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Headlights Chapter Seven: The New Age

“Deceptive” was tracked in December of 2021. My approach was to water down the sound to its core: Drums first, then bass. Guitars would take a backseat on this track. Everything started with drums for the album. Embodying infectious rhythm was the primary goal. Some of the drum machine layers really pushed the aesthetic I went for. The live drums were a 4 bar loop I cut out of a several minute recording I did; I wanted to process it like a sample. “The New Age” was an early track as well. The main passage of “I’m everywhere” sort of captures the song. I love the bounce the song has. Lyrically it tugs at the concept of being viral, maybe even being meme. The feeling of something being “everywhere". That last bit at the end always felt meditative to me in a way with the harmonies intertwining and layering.

“Don’t Know, Don’t Care” was originally supposed to slowly crescendo to an explosive riff. It was long at first and I felt I was trying to avoid that, so I cut out the early part and just looped that ending riff. That ending bit I trimmed down to ended up being the entirety of the final song. The whole song feels fun, the middle part is wonderfully noisy. It stays light hearted throughout. I fulfill my strange fantasy of hearing angsty vogue-esq vocals on top of industrial rock with the vocal pattern on here. Robotic flow and repetition was key, and Don’t Know, Don’t Care is probably the only track on the record that really landed all the stops really well. It was simple, industrial, direct, stoic, not pretty, AND fun. I love that song.

“Control” follows up with a very Jawbox-esq guitar part. I loved Jawbox’s harsh utilization of upper string parts and this song aims to evoke some of that. Chunky, simple chords lay the foundation. A one note vocal pattern brought the track to life. That is a tactic I want to run with in the future. Control alternates between two parts. The aggressive whispering at the end feels sarcastic and pushes it over the top.

Another draft tracklist for NDTA. Estimated date late 2022

The title track, “Never Doing That

Again”, lived many lives before settling on what it became. Every version I could feel it getting closer and closer. One main melody that concludes, a repeated closing mantra of “I’m never doing that again”, a Final Fantasy-esq synth part in the middle before fizzling out. The fuzz guitars come blazing in with open chords that make the whole song explode. There’s a power to this track that has led it to become my personal favorite on the album. It’s very thematic. The song is one simple passage that loops; it contains the catharsis and energy of a rock chorus but in one consistent, simple blast. I love the feel of the vocal melody on this and how it’s placed. This is something I want to hone in on moving forward.

“Headlights” explores a quieter alternative to the heavier cuts that the album provides while still staying in the same territory. Though quieter, it retains a desert rock heaviness. It feels very Massive Attack. Again, its essentially one simple passage. "Checking on the sides like" at the end is my favorite part. I love when a song can repeat its chorus or refrain in the end and fade out on it. Ending on an “endless chorus”, so to speak. Headlights doesn’t have a chorus but the ending definitely pulls from that rule a bit. I was hesitant about putting this song on the album but it’s grown on me recently. It blazes its own candle in the track list but still fits in well. It's another gear for the sound to switch into, and I’d love to do more songs like this in the future.

There were days I didn’t feel like working on main songs. On those days, I would sit down and make something instrumental. It was a way to keep me working and focused, but to not force something that had to be on the album. It was a casual way to chase the soundtrack styles I admire more directly. “In Transit”, a swirling soundscape, and “This Isn’t Mine Anymore”, a bunch of e-bowed guitars layered together, are two cuts that were made on those days. While I aimed to blend my love for soundtrack music into the main songs, I think I’d like to tighten that blend even more moving forward.

Originally, there was a song called “What You Wanted”. It would be a head on alternative rock song with a chorus. I thought I wanted one song on the album that played to the rock traditions I kept avoiding. In the end, I ditched the idea (in the next project, I do want to have one song that is a bit more head on. NDTA just wasn’t the time or place for that yet). Instead, “What I Wanted” closes the album: an instrumental tune that feels like a lost track from a Final Fantasy game. A rhodes key part and a melody played on an electric guitar carry the tune, until mellotron choir and oboe parts join in. A celeste rings out in the end, slowly fading as the album comes to a close. To bookend an industrial rock sounding album with something this acute sounding feels like a twist to me. It re-contextualizes the whole track list.

Final tracklist for NDTA, done in a notes app. Shows unused titles and tracks, batch of tracks that make up the "Helix Mixes" list. Estimated late 2022.

These songs make up the album Never Doing That Again. I played everything on it myself. The cover shows the title sort of scattered and disintegrated over a backdrop that bleeds and shreds between black and blue. I wanted it to look like Never Doing That Again and my name were written and erased and written over and over again, because that was what making the project felt like. I finished the album in December and published it in January. When I made Fahrenheit years ago, I started getting this feeling, this idea that I wanted to find a different way to make that kind of music speak. On Never Doing That Again, that sound I had in mind begins to take shape for the first time. Now, it's only the start. I think listening to these songs, the idea of what it wants to capture is front and center. The songs work really well. It avoids everything I've wanted to avoid, and more importantly it begins to achieve something in its own right. I think some of the production stuff I tried I'm still developing; this album had a very murky sound to it. Some of the stuff with the drums didn't land quite like I wanted it to. I blended live drums with drum machine layers which can be very challenging to layer and mix properly. That's something that will be refined on the next project.

Lastly, I love that it still feels like rock music. These songs give me a feeling that reminds me of the way I felt listening to Nirvana's In Utero when I was in high school.

The sound of Never Doing That Again is something I'm really proud of. It doesn't reinvent the wheel. I have never wanted to do that. But I can feel in the music that the songs come from a very pure place. It's all about where you come at it from. Though it may sound self-absorbed, I love listening to these songs personally and some of those rough cuts I shared in the Helix Mixes playlist. For heavy, grunge-flavored rock, it feels fresh to me as a listener. It feels like something made in 2023. Moving forward, it's all about doing more of everything. Keeping it simple, direct, industrial and groovy (such a goofy word, but it captures the light hearted nature I need in the music). I don't really know what comes next, you can never be too sure. But I've had some ideas I've bounced around, some newer and some older that I demoed and drafted during Never Doing That Again. I love the sound I've crafted for myself, and I'm excited to hone it further in time. I think the next project is going to be great. I think the sound is going to be there.

This process of making Never Doing That Again taught me many things. One of the really, really important things I realized was that I was always a songwriter first. I don't know if I could say I'm an established musician like the people I went to college with, but I write and play music in a way that I believe in fully. I do it the way I do it, I don't want to overthink it. I think my whole life led up to making Never Doing That Again. It mean fulfilling something that was years in the making from when I was 18 years old. These ideas I've explored here are my life's work thus far. I care about my work.

Music is reactionary to life. Coming from lived experience out in the world unrelated to music in of itself, the inspiration of life and humanity is the very thing that fuels the passion in music and creates song ideas. The road to Never Doing That Again ends here. But like life, the music goes on.

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