This is a special release for us, we wanted to show just a little bit of how the album will be. We spent 14 days living inside of a studio located in Union City, New Jersey. Just within view of the Manhattan skyline. I might as well summarize our experience to the best of my memory, I want to remember it as clearly as possible.
We were afraid to go to sleep, the flight was leaving at 6 something in the morning and it was already 1. We forgot to map our click tracks completely so we had to go through all of our songs in our head and find out how many clicks were within each tempo. Some of our songs change tempo every few measures and contain SEVERAL different tempos so you can imagine this is not the most fun thing we’ve ever had to do with our songs. We finished a majority of it and went to bed for what felt like one hour(might have been two) and did some final packing. We had the idea to tape 3 guitar cases together and send them as one luggage. That was cool. Not really.
Our mothers were the ones who would see us off, they were excited and were making us stop what we were doing to take pictures and things of the sort. The moment we went through the TSA I really felt like we were on our own for the first time in a long time. We sat at the Dunkin’ Donuts still filled with nerves, anxious to get on the plane. There was a particularly thundery thunder storm happening, delaying our flight. The storm dissipated and the sun rose(and ammunition) to our delight.
I was trying to read this book a friend of mine had let me borrow. It’s called A Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark. It’s written by Carl Sagan, a kind of intellectual father-figure to me. He also inspired a few things on this album. Unfortunately I was just too fucking tired to concentrate because I didn’t sleep at all and I was sort of distracted by being miles in the air. Chris Rich was on the other side of the row, his head was slowly leaning towards the stranger next to him.
We landed at JFK and grabbed all of our stuff(3 guitars, 3 suitcases, a backpack full of pedals) and went outside to look for a cab. I felt the difference in the air when we got outside: Thin, crisp and cold. I was starting to really feel like a Texan at this point. We got inside of the first yellow van cab that we could see. Already disoriented, we were having trouble communicating with the driver who did not seem to be very helpful. While Chris was figuring out the appropriate route with Jesse via text, I was staring out the windows and looking at this strange TV screen they had installed between the back and front seats. I got this Retro-futurism vibe- one of my favorite feelings- from it because it was sort of an advanced technology, but it looked completely trashed and old. It shook and rattled with the car. Trying to soak everything in like a sponge on this drive, I knew we were in a different reality. New York City is kind of ahead of the game in society, but only in certain aspects. I felt as if we were maybe 20 years in the future at some points.
That was my first taxi cab experience, it felt great. We were at Port Authority bus station, because crossing the border in a taxi to nearby New Jersey costs a hefty fee. We went to these machines to buy our tickets, and people were staring at us because we were carrying so much stuff and I suppose we looked alien. We got off at the bus stop and walked a few blocks to the studio. It was already strange, I wasn’t used to seeing so many people just walking around a city, the only thing comparable was SXSW in Austin, but these people looked like the normal working class type.
This is where we met Jesse. The story of how we discovered him, in layman’s terms, is that we heard a record he did with a band called Lady Radiator. It just kicked ass and sounded like he captured their sound in a way that worked perfectly for their music. We went up the stairs of this strange building(ex-factory, ex-Manhattan project meeting point for scientists) and settled in to our new home. Our first adventure was grocery shopping at a path mart a few blocks down. On the walk to this store, you could see the empire state building directly in front of you. Really a powerful feeling, to know that this is where music has taken us. Just this thing that we started doing for fun when we were kids. We bought all of the cheapest things we could buy in bulk. We even bought off brand Ramen noodles. Didn’t even know there was an off brand for that. Microwavable was the primary category of food for us, next to fruits.
The next day we started Pre-production, or pre-pro as they call it. We were all set up in the live room. We played the album in it’s entirety in front of Jesse so we could discuss what we need to focus on. He said our technique was pretty accurate, so we didn’t really have to worry about that much. The real monster is getting these click tracks figured out. We kind of gave up on them when we recorded our first two EPs because we weren’t really used to playing with them and retaining emotion. Tempo is really relative to emotion so that’s why it changes so much for us. We figured if we could just map them all out separately we could still make it sound like sunrise, but be solid with it.
Once that tedious process was over, we started recording drums. While that was happening I was working on some lyrics that were unfinished(a lot of them were incomplete) and generally jamming out to the drums and making sure a good performance was being captured, which is exactly what happened. I was glad his new Whitney drums kit sounded so great, the wood hoops give it such a natural and earthy sound. Drum tracking took about two days total.
