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Musickiks
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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I'm having a conflict of interest with myself and my writing...

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This is pretty much a question about the importance of cohesion within a band/album, and how you deal with it when writing songs...


Basically I think it's a shame as a band you can't do whatever the hell you want and still be considered for a label, or are even considered too "disjointed" by listeners to enjoy. I've never heard the latter, but I have heard "I love these songs. A lot of them don't even sound like the same band." A lot of bands and songwriters in general seem to write very similar sounding stuff. And labels seem to love that. Every song I seem to write sounds virtually nothing like the other one, when I want to write a "current sounding" "rock" or "indie rock" song, that is.

I, being the songwriter of my band, love music from the 60's - 00's (favorite bands The Beatles and Radiohead) and I write songs that seem they could fit in all those time periods. Or they have elements that do And so that's my dilemma...

But go listen to Coldplay, Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Foster the People, Muse, etc. It's all cut from the same cloth, (FTR I'm not crazy about any of those bands, they just represent what's currently popular) but I, as I'm sure many of you, like listening to tons of different types of rock/music. And being in a band I want to be able to WRITE and PLAY different types of rock/music. Radiohead, if you're familiar with them, I think has done a marvelous job at having extremely varying songs, while keeping it cohesive.

But they're not struggling with a time period-sound crisis...

Recently when I just "let it flow" and sort of let my subconscious do more of the work, what really seems to come through the most, or flow the easiest/most frequently, are what I think are quite good catchy 60's/70's melodies with a slight modern twist...This is pretty much completely different from our last EP, and will fuel the fire of "This doesn't sound like the band on the previous EP." And granted all bands are always trying to find themselves.

And while I love the 60's/70's tunes I'm writing, I really prefer the modern sound of bands like Radiohead or Spoon or you know just, 00's music...

And I was thinking of combining a modern soundscape, slick modern production, weird sounds, and sing 60's/70's melodies over it. Sort of like Tame Impala but less vintage sounding, actually sounding modern. But still, I don't JUST want to write 60's/70's sounding melodies. I want to write melodies that sound current and/or dark as well!

But how the hell do you have an album/band that has that time period of melodies, with half the other songs having melodies that sound like they're from the 00's, without looking like a group of idiots!!? And/or not appearing genuine!?


My question is, how do you as a songwriter/band leader, have what you think are great songs but aren't quite cohesive with the current rendition of your band's sound, and not include them?

And maybe you include them as B-sides, but for starters, for me, half of the material is completely different from the other half...and part of me says **** you, this is my music and this is my band, and it represents music I want to play and want people to hear, why should I have to exclude it from our "cohesive" sounding music? I listen to different periods of music, as do most music listeners, why should I not be able to write and play what I like listening to?

Or do you just say screw it and keep it all together? But then you risk alienating what fans you do have, as well as lessen your chances of getting on a label...

And the other option is have two bands with the same people, haha, which would be crazy...
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#2
24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musickiks View Post
And being in a band I want to be able to WRITE and PLAY different types of rock/music.
Just figure out what's more important to you... the songs... or the band.

To me, the song is more important. Band members and collaborators are interchangeable, but the intrinsic desire to create certain types of songs are not. I might be working with one singer on a club dance tune but I also have an itch to do a throwback doo wop tune with all acoustic instruments and fiddles. I don't have an identity crisis discussion with the dance singer... I just find a different singer that's a natural fit for that other genre. No awkward conversations about it.

As for mashing together different genres on one CD release, I don't know what extremes will fly. A record label wants a marketable product and a return-on-investment. If the diverse songs help sell it, great. This is one of the areas where the digital marketplace makes it easier to sell to fragmented audience tastes: just sell singles instead of entire "concept albums".

If you're an artist that wants to write a heavy metal tune, but also a singalong children's tune, and then do some cerebral 4-string quartet... the digital marketplace is the best distribution mechanism for that. No record executive is going to package those 3 genres on 1 CD and most consumers would like one of the songs but hate the 2 others because they feel out of place.

The exception to this situation is if you're a very well established artist that's putting out an "experimental" album. If Paul McCartney were to put out a new CD with heavy metal, a children's tune for Sesame Street, and a string quartet instrumental, people would buy it because of the interest in Paul McCartney.

When you're starting out with no name recognition, people only can judge you (and like you) for the songs. Therefore, the songs have to be in the same ballpark as far as genre.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason West View Post
Just figure out what's more important to you... the songs... or the band.

To me, the song is more important. Band members and collaborators are interchangeable, but the intrinsic desire to create certain types of songs are not. I might be working with one singer on a club dance tune but I also have an itch to do a throwback doo wop tune with all acoustic instruments and fiddles. I don't have an identity crisis discussion with the dance singer... I just find a different singer that's a natural fit for that other genre. No awkward conversations about it.

As for mashing together different genres on one CD release, I don't know what extremes will fly. A record label wants a marketable product and a return-on-investment. If the diverse songs help sell it, great. This is one of the areas where the digital marketplace makes it easier to sell to fragmented audience tastes: just sell singles instead of entire "concept albums".

