Vocals, session 1. / by Marcell Marias

I should never be allowed in front of a mic, ever.  But just because there’s no guitars to record doesn’t mean I get to slide.  There’s a lot of brainwork involved, a lot of listening, a lot of giving guidance.  Not like the singers don’t know what they’re doing.  They do.  They come prepared.  But sometimes even the best ideas don’t sound quite right when you hit tape.  And sometimes the best ideas don’t come easily or from one person.  Sometimes, the coolest vocal cut happens at the end of a frustrating 5-hour session when you’ve changed it up a dozen times. 

That’s what gives you the best end result, though.  Give and take.  Taking a few steps back to see what makes sense.  Trying everything.  Listening to everyone while trusting your gut. 

And Manhattans.  Thank you, Anthony.

Our guest singer A (we’ll call her that until she decides how much she wants to be a part of Shai Azul) kicked it off, with me, Chris, Anthony, and Vic sitting in the control room.  She knocked out All Fall Down – a midtempo, riff-heavy, pulsing tune – in about 2 hours, complete with a harmony part I wasn’t expecting and a middle section that kicks the whole thing up a notch.  Both A and Tanya seem to dream in harmonies, which is pretty cool since that’s my weakest thing.   But they’re both different.  Tanya’s harmonies tend to be melodic and pretty.  A comes up with stuff that’s eerie and unexpected, while still being feminine.  Next song – Faith, one of Vic’s tunes.  It’s a slower tempo, hypnotic tune, and we wanted to get a cut of it for Vic’s birthday party.  Ask him why.  Since Tanya couldn’t make it, A gave it a whirl.  And added another cool unexpected harmony.  Last song of the day – House of Cards.  This one is admittedly a fast tempo, heavy pop tune, but for as short as it is, the choruses have proven a bit tonally elusive for everyone.  A found it, but we still felt like we were missing something.  We threw Oily in front of the mic since he showed up around this time.  And realized that it was his melody double we were missing.  One day, 2 tunes solid, one tune with a firm foundation.  And Greek for dinner.  Good day. 

Sunday was just me, Chris, and Oily.  Oily started off working on Defiled – one of my angry tunes that definitely shows off my thrash metal roots.  He didn’t really feel like he was getting it as well as he could, so we set down some basic tracks with the goal of working on it in a few weeks.  In listening back to the scratch vocals… there’s a lot that worked.  Oily is a perfectionist in the studio.  It’s not enough to nail the performance…he wants to ‘get’ the tune; to sink his teeth into it.  Defiled is close, for sure.  We spent the rest of the day on Oily’s song, Xs For Eyes.

Let’s talk about that song a bit.  It channels mine and Oily’s metal kid in a big way.  It’s a blast beat, sonic onslaught.  It’s the furthest we’ve ever pushed a tune in Shai Azul musically and lyrically. It’s a chance for Oily to cut loose. It is probably even toxic to plants and small animals.  It is also made of 100% awesome.  I am really curious to see the response to this one when it comes out.

One weekend, 3 tunes solid, foundations for another two… yeah, I like that progress.  We’ll revisit all the tunes again in a few weeks.  You have to do that; gives everyone a chance to listen, digest, and get annoyed enough with what they didn’t like about their performance to want to fix it. 

Now we just need to shake Tanya out of Boise for a few weekends.