This is a collection of stories behind the songs on my third EP, Love Bites. It is available for purchase here.
Thursday at 7
If you’re a returning member of the family, you know that the first track of A Night In The Life Of… is also called Thursday at 7, and it features a similar TV commercial styled track. That was something I came up with on a whim, and thoroughly enjoyed pulling it off. It didn’t get as strong a reaction as I’d hoped, but I didn’t really care, cause I loved it.
So it didn’t take me long, once I had the Love Bites theme in my head, to realize I needed to do another one. One that was at least slightly romance themed. In the last installment we had Timmy causing trouble, but in this installment, we introduce “Sam”, the teenage step-daughter. What happened to Timmy? Why does Mom sound different? Well, I’m glad you asked.
I really like the idea that Vampire Step-Dad isn’t so much a specific person, but more of a concept. Like, Major Dad. It’s not that there’s only one dad that’s a major in the world. Many families could be dealing with similar situations. And so I like to think that there could be hundreds of Vampire Step-Dads out there. And I hope to showcase their different lives in each installment of Thursday at 7. Yes, I plan on doing more. As many as there are releases.
Mike Doll returns in this installment as our Voice Over / Announcer. Mike has a history in radio and television, and he has been kind enough to loan me his voice for my silliness. This time I went to his house to record him, and when I arrived I realize he had a very open floor plan, and so everywhere we went his voiced echoed. Unwilling to invite myself into his bedroom closet, I suggested we try doing it in my car.
So there we were, parked in front of his house, he in my passenger seat, holding a recorder, doing lines. I wish I’d have gotten a picture. It was quite ridiculous looking. When his neighbor walked past, oh, the look on her face…
Sam and James were played by Beverly Sylvester and Sam Groesch, respectively. Yes, it was odd for Sam to play James, while Beverly played Sam. Made directing wonderfully confusing. Even more odd was the really awkward feeling of asking teenagers to act as if they were making out.
Fun fact: Sam’s Dad, Mike Groesch, played saxophone on Breaking Curfew on Sweater Weather.
Talitha Minton played “Mom” in this installment. As she delivered her lines, I thought to myself, “Man, she’s gonna make a good mom someday.” That scolding voice, yet it still projected a caring nature in it…it was perfect! Two days later, she informed me that she was pregnant with her first child! My ears are like little weird shaped psychics! Go figure!
The script itself went through a few variations. There were a couple alternate jokes in place of “What can I say, he’s DEAD sexy!” They were as follows
“What can I say…“
- “I like ‘em tall, pale, and handsome!“
- “I like a man in a cape.“
- “He’s DEAD sexy“
I’m sure you understand why we chose C.
There was also a couple other jokes that I threw out, like this one:
Sam: Why do I have to be home by sundown?
Vlad: I like to know you’re safe at home before I go…to work.
There’s a reason I pump in laugh tracks. One is authenticity. The other is to trick you into thinking my jokes are funny.
[CUE AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]
The First Date
I’ll probably say this again before this series is over, but this is one of my favorite tracks on Love Bites. Funny, cause it came from such humble beginnings…
The opening arp pattern and bassline were written at my work desk, on my tiny little Korg Nanokey controller. I keep it in my laptop bag for emergency music writing sessions. It’s terrible for trying to actually play lead lines and whatnot, but it gets the job done when nothing else it’s available.
But before the music is the wind chimes. This idea actually came from the very END of the song. During the long chord at the end, the delay (echo effect) on one of my synths was giving off a weird, almost clangy sound. It kind sounded like distance church bells. I really liked it, so I wanted to accentuate it. Turned out the best way was with some wind chimes. I really liked the organic sound of them up against the synthetic…synths… so much so that I threw them up front, too. Nice way to start and end the track. As I grew to love this song more and more, the story line of it started to build in my head.
The chimes up front are like the butterflies in your stomach, when you first see that special person. Then the song itself builds to the climax…it made me think of, well, a first date. Butterflies at first site, then they catch you staring, oh no! But they smile back! Then the flirtation begins. You ask, they accept. Before you know it you’re holding hands, exchanging smiles, laughs…and at the end of a wonderful night, looking over the city as the sun sets… the first kiss.[CUE HELLA-SWEET GUITAR SOLO]
The Skating Rink
Every relationship needs to stand the test of a night at a skating rink. The excitement of careening around a rink on top of a slick surface at high speed, coupled with the anxiety of grave personal injury…there’s no better way to figure out if someone is right for you.
The Skating Rink is easily the poppiest song I’ve ever written. It’s so saccharin I was a little bit embarrassed by it, but I liked the melody so much I couldn’t let it go. I’ll be honest, part of me was a little afraid I’d lose some cred amongst those more inclined to the dark side of the wave, but then again, this whole EP is pretty easy on the ears, so I probably lost the choosier folks anyway.
This track really came from me wanting to make a song like “The Neverending Story” theme. Something about those joyful arps on top of lush pads…it gets me every time. I think the end product turned out pretty dissimilar, but that’s OK, cause I like it!
The opening piano part was me testing out my new piano skills. I decided to spend some of the A Night In The Life Of… money on some online piano lessons, and this was my first attempt at really playing a double-handed part on anything I’ve put out. I really liked how it started out the otherwise upbeat song with an earnest, heartfelt feeling. So you know this isn’t just a party, this is something much more.
