Singled Out: The Values' Civil

The Values

Electronic Pop Rock Soul outfit The Values recently released a new EP called "Civil" and to celebrate we asked Mason Taub to tell us about the title track. Here is the story:

We had been working with this LCD Soundsystem-inspired loop in Ableton, but we had piled too much stuff on top of it. Sometimes when we're nerding out in Ableton we can get a little overzealous when it comes to counterpoint, so we have to dial it back after the initial demo. After a few weeks we stripped it down to just the loop and the drums, and the first line of the song, "So lock the door behind me / I left you my doorkey" came out when we were improvising. It sounded like a lyric about someone leaving, and suddenly I (Mason, the lady half) found myself writing this sort of monologue of what I would say to Evan if I were walking out on him after being together romantically (and musically) for four years. We decided to draw on details from our everyday lives to tell the story, and then "Civil" just poured out of us.

The story of "Civil" is a story of form following function - while technically the lyrics didn't come first, once we landed on the story of the song, it became clear that the music had to follow the lyrical journey. We wanted the song to be both wistful and triumphant.

We live together (our bedroom is our practice studio), so I made a list of all the things that would have to be figured out or divvied up in our fictional breakup - who gets the dog, do I say anything to his family, how do I make sure to claim my favorite coffee mug, etc. It was hard in the beginning to let Evan hear the lyrics - especially one moment in particular where I had tried to think of something petty to say, as I wanted there to be one sort of uncontrolled outburst of emotion from this fictional me who's just "trying to be civil". (Evan: "I still find the lyrics of this song to be difficult to hear. Mason really did an amazing job of capturing what she would say to me if we ever broke up. The song takes me to a pretty sad place sometimes.")

Once the lyrics were written, we realized that they read almost like a run-on sentence, building in intensity. We wanted the music to mimic the steady upward trajectory of the lyrics. Letting that initial loop play throughout the entire song, we chose a few moments to build the song, and in those moments we would let the bassline evolve into a more complex version of itself, or drop in some new percussion tracks, or a synth glide. Evan usually plays guitar throughout our songs, but this time we decided that he would be working our Akai APC to build the song, playing with the pitch knob on the clave sound we introduce later, He doesn't pick up his guitar until the outro. That gave us a nice moment to open up into some catharsis after building up all this tension. He also gets lots of whoops from the audience when they see him hammering on the neck of his guitar with one hand while affecting the pitch knob with the other. Ultimately, the song finds itself back where it started with that original loop, which I think is a surprisingly poignant ending.

In the studio, we knew that the song would live or die by the bassline, so in addition to using the Novation Bass Station patch we use live we layered it with an Oberheim Matrix 6 analogue synthesizer. Oliver Ignatius, who runs Holy Fang studios in Brooklyn, had so many fun synths and toys for us to play with. He also layered some bass guitar on top, which he himself played, to give it more punch. For the drums, we mixed a sample from the Converse Rubber Tracks library with our Korg Volca Beats drum machine which has become the backbone of our live sound. Oliver was amazing to work with - when it came to the vocals, he pushed us to find a really intimate starting point so that the vocal performance would grow with the song. In the end, everything we did with "Civil" was about supporting the emotional evolution in the song's lyrics.

We're so happy with how this song came out and we both feel as if this is the best song we've written thus far. We've set the bar pretty high with this one and we can't wait to get back in the studio to try and top it!

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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Singled Out: The Values' Civil