3/18/18 - The Stomp.

This past week I met with McKay Garner, who is providing additional mixing and audio consultation for Rise. Our goal? To finish an album version of Great Highway's most popular single to-date, The Chase. 

This final version of the song, which adds live saxophone and new percussive and bass elements, is the culmination of a long fun story. As many of you know, The Chase was turned into our very first professionally-filmed music video, shot at the famous Bergerac bar in the SOMA district of San Francisco. (You can watch the awesomeness here.)

What you may not know is, before the original single was released and the music video produced, The Chase was just a scrappy 2 1/2 minute instrumental I created in the studio using old jazz samples pasted over hot hard EDM percussion. At various times I called it "The Stomp" (because it had such a stomp-y upbeat movement to the drums), then "The Sky Stomp" when I added one of Sky's favorite Gramatik samples to the end, and then "The Great Highway Stomp" when it was time to present it to the group. I played it as an instrumental to everyone, to see if the group was interested in this new EDM / swing fusion sound. 

Once there was enough interest from the members in giving it a shot, I wrote some upbeat swing-y lyrics with a lot of catchy slang from the '40s. Sarah took a shot at a 2nd draft in which she toned down the slang and silliness and made it edgier. And then we began to add all our signature elements - guitar, violin, live synth, stage sampling. Now it's one of our best songs of all-time, and I'm really proud of it.

Take a listen above to the beginning, the very first instrumental version of The Chase from 2016. Don't forget to get outcha dancin' shoes! Stomp away, my friends.


3/10/18 - Let's pause in the garden.

These are some pretty tough days, but today was a reminder that sometimes, good times can still be found, at least in the music.

At a recent mixing session, we polished off the beautiful, dramatic ending you hear above, to Sarah's new song Winter Snow. In this climactic outro, Sarah repeats the final chorus phrase with power harmonies behind her, accompanied by driving violin and guitar. It's a musical moment that fulfills one of my own secret nagging desires: to write a bittersweet, string-intensive lush "English garden" of sound a la Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields. 

When the track is fully produced, this section will be accompanied by extra FX and an array of electronic drums which will give it that signature dance beat that is a trademark of all new Great Highway songs. But I wanted you all to hear it stripped down, without the effects and percussion, so you could enjoy this lush little forest of sound that the group created in the studio. 

Vocal Solo & Song by Sarah; Strings by Makiko; Guitar by Sean; Drum Pads by Meredith; Synths & Production by me; Harmonies by Meredith, Makiko and me.


3/7/18 - Starting with the end.

The above track is the first of many tidbits of music I'll share on this space, as the band works hard in the studio to produce our upcoming album. This particular bit represents a new take on an album ending we're working on. Most of our past records have gone out with a bang, usually with some vocal opus or a rockin' good time. But Rise is a softer, deeper record. We talked about the need to append an outro to our record that summarizes our feelings - the melancholy, the heartbreak of 2017-18. It is a musical tribute to our personal struggles with cancer, the dark state of politics in the country, the sad state of affairs in the world. 

It's very hard to write lyrics about these things - I try to in the titular final track, which I'll share with you in a future blog entry. But in the end, the band agreed that what we needed was something instrumental. That's a challenge for us because we're lyric people, and we're used to expressing ourselves through words as well as music. But sometimes, in our darkest hours, words can't do justice to the feeling. 

Take a listen to the outro of Rise - designed to be appended to the tenth and final track. It's a five-piece instrumental ensemble, the first we've ever done, featuring Meredith on cymbals, Makiko on violin, Sean on guitar, Sarah on piano and myself on the saxophone. No synth, no electronic drum samples. Just us, raw and unplugged. 

3/1/18 - It's not just a cheesy line.

Rise is truly an album made from pain.

When I started my electropop group Great Highway in 2012, it was essentially a recording / studio project. None of us knew how to book shows or market records, so we hung around my old apartment in the Mission District, San Francisco and layered synth and guitar tracks over programmed drums. Each year we released a full-length album, from 2012's Good Morning to 2015's Industrial Love Scene, and then we stopped.

We started playing big clubs in the city like Rickshaw Stop and Bottom of the Hill and getting offers to book festivals like this year's upcoming South by Southwest in Austin, TX. 

Then last year, I got sick for the first time. And amid the worst throes of my first fight with Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer, I decided along with my bandmates to start producing our first record in 3 years.

It will be released this Spring, amid the worst of my 2nd fight against cancer. Compared to our earlier records, it is a gritty, deep, immersive soundscape, with new live violin and saxophone, and new raw yet synthetic effects.

I want it to be my opus. My triumph.

And if things should truly go south this year...I want it to be my legacy.

Join me as I trace the development of this upcoming record in and out of the studio. Check back here regularly to get the latest updates and hear demos as we draw closer to the big release.

Look for a first entry soon.