Thursday, October 3, 2013

Howdy FP Lovers...

Just a quick couple of notes here to keep everyone in the loop about FP...

1) At this time we are having mostly partial practices with a primary focus on writing new material. All of our schedules are a bit hectic right now....Matt is taking college classes in conjunction with his volunteer firefighter duties and is also in the ongoing process of building up clientele base for his upcoming landscaping company (besides raising a family and working a full-time job and all that)...Jake and his wife Sarah just had their first child and he's busy with all that comes along with having an infant (including adapting to the crazy sleep schedules...or rather 'lack thereof' sleep schedule) ...Robert has been working lots of hours at his job and just recently got a promotion (which will mean even more hours for a while until his old position gets properly filled)...and I have been juggling remote session guitar work/production work for an NJ/NY-based artist/producer network alongside starting FP recording sessions back up to push 'Rabbit Hole' and 'Getting Away' to completion (plus my usual 'day job' guitar lessons...yada yada). The bad news is that we won't have a suitable time for all four of us to rehearse together until closer to winter, which means no live performances in the near future. The good news is that we are making good use of our downtime by writing new material and we've been scratch-padding a lot of new ideas. I think we have 4-5 songs in the works at various stages of development. Good things are coming...

2) Recording sessions for 'Rabbit Hole' and 'Getting Away' are picking back up again but they need a lot of work. I'd liken them to having started construction on a couple of personal houses, only to have other 'work' come along that sidelines the building process...then after a few months you come back to the old worksite and all you see is a mess of building materials scattered all over the place as you try to figure out where you last left off. But in a short amount of time I have cleaned up the 'detritus' and starting putting things back in order and have even been whittling away at recording new tracks again. Drums and bass parts are fully tracked...the guitars just need finished as do the bulk of the vocals. Then the 'detailing' can begin and soon we'll have ourselves a couple of new songs to share with the world (disclaimer here: that's still a ton of work). Thank God we haven't been under any contractual deadlines with this stuff...although had that been the case I wouldn't have picked up the extra freelance work that sidelined FP progress in the first place. Hopefully I can stay on task better now that I have most of my bigger side projects wrapped up...And it feels good to be a guitar player again!

So that's all for now. Not a lot of new info or other exciting announcements. But I at least wanted to give everyone an update as extended silence can be deafening...

And now it's time to get back to work and put the hands to the plow...

Thanks for checking in...

~ Todd


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hello Again...

Todd here. I wanted to approach this post differently than the usual 1)...  2)...  3)...  route I've been using over the last several months. I wanted to treat this one more like a conversation or the proverbial 'stream of consciousness' method. And rather than tell everyone 'how busy we've been' or 'how practice went this week...yada yada'. I simply feel like focusing on my creative thought process for some upcoming material.

Take the title of one of our new songs that we've just recently finished writing. It's simply called 'Again...' and yes those three periods are part of the title. It's a partial statement/question thing that points to something bigger and something much deeper. I'm forever fascinated with the art of saying something without actually saying it directly. The-lost-art-of-reading-between-the-lines. There's always a great risk of being misunderstood when talking to someone in this way, but then again it can also help people understand what you are 'really trying to say' to an even greater degree than simply spelling it all out. Of course it partly depends on how someone is listening. But for the most part people usually 'get it' and I tend to write lyrics in that way...and oftentimes the music itself helps to fill in the blanks in peoples' minds.

