"Alma" – 5 Songs in a Week, Day 1


My band “Anyway, Soon”–the only project I’m working on that actually has a live component–has been together since (I think) about March. I met up with
Marc, the founder and principal idea man of the group, in the fall of 2008 originally, but before we could really get any work done I was inundated in the initial crush that is grad school, and decided to opt out of working in a band.

Come springtime, I had gotten accustomed to the workload of schoolwork and was ready to give the music thing a try again. Marc had been playing with Erik and they invited me to join in, and our bassist Brett joined up not too long after.

The experience was immediately different for me than any prior musical work I’d done. It was the first time I was in a band of people who were essentially strangers, albeit strangers who happened to share an affinity for music. Further, I wasn’t expected to write the songs, nor even all the lyrics. These two things turned out to matter a lot with my first impression of the group, as I realized that over the past several years I’d gotten so accustomed to being the main creative force in”my” band, to realizing “my” creative vision, etc. that it was difficult for me to get emotionally invested.

I felt detached, and I think looking at the earliest songs that I contributed to (“Serenity,” “Punchdrunk & Headstrong”) it really showed. Also, I’d never written lyrics to someone else’s music and, to top it all off, I hadn’t really been writing songs actively for the past several years, a period where I tended to write lazy, cynical pseudo-witty little things that kind of bore me to listen to now.

The band started sounding pretty good pretty fast, and I was lagging behind, often taking weeks or in some cases months to get lyrics out for our tunes. For the case of a song like “Punchdrunk” especially, the wait didn’t really justify the result. I started to turn it around with “Colour in the Air.” It was the first song that we hashed out as a band, a process that ultimately got me very excited about playing again. The lyrics took forever, and though in a lot of ways it’s a song about the things I almost always write about, I felt that I’d figured something out about my writing style again (it’s amazing how often we have to re-learn the same lessons), and started to get more confidence.

Another great thing that’s happened with this group is that everyone seems to have an active interest in the lyric-writing process. In my previous group I don’t think the band generally knew the words, and certainly weren’t interested in giving any creative input into the process. To be fair, they certainly gave a shit about the music side of things and were not afraid to call me out on a bad idea.

Here, Marc especially is interested in the content that goes to his music, and the two of us have often had very interesting chats (usually via e-mail) about both my lyrics and his. The best result of these talks is that I usually gain a better understanding of what I want to say, but maybe more importantly I’ve been starting to get a better sense of what we want to say as a group of four people.

Thanks to the work I’ve had to do in the Amniotic Buzzsaw project, I’ve also been learning to trust my first instinct a little more, and to not be so deliberate in everything I’m trying to say. “Alma” was a good reinforcement of that. I wrote the first burst of lyrics right before our Dec. 4 show, but since the music wasn’t finished, neither were the lyrics. Marc got a full music demo out to me the weekend December 12th, and I sat down to complete my part on Monday the 14th.

Like the lyrics to “Colour,” this song, the way I interpret it at least, finds itself on familiar thematic grounds again. The thing I’m happiest with about these lyrics–though I will likely revise much more before I’m happy–is that they approach the song’s theme from multiple angles, making its meaning a little less stable (I hope).

Musically, the thing that Marc did really well here was to create a sense of three acts. It’s a dramatic tune that covers a lot of ground in a fairly short time, and I tried to transfer that idea to the vocal melody, tying the sections together with repeated lyrics and melodies, though there’s no clear chorus to the tune.

I’m pretty excited to see where this one goes, as I know our final version is going to be a lot more exciting than the demo, and I’m really excited about the demo. We’re meeting to hash the tune out tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more stoked.

“Alma”

Peel me off with my skin
layers lost I’m worn thin

Our histories got in the way
I won’t disagree I’ll just walk away

Feet land soft on cracked ice
I’ll get across if it takes all night

Our histories got in the way

ignore the surface
it’s only reflecting a lapse
in judgment’s refusal
to forget the past

I’ll bring you down to my level to see
a world constructed in humility
routines expired like names on a map
absorb our perspectives with shades of our past

Our histories got in the way
I won’t disagree I’ll just walk away

What remains?

I’ll bring you down to my level to see
a world constructed in humility
routines expired like names on a map
absorb our perspectives with shades of the past
an army of followers falling in line
marching in sand to the cycles of time
in every grain we’re reflected in glass
eroded mementos of selves of the past.

What remains?

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