This is where we started what we would basically be doing for the rest of the studio session. An average day would start with Mike(the co-producer/engineer) waking me up with terrible alternative rock songs that he knew would torture any conscious musician. I remember him saying, “Get up Tyler, it’s only going to get gayer and gayer.” This would be around 10 in the morning. He would get there at 8 and edit things for a few hours. The first song we tracked was Cosmic Silverback, we felt the most confident about it and it’s one of the only songs where the tempo does not change. The vocals were also something that I felt better about than on our other songs.
Jesse would help me a lot through vocal tracking, really changing the way I thought about my voice as an instrument and getting consistent diction and avoiding sounding like someone with a weird accent on accident(Tom DeLonge, anyone?) Mike also pushed me as a guitar player to play to the best of my capabilities. He knew what I could play better and encouraged me to do so. I really feel like I grew up as a musician at this point. All of us feel that way I’m sure.
The days following sort of blended in to each other, I already had this problem but I truly had no idea what day it was. When Saturday came around it was time for our first true exploration of the city. We took a bus through the tunnel and came out into the infamous “concrete jungle”. There are some serious implications to that term. We walked around for a bit, just acting like kids in a place they hadn’t been before. I started filming a lot at this point because it really becomes a visual experience.
We came around the corner leading to Times Square. I was in disbelief. It was truly another culture. You knew everyone you looked at was from a different part of the world. Just there to see this one street where they have giant television screens and giant stores. One with a giant ferris wheel inside. A really strange concept if you look at it completely objectively. We saw crazy people everywhere too, religious nuts wearing Gothic chain ridden robes. Lastly we went to Central Park, it was interesting to be surrounded by trees only to see that buildings surrounded you further. It started snowing when we were there, an awesome surprise for us subtropical natives. It was a surprise to the people of the city as well, supposedly they haven’t had much snow all winter. Global warming?!?!?? Who knows.
The recording continued the next day as it had previously, starting with guitar adding bass and then tracking vocals. Tracking would typically last anywhere from 8-12 hours at this point. A pretty solid working schedule. When we got closer to the end the things that we had incomplete were becoming more obvious, kind of bringing down the confidence we had. Our solution was Jesse letting us have a microphone and a record button at night, we ended up adding an entire 3 part harmony to Jovian, the intro track which we felt had something missing. These final sessions that happened at night kept us going until about 8 in the morning maybe 2 or 3 times, amounting to 18 hour sessions if you take out the breaks for food. This is when we really tested ourselves as musicians, literally pushing our bodies to the limit. There were times when I thought my voice was done for, and then I would get a second wind and we took another 6 hours to get the best vocal tracks we could. All of the guys were adding their own vocals too, that was extremely awesome. I see a lot more potential for the three of us as singers in the future. Everyone has ideas for harmonies and we stuck with the ones that we could all hear in the music. It’s strange because we can hear it as if it’s already there, and singing it is really just highlighting it or bringing it out.
When all of the sequencing was said and done we sat down together to listen to the full album for the very first time. We were pretty exhausted, maybe too exhausted to soak it in completely, but we knew we had done it. The entire last year and a half of our lives had led up to the fruition of this album, night after night playing in the storage unit, finding inspiration in the cosmos, learning what it means to be human. Learning that music is really a 4 dimensional experience. You could say it’s “flat” or only a 2 dimensional sonic landscape but I disagree. When music truly moves you, it becomes a much larger experience. You’ll find that the music infiltrates your other senses, making what you’re looking at turn into a movie. Amplifying what your emotions feel like to you ten fold. Whether you are singing your favorite song going down the highway or you or brought to tears because it makes you feel what the artist feels, it is a direct connection to this bigger picture. But the picture formed is still your own. Subject to the filters you allow to be lifted. It helps us know as conscious beings that we can feel the things that others feel, know the truths that others know. The subjectivity of the experience enhances the notion of subjective reality. That we are really just parts of a whole, instead of just parts.
What is music, then? Where does it come from? It is an architecture of sound waves, crafted by the tools in our hands, the tools that are our hands. The same hands that originally helped us grip tree branches, extend our reach, discover fire, paint the first stories of animals that scared us in caves. It is a language that without any error of translation, communicates an idea directly from one field of consciousness to the other. One starts to wonder if such an architecture could only exist in our physical plane, considering we pull it from thin air. What is the basis of 2 dimensional reality upon which you can build architecture? A grid full of squares. 3 dimensions? A grid based off of cubes. So what is the closest we can get to transcending reality, or something we may very well be able to tap into? A 4th dimension. A square to a cube is a cube to a Tesseract, and that is what inspires us. Science suggests that there are 11 dimensions of reality, music suggests that we are connected to that bigger picture.. somewhere deep in the realm of electrical impulses and chemical reactions that make us think. There is a harmonious order to those reactions. The cosmos are singing to us, if we just listen. We believe that music can take us to unprecedented heights as a species, one dimension at a time.