"pacific blues" is the 22nd song in the yearbook series, track 1 of the "may" ep. a couple months before this song was released, i reached out to an incredible company called GForce software from the UK. they specialize in sampling vintage keyboards and synths, preserving their unique characters and incredible sounds, converting them meticulously so as to be played on modern gear. in other words, they do awesome things. (learn more about them here!) anyway - having been a fan of theirs for nearly a decade, i decided to write a note to tell them so, spilling the beans about my adoration of their work. they responded with much kindness and shortly after, to my delight and surprise, we partnered up a bit.
i was honored when they sent me a brand-new super secret set of sounds they were preparing to release, for me to play around with in advance. that "secret" set of sounds has since been released: the "ChamberTron" set for their m-tron pro software. if you are unaware of what mellotrons or chamberlins are, read here. a brief history about the "chamberlin" instrument:
in other words, these little beauts are my favorite sounding instruments ever. i've been a fan for many years - it was love at first listen. so when GForce sent me their brand new chamberlin set, which was sampled with surgical precision, i couldn't have been more excited!
i was just about to begin writing the "may" ep, when these sounds arrived at my doorstep. i decided right away that it would be incredibly fun to write and record an entire song using ONLY this gorgeous chamberlin set of sounds. so with the immediate inspiration of playing around with the set, "pacific blues" started coming together.
the rule for this song was to ONLY use the chambertron pack, with only one exception - my voice.
as i was writing this one, the melodies and tone felt in some unusual way related to the previous yearbook song, "pacific" - so the writing process went along, i decided to lean this song musically and lyrically even closer, with the idea that both songs should be related. they might sound more like distant cousins, than brother and sister but for some reason, i always hear the two songs as being immediate family in some way.
those slightly odd trombone sounds in the beginning are the origins of this song. those types of sounds aren't usually a favorite of mine, but i just loved these... they sounded slightly goofy, but also had this perfect contrast of sadness. so, i started there and began building the song around those quirky trombones.
next came that constantly moving upright bass line. again, a bit unusual for a sleeping at last song, but i loved how it fit. since the chamberlin instrument is a semi lo-fi vintage instrument by nature, there isn't a ton of low-end bass in any of the sounds. and i didn't want to artificially add bass, so i decided a fancier, more active bass line would do the trick.
after playing around with chamberlin "vibes" (bells, etc) sounds and some other horns and strings, the shape of the song began to surface.
the vocal melody for this one took a bit of time to find. it was the trouble child of this song... took several days if i recall. but thankfully, the lyrics for this song came together very quickly... so it made up for it.
this song is very much about wresting with faith. i wanted to write about the struggle directly, without any fabrications. so the opening verse felt right:
"if i could rearrange my words, i’d say what i mean. if i could learn to count the cards, i’d risk everything. imagine how brave i’d be if i knew i’d be safe. if i could only know the end, i’d be a prodigy of faith."
which is all obviously a bit absurd on the surface, but in my head that's exactly the math that goes on. if i could know the answers, then i'd trust so much more easily. i liked the idea of uncovering how silly of a concept that is... how it directly negates the definition of faith and trust. it's childish logic, but at the same time, for me writing this down honestly was almost like taking mental inventory. when i talked, or even thought about faith in any measure, i would clean all of those ridiculous ideas up and make them feel more presentable. less absurd. which is what inspired the next lyric:
"if i had a treasure map, oh the answers i’d find. i’d dust off the artifacts ’til i made ‘em all shine."
it made me happy that the words for this song came somewhat easily... like i had tapped into some very honest part of me that i haven't worked through yet. it felt like these words were in a hurry to come out.
this entire "may" ep was mixed by the very, very talented chris bethea, whom i'll talk about in more depth in the next post or two, but chris did a fantastic job! as a mixer, it's extremely challenging to work with a song made up of sounds from one instrument - especially a vintage and very lo-fi sounding one. it doesn't leave a lot of room for dynamic or definition or even variation. but chris tackled this song head on and did an incredible job!
thanks for reading! oh and the kind folks at GForce software did an interview with me about my experiences using their instrument for this song - check it out here.
much love, ryan
listen: [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/48716061" params="auto_play=false&show_artwork=true&color=000000" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
if i could rearrange my words, i’d say what i mean. if i could learn to count the cards, i’d risk everything. imagine how brave i’d be if i knew i’d be safe. if i could only know the end, i’d be a prodigy of faith.
if i had a treasure map, oh the answers i’d find. i’d dust off the artifacts ’til i made ‘em all shine.
everything i know is borrowed, broken or blind, and what i’ve seen of beautiful feels merely implied. is it the treatment of symptoms or a touch of divine? i guess the truth is that the truth is of complex design.
how i ache to know.
God knows that i know we’re little boats in the great big sea. setting sail after sail in the hopes of finding a breeze.
every compass i have followed i’ve trusted and denied. so it goes with an ever-changing definition of right. is it the treatment of symptoms or a touch of divine? i guess the truth is that the truth is of complex design.
if ignorance is bliss, then i guess i’m in heaven. but this hesitant kiss sends me back to the grasp of the sea.
setting sail after sail in the hopes of finding a breeze.