Singled Out: The Alumni's Detroit

05/18/2011
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Today Brendan O'Byrne from The Alumni tells us about "Detroit" from their new EP "No Order," and forthcoming album "Education". Here is the story:

"Detroit" is the first single off our album "Education." Originally written and demo'd as a slow ballad, the vibe of the original demo just wasn't feeling right. I really can't explain the feeling we had, but while writing, we would just look at each other and know to try a different approach. Ultimately, we would run into the proverbial "brick wall" of songwriting. We believe that when running into this wall on every direction you take with a song, it is best to scrap it and move on. This keeps our minds positive and productive. Our lead singer, Andrew, experimented with faster tempos and time signatures creating different moods and feels, It evolved many times becoming something completely different every time, the only constant component was the chord progression. The lyrics, melody, beat and bass all had changed way too many times.

The demo for Detroit was almost exactly what you hear on the recording. We tracked it in our apartment using Cubase 5 and Native Instuments Elektrik Keys. Because the song had evolved into a bit of a Motown shuffle, we decided to use the sounds of the 60's and 70's, probably the most identifiable is the Wurlitzer 200a electric piano. We used a synthetic plugin for our wurly sound on the demo, but ultimately picked up a used one for the record (from Detroit of all places) We just had drums, bass, keyboard, and a vocal track, we thought it sounded great and even considered releasing the demo on the album. Like most of the songs we demo'd, we had no intention of putting any guitar in. As you might imagine, this lead to some arguments about the role of the guitar in this album. However, once in the studio, we noticed the gaps that it would leave. So our producer, Jim Wirt, probably spent 2 days perfecting the right guitar tone for this song. It turned out to be the simplest: A '59 Les Paul through a vintage Vox AC30. It gave us a tone very similar, I thought, to the guitar in "Let it Be", very fat and ambient, not too heavy, layered and overdriven, sounding more like a horn section than a guitar. Recording sessions for "Detroit" (recorded at Metalworks Studios in Toronto, ON) like other sessions for "Education", were very short. Our creative process was over, the parts were written (minus the guitars), so it was only a matter of laying them down, deciding which parts to use and adding a bit of color and finishing touches courtesy of Jim.

"Detroit" had evolved so much, yet the theme of this song has never changed. It is about the interesting past that the city has experienced, including the Detroit Riots of 1967, the incredible music born out of Motown Records (The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) and the economic ups and downs that has been a part of its culture for a very long time. It carries a message of hope and is from the perspective of people who are on the outside looking in.

As usual, by the end, it was one of the least favorite songs on the record by the band because it had been creatively re done so many times, yet our fans seem to identify with it the most.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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