Everybody Goes

December 8th, 2011

This song is in some weird way the sister song to “I Left My Muse,” a song that started as a Drinking Problem song and ended up on the last Sights record. I think of them as a pair since I wrote them during the same weekend towards the end of 2008. Both songs are different perspectives on being in a long term relationship.

Adrian Robles played the drums on this 2009 demo, and it was the first time I ever worked with him on a full drum kit. Since then, he’s played drums for my demos on several other occasions and did one live performance with Emily and I (a portion of which can be seen here). I’m playing all the non-drum instruments, as I believe they’re called.

Dave Lawson – “Everybody Goes”

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Melissa and James

December 8th, 2011

One of the best benefits of having a studio in your basement is the ability to catch spontaneous moments in good audio quality. After living with Melissa and hearing her play songs with James on many occasions in her bedroom or the living room, I’d been meaning to find the right moment to record one of their casual collaborations. The last night before Melissa moved back to Massachusetts, I finally got that chance.

I recorded about 45 minutes of audio but also about 10 minutes of video with my point-and-shoot camera. I then synced this video up with the Pro Tools audio (or at least as close as my freebie video editing software would allow -- I’ll work on improving that in the future).

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F120

November 4th, 2010

This song started out as a group assignment. Emily and I were talking with Brad Elliott at the Loving Touch one night last year, and we came up with the following idea.

Each of us would write and record a song in the key of F to a tempo of 120 bpm with no more than four chords. Obviously we couldn’t hear each other’s songs until they were done. After we had each recorded the song, the idea was to try to swap layers from the different songs and create mashups.

As you might expect, the mashups never happened since no one finished their song. Except me. When I did, I asked Brad to play drums on the song as a nod to the original concept of the project.

So here it is, a song using only four chords in the key of F with lyrics loosely based on a statement Carey made in a facebook note that had stuck in my brain. (I actually just reread her original note and realized I had completely misremembered the quote!)

If anyone wants to do their own F120 song, go for it and let’s see if the mix and match works!

F120

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Carey Gustafson’s Birthday Song

October 18th, 2010

This past Saturday night, Emily, Adam Pierce and I got together and recorded a song in honor of (Emily’s sister and Adam’s girlfriend) Carey’s birthday. The lyrics were solicited from friends via text message, and then we put them to a Georgio Moroder-style disco beat, since that’s Carey’s favorite. A night well spent!

“It’s Carey’s Birthday Tonight” by Carey’s Pals

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Here are the lyrics as they originally arrived via text:

J.B. Rodgers: Carey is my sister and I love her to the core. I’m proud to be her brother J.

Lisa Rodgers: I love my big sister

Nathaniel F. Burgundy IV: Carey, Carey where you going to

Ellen Sawyer: Ca-are-are-are-arey nay-yay-bee, carey baby (to tune of sherry by f valli)

Emily Gustafson:
1) Carey is the only one who could find at a thrift store a shirt that says: “It behooves you to groove when you move to improve” ……….and give it to a friend
2) With care, with care, handle everything with Care. Send your kids to Day Care in a Care package. Care, Care, carry everything with Care, carry everything like Care!

Nicole Corfield:
1) Her eyes sparkle brighter than the glass she cuts
2) Just one glance can cure anyone’s blues
3) When she walks in the room my heart goes boom
4) Everyone wants to be near her

Alissa Lincoln: Oh la la it’s Carey’s birthday tonight, libra’s unite, and let’s celebrate right!

Chris Johnston: Thank you for putting the Y in DIY for me. (or something like that)

Andrew Plamandon: If I were contributing a line, it would be about Muppets and playing drums while singing beautiful harmonies

Annette Barbara: Carey -the playful peppy powerhouse who’s as pretty as a flower

Augie Visocchi: C A R E Y S A Y S (Italian pronounciation: Chi, ahh, errrre, eh, why-ya, esse, ahh, why-ya, esse) Alright!

Tony Muggs: Carey u permeate my very soul with yer smile! let’s always b friends! love u! tone

Eddie: There are few who play like you, but there is only one glue

Melissa McGorty: Carey is fun and an awesome mommy

Millionaire Matt: There is only one lady that lives the right way; she is Saint Carey of the Oke (does that sound ok?)

The 24 Second Song

August 26th, 2010

Five years ago, I participated in a project of Angie Lehman’s while she was a student at CCS. She asked artists to make a 24 second recording inspired by a photograph and then made graphic designs based on these songs. The songs had to be composed and recorded within one hour of viewing the photo and could only feature one percussion instrument and one melodic instrument.

