Looking back through the ODAS Archive, it looks like I haven’t managed to write a chorus for three years now. And that wasn’t a sudden sea change. I don’t know how to do it.
There isn’t some ideological reason. I listen to plenty of music with catchy choruses and will happily sing along like a regular person. But when it comes to writing, I simply can’t find a melody I feel is worth repeating over and over again, and can’t pull out one line or couplet from the lyrically masses of pages that seems worth repeating 4 times over.
I think those are two very seperate issues. Musically, one thing I do feel confident about is thinking up a melodic addition to a piece of music. These days, a good proportion of ODAS songwriting is done in the studio. This is a dangerous method as there is only an 8 hour window to record a song (we don’t have the funds to spend more time than that). So I go in with structure, chords / riffs and beat ideas. That creates a nervous but very creative chunk of time and I relish that challenge of finding a way to a song, and sometimes the results are really suprising. And although it is nerve-racking, I feel confident to go in with chords and beats and pile the rest on in the moment.
In those situations, I enjoy the spontaneity of thinking up counter melodies and nice asides – but can only do so on guitar, piano and bass (which I seem to find easiest). Yet this melodic understanding does not extend to vocals. It’s all just notes, yet in my mind I can’t see vocal notes like I see those from an instrument. It’s like another language.
The result being that when writing pre-studio it will take weeks, and sometime months to dig out something – anything – that could be described as a vocal melody, and rare that it is chorus-worthy. I find it amazing, and I envy, that some people can think up the melody first, before any music. I can’t do it.
The lyrics are the other part. A chorus hook should be lyrically interesting – i’m not wanting to do something along the lines of Coldplay, so all encompassing yet a meaningless and vague platitude. But then, shouldn’t the chorus sum up the core meaning of the song overall? That feels like a cheat, like a shorthand for what the song is about. I guess that is what Pop Music is and why I am unable to write Pop Music. I’d always be thinking ‘this is too obvious’ when that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Lyric writing has been tough for me of late, but this isn’t about lyrics in general, it is about structuring one part to fit more in the limelight than other parts. That feel a little uncomfortable and unnatural to me. Yet I listen to some great songs, and just wish it was even possible for me to create moments like those. This is what happens when a bassist starts a band…