“Further Into Songs” is a PHW feature that traces the roots, influences, and creative process behind my current favorite songs. The best part is that the words come directly from the artists themselves, so there’s little of my hyperbolic nonsense.
With its swooning back & forth boy/girl vocals, honeyed melodies, and slyly biting lyrics, “Get Buried!” might just be 2011’s quintessential indie-pop song. You hear sometimes about songwriters being overcome with inspiration and banging out tunes like this in 5 or 10 frenzied minutes. That wasn’t exactly the case for Chris Donlon of The Creepy Crawlies, who below expounds on the somewhat labored creative process behind this seriously re-playable jam:
Some people will ride a wave of inspiration and write a complete song in 5 minutes. This has maybe happened a couple of times for me, but usually I seem to let time bend the original inspiration, and warp it into something a little different.
A good example of letting time be a songwriting partner is “Get Buried!”.
Around 2008 I had recently acquired my first electric guitar by a stroke of luck. My uncle gave me a free guitar he had picked up from Craig’slist, but the catch was that it was deconstructed in a box, so I had to re-build it. I replaced strings, springs, tuning heads and more and ended up with an electric guitar that played fantastically. It’s almost embarrassing to admit because of how basic it is and how long it took me to discover, but playing an actual electric guitar was very liberating and I couldn’t wait to write songs with it. (by the way If you ever want to fall in love with an instrument build it yourself)
Also around this time I was listening to a lot of formative shoegaze bands like Black Tambourine, The Field Mice, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Henry’s Dress and I was feeling the urge to try and create a loud, straight-forward pop song with interesting textures. I went scavenging through my storehouse of song ideas and came across a melody I had written several years ago as the poppy ending to a slow song I had never recorded. It was catchy and simple – “let’s let those bad feelings get buried again”. Kate and I talked about it and we decided that it deserved to be a chorus and have it’s own song, so I extracted it and began to write new verses around it on my new crush of an electric guitar.
In the original context the song was more genuinely celebratory. The Bad Feelings had been defeated. While I wrote the new verses, in a process kind of like finding a letter you had written in a time capsule and responding to it with where you are today, I knew I wanted to write something that would contrast and complicate the chorus. The lyrics are pretty direct I think, but in essence they sum up a period of time where I was working a lot, feeling like a slowly shrinking speck in an indifferent universe, and worried that life was passing me by.
As for denial, here’s what I’ll say: hypothetically you are headed for a cliff. It is unavoidable. Do you spend your time staring at the cliff, agonizing about how far off it is, how rapidly you’re approaching, and what it will be like to finally go over it? Or do you perhaps close your eyes, enjoy the sensation of the wind blowing through your hair, accept the adrenaline thrill of the ride and turn the radio on?
Like the songwriting, the recording also took place over time – from 2008 to 2011. I recorded a demo and the demo simply evolved, layer by layer, month by month, in fits and spurts, into what it is now. There are 3 layers of guitar: one clean, one electric, and another with a kind of envelope filter effect on it. The drums are electronic and have the original samples and a layer where I sent the drum signal to an amplifier and recorded the output, a process called “re-amping.” There are two bass parts playing together throughout the verses. Two keyboards: one ambient and a hammond playing the more melodic parts. As I learned about different recording and mixing techniques I’d go back to the song and tweak it, but I always kept in my mind the idea of getting “buried” in the sound, to have tectonically shifting textures creating an immersive experience without losing a “pop” feel. Basically trying to create as big a sound as I could from my bedroom and with my limited engineering knowledge.
So yeah I’m a fan of letting songs grow and ripen at their own pace, whatever it turns out to be. I often think that if I have anything, it’s not enormous talent, just enormous patience.
MP3 :: Get Buried!
(from Denial Is A Free EP. Download here)