Singled Out: Compass & Cavern's Play Your Cards Right

Compass Cavern

Denver alternative rock duo Compass & Cavern just released a new track called "Play Your Cards Right" and to celebrate we asked Will Timbers to tell us about the song. Here is the story:

I (Will) was in the middle of an especially bad period of writer's block. I hadn't written a song in months, and barely felt passionate about anything specific to even attempt writing. So I tried a new technique. I got my loop pedal to create a background effect with bell-like sounds from my guitar. I started playing harmonics at random times in a short loop, but I didn't get the chaotic sound I imagined - instead, I had four notes that were extremely ordered. It was a cool, unusual order of notes that fit perfectly into a 7/8 feel. That ended up being the main hook in Play Your Cards Right (the one that comes in at 0:11), with the lead synth doubling the part. I even named early demos of the song "Harmonic Loop" because it helped me remember it.

I kept the loop going and started playing chords over it until I came up with the chorus. I loved the idea of going from this sweet, bell-like sound to a wall of aggressive, distorted guitars, so I went with some heavy, low chords. One of my favorite tricks to make a guitar sound enormous is to play power chords on the A string with the low 5th on the E string. Guitarists will know what I'm talking about here! Through the magic of the physics of sound, this makes the guitar sound like it's hitting the root note an octave lower, but it doesn't actually seem to crowd the bass frequencies. 311 introduced me to the idea first, and it was perfect for the huge chorus I was imagining for this song.

When I had the chords down, I started playing around with melodies. I wanted something to match the aggression of the guitars, so I tried out melodies higher in my range. I came up with the melody and the line "how do you sleep at night" almost simultaneously because of how well the two fit together. There's something about those words that worked with the rhythm and notes, and my vocal range specifically, so I kept them. I ended up writing all of the lyrics around that one line.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself right here!

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Singled Out: Compass & Cavern's Play Your Cards Right

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