Friday, 29 May 2015

#57. I Will – The Extreme Sprinklers

Demo version

Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar, bass, drum programming

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Matt Neal.
Written early 2005.
Recorded April 22 & 23, 2005 at Hoffa’s House, Warrnambool.
Produced and engineered by Jade McLaren, Matt Neal and Brendan Hoffmann.
Mixed by Matt Neal.
Additional mixing by Brendan Hoffmann.

Shed version

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass, backing vocals
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.

Way back in early 2005 when I was about to get married for the first time, my songwriting buddy Jade McLaren and I – unsurprisingly – decided to write a song about weddings. Given these things tend to be all-consuming, it’s entirely possible we couldn’t think of anything else to write about, but I do recall thinking at the time that despite there being an inordinate amount of songs about love, there didn't seem to be a hell of a lot of songs about getting married.

One wedding-themed song we could think of and liked, and which served as something of an inspiration, was Big Day by XTC (there’s that band again). Our matrimonial ode shares very little in common except that it’s guitar-based and kind of alt-poppy, but we were aiming to do something similar. We wanted to write a vaguely alternative, all-purpose wedding song that would hopefully encapsulate the feelings most people have about their big day (but that was a damned-sight less ominous than Big Day).

Jade and I had been writing songs together for about a year and a half by this stage and had developed something we called The Wankometer (as Jackson McLaren will attest to). This imaginary device was basically our way of saying whether something was too cheesy or sappy or, well, wanky. Any lyric that seemed too saccharine was described as “scoring high on The Wankometer” or "registering an 8.5 on The Wankometer" and thus thrown on the scrapheap (or “into the Hellmouth” as we called it).

For this song, however, The Wankometer was turned off. I don’t recall if that was a decision made prior to starting writing or part-way through the process when we realised it was an impossible task to write a song about getting married with The Wankometer turned on, but either way, it was switched off.

"With The Wankometer off, I can finally write that song 
I've always wanted to write about bunnies." PIC: Kellie Johns.

Hence, I Will is the wankiest set of lyrics Jade and I have written together, although to be honest I think we did a good job of keeping the cheese to a minimum (“I will push your swing as high as you want to go” is probably the worst offender). Ultimately though it was very sincere and the sentiments were genuine for how I was feeling at the time (and Jade was using his imagination or perhaps channeling something related to his girlfriend at the time). We were still keen to keep the song generic though and only two words belie that ambition – “bodyguard” and “doctor”. That was our in-joke – Jade was working as a security guard at the time, and my nickname is The Doctor.

Speaking of lyrics, there are two things of note in here. The first, which Jade pointed out to me recently, is the line “let’s get this ceremony over”. He reckoned that related to my own dread of the actual ceremony bit of getting married, noting that it was a fairly un-romantic line in an otherwise romantic song. He’s probably right. I certainly managed to largely dodge the whole ceremony thing second time around – I highly recommend eloping.

The second thing is the line “some kind of plant will grow”. That was another cop-out lyric, as previously seen in Disco In Borneo. It was a placeholder that was meant to be replaced by the name of an actual type of romantic-sounding plant, except we couldn’t think of one so we instead stuck with the lyric that effectively means “insert plant name here”. It still makes me laugh.

"Rose? Tulip? Rhododendron? Hydrangea?"
"Stop saying plant names or I'll judo chop you in the throat."
PIC: Dannii Hale.

Musically I was really pleased with this song. Jade came up with a wonderful melody to go with the strange chords I had put together. I have no idea what the chord names are, but most of them are built around using just three strings at a time. It’s likely that the ascending chorus and the use of these strange chord voicings is something influenced by Jeff Buckley’s song Grace, which I learnt to play in my teenage years and was blown away by some of the strange chord shapes. The way the pre-chorus ascends in Grace is something I’m no doubt mirroring in the chorus of I Will.

Rather bizarrely, the other obvious musical influence here, believe it or not, is System Of A Down. There’s a bit in the outro that I ripped holus bolus from their song Aerials. I’m pretty sure I knew I was stealing it, but that one bit was so cool I had to do it. As to why this otherwise lovely little ditty suddenly turns into a wailing guitarfest at the end, I have no idea. I just couldn’t control myself and decided for some reason that the end bit needed four simultaneous guitar parts.

Final notes: I really wanted this song to be called I Will rather than "Yes I Will" or "Yes I Do" or whatever because I wanted it to share a title with both a Beatles song and a Radiohead song.

Lastly, the two different recordings above were made roughly a year apart. The first one is the original demo Jade and I made with the assistance of my old band mate Brendan Hoffmann (same weekend we demoed Ignorance Is Bliss). It came up pretty good I reckon. The second one is a rehearsal recording of The Extreme Sprinklers as a live band (viva Harry Fahey and Matt Hewson!) working through the song (and largely nailing it except for my piss-poor playing in the outro).

PIC: Glen Watson


I won’t weigh you down
like sand
pouring through the hourglass
I will be around
on hand
like I always was in the past
I will push your swing
as high
as you want to go
Will you wear my ring?
Be mine?
Some kind of plant will grow

Yes I will
Yes I do
Let’s get this ceremony over
So we can start anew

I won’t break your stride
as you
walk into another day
Everything you try
to do
I’ll help you up to try again
I will be your fort
your home
bodyguard and doctor too
‘Cos time is far too short
it’s better when it’s shared by two

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