From the files of Pete the Heat
Where do I begin? In my life so far, I have recorded a total of 3 full length albums with my various bands and solo projects. The album we are currently recording will be my 4th, and by far the best album I have been a part of.
It’s been a hell of a ride. Looking back over the past month, I think we’ve all learned a lot about the recording process and ourselves as musicians. Leading up to our studio time, I was stressed. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I was eating and drinking the right things to help my voice, I was going over all my lyrics, fixing things up here and there, sometimes re-writing entire songs. I didn’t know what to expect from the guys at I.V. Lab, but I knew one thing – I wanted this album to be great, and I wanted to give every bit of energy and focus I had to make sure this was the best album we could possibly make. I want the music I make to be something I can be proud of later in life. Whether or not this album brings us any success as a band, I just wanted to know I gave 100% and did the best I could do.
Fast forward to last night, finishing up my lead vocals for the last 2 songs we had left, and finishing up guitars for good. I was feeling loose, and I was in a great mood. All of our songs are sounding better than they ever have. It’s crazy to think that we’re actually almost finished with this thing. There have been some frustrating moments over the last few weeks for sure, but in the end I DO feel like I’ve given it my all, and I DO think this is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life.
In the first few days of tracking, we laid down all the bass and drums, and Trevor and Devin, as usual, killed it. After that, we did a week straight of rhythm guitar tracks. Heading into that, I’ll admit, I was cocky. In the past, I’ve always knocked out rhythm guitar tracks in one or two takes. Then again, in the past I’ve never been recorded by Chris Harden of I.V. Lab. Chris has one of the best ears for rhythm, and he was the toughest critic I’ve probably ever had on my rhythm playing. It turns out that I was almost ALWAYS rushing. There were some days that I would just leave the studio fuming, but it was all for the best, because now I feel like I have learned something about my playing which will certainly make me better.
Speaking of things I used to do in one take – the next week was lead vocals. Or, it was SUPPOSED to be finished in a week. Chris pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed though. Even when I thought I was nailing songs on 2 or 3 takes, Chris would make me do about 10 takes (greedy bastard) just looking for that “perfect performance”. Well, it worked, and the songs are really slamming. The only downside is that I’m not used to pushing my voice like that! 10 takes of one song is basically a full concert’s-worth of singing! So I came in thinking I could do 4 songs per day, it ended up being only TWO songs per day. As a result, we had to stretch out our recording time a bit more, but it’s all worth it in the end.
Now it’s so rewarding to listen back to all these tunes, knowing all the hard work that went into each and every one. From playing rhythm guitar tracks over and over again while Chris says “rushed a little bit on that one”, to singing my 10th take of a huge chorus trying not to blow out my voice, to Greg playing a sweet iPad solo while Trevor and I jealously stand over him and watch. We even found some time to relax and enjoy ourselves – making beer runs at the end of a long Friday session and knocking a few back with Chris and Manny.
And really, if I came to any sort of deep realization during this whole process, it’s that I need to find that time to relax and enjoy myself. Music has been my passion and my dream for most of my life. But I can’t worry about whether or not my band is successful or who does or doesn’t like us. What’s important is that I don’t take experiences like this for granted. Spending a month in a recording studio is something a lot of people never get to do. As much as I try to treat this band like my job and push myself to give it my all, it’s important to take a minute to try to enjoy myself as well. Of course, that can be hard sometimes when you’re on your 10th vocal take of your favorite song and it just doesn’t sound right…
That must be why God created beer.
“Do not be fooled by the name. Molehill is more like a mountain. Combining elements of progressive rock with pop sensibilities and emotionally charged lyrics, this band delivers a symphonic listening experience.” - Jesse Menendez, Vocalo, 89.5FM Chicago
The first time Peter and I strapped in and felt Devin hit the groove, we knew we had something. We didn’t know if it was any good but it felt right. We met ‘the sunshine’ Greg. Since then, we’ve driven all over the country and experienced dirty motels, great people, missed exits, and the freedom of it all. It’s therapy, I really don’t know what we’d do without it.
So here we are, releasing our third set of songs. It’s just as exciting as it ever was to release music into the wild. ‘Hearts on Fire’ seems to be an appropriate song to put out there. I don’t think we’ll ever get over writing songs that feel good in large spaces. Greg came in with the searing lead synth, Peter wrote lyrics inspired by the Euromaidan, and Dev and I banged out a rhythm track. It’s simple and straight to the point, except for those lava rocks J threw into the mix...That’s the charm of writing a simple song. Some of them just come easily.
Some songs, or should I say arrangements, don’t come so easily. ‘Reverie’ started off as a three chord bridge in one of Greg’s songs. What followed was ridiculous in some ways. I think we have somewhere around 300+ emails dedicated to this song and its direction. Dozens of recorded versions later, we got to Nashville and threw a bunch of it away. Get away from your computer and interact, suddenly everything is more visceral and real. The process was worth it.
‘Old Soldier’ started in late November 2014 after I learned that my grandfather wasn’t doing so well. His reflections on his experience in WWII and remarkable life stay with me every day. It only seemed appropriate to use the last voicemail he left me during the outro. When I sent the music over to Pete and he returned the ‘option 5’ melody idea for the verse, I cried. This song is meditative to me. It combines Pete’s ethereal vocal with that West Coast hip hop beat we love so much.
I think we made something that’s honest. We hope you enjoy it.
Chicago, IL | January 2017