Thursday, January 10, 2008

Death of the Album?

The USA Today recently reported on the increase of digital music sales and its impact on the recording industry, once again raising the question whether this trend forshadows the obsolence of the album. Perhaps it will. Though, albums are not always compilations of related songs. Obviously, there have been exceptions. It would be refreshing if musicians and the recording industry dropped the confining album or compact disc format. This would at least rid listeners of songs written only to fill space. Why not bring back the groups of songs with a common thread? Rather than the ten to fourteen songs, perhaps a three song album . . . or twenty?

On the flip side, the demise of the fixed length medium is unfortunate for the artist in that listeners are likely less inclined to seek out additional music of a given artist, and have less on which to base their impressions. Great artists may get lost further in this immense backdrop before us.

Which raises another issue. The Internet is a tidal wave of creativity, with no lacky record label representative imposed filtering of what is marketable versus what is not. Is there a way to stand out in the flood?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Exposing Yourself

Well, not in that way, but nearly as revealing. When I write, I typically feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and embarrassed. I hide when I write, which is debilitating and it cripples my creativity. I have written lyrics, but usually abandon them. Harder yet is fitting the words to a melody, and I become so frustrated in this task that I give up. What makes you want to sing? For that matter, what makes you laugh, cry, scream, tremble, shiver, shake, or rock and roll? Inspiration comes from many paths, though for me it is terribly unpredictable. Hours of practicing on rare occasion results in new material. Sometimes after a long hiatus I'll pick up the guitar and something new will come to me. It is this lack of predictability, and pragmatic Midwestern background that prevented me from pursuing a musical career. Had only some of that pragmatism included a thought of my emotional and spiritual well being, that yes, it is important to make a living but the most practical thing would be to be happy doing so. Can you say that you love what you do? I know I can't. I am satisfied, and don't regret what I have done or haven't done, but reflecting I would have done things differently if I had another shot. However, I tend to be a fatalist as well, and feel you get what you get. You don't choose where you're born, who your parents are, where you will be schooled, who you'll meet. And though the set of choices at times seems so vast, when you consider what is available at any given time, when you finally make your decision, who you know, what you can afford (monetarily or otherwise), the subset of what once seemed unlimited is now your pigeon hole. From where did I say I was from? In spite of that depressing reality I've painted, if indeed your limited subset includes an opportunity that you've weighed against the all others, but have, or are about to abandon it as it is not within your reach, or you find yourself unworthy, or it is not worth the risk, look again. Look forwards at your favored options and from there, look backwards. Are you where you had hoped to be? Now consider what it would take to change that decision long after you've chosen that path. The subset narrows. Now that I've depressed you, take some time to listen to our FREE MUSIC! The band has begun a month long hiatus. We will be back at it strong, likely with our new bass player in January. We hope to post some more polished material after that time. Please keep watching for that FREE MUSIC!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lyrics and Stories

Pop music is not technically difficult. At least not usually. It is hard in other ways, though. In the space of about three minutes, how do you grab someone's attention and keep it? How do you get the listener from one end of the song to the other? How do you convince the listener that they should give your song a chance? Even harder, how do you get someone to listen to your song a second time, and then to listen over and over again? Getting that first chance is a challenge. Every chance after that is what separates good music from ordinary music.

The greatest songs express themselves through a combination of compelling, beautiful, and yes, tightly structured music. The songs that we remember have a hook. Beyond the music, the songs that stick in our minds and in our hearts have lyrics that lodge in our memories and strike emotional chords. The very, very best songs have musical and lyrical structures that work together to propel a story forward. The song is a narrative art form; it recounts an event, expresses a feeling, describes a person or situation, looks back in time and casts an eye forward. The songs that are most effective invite the listener into the story, and ask him/her to be a part of it. They tell a story that is universal in its appeal and individual in its telling. The characters in the story are both inside and outside of the song. Listening, we imagine ourselves into the story of the song. As we explore that fictional universe, we discover things about ourselves that we had not known or been able to express until we encountered them there. We make a song by someone else into a song that is our own and we wonder how the songwriter could have known so much about us.

To write a song like that, one has to imagine oneself as both a character in the story and as a listener. Imagining onself as a listener, one must, in turn, speculate about the listener's role in the story. This is a complex specular exercise -- I'm thinking that he's thinking that she'll be thinking that he's thinking this way and I'm betting that she realizes that I am imagining that he is thinking this and I am hoping that she imagines the same thing as if she had thought it herself -- yeah, it's not simple.

Sometimes songs use complicated lyrics and carefully crafted images to make a point. Sometimes, they just drive ahead with simple words and simple lyrics, inviting you to drive along with them. "Time Runs So Fast" is a song that just asks you to run with it. "Little Child" is more subtle. It's a lullaby and a love song and the image of the "whisper at night" is intended to be richly evocative. "Tantalus" is based on a myth from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The words are written to reflect that and they are in a register that is less usual for pop music. Another thing stands out: they are chanted more than sung, in parts.

Barbara Drive hopes never to disappoint its listeners with its music or its lyrics. We want you to follow the stories, see something in them that is yours, and make them your own. That's why this is FREE MUSIC.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Early Releases

We've been practicing for a little over two months and are excited to have a set nearly complete. I purchased a Zoom H2 recorder from Full Compass, and I highly recommend it to anyone. It has incredible sound quality for live performances, at an extremely affordable price ($200 USD). We're pretty pleased about how things are shaping up, and looking forward to gigging and getting into the studio and recording.

Three tracks, "Time Runs So Fast", "Little Child" and "Tantalus" are now on the site. If you don't know the story of Tantalus, you should investigate that one. A bit dark, though it's the notion of the pursuit of those things that seem unreachable that struck us about the myth. Jerry and I co-wrote the music to "Time Runs So Fast" and "Tantalus", and "Little Child" is solely Jerry's. The majority of the songs are Jerry's, though we have all influenced and shaped them. Tim (the awesome drummer) is a vital contributor to the music and adds those nuances that make a song great. From the guitar hooks and well timed breaks, to the endings that leave you waiting for more, Tim's input has been invaluable.

These early takes are for us to work from, and to help us recruit a bass player. There's bass on all of these songs thanks to Bill, who already has plenty of commitments of his own. Little Child and Tantalus are begging for a guitar solo. They will come. The melody on Tantalus is also likely to evolve, as well as vocal layering. Tim has added considerably in that regard as well. Some of the guitar lines on other songs sound of early R.E.M., and along that line we've explored the call and answer vocal layering. It is a considerable element to our sound.

Let us know what you think - your comments are appreciated. Watch the site, as we will be posting lyrics and more stories soon.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Introducing Barbara Drive

We started Barbara Drive to provide an outlet for our work-a-day angst. Life is short. Don't wait for tomorrow. Whatever you seek, don't let it pass you by.

The Barbara Drive sound is solid, simple and speaks to many, songs that remind us of the greatness of rock-n-roll. Taut and crisp with sharp lyrics, Barbara Drive makes music that is instantly appealing for its tone and texture. Music that you'll find hard to get out of your head, whether you're driving down the road, sitting in another dreadful meeting, or just enjoying a beautiful day. Watch for us here, and share our search for music that ignites our souls and hopefully yours.