Here is the photo I received:

My initial thought when I saw this photo was a racetrack for mice. (I later found out it’s a picture of National Coney Island.) This initial thought led to the idea of mice drag racing. Which led to the idea of a 24 second mouse version of “Leader of the Pack” without lyrics. I made “voice” my percussion instrument so I could add a melody and chose acoustic guitar as my instrument. Using the ol’ Cool Edit Pro, I played with voice speed and quickly recorded the following structure:
– A section, mice singing in C major (happy key) as the race is about to begin
– B section, the race happens
– C section, mice sing again in A minor (sad key) as a low voice (DEATH) joins in

Like I said, it’s only 24 seconds long and it was written/recorded in under an hour (more like 30 minutes), so take it for what it is.

The 24 Second Song

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So I sent this to Angie and she used it to make the following print piece. The top is the email exchange we had, and the bottom is the design inspired by the piece.

And there you go – homework done! Here’s a summary of the project from Angie’s portfolio site (where all six posters are displayed):

These posters were created by method of chance. I randomly took pictures by pointing the camera without looking through the viewfinder at places that were open 24/7. I then selected the 7th photo from each location and sent it to a musician.

I told each participant that they had to write a 24 second song based on the photograph. They had only one hour to write the song and the time started when they looked at the photo. After I heard each song, I created sheet music for each song, inspired by John Cage.

Each poster incorporates a line drawing from the original photograph, email conversations between me and the musicians, and the new sheet music that describes how the music sounds. I guess the next step would be to have someone new try to play the song from the sheet music.

I’m sure if someone tried to play this song from the sheet music it would sound absolutely nothing like the original piece, but it’d be fun to hear.

What’s most mindblowing to me about this whole experience in retrospect is that a quick five years later, Angie – who I barely knew at the time – is now married to my longtime friend Darin Ficorelli, and together they are parents of a baby girl. Time does some crazy awesome things.

Journal Song: July 21, 2010

August 18th, 2010

I am excited and relieved to announce that I’ll be soon going down to a four day work week (by choice). I’m hoping to use this extra day of freedom to devote more energy towards recording/music/friendship. Recently life has been so packed that the only way I’ve been able to record recreationally has been to stay in on the weekends and sacrifice my social life. This journal song from last month relates to that feeling.

Journal Song: July 21, 2010

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Tony Rochon: Man without a Band

August 2nd, 2010

Photo by Doug Coombe

Tony Rochon is too talented to be an unknown in this town. I first became a fan of his music in 2005 when he was rehearsing under my bedroom with Andy Roy, my old roommate (and a new father!), on drums. He had already recorded a collection of his own songs playing all the instruments, and the band was learning those tunes, which sounded like the Sloan-esque power pop I loved. Unfortunately, the band only lasted a few shows before caving into the pressures of real life. Coincidentally, just after the band broke up, Tony’s solo demos were played at a party by Tony’s old bandmate from Back in Spades, Stephen Palmer. Someone who wrote for Real Detroit heard those demos and wrote excitedly about them in their column that week. This excitement dissipated as nothing happened… for years.

It’s now half a decade later and still barely anyone has heard Tony’s music. Last year Tony joined Copper Thieves (with Andy Roy, my aforementioned ex-roommate) and contributes a few songs to their upcoming album. He also played keyboards with the High Strung at a few recent shows. Yet his original motherload of material remains unreleased. Tony is an unassuming character who spends his time with his family instead of hyping himself over pint glasses, so his network of local musicians remains small.

This year he finally put a three piece together to play his songs, with Stephen Palmer on drums and Matt Hatch (ex-Sights, Birdgang, The Go, every other band ever, plus another new father!) on bass. Due to conflicting schedules, it had been a month since the band’s last rehearsal on the day in June when they came to record these demos in my basement. Nonetheless, the songs sound solid. As fate would have it, between the day they tracked the instruments and the day Tony and Stephen did vocals, the band had decided to break up. Once agan, Tony is a man without a band.

So, like two drops of water in the desert, I present to you – at long last – two songs by Tony Rochon’s former band. Names for the band were discussed during the recording, but that is all a moot point now. Tony plays all guitars, keyboards, percussion, and sings lead vocals. Stephen drums and sings harmonies. Matt plays bass.

