When our pal Curran Reynolds (ex-Today is the Day, Wetnurse) isn’t handling PR for bands like Car Bomb, Moon Tooth, Primitive Weapons, and many others, he throws down on a pretty interesting, low-fi punk project with Ryan Jones (also of the fantastic Mutilation Rites), Body Stuff – whose new album Body Stuff 2 dropped a few weeks back. It’s a really catchy, fun little piece of music, especially if you’re a fan of tuneful pre-hardcore punk music like me. Great for walking around in the Winter!
Curran and Ryan had a pretty interesting recording and writing process for this thing, so we enlisted them to give us a track-by-track for a few of the songs on the EP. Check it out below, and nab a digital (or cassette!) copy of the album here.
The female vocal at the beginning of “Ice” belongs to Ariel Hall. I went to elementary school in Maine with Ariel, and her older brother Sky was the first person I ever played rock music with. I was 10 years old, we played broken versions of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Putting Ariel’s voice on the new Body Stuff record felt like a nice complete circle, connecting my past and present.
“Ice” is about living in the moment and making the most of one’s life. Making one’s mark before it is too late. It’s a song about time and the temporary nature of things and the fight against our limitations.
I wrote the song in the winter of 2014 while living alone in a house on a lake in Maine. I was running around on the frozen lake in front of my house when the weight of that word “ice” really hit me – the temporary nature of it, the fact it will melt, but that for now you can fly right across it so you might as well fly.
Musically, the song contains references to some various favorite music of mine, but none of this was planned, I only realized afterward what I had done. For example, it begins with the words “Friday night” – just like “Girls, Girls, Girls.” And you’ll hear some loud inhales before I sing a line – that comes from Method Man. I always loved the way he made his breaths a crucial part of his verses. For the big tom fill leading into the long outro, I was consciously thinking Phil Collins and Miami Vice, but afterward realized it is the precise rhythm of a drum fill from the Primus song, “American Life,” which I played for a high school talent show in 1992.
On the first Body Stuff EP and a lot of my previous recordings, I used a Shure SM7 for vocals. It works great for heavy music and because it’s so flat, it helps fit a vocal into such a busy and loud mix. Body Stuff takes a very different approach to what I have been used to recording and mixing – the vocal is the focal point. I got a Cascade Elroy tube condenser right before tracking this song and was excited to use something that made the vocals sound fuller and put a colorful tone on them.
Body Stuff music is created in a process where Curran had song ideas in his head and we sit down and start building the song, starting with drums. Minimal drum beats are a fundamental part of the sound, that sets the guidelines on the overall style of the music. It is interesting to look at drums in an individualized way where each drum and each drum part have a precise thought and reason. Cymbals are almost never used, so when they are, we put them in the spotlight. On “Ice,” the hi hat got to be a huge, stereo, lead hi hat right in the beginning. It creates a lot of urgency and intensity that wouldn’t happen if it were treated like a time-keeper the way it usually is.
“Cabin Song” is another one inspired by life on the lake. The song sets a scene of late-night isolation and glorifies that scene as a symbol of independence, of choosing one’s own way of life.
For the “flehh” in the middle I was thinking Rick Ta Life. I just love that sound and wanted it on my record.
Then the song goes into a slam variation of “The 1812 Overture.” What can I say. I love Devourment, I love “The 1812 Overture.” My dad would play “The 1812 Overture” around the house when I was 5 or 6 and it totally rocked me. It might be the first song to bring me to quite such an ecstatic state, and that state is what I’ve been seeking from music ever since.
The “drum machine” used for Body Stuff is a couple things. For the kick, snare and toms, I use Steven Slate Trigger with the Tommy Lee drum samples, which is fitting for Curran’s 80’s hair metal inspiration. I just took a transient from recording a hit on a bass or guitar, and threw it in wherever the drum is supposed to play on its respective track. The software is supposed to make the drums sound natural when you put it over live drums, but I just used the same impulse for every hit and cranked it, making it sound way more mechanical and like a regular drum machine. You can clearly hear that in this song.
“Cabin Song” changes lots of times in the middle of the song, with different guitar tones and styles. All the guitar and bass tracks are recorded direct and an amp modeling plug-in is used. I originally used Waves GTR and then moved on to Native Instruments Guitar Rig. These plug-ins take a LOT of computer processing so I try to avoid using more than a couple instances of them. I pushed the limits with this song, I think I had about 10 fake amps running at the same time. I’m happy I could bounce the song down with them all live! It was a challenge choosing the different tones for the different parts and then getting them to sit together as best as I could.
“World of Men”
This song looks back in time to my childhood. Through elementary school and middle school, I was raised by my mom and my sister and for some of that time the three of us lived in a house out in the country in Maine, a mile down a dirt road. I was reminiscing on what it means to have been raised by women, and how that shaped me. It’s easy to think about the things I missed out on, not having a father present in those years, but in the song, I chose to take the experience and glorify it instead, in a sort of us-against-the-world way. It is a tribute to the women who raised me, and something of a middle finger to the normal world.
R.E.M. was probably the inspiration for the jangly verses. My sister and I were big R.E.M. fans in precisely those years we were living out in the country in Maine. Murmur, Document, and Green were our big albums.
My favorite part of the song is the Dimebag squeal in the middle.
We added some more fun samples to this song: a “drum machine” tambourine and a piano! I thought the piano sounded real and natural for being a sample. Digital audio has come a long way. I love the Iggy Pop “I Wanna Be Your Dog” vibe from it too. The style of the song has a strong contrast from the production, in my opinion – mechanical drums and looped instruments playing something that sounds like it came out of the ’60s.