"Lose Touch with the World" from Guesthouse
"Lose Touch with the World" is one of those songs that went through a drastic transformation once we got into the studio. While I was demoing it, the song was more of a rocker, and the lyrics just flew by. Fortunately, our producer Josh Kaufman could hear past the abrasiveness of the demo. He felt that the song was actually quite melancholy and that there was a disjunction between the lyrics and the driving rhythm. He was also concerned that the lyrics were getting lost and the song was losing its emotional impact.
In order to rethink our approach to the song, we came up with several techniques that forced us into creative solutions. The first step was to get away to my default mode of incessant jarana strumming. Kaufman wanted me to just focus on the singing, so he jumped on the piano and I went to the vocal station sans instrument. Next, we found a stock drumbeat (from the Jackson Five no less) and then had engineer Dan Goodwin slow it down dramatically such that it was basically unrecognizably that classic beat. It still felt a little too grand and stately but it helped put us in a different headspace for recording the basic tracks. The final "technique" wasn't done on purpose, but my asthma was flaring up and I was starting to wheeze. We decided to push through it late into the night. We thought I would probably re-sing the next day, but we ended up liking how understated and thus emotionally resonant the song became when I was wheezing it out.
The next day we had the brilliant drummer Ray Rizzo up at the studio and asked him to take a stab at laying down live drums to replace the stock Jackson Five beat. The song felt suddenly felt more human and alive, which in turn actually inspired Kaufman to lay down a synth bass to counter the warmth of the drums. Finally, we still needed some type of instrumental hook and decided to try running my jarana through Kaufman's guitar pedals. We turned up the delay and then Kaufman twisted the knobs as I performed the part. There are still remnants of the delay taking off into the atmosphere that we left in the song.
It's always fascinating to me how a song's meaning evolves over time. This song started as a lament about how technology alters our way of interacting with the world. But this song took on a particular resonance for me when my dad ended up in the neuro ICU last summer. I started feeling like singing this song was my way of communicating my love for him and a plea for him to pull through. As our relationship to the song has changed, I feel like we've been able to deliver more compelling performances of it.
Photo by Steve Benoit