Singled Out: Valentiger's Frozen Dozing
In 2005, I was living in an apartment with paper-thin walls (as most have). I usually prefer to play acoustic guitar, but I had dragged my old Peavey Bandit 112 there to make overdubs on some demos. At the time I was trying to write a song with a repetitive, sliding E chord and a melody over top that would be the focus of the song with a thumping rhythm section. It turns out open E major doesn't slide quite so easily, leading me to tune the A string up to B, giving me EBDGBE. This made the E chord playable with two fingers, making it much easier to slide up the neck in key. At any rate, I was going for a Sonic Youth-type song with a sort of Simon and Garfunkel melody. The alternate tuning allowed me to get "outside of the box," chord-wise, as it often does. Despite the amount of strange chords in the arrangement, I had gotten the music completely written in about 20 minutes before the downstairs neighbor was banging on her ceiling.
From there, the lyrics were a struggle for this song, not to mention the open, straight rock n' roll theme never seemed to fit the direction of the band in previous years. I spent nights in the apartment laundry room (where I could be "loud") with the working title "Hard Earned Gold," lines including, "Words are hard earned gold/Brighter than they show/If I could/I'd be good/I wouldn't have to try so hard." It was based on the idea that you'll never be able to say just EXACTLY what you mean. There's always going to be some better descriptive or context and it's quite a daunting feeling at times. The song was presented to the band, and we practiced it a few times but things never stuck.
Flash forward to 2010 and you'll find Valentiger in their most rock n' roll state to date, looking to write and record a 10-song record before traveling down for a few showcases at SXSW. We wrote, recorded, mixed, mastered and had the product back in our hands in half the time. "Oh, to Know!" is a very lean record, often described by the band as a "serial killer." It seemed "Frozen Dozing" had finally fit the bill, being brash and short. Other than the title track, I remember it being the one song all three of us were always excited to play, smiles every time. It was just loud, energetic and free, especially coming off a relatively heavy record like 2009's "Power Lines to Electric Times."
In the studio, we toyed with making the song longer or adding more vocals, but we decided it was its best at 2 minutes and 11 seconds. The band has had long songs in the past and we were looking to get to the point on this record. Even with it's stark ending, I really do think "Frozen Dozing" is great in the way that it leaves you wanting more. And so we went full-speed ahead with the arrangement, trying to make the 2 minutes and 11 seconds count. Scott and I worked hard to nail down those drums fills in the vein of The Jam and The Clash and we probably played the thing through for 4 hours in the studio, trying to capture that perfect kind-of-drunk precision. I believe at some point we started referring to this as "the magic." Eric was most excited to cut his bass on this track and I especially love his little 16th note fill before the bridge.
There were still no official lyrics when it came time for me to track the vocals and I literally spent days by my lonesome in the studio, writing and scratching takes. It finally came to me the sentiment needed to better represent the feeling of the song and I just kept picturing highway cars, lit up at night in fast motion. Where were they all going? To good times, bad times? I thought of the feeling I get at dusk on, say, a Friday night. And maybe the week had been so terrible but you're determined to "have a night". The term "frozen dozing" popped up from scattered papers of scrawl from the past - it was a match. I pictured my friends on a Friday night, listening to this song on the drive over to wherever they might find some good time. There's an uneasy, eagerness of the sun going down. You've felt like a zombie, frozen and dozing, shuffling through the days until now. You wake up and you're ready to go - it's clear. The vocals you hear on the record are the first take of the final lyrics. The only snippet left of the "Simon and Garfunkel" melody lies within the first line of the second verse. It's one of the most raw, uncut and truest vocal performances of the Valentiger rock songs. You can hear the grittiness of the vocal cords having been worked over all day. I really think we came the closest to capturing the all-around, "live Valentiger sound" on this one.
Looking back, I love how "fat" all the instruments sound as a result of blowing out our tape machine. I'm glad we left all the yelling that snuck into the microphones on the first guitar and drums tracks. You can feel how loud my amplifier was and how it was beaten ragged by that point of the record. We extended the intro on account of my desire to add vocals similar to The Pixies' "River Euphrates," but it ended up becoming the wavering guitar part you hear due to time constraints. I catch Joe Strummer in the vocal style and cite The Jam in the name of precision. The little, echoing vocal tails bring to mind Super Furry Animals and even the ending guitar lick might suggest a bit of Stephen Malkmus. There's a lot going on in these 2 minutes and 11 seconds, begging for an immediate replay - not bad for a song without a chorus. I like to think of "Frozen Dozing" as a glass of fine wine. Simple, yet complex and before you know it, you've drunk the whole thing.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!