Baker’s Dozen #1: Atmosphere

Greetings & Salutations!

Yes, this is entry #1 being posted after entry #2, and everyone is just going to have to be Ok with that.


This song was recorded for SoN’s first album in 2001, but its origins actually go back further, to the mid-90s and a band called The Rain Kings. Rick Kreifeldt (the band’s guitarist and chief songwriter) and I wanted to do a song within a song, essentially two sections of instrumental with a brief verse-chorus sandwiched between.

I had the lyrics already, and they were written specifically to fit a blues figure. Since that vibe had begun bubbling to the surface during the instrumental sections, we decided that we should go full-on blues rock and use those lyrics for the vocal section. The intro and outro jams were originally much longer, but we pared them back a bit by the time we were playing the song live, and even further when SoN got around to recording it.

My favorite thing about the song was its versatility. In The Rain Kings, we found that it worked well anywhere we cared to employ it in a live show, whether grabbing attention as an opener, ramping up to a big finale, or anywhere in between. And because it straddled its various genres pretty well, it also followed me through every band I’ve been in since — whether pop, blues, jam-band, metal, whatever, Atmosphere has always seemed to fit the bill, and take on new facets every time I went back to it.

I think the version the first SoN album turned out pretty well, especially in comparison to some of the other tracks, but it had certain weaknesses: some performances were a little too loose, my vocals could have been better, etc. But the thing I felt it was lacking most was the the crunchy power that it always had as a a live number — in short, it needed to rock more.

And now it does, thanks to stellar production (not to mention awesome guitar tones) from Matt, a propulsive, commanding drum performance from Tommy, and urgent, soulful backing vocals from Marie. For my own part, I spiced up the bass line considerably from the original, adding little side-riffs and nuances that I’ve developed from playing the thing live for so long, and also trying to tie the intro riff to the main body of the song more strongly. Helping in that endeavor was the great phat tone I got from the Thunderbird that my friend Robbie was kind enough to lend me for the session.

I never was happy with the vocal on the original recording (as was the case with most of the songs on that first album) so I worked hard to improve it on this one. I’m still not 100% satisfied with it, but I do feel that it’s far better than the older version — more natural and more musical, sounding like me while staying in key. As one anonymous listener opined: “Most people probably wouldn’t be bothered by it,” which made me chuckle. Sometimes that’s the best assessment one can hope for, I suppose.

Atmosphere is currently up at our bandcamp site, streaming for free or downloadable for the low low cost of a single American dollar. We believe it’s a fine addition to your digital SoN collection. And though the album it from will never see print again, this song will soon have some re-recorded friends and neighbors in its company.

Wait, what?

Stay tuned for details…



Baker’s Dozen #2: Head Over Heels

Greetings & Salutations!

Why “Head Over Heels”? Why us? Why now? Why is this post entitled “Baker’s Dozen” and why is it labeled as entry #2 when there has been no entry #1 as of yet?

The answer to the last question will have to wait for a few days, but Matt Meldrum explains everything else below. Read on…

This is an exciting time for us here at SoN World. This is the first time we’ve ever recorded and released a (non-Floyd) cover tune! Obviously Thom and I have deep roots in the prog rock world, with heavy influences from Floyd, Yes, Rush, Marillion, etc. So it makes perfect sense that our first ever cover recording would be……Tears for Fears???

Ok, it may not be blatantly obvious from our music, but Thom and I are both pretty big TFF fans. For my own part, I came across them when someone gave me the “Seeds of Love” album as an example of great engineering and production, which it certainly is. That acclaim also is shared with the “Songs from the Big Chair” album; in fact I think “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is one of the best pop arrangements and productions ever made.

So why in the world would I want to take on a song from a band with such great street cred for engineering, and one that is an established hit to boot? Well, I’ve listened to “Head Over Heels” many times and while love it as a song, I always wanted the studio version to be a little faster-paced and, for lack of a better word, bouncier. I kind of imagined more rock-oriented version, not unlike the Ataris cover of “Boys of Summer”. So we took to the task of speeding it up a bit and basically swapping all the guitar and keyboard lines to see how it felt. I think it turned out to be a fun rock tune both to play and to listen to.

My biggest challenge came in trying to reproduce decent lead vocals. Not sure I want to take on a song originally sung by Roland Orzabal (or Curt Smith for that matter) ever again. The sound of his voice is so unique that it is hard to compete with, and it turns out that the song itself is just plain hard to sing, especially when sped up. Hopefully the vocals get at least a passing grade, but the rest of the instrumentation turned out to be exactly what I hoped it would. I asked Tommy to give a little swing to the drums and I love the results. We of course had to top it off with background vocals from Marie Estrada to give it the extra spark that it needed.

I’m pleased with the result and hope others will have a fun time with it too. So, with that, happy Valentine’s Day from Sons of Nothing.

See, we can do kind of lovey-dovey songs on occasion. We just have to rely on someone else to write them.