Golden Year is an album that Danny and I again cobbled together in our home/apartment studios from late 2014 until summer 2015.
Some time in 2014, I got the idea that after getting my MA in English at Georgetown in D.C., I wanted to find a way for my wife and I to move back to Oklahoma City. Though Danny and I had been recording music remotely by sharing Ableton sessions on Dropbox, I got excited about the idea of us being able to record our music together, and more importantly, to play our songs live. Previously, our music hadn’t really been performable: Achin’, for all its sample-weirdness, probably wouldn’t hold up too well in a live setting.
We set out with Golden Year to write tight pop songs that we could feasibly play with a four- or five-piece band, and we named the album after the idea of a single ‘golden year’ that I’d live in Oklahoma City to work on music as much as possible before moving on to the PhD program. It was a tremendously exciting idea; unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. On a positive note, though, Danny and I wrote, recorded, mixed, and mastered more material than we’ve ever done in faster amount of time than ever before. Also, by limiting our sound to something that we could reproduce live, I think we set up for ourselves some ‘rules of the game’ which made the writing process challenging and exciting for the both of us.
Our writing process is a sort of trust exercise—I’ll send Danny a guitar or drum machine track, and he’ll sing a melody over it, or Danny might have a near-complete song and I’ll just destroy it by playing terrible guitar parts or weird Moog iPad sounds over it. About 95 percent of the time, we’re really pleased with the new layers we put on each other’s songs, and we repeat the process about eight or nine times before we’re happy with a song. It makes for a pretty efficient process, especially since I can work in the daytime when I’m not studying James Joyce or digital humanities or whatever, and then Danny can kick in after doing super-top-secret stuff at his engineering job. There’s something special about having a friend who you can deeply trust creatively—honestly, I would have never started singing if Danny hadn’t given me the support to try it out. I apologize for Danny if you think my singing is horrible: though, one time, Wayne Coyne told me it was okay to sing even if your voice is terrible, so again, I’m trusting the process here.
Maybe my favorite thing about Golden Year, though, is that our lyrics reflexively turn back on our writing process—these are some of our most personal yet. A number of our songs deal with relationships with our wives (or whoever Danny’s singing about), about trying to grow up gracefully while still doing this childlike thing of making music, and about friends, addictions, and other stuff. But the best part to me is that we ended up singing a lot about actually writing music—about this collaborative process that, honestly, gives me a lot of comfort while going through the solitude of scholarship at a university in a city that doesn’t have near the community-mindedness of Oklahoma City. So it’s a touching thing to hear a song like “Phoenix,” where Danny sings about the first time we started playing music—the sorta-awkward-first-date-ness of sharing creative stuff but compensating for it by just hitting it off as quickly as possible. “Getty” sort of tackles the ever-looming presence of self-doubt and insecurity, and I end up telling myself that things aren’t really that bad.
Danny and I are already at work with two new albums—we’re producing material at a far more rapid speed than we can actually record, mix, and master ourselves. I think that Golden Year is our best and most cohesive musical offering yet. Luckily for us, we’re already excited about what we have coming next.
released July 2, 2015
cover art by eli khoury.
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