too late.

Piece by piece, bit by bit, my heart aches and I feel sick.  There’s things you say, and things you can’t. Things you threw away and things you want back.  The fact that I’ve lost you erases all my sanity.  Seriously, how could anyone carry on like this? I’ll never look at things the same because of you.  I’ll never get that moment back I shared with you.

It only hurts when I remember.  I know you’re trying to make it better.

Bit by bit, my heart breaks. Your voice repeats and I can’t take it anymore.  Don’t compromise, save yourself, I’ll always be here. Don’t say goodbye, I’m not through with you. Don’t compromise. Don’t say goodbye. I’ve tried and tried, my head is full of memories and sleepless nights, an endless cycle. I’ve tried and tried but these thoughts just drag me down.

It only hurts when I remember.  I know you’re trying to make it better.

I can not steer this ship without you.  There’s no light guiding me to shore. I’m just left drowning in these nightmares, where will I go? I don’t know.  Let it go. Can’t let you go.  Let it go.

The Dissection:

I wrote this song about 2 months after my dad passed away in 2007 and it was also one of the last songs I had written for Hearts For Bullets.  Out of all the stages of grief, I had just passed the numb and in-denial phase and was in the full blown anger phase after losing him.  A lot of people  have interpreted this song as an angry break up song, and it’s definitely not, but I hope people can, and have used this song however they need to help them deal with their own situations of loss and anger.  The experience of losing my father was one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with and has forever changed me.  Something I haven’t shared with many people about that time, was that I was at the hospital and held my dad’s hand as he passed away in July of 2007.  I have never been the same since that moment.   My life was hell for several months after that and this song  captures the aftermath of being left behind and left to deal with the confusing emotions of grief and loss.  I need to say, I can listen back to this song now and not be overwhelmed.  I’ve long since passed the anger phase, and when I perform it live, I find it a powerful, energetic piece that is actually a lot of fun to play!  I use the anger behind it still, but it comes from a different place within me. If that makes any sense?

I always give the songs I’m working on, random titles until something better comes up or sometimes the working title sticks.  I went through two working titles for this track.  First, was “The God Particle” after watching a documentary on T.V. about the hypothetical particle to explain the origins of all mass in the Universe, ok,  so I thought that sounded pretty cool.  I later found out a few other bands already had songs titled this.. we all must have been watching the discovery channel that day! But it didn’t connect to the song’s content either so I later changed the title to “Alive In Pieces” which, does describe my own state during that period, and to be honest, I can’t remember why I decided to change it from that, but in the end, I decided on something more relevant to my father “1000 Transmissions” came from the fact that my dad’s main hobby (obsession), was operating short wave radios.  In an attempt to further bond with him when I was 18, I studied to get my license as well… so, yes, I’m a licensed shortwave (HAM) radio operator and yes, I always made nerdy jokes about this! ;)

Having shared the theme of this song with you, I really doubt I have to further analyze all of the lyrics as I think they are pretty obvious but I do want to explain a few parts though:

The Bridge:

“I can not steer this ship without you.  There’s no light guiding me to shore. I’m just left drowning in these nightmares, where will I go? I don’t know.  Let it go. Can’t let you go.  Let it go.”

My father loved boats and fishing and we always had some kind of fishing boat that we’d take camping when I was young, out on the waters of Lakes Huron, Ontario or the up to the Ottawa river where we used to go camping.  I wanted to write a boat analogy in the song.  Musically, the reverse piano in the bridge was all Seb’s idea that came in the production stage, it was completely transfomed in production, and I absolutely LOVED the change, and thought it brought much more sadness and needed softness to it.  My demo was much more chaotic and just percussive. The first clip is my rough demo before production so you can see how it was transformed by production:

A rough Demo of the bridge – 1000 Transmissions (before production):
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Rough_Demo_1000_Transmissions_Bridge.mp3[/podcast]

Bridge – 1000 Transmissions (after final production):
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/blog/1000_transmissions/1000_Transmissions_Bridge.mp3[/podcast]

after the bridge, I personally loved the progression of those notes of the bass synth (while I sing “let it go, I can’t let you go”) since when I wrote it, I felt it captured what I felt when I used to listen to 90’s industrial music.  Again, I can’t speak about all the production details that Seb did, but a few things that stand out to me in this track were the added layers of static noise to the full track which thickened up the song, fit the harsher sound, and complimented the “1000 Transmissions” theme.  I honestly gave Seb this demo a bit incomplete since I had no idea how to finish off this song after those notes in the bridge part! I had just hit a wall completely.  He added about a minute to the ending of that song including the last powerful break that I loved:

1000 Tranmissions – break down into outtro:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/1000_Transmissions_end_break.mp3[/podcast]

The Chorus:

“It only hurts when I remember.  I know you’re trying to make it better”.  I was, at the time, constantly remembering of course, and the second phrase was directed at the rest of the world and my family who were all trying to help overcome grief as best as they could.  Musically, it’s not my usual style of chorus progression, since it was so simple and short but it summed up everything so perfectly with just a subtle change. It was important to me to mainly keep the driving bass synth and stompy percussion constant until the bridge.