Deep thoughts with Todd.  :-)

Something else I feel like talking about...my musical influences. Of late, I've especially been drawing inspiration from childhood heroes that held my interest long before I ever decided to play guitar. More specifically I've been leaning towards specific songs and memories of songs from my formative years. I can remember being 4 years old and really noticing certain elements of radio tunes. Specifically Top40 radio tunes that my mom would be listening to while she worked around the house or spent her afternoon tanning in the back yard on her yellow chaise lounge. Forgive me for not always knowing the words or titles of the songs...those things usually didn't grab my interest. But I can easily remember the bass lines, drum beats, trumpet or sax solos, guitar or piano parts, etc.. And nobody ever taught me to pay attention to those things...I just did. And I still do. To this day I still hear music in my head, be it something I've heard somewhere or else some idea for a new song that I'm writing. And as I get older (and wiser) I've learned that sometimes I just need to focus on one thing at a time (say just a guitar part or a basic vocal melody) versus everything else all playing together at the same time (like a fully recorded song). I can fly either way but sometimes my tendencies to hear 'all things all of the time' can keep me from working out the finer details or spending enough time just practicing my parts by themselves...which is a much needed discipline that I shrug off more than I should...

So in the case of the new song 'Again...' that I was talking about earlier, I can hear (in my head) how I want my guitar solo to go along, and for me it seems like the sum of a bunch of my childhood influences: the guitar solos from Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule the World"....or Don Henley's "Boys of Summer"....or the obscure "Angel Eyes" (from the American Anthem movie soundtrack) by Duran Duran's guitar player Andy Taylor. (Dang....that last one was especially '80's sounding.) And a few other guitar solos that come to mind would be: Prince's "When Doves Cry"....Level 42's "Something About You"...."Charlie Sexton's "Pictures For Pleasure"....and pretty much any other guitar solo from 80's Pop era that was lyrical and melodic. The style of the music wasn't what grabbed me as a young kid so much as simply the pure musical context of whatever was being played. I'm guessing that I could've been born in any time period and would still have the same attraction to lyrical instrumentation. It just makes sense to me and sticks in my head. So in a roundabout way, I still try to emulate those early influences in my playing...not in the style or 'sound' but rather in how I try to point towards the song's melody or message with my guitar playing. It isn't always easy to do, but often 'less is more' and the simple ideas usually win out for me. And even though I can clearly remember those early influences, I rarely sit around listening to that stuff. The occasional 'revisit' is usually good enough to suffice when nostalgia sneaks up on me. Otherwise I keep moving forward and find new influences...but again I am mostly attracted to lyrical instrumentation.

So there's all of that stuff to ponder.

And then how about something even more revealing and vulnerable? For starters, I am fairly insecure about my singing in general. Whenever I go up to the mic I tend to feel nervous and awkward. Singing isn't easy. Nor is it easy to look 'at ease' while singing. Funny that. But as there are no guitar frets or piano keys that can safely be landed on when singing, it can be quite scary at times. And if the music is loud enough to make it hard for me to hear myself singing....well that just sucks. To me it almost feels like flying through a mountain range while in thick cloud cover. There's only a few ways to get things right and a million ways to do it wrong. And when things go wrong, things can get pretty ugly. Fast.

In all truthfulness I doubt I'll ever be completely happy with my vocal abilities. But then my only other option would be to ignore the music I hear in my head, thereby stifling my creativity in the process. Nada. I'd rather try harder to get things right and face my own fears (like the fear of rejection from others or getting boo'd off stage or to see a lousy performance of myself on YouTube) than bury my head in the sand and call it quits. Just like my guitar playing...I'm a good player. Certainly not the world's greatest player, but a good player all the same. But I still have 'bad guitar days' even after almost 30 years of playing. Sometimes I even have 'bad guitar weeks' or entire 'bad guitar months' but again my options are always the same: keep trying harder and move forward...or else quit and give up. And honestly I still get frustrated and fed-up with myself that I still feel like quitting...even nowadays. Nobody wants to hear that...but that's the truth. Sometimes I think some people put me up on a pedestal or think that I'm something more than what I actually am. Fact of the matter is that I still have major insecurities and self-doubts and days where I hate my best efforts and where I can slip into delusions or even depression. And those times can sneak up on me if I'm not careful. No fun...but it happens. 

