Sunday, August 12, 2007

Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury (pt. 2)

Essential to our Philosophy studio experience were the overnighters. Without them, we wouldn't have half the record we left NY with. When we arrived at Tarbox, Dave made it clear that when he left for the night (we stayed at the studio), we had free reign over the myriad of mics, knobs, and other producery knick knacks at our fingertips. He put it this way: "It doesn't take a genius to put a mic in front of something and press record." Well, I guess that's a good thing for us then!

So most nights, we stayed up until dawn broke out over the Catskills, recording any idea that might possibly pop into our heads after six pots of coffee and a case of Keystone Light. Interestingly, Dave offers this to every band that records at Tarbox, but very few apparently take advantage of it. This fact amazed us. Imagine getting to catch a ride into space and the head astronaut-guy says hey, wanna take 'er for a spin? How could you not?

The Periodic Table of the Elements: my neverending wellspring of inspiration.

Anyhow, a lot of Mercury was recorded overnight, particularly the vocals and a lot of the keyboards. Aaron would sit in the control room (he slept there half the time), and I in the live room, and we'd record track after track of the vocals until we had literally dozens of tracks during certain passages of the song. Especially on the "Our serial numbers are etched in our thumbs" part. That's me, 40 times.

Because the song is so segmented, we recorded the rhythm tracks in pieces and stitched them all together. But lest the purists think this some sort of cop-out, we performed the song live during our Blizzard of '07 Midwest Tour with Wax on Radio. And we didn't walk off the stage during the middle section while a backing track played to flashing strobes and smoke machines.

Speaking of the band that did, however, I'll make no pretense that we didn't go to great lengths to model Mercury after Bohemian Rhapsody. We most certainly did, right down to the Brian May homage in the middle section. And ultimately, if you couldn't tell by the Mechanical! vocal break, you were either born before 1920 or after 1995. Either way, it's probably your bedtime about now.

Not to say that I think we gave Queen a run for the money – far from it! Even with Bad Company-guy, Queen can still kick the living dookie out of any band today, including Brazil. What we wanted to create, though, was a magnificent album centerpiece on our own terms, as ridiculous as the 70's were tacky.

All our dads like this song so we must have done something right. Xanadu, but with pianos.

List of instruments used in Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury
(This list may be modified by other band members, on account of my faulty memory.)

-Drum kit
-Electric bass
-Electric guitar
-Upright piano
-Grand piano
-Fender Rhodes Electric Keyboard
-Concert Chimes
-Vocal chords + 1 helium tank

(I kid.)

Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil

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