REHEARSING AND RECORDING

The band that is now the band comes into being — Methods of writing, rehearsing, and recording evolve organically from record to record — Recording nightmares recalled in tranquility — Shifting songwriting strategies revealed.




PERFECT FROM NOW ON

DOUG MARTSCH: Perfect from Now On was basically a bunch of little parts all getting stuck together onto a record. And that's why the songs are so long because there were a lot of ideas that I had that I thought were good but I didn't think they warranted having a whole song written around them. So that was why it would change from part to part all the time. And a lot of the songs just flow from one part to another.

PHIL EK: Doug didn't have a band at the time, and so he got this drummer to come in and do the drums, and he was going to do everything else on it but drums, and that was probably just too much of a handful for him.

DOUG MARTSCH: I did it at first with just me and a different drummer and I played bass and made it maybe halfway through the record. I finished a couple of songs. And the rest of them got some bass and guitars and stuff on them.

PHIL EK: We did a lot of recording. We spent maybe a month or a month-and-a-half recording that record and it was almost done and we had pretty much done everything on it and then Doug decided he didn't like the drums...he decided he was trying to make something out of something that wasn't ready to be quite yet. So we scrapped it all and hired the band that now is his band — Scott playing drums and Brett playing bass.

SCOTT PLOUF: Perfect from Now On — the first one I played on — all the songs were already written, and Brett and I had come in after Doug had tried to record it previously with a different person.

BRETT NELSON: Doug already had pretty exact ideas of what the drums would be and the bass would be. So it was pretty much just learning what Doug had already written.

SCOTT PLOUF: We had to learn the parts in a couple weeks, and just go in and record it. And so that was a little scary because learning those songs in two weeks was not a very easy thing to do.

PHIL EK: They learned the songs and came in and recorded it and I thought it was horrible. I couldn't get good drum sounds, and I thought their performances were pretty lackluster. And they're technically very hard songs to play — long, and lots of parts. And I just didn't think it was too happenin'.

I agreed to go to a small studio there in Boise to do overdubs on that record. So I had to drive my station wagon out there and I had all the tapes with me and in the process of driving over there for 8 hours — it was about 95 degrees the entire way over there — the tapes got too hot. And by the time I got to the studio the next day we put them on and one of the reels got melted and stretched the take, just completely stretched it. So I said "Well, that's a sign right there. These takes aren't that good anyway."

SCOTT PLOUF: And thankfully, for me, in the end, the tapes did get destroyed on this drive from Seattle to Boise, because I heard them, and they were terrible. Because we had only had two weeks to practice these songs that had multiple parts and were upwards of twelve minutes long. I guess I didn't really know what I was getting into. This was the first time I had really even met Doug or Brett. And we're all of a sudden recording this record twice, and spending more money than I had ever personally known anybody to spend on a record. Which wasn't outrageous amounts, but for me at the time it was like, "I can't believe this!"

PHIL EK: So they practiced some more and then we did it a third time and that's the record that you hear.

SCOTT PLOUF: Everybody was much more confident, and getting the basic tracks was far simpler than it was the first time we recorded it.

KEEP IT LIKE A SECRET

DOUG MARTSCH: Keep It Like a Secret, that was really collaborative. When we were working on Keep It Like a Secret, rehearsals were just us messing around and they weren't structured. Sometimes we'd be playing different instruments, and sometimes someone would have an idea and we'd all play off of that. Probably about half of the record was built out of jams and we'd just record hours of practicing. And then I'd go back and listen to the tape and find interesting parts and we'd build on those.

BRETT NELSON: Keep It Like a Secret was just a lot of jamming and writing our own parts and then Doug had ideas for specific bass parts and drum parts and we were just trying to match sounds that Doug gets in his head. He'll describe, like, "I wanted this part to be a certain way." And we try to make it sound that way as best as we can. Or Doug'll play something and a melody will pop into my head and I'll try to figure that melody out for the bass part.

SCOTT PLOUF: We would just go in there and somebody would just start playing. And everybody else would try and figure out what to do. Or even changing instruments around, or just being completely lazy that day, and everybody's just basically a hack and it sounds terrible. And you have five hours of total junk. But it's necessary to eventually get to a place where there's something good.

We would just be sort of jamming around and Doug had a foot pedal that would turn the tape machine on, to start recording. Whenever things started clicking with all three of us, he would start recording. And then when it started going bad, he would just turn it off. Because we'd be playing for like four or five hours. And then he'd get like an hour-and-a-half worth of stuff that we thought sounded good while we were playing. And then Doug would go back and re-listen to it, and be a little bit more particular — pick like a five-second part, like, "Oh, that's a good part" — and dump these all down onto one master cassette tape. And then slowly dump all those into songs somehow.

ANCIENT MELODIES OF THE FUTURE

DOUG MARTSCH: For this newest record, I just brought in a bunch of songs and we messed around with them. We didn't really even practice that much for this record. Those guys just kind of came in and did their things pretty quickly.

SCOTT PLOUF: Doug had most of the songs sort of written. But I don't think Brett's parts or my parts were set. So Doug would just play them, and Brett and I would try and come up with parts of our own that would fit in.

BRETT NELSON: So it was like jamming around on something that was already like a core configuration and then making up parts from that.

SCOTT PLOUF: And Doug would definitely have suggestions. But for the most part we were coming up with our own parts.

DOUG MARTSCH: I had the songs basically written already and I really wasn't up for jamming around and recording lots of long jams. I just didn't have that in me this time. Whereas the time before, I was really excited to do it that way and I'm glad. I had a great time. This time I wasn't into doing that at all. It didn't appeal to me, didn't sound like fun.




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