If you're an artist that wants to write a heavy metal tune, but also a singalong children's tune, and then do some cerebral 4-string quartet... the digital marketplace is the best distribution mechanism for that. No record executive is going to package those 3 genres on 1 CD and most consumers would like one of the songs but hate the 2 others because they feel out of place.

The exception to this situation is if you're a very well established artist that's putting out an "experimental" album. If Paul McCartney were to put out a new CD with heavy metal, a children's tune for Sesame Street, and a string quartet instrumental, people would buy it because of the interest in Paul McCartney.

When you're starting out with no name recognition, people only can judge you (and like you) for the songs. Therefore, the songs have to be in the same ballpark as far as genre.
Thanks for the advice.

And well, they would be basically the same genre. It would still stay, rock or indie rock/pop. It's just the vocal melodies themselves for each group of songs, move between some sounding 60's/70's and some songs sounding current.

I like the idea of just releasing singles, or maybe EP's which represent each "sound". And if you got real proficient you could even do two albums each with a different sound, time period wise.

But even that, if it's coming from the same band, can't that appear as "not genuine" or just plain stupid? Haha.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Regarding: "...you can't do whatever the hell you want and still be considered for a label..."

Here's my 2c on this concept as someone who does pop music aimed squarely at top 40, yet constantly pushes the envelope about blending unexpected sounds::

Nothing will get you a label deal (if that's what you want) faster than not needing one. It's always been true. It just used to be that not needing one meant you had to have amassed a huge fanbase from physical appearances. That bit still works, there are just some other avenues that have opened up to demonstrate financial viability. All the guesswork about dressing a certain way, playing a certain type of song, or standing on your head to impress a label only cater to notions about what they might look for in lieu of an actual track record. Demonstrated value beats image designed to give the impression of possible value any day of the week.

The goal should never be a label deal. At best, a deal where you bring nothing but image to the table (no following) is a getting bent over the bargaining table scenario... hoping you stay in the label's good graces long enough to become one of the few who are even given the opportunity to make it into the black. You need a GOOD deal (if you even want a major label deal, but that's another discussion.) That's only going to happen when you can demonstrate value.

So... what does it all mean? Focus on the fans and forget the label. If you believe that doing x, y, or z works for you, and works for the fans, then do it. If you believe it alienates fans, then don't do it. It's your career. Win over the crowd, and the emperor is powerless.

As to the specific consideration of coherence, you may wish to ask first what you stand for as a band. Here's how that question has changed my outlook:

My PURPOSE as an artist is to expand the horizons of pop fans by blending my eclectic influences with modern pop aesthetics to make them palatable to a much wider audience. My clarity about what I stand for as an artist drives decisions ranging from arrangement to mixing to video production.

Once I got clear about that, I asked myself for each track whether it fit my definitive personal style... note I didn't ask whether it fit an A/R rep's prospect checklist. Some tracks that sounded like straight-up 70's soul grooves had to be remixed to be modernized. Some that were all synthetic had to be "retrofitted" with some classic sounds or world music influences. The result is a signature sound... a purposefully balanced mixture of eclectic sonic influences and modern production aesthetics.

The coherence that matters to me is in that balance:

1 Sounds like it BELONGS on the pop charts (production style, arrangement, etc)
2 Has a distinctive sound that sets it apart from the rest of the charts (sound palate, influences)
3 Has a sho-nuff groove

If one of those elements is missing, it's back to the drawing board. WITHIN that framework, though, there's infinite variety. Heck my latest (in siggy) is literally 808's crossed with a string section, timpani, acoustic guitar, and vibraphone. Recent sound sources included a hypnotherapist, banjo, whales singing... Remember, part of the mission statement is to EXPAND horizons. To me, being a good pop producer means being able to take any point of inspiration, and using production techniques to bridge the gap to make it digestable to pop audiences without losing the essence of the inspiration.

Doesn't mean every band's answer is to pull all their material towards a common sound. Maybe you WANT every song to be completely different. Maybe your niche is being eclectic. Maybe that's what motivates you and gets you out of bed every morning. Just means you may want to ask WHY you care about the band's image. If you have a strong vision that defines and motivates you to create a powerful and distinctive style, that's a whole different animal than dressing up like Flock of Seagulls, or singing ballads you can't stand just to try and land a record deal. Both will answer questions for you about what choices you should make, but the results will be very different.

A definitive vision of who you are and what you stand for will tend to guide you in all matters. Ask yourself what your band is really ABOUT... then stay true to that and work it to the bone.
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24th January 2013
Old 24th January 2013
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Great post.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aint Nobody View Post
Here's my 2c on this concept
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26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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What do you do best? That's a good place to start.
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5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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If you want a record deal, pick a sound and stick with it.
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5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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Crazy that this thread popped up. I'm going through this exact thing right now. Problem is, it's not that easy to just pick a sound and stick with it. Then there's also the problem of people thinking you stole other artists ideas. For example, I was going to do a funk influenced album with a modern twist but I missed the window to release it as there has already been a mini funk revival (bruno mars, toro y moi, snoop godzilla) which means it's back to the drawing board for me. I don't want my initial impression as a musician to be someone who surfs the waves somebody else made.

