Thoughts on "Roaming Dragons" - by Hoagman
People have said there’s a lot of harmony on this album. The funny thing is, it’s not just a vocal thing. Harmony is all about things that complement one another. And in that sense the album represents a long history of collaboration with my brother, whose nickname “Bonesaw” seems off-kilter in light of the general feel of this album, so we’ll just call him Tim.
In fact, the volume level and instrumentation that “Full Service” is known for seems substantially at odds with what “Roaming Dragons” delivers. But I don’t really see it that way. I see the two sides of the sound complimenting one another. That’s why we’re not freaking out about how this “redfines the band” or anything like that. It’s all part of the adventure.
Take percussion for example. We knew we didn’t want to record a regular drum-set on this album, so we had to search around for the right “boom” sound to compliment the right “rattle” sound, the right “shake” and “snap” to compliment the right “jingle” and “jangle”. That’s why we ended up using things like brushes and chicken feed and pieces of wood, as well as more normal stuff like snare drums and toms.
I actually think that if there no vocals on this album whatsoever, you’d still hear plenty of harmonies in the guitar work alone. One of the things that’s funny about writing songs with Bonesaw (sorry, I can’t call him “Tim”) is that he never writes lyrics or vocal parts. I’ve come to realize, however, that he actually does, he just writes them into the guitar parts. His songs by themselves are so deeply harmonic. How fun is my job that I get to hunt inside his riffs and chord changes and pull out the melodies and the harmonies that lay waiting inside? If I listen closely enough, I’m usually able to find what he must have wanted the voices to sound like. And even what he wanted them to say. The lyrics to “Lately” and “Roaming Dragons” just sound to me like what his guitar is singing.
The story of our collaboration has mostly been one of him writing guitar parts and me writing words and melodies. But sometimes I write songs on guitar, and we included the specific song-writing credits on the back of the album because we both think it’s funny to see how the songs that I write the guitar parts for are so different from—but sometimes so similar to—the ones that he writes. But mine are more like thoughts, not songs, and the ones that are songs are based on simple chord changes. Songs like “The Owl Owns the Tree”, “Island on an Island”, “Minnows”, and “Kristine”. And with Bonesaw we’re talking about songs like “Roaming Dragons”, “Hallways”, “Strings”, and “Lately”. A.k.a, the best songs on the album in my opinion, because they represent that very specific and deep collaboration that we’ve arrived at over the years.
Speaking of which, you might be wondering why it’s just me and Bonesaw on the cover. I mean…this is still Full Service, but for some reason this turned out to be a brothers project. It doesn’t mean anything, it just means it was time.
One of the reasons it was time is because I had just lost someone very dear to me. And in this way, too, the album is defined by harmony. As I grieved, I sought the compliment, the harmony, to grief, which to me is music. And as I was losing a love, I sought and found a love, which is “Roaming Dragons”.
Making this album was all I wanted to do during this time, and in fact when we finished it I got very sad. Because even though as recording is around forever and we can always experience it in the present tense by performing it live, I knew that the late nights in the “studio” (which is really just our jam room—we recorded it ourselves) were over. Those sessions were my unconditional friends during a very rough time.
The good news is, we’re not a band that’s inclined to stay out of the studio for very long. So we pretty much headed right back in there and believe it or not we’re close to another release (in the more electric vain but not entirely without its lullabies and folk songs).
So enjoy “Roaming Dragons”, and I hope to see many of you on the “20 Tour” in 2011!