C.J. Vickery teaches high school media, but all other times, he’s a musician, illustrator, filmmaker, and writer who does lots of things and finishes very few of them. Currently animating short films and composing the music for them. Vickery told us about his song “What Are We?” and delved into the composition, inspiration, and technical recording of the track.
Q: Describe the composition of “What Are We?”. What inspired you to write this song?
A:“What Are We?” is a driving barroom anthem with a relentless rhythm section pushing the melody for the entire 3:20 run-time. I composed this song as an ode to the romantic endeavors that go unnamed and the confusion and unspoken expectations that almost always surround them. Taking cues from grunge, modern alternative, and classic hard rock, I sought to express the dizzying sensation of getting swept into a roundabout with a relationship that is caught between conflicting levels of intimacy.
This song originated from the punchy stabs of the open A7 chord played with the 7th on top. Once I had the opening line, “I lay it out and I am met with only apathy/ If we’re not Romeo and Juliet, then what are we?” The rest of the song fell quickly into place. The single note A minor pattern of the verse contrasted nicely from the C major progression of the chorus to keep the song from wearing thin, while the sardonic tone and invocation of the Shakespearian tragedy fit immediately with the dark sense of humor regarding the topic and the frenetic pace of the song overall.
Q: Describe the recording process of the track.
A: Once the song was written, I moved to my standard recording workflow. I run Logic Pro 9 on my home workstation and use Native Instruments plugins for most of my signal processing. I play and sing each track in the song except for the drums, which I compose with midi using Native Instruments plugins. I perform the song all the way through on each instrument, usually tracking 2-4 layers of guitar (American Standard Stratocaster, in this case) and 3 layers of vocals (recorded on a Rode NT-1) to beef up the sonic presence. I then export a mixdown and leave it for a while before mastering it in a new track to bring it up to broadcast quality and share it on my social channels.
Learn more about C.J. Vickery here.