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:   

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- 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.     

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- 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:     

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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 #8: Girl On The Floor

Ayria - Girl On The Floor Booklet Picture From Hearts For Bullets

Ayria - Girl On The Floor Booklet Picture From Hearts For Bullets

Can’t You See I’ve Lost The Motivation?

After quite a long hiatus, it seems fitting to me that I would want to continue with the song dissections this month with a very important song to me lyrically and containing one of the most important lyrics I feel I’ve ever written.  One year ago this fall I had the opportunity to do some European touring that would essentially take me away from home from October  to early January. To do this touring, I had to make the decision to give up the securities of my “real job”. I told myself it would be ok, and in order to focus on music, one sometimes has to make sacrifices.   So much has happened to me in the past year personally and professionally.  I’m quite proud of myself that I had the courage last fall to go for something that was so important to me.  I would recommend taking a risk to anyone.  You might fall down a few times along the way but that’s what makes life exhilarating, and the head rush when you stand up again is worth it all!  (There’s your motivational speech of the day!)

Girl on the Floor, is the ending track on the Hearts For Bullets CD and it took about 2 years to finish writing as I was never quite satisfied with the melodies and structure I had started with, but not wanting to abandon the song, I kept coming back to it and put it through several incarnations until I was happy with it. It was always had upbeat poppy styled music, but the lyrics went through many re-writes.   The end result is a deeply personal song about me, not really wanting to continue with Ayria or music at all believe it or not.  I keep mentioning this, but after my father passed away, I wasn’t able to write music for several months.  I went numb, tried to hold on to stability in my life any way I could and didn’t really think about Ayria. Long time friends and fans might remember this, but back in 2007, the week I was supposed to leave on tour for a U.S. leg with Combichrist with 3 starting shows in Florida, my dad passed away and I had to cancel the first 3 shows.  The only other time I’ve canceled a show was when we were snowed in at an airport in Russia and missed one of the 3 Russian tour dates..  that’s another awful story!  Anyway, I did join the tour the following week through the Southern States to L.A. but all I remember was being really numb.  I remember being in my bunk on the bus not thinking, not feeling, just playing shows and being social to distract myself.  Later that fall, I stopped writing songs, I dyed my hair back to it’s natural brown (GASP! I’m not a natural blonde!?) I focused on my day job & distanced myself from anything Ayria or music related.  It may seem strange that I’m sharing all of this with you now, I’m not the dramatic type.   I prefer to face and conquer my struggles internally. I’m opening up here, because it’s been 3 years, and I know some of you appreciate these song dissections, and my complete honesty, and knowing the dark corners where songs come from. To summarize it as best I can, Girl on the floor is a bit about my struggles with grief, but more so: My loss of appetite for what I was passionate about, thinking about giving up on music, feeling guilty about my life choices, my feelings of lack of self control over my life, feeling guilty about not giving enough to those around me & relationships that were important to me, and maybe guilt over apathy & selfishness.  There.

LYRIC DISSECTION:

So this dissection is more about the story and the lyrics rather than the music production, because that’s what I want to talk about, just some of the lyrics that stand out to me personally:

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, I’m just a girl with no self-control”

It was true, and sometimes I still feel like I have no self-control in certain situations.  Some days I eat too much, I drink too much, I make bad decisions and when I wrote that lyric I felt like a broken girl facing my inner demons.  Occasionally, I get caught up in things people have said or written about me online that isn’t very positive or constructive. I’d like to believe my skin is thick, and it really has become thicker with time, but occasionally something will get under my skin.   The lyric “you don’t know the real me but you get a glimpse so you paint a picture.  So vivid, but just so wrong” addresses that, as everyone can relate to being misjudged or feeling that no one knows the real them.

“I just want to leave the situation
I don’t want to reach this destination
Can’t you see I’ve lost the motivation”

I still get weird chills singing the chorus of this song live, as it represents the desperate part of me that lost the drive to do what I once loved.

“You ask what I want, it’s complicated, the truth is I don’t know.”

I think that’s fairly straightforward. Pretending things are so complicated, and maybe they are, but in my case, saying that things are complicated helps to hide the truth that I just don’t know the answers or that I felt lost.

“It’s not enough to be there sometimes”: I felt like I was giving myself to some areas of my life, and some people but not fully.  I felt stretched pretty thin, and wasn’t able to give any one thing, the best of me. It’s also based in a bit of regret of not spending enough time with my dad I guess.

“I’m too tired to fake the strength behind this lie.”

When it came to doing music and Ayria, I felt like I couldn’t even fake it even, which is why I left it alone and didn’t try and write. Sometimes when you’re going through tough times, it’s not always the best idea to dive into what you love.  In my specific case, giving myself distance was the best thing so I could continue doing it and appreciate it more.

The bridge of this song was the most powerful part of this song for me musically and lyrically. It really gave it an epic feeling.  Seb’s (Komor – my producer for any new readers of this blog) addition of piano chords in the production of this song, was totally awe-inspiring.  My demo version DID have a break down but had simpler synth strings, I felt the piano layers he added a delicateness and sadness to a fairly upbeat song and helped my favourite lyrical part stand out:

“And now I sit here all alone and bored
My head is filled with, advice I once ignored”:

The clichéd saying that all you’ve ever needed has been right here in front of you.  Well, this was my take on that realization of being so wrapped up in your self, your guilt, your insecurities, or only looking to the future, that you ignored all the advice that you should have taken.

