Still feeling ill and a bit nauseous from food poisoning we shared during our last few days in San Diego, Scott and I anxiously returned to Brooklyn with such an excitement and a great new determination to prepare for our first full length album. We had a more focused direction with new goals I knew we could accomplish by the end of the year. I was ready to push as hard as I could. So after a full day of flying we busted down the door to our tiny hotbox of a room, opened all the windows, blasted the fans, and sat back to listen to the one song we had already begun to record in Logic- Tip Toe. Not saying much we played it again.. something was wrong. We played it again.. we were tired and maybe the food poisoning had reached our brains preventing us from hearing this correctly. We played it again… and again for only seconds at a time before we stopped it wincing and confused. It wasn’t interesting at all. The parts weren’t working together. All the things we seemed to loved about the song began to fade after each playback. We shut it off and went to bed completely deflated, but itching to fix the song as soon as we woke up.
Sluggishly setting up our makeshift recording space using different sized tupperware to achieve a desirable height for the microphone, we mustered up what confidence we had left and half-heartedly promised each other that we could make it work. Although having an extremely simplistic structure and chord progression, it became increasingly difficult to create the right depth of complexity to keep the song interesting without bordering on overdone or worse, monotonous. A few hours went by and we still had nothing. Toiling away on the same parts over and over again; keeping the fans off until we got it right, but the heat was slowly wearing us down. The headphones began sticking to our ears actually peeling away a thin layer of plastic. Beads of sweat were racing down Scott’s temples as he robotically toggled between chords. I painfully watched as he recorded and re-recorded and re-recorded the ukulele. Smacking the mouse over and over followed by a swift punch to the desk drawer. I diverted my eyes with an unchanging expression…
Why were we doing this to ourselves? Why were we torturing ourselves like this? Everything that we loved about making music together had gone to the waste side in an effort to create create a product. There was no joy, no fun. It had become like a second job we dedicated all our free time to with no payoff; it was work. All this thought in structuring very specific goals, accounting for each moment in order to measure what we had accomplished was of no use because it always failed. We trapped ourselves in an unrelenting cycle of setting the bar, relentlessly pushing, falling short, feeling like a failure, having the uncomfortable conversation, building each other up, then foolishly setting the bar even higher based on a newly fabricated confidence. But the bar was set at an unreachable level. Why? What were we trying to prove? And to whom I might add? We had been expending all our energy on preparing for a full length album.. for what audience? We barely sold any copies of our last EP, even some of our closest family and friends didn’t buy one! Why all the pressure?
I become so obsessed with designing such a rigorous framework for our music time and time again..partly because I was enveloping the definition of insanity. And partly because I was extremely afraid of us failing as musicians. I dragged Scott here on the promise that we would have success in New York.. but after a year of living here I felt we hadn’t budged an inch. Sure we wrote some amazing new songs and Scott had become a masterful guitar player..but. Sure we made a few connections and got to play in some cool venues..but. Sure we recorded a few songs in a real NYC studio..but. There was always a but. Nothing was ever enough for me to feel satisfied.
That’s really sad that I couldn’t correlate all those amazing experiences with having success. I so desperately craved for people here to love our music. I wanted us to gain a following in the worst way. But, as I mentioned in my last post, my personality just wasn’t designed to live the life of a die-hard musician: staying out late every night waiting around to play an open mic or sitting in the subway all day imposing our music on passerby’s hoping a few quarters are thrown our way.
So I utilized the personality traits I did have to organize a rigid practice/recording schedule comforting my neuroses about always needing to work towards something. So we weren’t out on the streets? We were getting so much done! But after coming back from our end of summer vacation to look back on all we did get done.. there wasn’t much to show. I had worked so hard to develop this amazing ‘profession musician’ facade which was held up by mere inanimate fragments of photos or sound clips proving that we were living the dream. How silly and delusional.
After hitting this last brick wall while trying to fix Tip Toe, we had a long and incredibly insightful conversation about the direction of our music and what we really wanted out of it, but I’ll save that for another day.. In a nutshell, we’ve taken all the pressure off. We couldn’t keep going in these treacherous circles, continuously diluting our goals to be product-based, then getting confused about why no one likes, comments, or shares our posts on social media. Who cares?? We needed to get back to the place where music was for us. For our enjoyment. The minute I started projecting a certain image of us onto other people was when we lost the genuine spirit of our music. There is so much more to be said about this, but again, I’ll save that for another time. But in conclusion we are finally on the same page! We are doing music on our own terms now. The only aspect that has really changed is our attitude which has made a wold of difference. We are still setting goals, practicing, and recording, but it’s because we want to; not because we feel we have to. Music rooted in obligation and the desire to please others will never have success.