As mentioned in Friday’s post (we all read that one right…?) we’re going to be doing some in the studio/behind the scenes videos as it seems to be of interest to people. Today we have no video but we will talk a little about our creative process.
This post was inspired by a recent meeting at a label where we were asked the one question we get asked in pretty much every introductory meeting- “who does what?”, meaning which of us writes the melodies, who writes the lyrics, who plays the instruments etc etc. The answer is always “we do” which leads to “yeah but one of you does the tracks and the other one writes the lyrics, right?”, the answer to that is we both do both. We’ve never thought of it as strange but apparently it’s not common for both players in a partnership to do the same role. This isn’t us trying to speak of how great we are (you should know that already..) but to help you to get a picture of what goes on from beginning to end when we’re in the studio.
Every song is different, sometimes Paolo comes in with a track (music) and Picasso adds to it and we both write the lyrics, or vice versa. Sometimes we both start a track in the studio together and bring in someone to help with the topline (lyrics and melody). Songs can start with Picasso sending a voicemail with a topline, musical ideas and a beat and we just have to make it a reality in the studio. On occasion one of us will have built up a song so much that the other just has to co-sign, make minor changes and we’ll call it a day. We’ve worked with each other so long that we know what the other would do to a song so it’s easy to fill in the blanks.
In terms of the actual creation, songs can start with the music first or the lyrics. Sometimes the beat might inspire certain chord progressions which inspire a vocal melody. It could also be the case that the beat doesn’t feel right after the song is written. This happened with “Can We Kick It” by 3AM Tokyo. We changed the beat 4 times before we settled on the final version, we were sick of hearing the damn song after messing with it so much!
Once the song is written we like to get the artist in to record. It’s frustrating when producers don’t get to cut the vocals but budget and scheduling doesn’t always allow it and they record at another studio with a different engineer or producer. There’s only been one song that we didn’t record the vocals and the artist wasn’t happy and neither were we. We didn’t have what we needed and the artist didn’t sound how she wanted to sound (which we would have made happen- vocal production is one of our strong points).
What happens next is the most time consuming part of the process- editing. Editing vocals takes a long time. Balancing harmonies, making composites of the vocals (comping) and tuning the vocals. Make no mistake, the majority of songs you hear were not recorded in one take, nor are they recorded particularly in tune. Words, and sometimes parts of words are spliced together to get the best sound of the vocal. A lot of work goes into perfecting the vocals and there’s no going back to how it used to be. We are all so conditioned to hear the slightest imperfection because vocals are so flawless in commercial releases now.
After this is done we mix the song. Making sure it sounds good by balancing the levels and optimizing the sound quality of the recording. This part doesn’t take so much time in terms of blocked out periods but we often sit with a mix and revise it over a few weeks- listening on different sound systems in different environments to ensure the song translates over multiple systems. What might sound great in our studio might sound like shit in your computer speakers!
We will get around to doing some in depth videos about our process, every writer/producer has their own way of doing it so it’s always cool to see. Check out our instagram for short videos of us in the studio doing our thing until then.