To those who wish they were in a band like this, comment below and maybe Tony’s dreams and yours can both come true!

Tony Rochon and His Former Band- “I Believe Ya”

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Tony Rochon and His Former Band – “Half a Mind”

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Everybody Sells Their Soul

August 2nd, 2010

I’ve been sitting on a lot of half-finished tunes lately, feeling no urge to finish them. Even so, I am trying to follow the songwriting advice I read somewhere (maybe from Randy Newman?) to finish writing all songs you start, even if you’re not sure you like them. For me, writing and demoing can be nearly synonymous, so I’ve been demoing a lot of songs as a way to finish them.

This song was a structure with barely a melody when my old pal Ryan Clancy (The Silent Years, Rescue, Wafflehouse*) came over and recorded the drums to a scratch guitar track. Ryan’s drum part on the verses was so awesomely off-kilter and funky that it renewed my interest in the tune. I ended up keeping the scratch guitar track (with some stereo slapback) and added a fuzzed-out bassline and a simple lead guitar. The lyrics came naturally out of the feelings the music stirred from my current life. Considering how reluctant I was about the song before I started recording, it was sort of shocking how well the final product came together.

And now (spoiler alert) the Pop Project is working on this song for our next album. So the moral of the story is that whoever said that thing about finishing all your songs was giving good advice.

Everybody Sells Their Soul

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Best Not Believe That It’s Easy

May 28th, 2010

I don’t think anyone in the Drinking Problem would recognize that title, even though we played this song at nearly all our shows. We always referred to it as “Spooky,” in reference to the Halloweeny riff at the beginning.

The song dates back to around early 2004 and was originally recorded spontaneously while it was being written. I felt like recording a song but didn’t have one to record. So I made up a simple chord progression and recorded it without much of a master plan. I did a second guitar track on top of that, then I made up a melody and recorded the vocals with some quickie lyrics, topping it off with tambourine. In total it took less than an hour, after which Gene arrived and picked me up for some Singles tour. I came back a couple weeks later and thought it’d be good to have hits on the pre-chorus so I added cymbal crashes. Here is that original demo:

Dave Lawson – “Best Not Believe That It’s Easy” (bedroom demo)

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Eventually when the Drinking Problem started playing, Eddie and I used the band as an excuse to let some B-grade tunes out into the world. We recorded our first batch of songs at John Krohn’s and he released a 45 of that material, but after that we learned a full album’s worth of songs which were never released (a few are now played by the Sights). We recorded some demos, but it seemed that every time Eddie, Jeremy and I got together for demos we were all hung over, unmotivated, and – after the first hour – full of Little Caesars pizza and ready for a nap. Nonetheless, a few passable recordings were salvaged from these sloppy sessions, this song being one of them. The lineup: Jeremy on drums, Eddie on multiple guitar overdubs and backup vocals, Korin on organ and backups, me playing bass and singing.

The Drinking Problem – Best Not Believe That It’s Easy (demo)

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Michigan For Life

May 17th, 2010

This song was recorded back in 2006 for the inaugural issue of Spoke Magazine, a themed DIY arts publication put together by Annette Janik. The first issue was about Michigan, and I wrote this song specifically for the CD that came with it. I have a long standing policy to try and accept all themed compilation requests purely as an exercise. (Examples: The Ypsilanti song, the 426 Monster Protest song, both Pop Project candy songs.) The Spoke website, which once hosted this song, is no longer online, so I figured it was worth reposting. [Bonus fact: Will Yates also wrote a song for this compilation, called “Everybody’s Moving Out of Michigan,” which was pretty fantastic.]

This is one of the only recordings made in my Royal Oak apartment on Gardenia St, which was a horrible place to live due the abundance of crotechty complaining senior citizens in the building. One neighbor called the cops on me for playing acoustic guitar on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t stay there long.

This recording features my oldest friend Matt Balcer on mandolin. We met when we were literally in diapers. Matt now plays in the Irish band the Codgers. Here’s a picture of the two of us at one of my childhood birthday parties. I’m in the middle; Matt is on the right. Chuck E. Cheese sure looks like a creeper in this photo.

Besides Matt’s great contribution on mandolin, I played acoustic guitar, my first recorded banjo part, and various things with my hands such as a tambourine and my knees. I like this bedroom brewed recording, but sometimes I think the song would be a lot more fun if recorded by a live group in a setting where the neighbors aren’t speed dialing the cops with noise complaints. Perhaps one day.

Michigan For Life

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