My writing always comes together from tiny fragments - I wish I could write a whole song in one sitting but I can’t. It might be because I have a short attention span. Or it could be because if I stay writing one thing for hours the self doubt creeps in and I convince myself it’s all crap. Maybe both? Either way, for me, putting together a song/EP is a lot like piecing together a jigsaw without the box.
I usually start by working out the bigger picture. I plan an EP by deciding how many songs I want to write and what each one should be about. Last time we released an EP it formed a narrative about MOLLYANNA burning her house to the ground and escaping. This time it’s not so much a narrative, but more of a Pandora’s box of shit from the past you’re trying to deal with and move on from. The first track we wrote is called Archaeology and it’s about therapy. I’ll write another post about this track in particular later, but for now I’ll just say that it’ll act as an intro to the other songs in the collection. It’s the reason the other songs are there.
Once I’ve decided what I want to write about, I have a couple of techniques for getting ideas down:
Spider diagrams of key words around the theme
Putting a timer on for 15 minutes and writing whatever comes to mind about the topic until it beeps.
After that, I start thinking about melodies. Again, these come in bits and pieces (I have a lot of recordings titled ‘Verse idea XXX’) and not all of them are winners. If I come up with something I like, then I start making the content ideas into actual lyrics that fit to it. This takes a lot of time, because I spend ages worrying that it sounds wank.
This is usually the point I send it to Mike and he makes it sound nice. Or he says ‘Sorry, I can’t make that sound nice, it’s too wank.’ Which has never actually happened but I always worry about it.
The part where Mike and I work collaboratively is a lot like that drawing game kids play, where one person starts by drawing something (like an alien’s head) and then folds the piece of paper so it can’t be seen and then passes it to the next person who draws the alien’s torso, etc. At the end, the whole creation is revealed. The tracks get passed between us and each time we add something new, but we never really know what it’s going to be like until it’s finished and we’re arranging it in the studio. Our music is a Frankenstein’s monster, basically.
So that’s my process. I’ll probably get Mike to write about his at some point, so you can see the other side of the coin… but next week I’ll talk about one of our tracks a bit more in-depth and show you what I’ve been working on.