Verse:

“My head is full of memories and sleepless nights, an endless cycle. I’ve tried and tried but these thoughts just drag me down.”  This describes late 2007 where I was having a lot of trouble sleeping, afraid of dreaming.  Musically, I want to point out that I loved and was surprised by the desperation in my voice in the recording during the: “sleepless nights, an endless cycle” part.  It came out accidentally in the demo before final recording (meaning it was pure emotion) and it reminded me of , again early 90’s style of vocals (think Nine Inch Nails even) which is a cool thing.   The distortion effect adds to the desperation and a tiny moment that Seb added that I adored, is right after the first phrase “Bit by bit, my heart breaks” there is a distorted sound that to me, sounds like a demon saying “LIAR!” it struck me and I sometimes mouth that word when I perform it live. Here’s a clip of the verse so you can hear everything for yourself:

1000_Transmissions_Verse 2:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/1000_Transmissions_Verse2.mp3[/podcast]

I wanted to point out another very very subtle vocal effect in this verse (since I just love vocoding). If you just listened to the clip of the second verse, there is a second layer of vocals present that are vocoded under the more prominent distorted layer. It’s very quiet but it gives it such a nice thickness. I just found this clip going through my old files and I’m posting it is so you can hear what vocoded vocals sound like on their own:

Vocals: An example of vocoding effect used in 1000 Transmissions:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/0-Vocoder.mp3[/podcast]

CD Liner Notes:  “This CD is dedicated to my Dad who gave me the gift of music and who I know is still here with me”

dad_fishing

dad_and_me

Yeah, that’s me and my dad, proving I’ve been wearing pink for years! ;)
So, now that I’ve shared this deeply personal part of my world with you,  and knowing that I’m currently a struggling musician working here in Toronto on my new CD (hint, hint), if you haven’t already, please consider purchasing the CD through my website (I will sign it and include a personalized note for you, etc):

OR please purchase the mp3 of “1000 Transmisions” directly from iTunes for a mere dollar through this link:

Thanks for reading! Not sure which track I’ll dissect next week yet…

Jennifer

Dissecting Hearts For Bullets

Hearts for Bullets (cover)

This winter has definitely had many ups and downs.  I came back from a steady stream of European touring lasting from October – early January and once I had recovered, I found myself feeling a bit lost, which is a weird feeling when you’re finally home.  I am excited for a bunch of things coming up later this spring, but in January, I came home to not having a “real-grown-up-job” for the first time.  I had taken one too many leaves of absence at my last place of employment (which I completely understood since I was off for a total of  3 months in  2008 and 2 months  in 2009 before I even decided to leave in October).  I’m unable to hunt for work right now since I have a month tour coming up in June, I’ve declared 2010 a period to focus on myself and music!  My last CD “Hearts For Bullets” came out in the fall of 2008, meaning it’s been a year and half since my last release and until January, I hadn’t started working on any new music!  I was creatively drained for the year of 2009.  I really wasn’t feeling motivated musically, and wanted to take a necessary break while I focussed on my day-job (which was, when I was there, all consuming) and touring instead (I played close to 70 shows last year in Canada, the U.S.A., UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Greece).  I don’t regret any choices I’ve made as of now, and I’m not complaining about my current situation since I’m getting to do this thing I love to do, but I know it will  be a bit of a tough time financially  but I know I’ll be alright and I’m really looking forward to the future challenges and possibilities!

It’s now mid April, 2010 and I’ve been concentrating on working on demos for the upcoming CD which is still untitled.  I’m proud to say that I’m about 8 demos in.  Now these “demos” are all in various states of progress,  with some being  completely finished song structures and all lyrics and vocals and some only the first 1.5 minute loop with rough lyrics in place that I need to further develop,  but still, I’m happy and excited where the new stuff will lead me and where production (by none other than the amazing Seb Komor who also produced “Hearts For Bullets”) could take these demos.  I admit to myself  that getting this far on music this year would have never been possible if I were at my last job since I work on music slow enough as it is

Even though I find the process of creating music incredibly personal, I want to document parts of my journey and share a bit of what’s going on.  I think that in order to move forward,  it’s important to remember where I came from so, I thought dissecting the songs from Hearts For Bullets would remind me where I was at in my life and help me remember the work that went into the songs.  It would also give me a chance to let you into my world a little bit since I sometimes get asked what inspired certain songs,  and what they are about and I’ve been bad at posting stuff regularly.  It won’t be in any particular order and some songs will have more stories and explanation behind them than others, but I do want to try and post a write up weekly for the 12 tracks on Hearts For Bullets. My first song for this Friday will be the deeply personal and very stompy track: “1000 Transmissions”.. stay tuned.. yes, pun intended ;)

♥ Jenn

Design Autopsy for "The Gun Song" EP

Just sharing a link to a blog from my close friend DestroyX (Angelspit) who was the mastermind behind the artwork for both of the 2008 Ayria releases: “The Gun Song” EP and “Hearts For Bullets” CD. It’s really cool! She explains her artisitc process for creating the art work for “The Gun Song” EP based on some inspirational material provided by me, the overall image of Ayria, and of course,the music. I feel she was able to combine and capture all elements so perfectly through her art. I’m waiting for part two, where she deconstructs the elaborate design for the full CD “Hearts For Bullets”.