Level Up (Vic) / by Marcell Marias

Hey kids, this is Vic.  First a quick note about me.  I am not a musician by trade although I have played the drums and bass guitar in the past.  I am a visual artist, photographer, and have dabbled in 
poetry and song writing.  Shai Azul is my first official step into the  music world and it’s been a helluva ride so far.  I think anoN brought me in because I am an outsider, artistic, and have some unique 
perspectives on music and I tend to push him in musical directions he had never considered. 

What really fascinates me about the music creation process is how much more organic it is than visual arts as  far as the actual creation is concerned.  There is a great deal of back and forth collaboration with the band mates, audio engineer, songwriters, singers, etc.  The music can change course at any 
moment.  It was a new form of artistic creation and expression that I had not experienced before even though music has been such a huge inspiration in my life and my art.  Anyway, I thought it was high time that I had some input on the blog about my experience with Shai Azul, and I figured that this weekend’s session was definitely worth writing about.  So let’s begin ^_^

Tanya was in town for the weekend so we decided to hit 3 new songs that needed her vocals: Communion and the songs I wrote, Faith and Infrared.  On the way to Birdhouse Studio I was talking with Tanya about my discussion with anoN concerning more emotional impact in the songs.  Technically they were very good, but as an artist I felt that we could take the vocals to the next level.  I had a few examples that I thought had an emotional impact for me: Bjork’s All is Full of Love and QueensRyche’s Someone Else (acoustic version).  Both of these songs had a way of tapping that emotional lizard brain for me and I wanted to have our new songs deliver the listener a visceral response.  Have you ever stood in front of a painting and after staring at it you feel draw into the canvas?  Feel emotionally 
connected to the scene, the color, the texture?  This is what I would like out of our music, to draw the listener in.  To make the music visual.

The session started out very well despite Tanya being a bit sick.  The first song, Communion, was executed very nicely.  I recommended that we add a very deep monk chant in the background of the chorus.  Our comrade, Anthony, was able to pull it off after some experimentation.  With a slight tweak by our engineer, Chris, we had an awesome and haunting chant that sounded like it was in a grand cathedral. I was still thinking that we could get more emotion in the music.  So I decided to call my brother, Alberto, in Manhattan.  He is an actor, director, and published playwright.  He is also a professional acting coach.  I talked to him on what I wanted out of the music and he said 
he could do some coaching to Tanya.  After she wrapped Communion I put her on the phone with him and the rest of us took a beer/smoke break.  

Not long after, she came out of the sound-booth and seamed a bit...different, emotional.  We tied up a few loose ends with Communion and jumped into Faith.

Faith is song that is emotionally charged with despair so I was anxious to see how it would go.  After the first verse I knew that my brother’s coaching had brought a change to the surface.  Her voice was 
rich with sadness and loss. It was something new.  She was taking her voice to a new level and we all new it!  We did a series of takes where Tanya experimented with some different ways of singing the 
chorus and other takes to correct a variety of other items.  By the end of that session we had a solid emotional track.  I had never been more impressed by her performance. 

That is, until she started the next song. }:-)

Next up was Infrared.  Since it is a duet we had temporary tracks of Oily’s voice and Tanya was going to redo hers.   Now, this song is in a complete 180º direction as far as the content of the lyrics and 
musical style.  Its sexually charged, naughty, laced with innuendos, and has a pounding rhythm.  After listening to the tune, and doing the mental exercise my brother taught her, she dove into the song.  Oh... Wow!  The song suddenly exploded with energy and intensity.  We did several takes with Tanya owing the music and bending it to her will.  Sometimes, the way she sang... well it made us giggle and blush, haha!  Chris had some extra fun by adding some cool audio FX. In my humble opinion, we had the most fun recording this song.

Faith and Infrared are my first two songs that I have seen to near completion.  I don’t think that it could be going any better as far as the experience is concerned.  But, there is still much to do before we 
release this album.  Now it’s my turn to level up so anoN let me borrow one of his keyboards and I will be learning to play, at least enough to get the music in my head into chords and notes.  I feel the 
need to be more connected to the music instead of just writing and directing my tunes.  As an artist, if you are not fully engaged with your medium, be it music or photography or painting, the observer of 
your art WILL know it.  This is why it is so important to me for us to be engaged as much possible with the music we make.

I want you to share in the experience of our music.