Vanity Project Track by Track – Eating an Elephant

As a part of the launch for Vanity Project, I am writing a series of blog entries that give a bit more background detail and making of for each track. All these blogs will be collected together in the Vanity Project area of the site.

Watch Vanity Project

See Vanity Project Live

EATING AN ELEPHANT

This was the track that I discovered how to work a vocoder on. Instantly, one of the challenges for the rest of the project was not to overuse the vocoder. I think in the end, this track, Hi Vis Ghosts (the drums) and Home 2 (the waves) were vocodered. There might be more I’ve forgotten about.

One of the challenges of making the project that I knew I was going to face beforehand was that to make it work, I was going to have to work backwards. Usually, recording happens with the instruments being built up and then the vocals being added on top. Because all I really had was the acapella melody lines for the songs, I started with the vocals and added instruments with FL Studio 12 that matched.

At one point, I was hoping for a more orchestral, opulent feel for the songs, but that proved impractical. I was also conscious of not wanting to use midi for instruments that didn’t sound right. On a previous project, I had tried to make a saxophone solo that ended up sounding like a honking car horn. This meant that I gravitated towards sounds which were more obviously synthetic, giving Vanity Project its early 80s feel.

Vanity Project Track by Track – Embrace the Glut

As a part of the launch for Vanity Project, I am writing a series of blog entries that give a bit more background detail and making of for each track. All these blogs will be collected together in the Vanity Project area of the site.

EMBRACE THE GLUT

When I was about 13, I got a second hand skateboard. I thought skating was cool until the first time I properly fell off it and left myself with a scar and my mum told me I had to wear knee pads and arm pads if I wanted to skate and I knew deep down that was not cool.

When I had more TV channels, I used to love watching the X Games. I got a thrill out of seeing Pierre Luc Gagnon and Bob Burnquist riding the halfpipes, brave and intense and balletic.

As I watched these competitions, somehow, I became aware of the idea of street skaters. That there were people out there who were as good, perhaps better than the professionals, but who stayed home, and did it for the love. These were underground, unsponsored figures. No names who might pop up on a video or a magazine, before disappearing again into the melee of the local skate park or some parking lot where they could practice a technical trick.

This feels like something to embrace.

First Review – Vanity Project

A friend of mine called David, who is a Plymouth musician, is the first person to have written a review of ‘Vanity Project’. He posted it to the Stackhouse Jones facebook page.

He very kindly writes:

Vanity Project is forty minutes of exhilarating, hypnotic and unremitting genius that engaged my full attention and kept me somewhere between meditation and insanity throughout. All the elements of low-res video, high quality audio and unexpected vocals hung together, taking me to places I never knew existed, providing me with moments of genuine inspiration. I’ll be taking that trip again and would willingly become addicted.

Vanity Project Outtake – City In His Veins

This is one of the poems that got lost along the way of Vanity Project. ‘Home 2’ is in part a postcard to Torquay and Totnes, but I wanted to write a little love letter to my adopted hometown, Plymouth. I got put off when I heard the phrase ‘city in his veins’ in a different poem a few weeks after writing it. I could never find anything better to work in its place. But it has some fun lines, so here it is.

CITY IN HIS VEINS

track thirteen on the car stereo
electric windows winding down
200 miles and 30 years on
an echo blown from the underground
methodists with a glowing cross
moths around the burger van
the greenest of all go’s
the loudest of all gold’s
the city in his veins

the carpet of the wildflower streetlights
the mirrorball inside his eyes
this new kaliedoscope of neon
the world at 30 miles per hour
an aluminium shell and seatbelt
his lawyer’s coming home tonight
dream a hometown dream
leave on the hallway light
he’s got the city in his veins

Simon Travers, 2017

Vanity Project Track by Track – Friday

As a part of the launch for Vanity Project, I am writing a series of blog entries that give a bit more background detail and making of for each track. All these blogs will be collected together in the Vanity Project area of the site.

FRIDAY

Any workplace has gaps between what is promised and what you experience. Once upon a time when I was a teacher, I experienced a dignity gap. The dignity gap is measured in the light years between the promise of devoting your life to inspiring and challenging young minds and the reality of dying inside because a bunch of fifteen year olds keep making fun of your sideburns.

With my job now, the gap is measured in Fridays. The promise of Friday is an essential part of the workday week, for Friday represents getting through, a night out and a lay in, re-connection to the life that you come to work for. TGI Friday. But for me, there has sometimes been a gap. Friday’s energy and grace got used up on Thursday. Friday ran out before it got started. You feel bad because you’re too tired to feel good. In the gap, it all feels empty.

The local radio station don’t make it any easier. They call it feel good Friday, then they carry on with exactly the same playlist they played all week, every week. But sometimes, something else happens. Around 11:15 on a Friday morning, they play a sad song, something like ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel or ‘The Boxer’ by Simon and Garfunkel. For a moment, you feel known, identified, accepted. For a moment, the radio stops telling you to feel good and lets you feel understood.

Then they play Charlie Puth again.