So why am I writing all of this? Am I looking for affirmation or encouragement from readers or fans? Nope. I know the ropes and I know that for me it is always the same battles, the same inner struggles, the same tendencies, the same solutions. I simply move forward. And I often don't 'feel' like moving forward, but ironically life isn't always about letting 'feelings' dictate what we do or say or where we go or who we are. And yet at the same time, from a music and lyrics standpoint, I try to allow those feelings to shine through. They aren't always pleasant or comfortable feelings, but knowing how to convey those 'hidden' things in a song, be it something that is said directly or else tucked inside allegory and metaphor...that is what I am shooting for. And as more songs come down the FP pike, I hope people can honestly get the gist of what we're doing. It won't be about image or fame or money or even respect from the world of music. It's simply about transparency in all of its beauty and ugliness. I hope it never devolves into anything other than that for us as a band or for our audience as listeners. There's certainly enough noise and chatter out in the world without us adding to it. But hopefully my words and music will outlast me and will speak loudly even when I no longer can. That to me is something worth chasing after, and chase after it I will.... 

~ Todd

Friday, April 19, 2013

FP Update: 4-19-2013

Howdy All!

Just a few quick updates for ya...

1) We are nearly done writing our new tune called 'Again...'  There are still a couple small details to sort out but it's basically complete. I need to spend a little more time fleshing out the lead guitar melody that keeps haunting my mind, and Jake will be stepping up to the mic on this one for some backing vocals which is a big deal and will add a lot to the song, especially live performances. But at this point we all feel we could tackle this one at a show. Very cool song and it's very much in the FP vibe of things. Can't wait to start recording this one!

2) Another new song we are calling 'Softer' is coming along nicely. We have some basic chord changes in mind but need time to iron out the individual details in a full-band context. Also I still need to finish the lyrics on this one but the main melody is there and ready to go. That all being said, I actually used a free M-Audio program called Ignite as I was coming up with some of the basic ideas for this one...I wasn't actually trying to write a new song per se but things just kind of happened. At any rate, I think this song will be one of our more 'catchy' tunes if you will. Not intentionally catchy but that is definitely how it has evolved thus far. It's a really fun and interesting arrangement and there's some really cool interplay going on between everyone's parts. I especially love the bass lines in this one. Reminds me a little bit of the bass lines from classic Hall & Oates stuff. Very central to the song's vibe and something that will make people hum along...

3) I know I have always made a point of stating that we are not 'into' doing covers of other people's stuff, but we have actually started messing with what could be termed as a Double Cover of sorts. I'll refrain from saying what song we are messing with but we are actually doing a cover of someone else's cover of a particular song. The original song is definitely cool and all, but we are all really smitten with another person's cover of this particular song and we'll be leaning more towards that newer version as we sort out the details. At this point, due to copyright clearances and royalties and such, we have no plans of recording our cover version of this song, at least not at this time. If for some reason that move would make sense at a later date, we might rethink things, but at this point it is merely a 'live performance' thing only, especially as we just really love this song and it isn't the typical cover that people would expect from us.

And that's all I have to say about that...  :-)

4) Currently we are also digging into a song idea we started back in 2011 called 'The Antebellum' and I think we stumbled upon some good ideas last night that will bring it a lot closer to being a complete song. We've had this really sweet bass/guitar/guitar interlude idea floating around and it just needed more ideas to support a verse and chorus. It's pretty mellow so far but we may be building up the bridge quite a bit to 'bring things home' so to speak. But this one actually had its beginnings back before Robert came into the band. Whenever Jake and I initially showed Robert the bass/guitar parts that we had up to that point, Robert came up with another guitar part that I'd describe as 'nothing short of brilliant'. It's beautifully melancholy and it reaches pretty 'deep' as far as the music vibe goes. It's fairly simple but it is just lovely in its own dark and intimate way. Sometimes it reminds us of old Eagles ballads just from the way that Robert's guitar lead lines stack on top of mine. As to subject matter, it's probably lyrically most akin to 'Sycamore' in that it is very 'relationship' centered with all of the subtle burrs and unspoken flaws that can beset the best of us...

So that's all for the moment. It's been a busy couple of months for us and we are loving it! Good things to come!

~ Todd