Shit is mad depressing son.
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5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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Don't worry about chasing trends or feeling like you're "too late" to a particular style. Just do what you genuinely love. There is no "mini funk revival". There are just people who like funk and they'll like a great funk record no matter when it's released.

What you're thinking of as a mini wave might actually be the beginning of a much bigger wave that's just starting to build. By the time you change courses you'll realize that you should have stuck with what you're doing and you could have been a part of that bigger wave.
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5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musickiks View Post
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This is pretty much a question about the importance of cohesion within a band/album, and how you deal with it when writing songs...


But go listen to Coldplay, Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Foster the People, Muse, etc. It's all cut from the same cloth, (FTR I'm not crazy about any of those bands, they just represent what's currently popular) but I, as I'm sure many of you, like listening to tons of different types of rock/music.

And the other option is have two bands with the same people, haha, which would be crazy...
Those bands blow, except Muse. Coldplay went out of style because they had one idea and they kept rewriting and rerecording it - don't be that guy. Mumford & Sons? Chances are you are way more talented than them. I wouldn't worry about what anybody else is doing. Those are very trend-oriented acts, and their one sound gets old so fast people get sick of it before they get a chance to think about buying it. Don't model what you do after bands who are going to have short careers. The fact that you have a broad range of material is a good thing - go with it.
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5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by initialsBB View Post
Don't worry about chasing trends or feeling like you're "too late" to a particular style. Just do what you genuinely love. There is no "mini funk revival". There are just people who like funk and they'll like a great funk record no matter when it's released.

What you're thinking of as a mini wave might actually be the beginning of a much bigger wave that's just starting to build. By the time you change courses you'll realize that you should have stuck with what you're doing and you could have been a part of that bigger wave.
^ Listen to this!

Always do what you want to do. You are the artist, therefore you set the rules. If you are making music simply to please others, you are not going to be happy with yourself or your music.

You may as well just get an accounting degree or physics degree if you are going to be a boring musician. At least you will be able to make a living.
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#12
5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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I have (or produce) different projects for my different interests. To do it all under one roof is shooting yourself in the foot, if reaching an audience is at all a goal.

If you're realizing you have a distinct style and sound that doesn't work with your band, I'd start another project for the new sound.
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5th November 2013
Old 5th November 2013
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Back to the '90s ...

Stone Temple Pilots ... first album was hardcore (but well received). 2nd album was geared toward mass appeal (and was also well received).

You can change direction but, to keep your fan base, that direction change can't be a 180 flip.

The key for them was, although the style of music was different, between the first & 2nd albums, each album was consistent and it wasn't a huge direction change. Wicked Garden vs Black Hole Sun.

Cheers,

Steve
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Some people are better at following their heart and others are better at writing to fit what sells. Both methods work. The first is for leaders and the second for followers. Tune in to what you are best at. To minimize conflict, take what resonates and leave the rest.
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
Some people are better at following their heart and others are better at writing to fit what sells. Both methods work. The first is for leaders and the second for followers.
That's an interesting interpretation. By your definition commercial success makes you a follower?
Who knew being a leader was so much easier than following.
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AldenW View Post
That's an interesting interpretation. By your definition commercial success makes you a follower?
Who knew being a leader was so much easier than following.
Sorry but I don't follow you.

Commercial success can be had by being a trend setter or a trend follower. For some people, leading is easier then following. And vice-versa. It comes down to your personality. I'm talking specifically about personality traits. Some people need to do their own thing and are just not natural followers while others are content with following others and duplicating someone else's style in some way, putting their own signature on it.
#17
7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
Sorry but I don't follow you.

Commercial success can be had by being a trend setter or a trend follower. For some people, leading is easier then following. And vice-versa. It comes down to your personality. I'm talking specifically about personality traits. Some people need to do their own thing and are just not natural followers while others are content with following others and duplicating someone else's style in some way, putting their own signature on it.
Sorry, I got a little bitchy there. Long day that refuses to end.
A reasonably analysis when put that way.
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7th November 2013
Old 7th November 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
Sorry but I don't follow you.

Commercial success can be had by being a trend setter or a trend follower. For some people, leading is easier then following. And vice-versa. It comes down to your personality. I'm talking specifically about personality traits. Some people need to do their own thing and are just not natural followers while others are content with following others and duplicating someone else's style in some way, putting their own signature on it.

I don't think its quite so black and white. You need both to set trends: to know and be a part of what's going on in the world, and to be innovative in all the right ways to push things forward.

The guy sitting alone writing solely from his heart without paying attention to what anyone else is doing is NOT going to be setting any trends. Isolating yourself and not paying attention to others is not "leading."

The innovation has to be very smart, in tune, and well calibrated or no one will care and he'll end up at the local bar playing for 8 friends, which is the exact opposite of leading and setting trends.
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