I Know A Song That’ll Get On Your Nerves…

For a while now, I’ve been complaining vociferously on Twitter about the lack of a vocalist for the National Pep, my band (such as it is) – my friend and songwriting partner Tilt Araiza has agreed to continue writing songs with me, but for some reason seems to think “I don’t want to, and anyway I’m moving thousands of miles away very soon, and am not going to travel from California to Manchester to play in a bar in front of five people” is an adequate excuse to stop singing with me.

I’ve tried working with other people to no avail, so have finally bitten the bullet and considered the possibility of singing my own stuff. This does, of course, have the slight downside that people have told me for decades that my voice sounds like a donkey being tortured to death, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.

So I’ve decided to record myself performing one of my old songs (from my old band, Stealth Munchkin) and upload an MP3 to see what people think of my vocal ‘abilities’. Please have a listen to this and tell me – truthfully – what you think of the vocals. I want to know if it’s actually worthwhile me continuing to make music without a lead vocalist.

The MP3 is very noisy – this is the first thing I’ve ever recorded by myself with this computer, and I only managed to get everything set up an hour ago, so recorded this without setting levels properly or anything like that – and the song itself is a bad one. I wrote the music when I was seventeen, and my old singer wrote the words when she was 19, and it shows (and before anyone says anything, I had heard neither Five String Serenade by Arthur Lee or My Beloved Monster by The Eels when writing this – I was actually ripping off Tell Me What You See by the Beatles). I chose it not because it’s a good song (it isn’t – it’s almost literally sixth-form poetry) but because the main vocal part is in my range but it also allows me to try different ranges in the backing vocals, and because it’s all major chords so it’s easy on the banjo (with the exception of the last chord – Ddim7 – which I fluff horribly).

Listen and let me know what you think. Proper posts resume tomorrow (my writer’s block seems to have cleared…)

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14 Responses to I Know A Song That’ll Get On Your Nerves…

  1. Tilt Araiza says:

    I wouldn’t travel from Oldham to sing in a bar in Manchester!

  2. S. Barrios says:

    hmm, not getting any sound. time is ticking off on this “track #1” but .. nothing (i *do* have everything adjusted properly / i mean, i’ve been listening to other stuff all morning). but having nothing else to go on (at this moment), i’m thinking you’re biggest block to vocal-izing is Mental (a significant one, that, but not insurmountable ..)

  3. Holly says:

    Andrew, who’s buggered his computer up horribly, tells me to tell you that if you can’t get the embedded thing working to try downloading it.

    (I, for what it’s worth, can’t get past the “buffering” stage on the mp3 but I heard the song before Andrew uploaded it and thought it was fine.)

    • S. Barrios says:

      ah, thank you both. his voice it reminds me of two or three i cannot place. it is – how you say? – “low”? i’m thinking Nick Cave or, better yet, whoever comes in on “Down Where the Drunkards Roll” (it’s surely not Richard Thompson, not there ..). used to date a g_rl who was uncomfortable with her voice. went around with an Alesis Quadraverb or some such thing / but get this: she put too much echo on one recording and the vocal was *buried*, essentially. the echo-free version is the one that should’ve been released. in short, the artist is not always the best judge in these matters / Meester Andrew is wise t’be consulting others. good luck !

  4. pillock says:

    GODDAMNIT I HAVE WRITTEN THREE THOUSAND WORDS ON THIS TONIGHT!

    JUMBLED QUESTION, ANDREW!!! Like a bad politics blog-commenter, you pack things very dense here, so that to question one is to question all.

    Anyway though, I will answer all at the same time that I answer every one. And I bet you didn’t expect THIS…!

    But I really liked that song.

    So how now, friend of mine?

    As to the vocals: I won’t go on and on, but having dispensed with the question of whether or not it was good (hint: it was), here is what I think:

    I suspect you did a May/Nicholls thing here, by which I mean you didn’t really mind if the main vocal sounded nice, but you wanted the backing vocals to sound nice…which makes it hard to judge, because they do sound nice, but then they hardly couldn’t, given what they’re set against.

    The instrumentation helped too.

    I vote for you singing.

    Also, put up a few more of these, they’re good..

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Interesting – the main vocals were in what most people say is ‘my range’, while the bvs were in the tenor range that most people say I sound horrible in… odd that you’d think it the other way round.

      And glad that you like the song itself – I’m not a particularly good judge of my own material, and that one also sounds gauche to me now, but I do think it’s one of the better ones from my first major songwriting collaboration – I like the chord change going into the chorus…

  5. pillock says:

    Oh, I like that too!

  6. It’s late and I’m so tired I can barely string a sentence together, but I like this song! Also, I like both sets of vocals and I think the contrast between them definitely works.

    To my ears the backing vocals sound shakier than the main vocal, but like I said, they play well together and I’d definitely be curious to hear more.

    Sorry this isn’t a particularly articulate comment, but yeah — this is good, so I say go with it.

  7. TAD says:

    I think your backing vocals work well, actually.

    I’ve heard you sing a lot, and your approach to the lead vocal is usually to sing in a low monotone. That’s fine for 1 or 2 songs, but a whole album of that would be too much.

    I’d like to hear what you can do with a more range-y vocal.

    I’m actually to the point now where I’m comfortable with my voice. I’m not a great singer by any means, but I’m learning how to do the best with what I have. At its best, my voice has a warm and honest quality to it (as others have told me), which can trump its shaky range.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thanks. I agree my vocal style wouldn’t work well over a whole album, but unfortunately anything rangier and I have terrible pitching problems…

  8. TAD says:

    Oh, and I disagree about the song quality. I’ve always liked Sandman. A song doesn’t need to be clever in order to be good. A good melody and simple chords changes can fill the bill just fine. I like the lyrics too. They’re a bit abstract perhaps, but there are some cool lines in it. When you’re singing live, there’s nothing better than having some good lines to rip into, during a song. I’ve played this song live a few times. In the right atmosphere (with a quiet crowd that’s paying close attention), this song can be a monster.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thanks. I certainly don’t think it’s terrible, or I wouldn’t have recorded that one, but it’s a very immature song. I do like the key change in the middle eight, but that’s about it…

      • TAD says:

        Maturity is over-rated. We do a lot of our best stuff (artistically) when we’re young and not thinking too much, in my opinion. Music (especially) is about emotion. When you start getting too cerebral about it, you start to lose the script. That doesn’t mean you can’t have intelligent lyrics or well-crafted songwriting, but there has to be an honest feeling in the middle of it, and that’s the most important thing. I think that’s one reason why demos often cut deeper than finished recordings do. The feeling is usually still fresh when you’re recording a quick demo.

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