Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fresh Eyes - Lyrics, Composition, Gear...The Lowdown




This is one of the most diverse tunes on our record in terms of self-contained mayhem! Are you gonna salsa to the verse groove or mosh to the coda?! Lots of goodies to discuss with Fresh Eyes, so let’s get to it!!

Lyrics:

As often as the subject of perspective is covered in music, you’d think I’d consciously try to avoid jumping on the bandwagon. Well, I thought I could do something a bit unique with it. That novelty comes from the specific combination of lyrics and very intentional constructions within the music. Before getting to the combinatory effects, though, let’s cover some lyrical ground.  

Until I walk 1000 days
From my home, pointed away
I will not know my true strength
For until that day, it will be
But a tenth

The lyrics in the intro, which is more of a theme really, simply states that one of the ways to enrich your own worldview is through experiencing that which is outside of your comfort zone. I make use of the word “strength” because, in my personal experience, developing the self through this sort of experience (intentionally or accidentally) goes a long way in terms of developing strength of character and personal independence.

Staring at the same thing that I look at everyday
Feeling safe in this place where I know that I am sane
Can’t venture past my known boundaries
Fear mystery like a disease

The first verse basically lays out the concept of what many people are like before broadening their perspectives—that is, not only is one hesitant to go beyond their at-the-moment boundaries because of a certain existential apprehensions, but that it is often the perceived universality of one’s own situation that lets us feel our world makes sense, or that we “get” how it all works.

Try just once
For once just try

As we’ll see in later parts of the song, this is the first of several instances of playing with, and sometimes reversing, meaning within the lyrics. Here, it’s a difference in degree as far as one’s willingness to philosophically relocate themselves or their attitude. 

Try finding your way
To a greater understanding
See more than one side
White is not the absence of
Light that claims itself
As the purity of
Every joined, fused
Color

The chorus’ meaning is pretty straightforward, so I won’t get into it too much here. It does, however, get more interesting in the second chorus.

Staring at the same thing that I look at everyday
Heads becomes tails and I know not what to say
Sight beyond my last known boundary
Former mystery now a part of me

The second verse essentially explains the initial shock and ultimate value in shifting one’s perspective in the effort to better understand the inner, or self, and outer, or that which exists outside your native perspective, upbringing, or worldview.

A rebirth of perception
            A rebirth of perception
            Or a perception of rebirth

In the same way the lyrics comment on the willingness of someone to “for once just try,” these lyrics point out a pitfall that a lot of people are victim into. More specifically, the “rebirth of perception” is the definite goal, but without really stepping outside your perspectival comfort zone—without giving yourself fresh eyes—one may merely feel that they’ve experienced some level of rebirth without actually reaching that goal.


Composition:

The Theme of Perspective:

One of my goals with this song, since it covers the somewhat worn out—but no less valid—topic of perspective, was to make the composition as intertwined with the lyrical content as possible in the hope of providing something original as a whole to the vast array of music on this subject. To that end, I tried to reflect the lyrical theme in the song over and over again in the music. This ranged from minutia that perhaps no one would notice without pointing it out, to more obvious things.

One of the most basic ways to make this specific lyrical theme manifest itself in the music is to create variations. In the world of rock, I think good variations are all too absent from the rhythm section anyway, so I think it adds to the overall composition on both levels. Anyway, in the intro section and the bridge preceding the guitar solo, we have two very different takes on the same piece of music. Originally, the music for each section was identical except for the added vocals, but we took it a bit further when it came time to record the track because it seemed to not only make the whole song a bit more interesting dynamically, but drove home the point of including a variation all the more starkly.

The above is what would be a typical “variation” in musical terms (and, honestly, one that is perhaps arguably more than a simple variation because of the number of differences between instances), and in addition to this and the lyrical variations, there are what almost need to be called “methodological variations” that help drive the point home even more, including symbolic use of parallel modes, a sort of rhythmic inversion (if that is even a thing), and symbolic use of multiple voices.

The guitar solo, for example, shifts in parallel modes from measure to measure. In essence, it’s a new perspective on the same Bb chord every 4 beats. I know that’s not something that will be beat-you-in-the-face obvious to most, but I did this intentionally in the hope that it would help with the authenticity of the song, and, hey, it made for a cool solo!

For the coda, I crafted a riff that seems to invert on itself every two repetitions. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect inversion, like a palindrome or anything, but the constant switching between 8th note +16th note and 16th note + 8th note rhythms, comes off a bit like a riff played one way and then playing its reflection, and it is meant to represent the twisting of perspective. If anything, it makes a great 5/4, 5/4, 6/4, 6/4 pattern (with a lead melody maintaining a strong 4/4 vibe on top of all that!!) into a headbang-able rock groove.

In both the bridge before the guitar solo and the post-solo section, we make use of what amounts to a “collage” of vocals. This, much like basic variations, was meant to take simple phrases and present them in a variety of stylized performances. Falsetto, raspy low voice, plain speech, shouting—they all present a different take on the very same utterances, and I wanted to include that not so much to represent multiple perspectives, but to lend that sort of feel to the piece and let the lyrics infer that representation onto those parts.

Lastly, the second chorus vocals were meant to be the most symbolic point in the song. While the lead vocal line remains the same, the backups vocals present an alternative message that was hidden in the lead line from the beginning. If one notices how the backup vocals align with the lead, specific words were taken from the lead lyrics to present a condensed version of the message.

Instead of the lyrics:

Try finding your way
To a greater understanding
See more than one side
White is not the absence of
Light that claims itself
As the purity of
Every joined, fused
Color

We simply have the supporting phrase:

Try to see white light as every joined, fused color.

The original plan was to simply have the backups say “Try to see white light as every color,” which is a bit more succinct. In the end, harmonizing “joined” and “fused” did not affect the meaning or highlighting effect, and sounded stronger from a compositional standpoint.        

Chorus

After far too long messing with the chorus and being unhappy with it, Andy Hector stepped in and wrote an amazingly catchy and badass melody for the chorus lead vocal. Great work, if I do say so myself!

Feel Changes

One of the things I love about this song is the unending mutation of “feel” from section to section, which I think comes off incredibly organically. From straightforward in the intro, kind of latin-flavored in the verses, funky in the post-verse riffs, decidedly stiff in the pre-choruses, heavy rock in the post-solo riffs, to
quasi-djent for the coda, this song really runs the gamut in terms groove, all while moving fluidly from low to medium and high dynamics.

Fun Facts for Musicians and Audiophiles:

-Key: Bb minor

-Writing Credits: Dilley/Hector

-Guitar solo is in parallel modes that shift each measure — Aeolian, Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, Phrygian, Lydian, Locrian, and finally a bluesy lick that could technically be in one of a couple different modes—at that point it didn’t matter, and I just wanted to channel my inner Dimebag for the final bend.

-For the octave effect on my guitar in the coda, I used an old BOSS GS-10 Guitar Effects System with COSM. That little tank of a sound machine traveled forward in time from the 1990s (I’m guessing…though, it could be early 2000’s as well), and played an awesome part in making the coda to Fresh Eyes sound HUGE!

-For anyone who was wondering just how awesome Andy Hector is on the drums, I think this song proves that most drum kits would tremble after a mere glance from Maestro Hector. I am immensely proud of Andy’s drumming, both composition- and performance-wise on this song. Everybody twirl your sticks for Andy!

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