Bringing me to my favourite lyrics EVER:

“All you get from this moment, is all you gave to your past
and all you’ll get from this moment, is what you gave to your past”

Simple.  But it’s my favourite.  Is what I’m doing now, affecting what I will be in the future? Have I even cared enough or has it all just slipped by? I hope it made others think about what they are giving to their now and how it will affect them in the future. There’s so much backstabbing, pettiness, bitching, self-pity, whining and complaining out there.  If that’s your contribution to your now.. then I’m wondering what you feel you’re so deserving of? What have you done in your life, or worked hard at that brings you to this moment and what you’ll get out of it, because previous inputs = currently outputs.  I’m over explaining it but but it made me think about my own life and actions. This lyric just continually sticks with me.

“I’m turning to the next one, we laugh for a moment.
I’m crying on the bathroom floor because nothing is the same”

This is absolute truth.  One day I did end up just crying on the bathroom floor feeling that my life was out of control, and that I was losing grip on the things and especially some of the people in my life that were really important that I hadn’t realized I had taken for granted.  That was a turning point for me to pick myself back up off the floor and change some things and start moving on.

I’m of course in a better place now, my passion and motivation obviously returned and keeps me going.  These emotions I write about were the extreme ones that covered about a year’s worth of experiences! Songs are my outlets,  and I know we all go through these periods of our lives so I’ve always known this song was relatable to alot of you. It’s strange but I think a bigger fear for me is that one day I WON’T feel these extreme emotions from time to time.  These crazy intense overwhelming emotions that force me to face myself and think about my life, then what would I write about? Heh. So, this was a pretty emotional dissection.  But this is a pretty emotional song about things that are important to me. I didn’t touch much on the music and programming,  but only because I felt this song was so important to me lyrically. I’ll try and do more music talk on future dissections.  This is actually the song I get the most comments from fans saying it helped them through a tough time (next to “Invisible” from HFB & “Lovely Day” from the Flicker CD) & that means more than anything for me to hear.

Weird Tidbits about the song structure:

- If you’ve listened to this song, you’ll notice the first and second verses start with the same lyrical idea:  “Mirror Mirror on the wall..” but that the melodies and the rhythm of the vocals are completely different in each verse?  It’s kind of a mistake, I couldn’t decide between how the first verse flowed and the second.  When it came time to finish the song, I couldn’t decide so I left the verses different, hoping the lyrical link of the first line would make it ok.
- The song is often confusing to members of my family since it’s so boppy and pop like sounding, but the lyrics are so sad. I think it’s funny that they can’t understand it.  I say to them “it’s what I do!  I like upbeat dance music, but I can’t help but write about sad themes!!” ;P

BLOOPER REEL:

Despite the serious nature and theme of this song to me personally, for some reason I had the giggles, while recording this song. I blame it on the fact that I hadn’t practiced the song enough before recording (you’ll hear I mess up the chorus a lot which is now second nature to me!) This song’s been surrounded by deliriousness… even one of the many working versions sent back and forth between Seb and I during production, one version he had titled “Girl On the Floor looking for her slurpie but can’t find the vodka” So here’s a blooper take of me recording the chorus layer for the song. I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you since I sound TERRIBLE (This is clearly not the final takes used! ;)  You can hear Joe Byer of v01d in the background, whose studio I used to record vocals for this CD (before I got my own studio set up).

WARNING: Blooper Take has excessive use of the F-bomb by Jenn  (sorry! You guys know I can be a potty mouth!)

 

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how all that emotion & subsequent silliness came out after final production, here’s a clip of the bridge into the chorus:

 

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Knowing my current musical journey, If you’ve enjoyed reading this dissection and enjoy this song, or want to hear it in it’s entirety, please consider supporting me directly by purchasing the full CD from my web shop (I’ll sign it to you!) or just the song from iTunes.   In case you didn’t know, I also launched a new line of awesome merchandise with Toronto’s own clothing designers: Plastik Wrap this past summer such as Ayria ties, garter pockets, gloves, plus new T-shirts, etc.  And please buy your Christmas presents soon too so I can send you your Christmas Present!! ☺

New music is on its way! Only a few more songs to record for my upcoming CD out sometime in 2011 and I can’t wait to share it with you! ;)
Much Love
<3
Jenn

My Question To You: Have you ever lost the motivation to pursue what you love?  How did you get back on track and find yourself and find motivation again?  I’m just curious about others experiences.

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

New Merchandise Available – 2010 Tour Merch

I’m happy to announce that the 2010 Tour merchandise is now available online.  Please note, this merch will also be available at our upcoming shows too! Check out the Plastik Wrap Items!  This was a new collaboration to bring you guys some very unique items that you don’t see on every merch table and you may have seen me wearing the gloves on stage during the last tour! Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get professional pictures of ALL the items as of yet (ties, bicep armbands, and hot pants) but I didn’t want that to delay me offering these items to you so I apologize that the photos for these items aren’t the best but  new pictures will come soon!

VISIT THE SHOP FOR ALL ITEMS

Your feedback is appreciated!  I’d love to know what you guys think of the items and what you’d like to see in the future!
Much love,
Jennifer

Song Dissection #7: Blue Alice

Photo Credit: LostFish

Clip of the Blue Alice:
 

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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:

 

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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:

 

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2 Chorus Synths that layer together for a thick sound:

 

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Finally the Bridge Synth “solo”!

 

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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:

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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
Bad List
Invisible

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! :

 

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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:

 

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

 

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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:

 

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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:
 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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):
 

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Bridge – 1000 Transmissions (after final production):
 

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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:
 

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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:
 

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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:
 

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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