This is the twelfth and final instalment of my ongoing series of blog posts on the Making Of my new album as Granfalloon, Calendar - Volume 1. To read the first in the series go here.
Track 12 - RUSHMORE
(Inspired by the film of the same name)
It’s become pretty fashionable to hate on Wes Anderson. The main complaint I tend to hear is that his films are “too Wes Anderson-y”. I suppose if you’re not a fan of the style to begin with then even more of that style will be a bit grating but I’ve enjoyed the refining of his palette that’s come with every release.
I first watched ‘Rushmore’ in that fateful year 2014, the year after I left Preston to escape all manner of personal detritus. That fateful year 2014, when I was writing the 52 songs that form this sprawling ‘Calendar’ project.
I have in the past found films to be extremely helpful in processing relationships that have ended and realising it’s time to move on. It happened a few years earlier with ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ as well. Cycling home at 4 in the morning and realising everything is going to be okay is one of those wells of inspiration that only occasionally give water but when they do, they’re often powerful and compelling, sometimes life changing.
WRITING AND RE-WRITING
The original recording of this was a more twee affair. It had a glockenspiel solo. It was very lo-fi, as were many of the songs from this year due to the fast paced, no budget nature of it. My notes from 2014 give almost nothing away but I can see that 'Rushmore' was the 31st song I wrote for the project. That’s the week after ‘This House Has Eaten Us Alive’, and the week before ‘Eulerian Circles’. The latter made it onto this first volume and you can read about it here. The former will be on one of the other volumes/phases/chapters of this triptych*.
In conversation with bassist Daz Woodcock, he mentioned taking note of ‘Come Together’ by Spiritualized to try out some of the ideas he brought to interpreting this song from its 2014 version to its 2022 version. He saw it as a much grander song than the lo-fi original and I was keen to follow his instinct down the nearest rabbit hole and see if it took us to Wonderland.
Daz recorded two bass parts for the track. A “regular” bass part and a fuzz bass part that acted as a lead hook in the instrumental sections. It felt like such a strong motif that we allowed it to occur often throughout the song. Andy Lyth laid drums down to match… We worked around that 3/4 time signature, which isn’t the easiest to transpose**, from gentle waltz into a grand, fuzz filled psychedelic number. We had irregular section lengths… half bars and 5 bar turnarounds to navigate. These irregularities added to the lop-sided nature of the song, and I think it became one of the song's strengths.
Given the larger scale of the song now, that twee glockenspiel solo wasn’t cutting it any more but I really liked the harmonic changes it introduced so I arranged it for strings and called upon the skills of Ellie Boney (cello) and George Burrage (violin). The vocal harmonies had also played a big part in the 2014 version and they translated well into ‘Rushmore 2022’ with Daz and Sarah Jane Pearson supplying the vocals.
Daz added some organs and we were in good shape but the song really settled on its direction once Cleg added his guitars. A combination of his minutely orchestrated, beautifully played parts and my primitive, noisy guitar amp feedback mix together on those instrumentals. It had the loud bits, and it had its softer side which gave a nice “everything is going to be okay” kiss off to the album especially on the last chorus. It felt as effective as an album closer as ‘Archive’ did as an opener.
And that’s Calendar - Volume I. It’s been a trip to make, and another one to write about. Thank you for taking that trip with us. Speaking of trips, we’re working on the other two parts of this project now. I used the word “triptych” before, a term usually associated with three panel visual art but I’ve become comfortable using it to describe this project. More comfortable than the phrase “triple album” at any rate, which also seems to imply the whole damn thing would be released all at once.
In reality things don’t move that fast for independent, self-producing musicians. Nothing ever moves fast enough. I was hoping to have at least one of the other Volumes ready for release this September with maybe the final one ready for February 2024 (giving the project a satisfying 10 year narrative).
I can tell you a bit about those two volumes now… if Volume I featured songs that mostly worked in the form they existed in 2014 (with minor cosmetic or stylistic changes) the other two differ greatly. They feature songs, some of which have little or no resemblance to their 2014 counterparts. In some cases, I’ve taken the chords to a verse, or a chorus, or the title, or just the underlying concept and re-written the song entirely.
I’m (re)writing one of the volumes with Lobelia Lawson. I had the idea to approach her while I was over playing in Australia earlier this year. It seemed like a great way to have fun with this project as I love hanging out with Lo and we’ve fallen into an incredible rhythm when it comes to writing. The first day writing on the project we wrote five songs! This collection (whether it becomes part 2 or part 3) will be recorded live, capturing mine and Lo’s performance together in the room and will be largely acoustic in nature. Dom Major is in the production seat. We'll be road testing these new songs at our live stream on Twitch this Friday 5th May at 7pm on twitch.tv/granfalloonmusic.
The other volume is being recorded with more members of the Granfalloon, Sarah Jane, Daz, Thirds, Dom, Andy, (and Lobelia too). This has been a more schizophrenic recording process. Half of it was recorded towards the end of last year and tracked in a similar fashion to Volume 1, the other half will be recorded live with drums, bass, guitar and vocals in the same room, living off that microphone bleed, much in the way that the acoustic Volume will be. I’m excited about the prospect of this. Being able to play off the musicians in the room at the same time will lead to less technically “perfect” results but I feel that will be more than made up for in the sound and the “feel” of those recordings.
I’ve enjoyed writing about the writing of Volume 1 so much, I imagine I’ll definitely be doing it for parts 2 and 3 as well. Most likely there will be some technical recording blog posts as well (for them that are interested in such things).
I’d been a little wary of the idea of stretching the process of this triptych over such a long period of time, of incurring so many changes and developments in the songs but actually… it’s become the very nature of the project. I look forward to hearing the whole album in the context of a living, breathing, how-to-write-a-songbook where one can appreciate the evolution of ideas and pieces of music over a length of time.
“Things they take so long/will I be here to see it through?”
Until next time.
'Come Together' by Spiritualized
Calendar - Volume 1 playlist - featuring all the songs and collaborators mentioned in these blog posts.
*Triptych!!! Pretentious I know! But read on…
**Refer to my thoughts on working in 3/4 in the PRODUCTION/REWRITING section of this blog entry… https://www.granfalloonmusic.com/post/bta-mrsimms