23 November 2006

That 1966 vibe

My fingers were still smarting this morning after spending several hours last night sitting in with Perico, my friend Colin’s band.

I was sweaty-palmed beforehand, but once we got going, it was exhilarating in a way only playing music with other people can be. I was trying to remember how long it has been since I played with a real band and the best I could do was 1989, which is one of those facts I don’t like to admit out loud, so sad does it seem to me.

The experience was fascinating, apart from everything else. They are a tight unit, who rehearse every week and play around the place on a regular basis, and I was an interloper of uncertain talent. What seems clear to me now is that bands have sometimes very distinct personalities that only manifest when they play together. Put another element into the mix and you get another alloy altogether. That was what it was like.

I went into it with a clutch of songs I thought we could try out, not knowing of course which might gel. As is the case with these things, the results were surprising. I thought I would be proactive, since they were looking to me for direction as to where we might go. So I started out with distinct feelings about tempo, feel, and bits or arrangement. But these were only starting points, as songs began to seem like they were too slow, or fast, and the band spontaneously created something unpredictable.

What came out was frequently mellow and open, bordering on the psychedelic, as we stretched out on songs like ‘Norwegian Wood’. It wasn’t until later that I realised there was a good reason for this. That song, for example: obviously it was inspired by Indian music, and I know John Lennon used to play it around the D chord shape with a capo on the second fret. I discovered a while ago that if you place the capo across five strings, but not the sixth, you get a fake Drop D tuning, with the low E string making an effective drone. Place another guitar and bass on top, playing around with the E tonality, and you get a distinct 1966 vibe happening.

Without meaning to, several of the other songs we played had open or unresolved chords, like The Church’s ‘Under the Milky Way’, Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ and Tom Waits’ ‘Hold On’.

Music as therapy indeed.

No comments: