Monday, March 23, 2009

i want my babyback babyback babyback

I kind of want chicken wings. Did you know that wing sauce is just hotsauce and butter? That’s it. No fanciness. That’s the whole list of ingredients, man. Wow. Simplicity is best about ninety nine percent of the time. I noticed, as a songwriter, traveling around and talking to other various self important dicks like myself about the way we come up with the bullshit that we come up with, that inevitably if you ask someone about a song, one you REALLY love, the song he/she wrote that is the song that kind of makes the album, defines the band or whatever, they will, 100% of the time say something like “oh yeah, it’s kinda weird. That song just came out in like, three minutes. It kind of wrote itself.” Simplicity is best when it works out, man.
When I write songs, if they don’t start coming together within about three minutes, I abandon them. This isn’t because I have a short attention span. It’s because if the best songs all come out immediately, then logic would dictate that the ones you slave over tend to not be as good, and I don’t want those songs on my records. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, I stick to the basic, “if it’s not flying right out, writing itself, it’s no good” school of thought.
Here’s my lesson for you all out there. If you start something, and it doesn’t shape up immediately, well, quit. Never try. Nah, that’s really not the point. The thing is, I’ve written a ton of songs…thousands. Most of them are dogshit awful. There are lots of people on this earth who think ALL of them are dogshit awful, but whatever. Fuck those people. I’m not dealing with them right now. My point is, that after all this time, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on if something is gonna work or not within the first few minutes.
Whatever. Is the songwriting process interesting? Nah. It’s dumb. I write words first, then music. There you go. Secrets revealed. I write a page or two of words and then start strumming a guitar. Ninety percent of the time, I put the guitar down, frustrated and go get a beer or something. The other ten percent of the time, my whole day is ruined, because that means I have to get out the 8 track and record the fucking thing so I don’t forget it. When I’m really cranking, like when I’m actively trying to write a record, I’ll write one to three songs a day. They almost all suck. But it’s like anything. If you want to do something well, up to the best of your ability, that is, you need to work at it, practice. There’s no way to write a good song without writing a bunch of bad ones. It can’t happen. It’s like comedy. Every stand up in the world will tell you that the only way to become a good stand up is to bomb over and over and over again. You can’t do a good act until you’ve done thousands of bad ones. This is true for anything. You can’t be a great basketball player, or orator, or bartender even without being terrible for a while. People think, for some reason, that songwriting is different. Like if you’ve got ‘it’ whatever it is, then you’ll just write good songs. No. Not the case. It takes work and it involves wading through a bunch of crap. I don’t care if your favorite songwriter is Billy Joel, Billy Corrigan, Tom Gabel or Cher. They all write turds. It’s only the BEST songs that even make it to a place where other people see them, and it’s only the BEST of those that get recorded, and then it’s only the BEST of those that make the record, and lots of records still end up with bad songs on them…you see?
Whatever. I don’t care. I’m getting hungry. Get out there and write me a record, people.

16 comments:

John Brown Style said...

I agree with you for sure. Most of my best songs come very quickly because I feel very strongly about what is coming out. But, I have had some where I get a few good words out, then I stop for a while, and when I come back hopefully some more good lines will come out. Definitely pays off to keep the crap for later review.

Gregory said...

Write a LA record then and put it out. been too long.

jbody said...

the wing recipe wasn't quite as arcane as the valsalva maneuver but thanks anyway.Hey bren,how does cocktail sauce come to be?

Tyler J. Bernard said...

Cocktail sauce:

ketchup
horseradish
worcestershire sauce
lemon juice
hot sauce (optional)

Saulio SBJ 123 said...

I like how you turned the table on us at the end there.

bebop said...

favorite Brendan songs
February one
An evening of extraordinary circumstances
Broadway and briar
Boat less booze cruise party


least favorite Brendan songs
25 degrees north
one man board of directors

FAskies said...

Ahh deffinatly some inspiration that was needed now, ive always went by the words:

Trying is the fastest step towards failure. -Homer Simpson

lookatmeiamawinner said...

I think this is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

Dan said...

hey brendan. do you know what "bat wings" are??

J said...

Man, people are awfully demanding. And c'mon Dan, he's covered that. ...pretty in depth, actually.

I like you're thinking, Brendan. You always hear the motivational stories about the sap that failed 50 times before he finally made it. But then, you never hear about the 99% who fail 50 times...and die failures. They probably should have quit and tried something else.

Anyway, great advice. And speaking of which, I'm going to quit writing this paper I'm working on and go get a beer.

Ryan said...

A lovely lovely post. I love reading how bands, especially my favourites, write their songs. I always thought it weird that most would write the music first and lyrics second.

Blair said...

The record is a 7 song EP called "Incineration" it's like putting The Lawrence Arms, Propagandhi, and some crack into a blender(not that we do crack..) but yea..the whole thing was written for you, Brendan! www.myspace.com/hermittheband

Blair said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brent said...

question:
let's say part of a song comes out really quickly and it's fucking awesome, but you can't come up with anything else for it right away. Is it usually shit to be abandoned or would you perhaps try to salvage it?

Jason said...

Hey Brendan, just want you to know that your cry against crunk is not going unanswered
http://www.alterthepress.com/2009/03/feature-crunkcore-whats-dillio.html
And that's a website that covers pop-punk, and just generally stuff one might not consider to be of the highest caliber

kylewagoner said...

It's like that for everything, not just song writing. Though I think you said that. But like I realized that the whole "trying to get a girl" thing is stupid and that you should either instantly have something or not even try. It's a lot simpler that way. Songs, by the way, are definitely just as you said. I've got a million shitty ones sitting around doing nothing. However, my band seems to finish songs we started years ago and abandoned and they usually end up pretty good-sounding.