We often get comments from other musicians about how arranged our various parts are and people are usually wondering who does the writing in our band. This is the first band I’ve ever personally been in that has a completely collaborative writing process. We check our egos at the door and enter our rehearsal space with completely free and open minds.
No one shows up with preconceived ideas about what we should be playing. Instead, we usually start with a jam of some sort and start to outline an initial part. Ideas will get thrown around and we will always try any suggestion, no matter how in love we may be with a particular part or how stupid an idea may sound verbally. After all, how can you truly know how its going to end up sounding until everyone plays it? We’ve had some parts come out sounding far better than any of us expected and we’ve had parts that ended up sounding like crap even though we all thought it’d sound incredible. I’ve had to get rid of some of my parts that I was deeply attached to because someone suggested something that ended up sounding more awesome and appropriate.
We will loop a section of our song and work on it for hours, massaging the parts until they are just right. And then we’ll end up rewriting the entire section and having to repeat the process. This endless drive to find the absolute right part for each section compels us to wrestle with these songs for months on end. Understand the Feeling and The River both took us 4 months to write. Mind you, those two had exceptionally long writing periods comparatively, but all of our songs have taken a minimum of 1 month to write. The end result, however, is impeccable quality.
Very rarely when we write a section, can any of us play it right off. We all strive to push ourselves. This unfortunately leaves us writing parts that we can’t play without lots of practice. At the end of the night, we record our parts and all spend the next day(s) listening to the recording. Even despite having the recordings, when we next rehearse, we usually have to try to relearn the parts that we previously wrote. On our newest song, for instance, I have decided to incorporate a chordal tapping section using a technique I started to develop when the band first started. While we’ve had several practices that have included this section of the song, I still am figuring out how to play it right. Not only do I struggle to get the notes correct and land then at the correct times (hooray for funky time signatures), I also have to figure out what the best sound is to use for these chords (how much distortion, what fx, what pickup to use, coil-tap the pickup or not, where to set the guitar tone knob). When we perform a song effortlessly (HA!), its because we spent 100 hours learning the song and figuring out how to play it.
What about you? How do you write and how quickly are you able to produce completed songs?