I think my favorite part of this song is the bridge. It just has a really sentimental feeling to it. When all time stops around you, and you’re locked on each other’s eyes, and there’s no place in the universe you’d rather be. That’s a good feeling, a rare feeling, and it should be prized. And then the party bursts back in and we’re enjoying life.
And then, of course, a guitar solo.
I may have an MO…
The Promise Ring
The Promise Ring is the song that made me realize I needed to put together an EP about love and loss. It sits in this weird space, both sad and earnest, but also hopeful and warm.
I’m gonna be totally honest with you, I don’t have a great story behind this one. It was a weird one to write, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.
I can give you this, though. My very first livestream, where I very clumsily write the synth solo for Promise Ring. You may find it boring, you may find it entertaining, but you will certainly find it.
This song was the last one added to the EP. I’d actually had another song planned, recorded, and nearly finished, but I had to scrap it at the last minute. “Why?”, you ask. Well, I’ll tell you if you’d stop interrupting. Geez…
Originally I had a duet planned for Love Bites. I’d written a good song, wrote lyrics (something I’d not done in a LONG time) and even recorded most of my parts, but I couldn’t get a female vocalist in time to make the release date. So, in a last minute decision, I took an old song of mine, and “updated” it by making it sound older than it was. Ah, the kookiness of making retro music.
The name of this song is apropos, because that’s exactly what it is. I wrote this song (with lyrics, not included) to propose to my wife. Spoiler Alert: She said yes.
I remember sitting on my bed with her, I played her the song, and then we sat there for a minute or two because I was scared stiff that I was going to screw something up. And of course, my hesitation was what made it weird. She later told me she was thinking, “Man, this would have been a really good way to propose.” After the LONG pause, I pulled out the ring and asked her to marry me. This was back before the most important thing in a proposal was social media impressions, so there is no actual record of these events, sorry.
But The Proposal as you know it was made completely from scratch, designed specifically to tweak our favorite nostalgia buttons. It’s interesting taking an existing song and adapting it, especially when it goes from having lyrics to not. I often wondered if people would notice that the melody sounds almost sung. Cause, well…it was, originally. But turning vocal parts into synths, backing vocals into guitars, it’s like building a something out of LEGO: You’re reinterpreting something with what you have (or what you choose to work with.) It’s an interesting experiment.
The Cough (where a little blood comes out)
I first started putting this song together before the Love Bites concept had come to form. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with such a sad sounding song. But it’s existence is what helped me devise the story of Love Bites, the tragedy portion of the romance.
But who cares about all that crap, right? You just want to hear how I got that killer saxophone, don’t you?
OK, FINE! You can be so rude sometimes…
No joke, this song had NO sax in it until 2 days before I sent the track off for Mastering. It was completely last minute, and a huge surprise to me. Let me tell you how that came about.
Way back in June of 2016, I noticed on Instagram that a touring sax player, Chris J Hampton, was liking some of my stuff. So I went out on a limb and asked him if he’d be interested in doing some sax work on one of my songs. He was super receptive, so I sent him off an early version of The Cough (Back then with the temporary title of “Sad Pop”). Then, I didn’t hear back from him. I had to assume he didn’t dig the song, and couldn’t find a good way to let me down. Stalking him on Instagram I saw he was touring again, so even if he did like it, he didn’t likely have the time.
So time goes on, I let it go, continue on as normal. Five months pass, I’m wrapping up the mixes for Love Bites, and early one Sunday morning I get an email. It’s Chris, and he’s sent me a bunch of tracks full of his gorgeous sax playing. This is literally two days before I was going to send the final mixes off to my Mastering Engineer. (Gustav Brown, I highly recommend him.) Couldn’t have been more of a surprise.
These kinds of happy accidents seem to be piling up as time goes on. It’s been such a wonderful journey, pulling all this off. There’s plenty of stress (mostly self-induced) but it’s all made worth it with things like these happening, and people like yourself showing your support. I can’t thank you enough.
Ugh, sorry, I got all mushy again. Maybe it’s just this sad song making me tear up?
It may also be worth mentioning, in case you don’t understand the title of this song, it’s a reference to the film trope of the “Incurable Cough of Death“. When you see a character cough into a tissue, and, mysteriously, there’s blood. It’s as cliche as it gets, and I thought it was a wonderful way to mark the “turn” in tone of Love Bites. Sorry if you’re now stuck in the rabbit hole that is TVTropes.
I wrote this song during Thanksgiving. For those outside the US, this is the holiday where people travel to share a meal with their family. Nevermind the original meaning, for most it represents a time to spend with family.
So you may be thinking, “Yeesh, this is a pretty dark song for a holiday writing session.” And you would be correct!
The past couple of years I’ve been struggling with depression. In the past, I was the kind of person that would say things like “Have you tried being happier?” But a couple years ago I noticed that, despite having a well paying job, a beautiful wife, two awesome kids, a perfectly adequate house…I just couldn’t be happy about anything. I spent nights sobbing on my couch, wondering aloud why I couldn’t enjoy my wife’s company, or want to spend time with my kids. Shit got DARK, yo.
So Thanksgiving unfortunately fell right in a spot where I was trying a medication that didn’t work for me. So while everyone else was spending time with their loved ones, I was holed away in my room, making sad music on my laptop.
It’s weird, the dichotomy of being unhappy, while enjoying its fruits. Had I actually become the cliche tortured artist?
This song was also a departure for me, because, while I play plenty of guitar on my stuff, it’s not often the main vehicle for a song’s melody. I’ve managed to pull together a few nice solos, but I wasn’t sure if I was able to write a guitar part that really carried the weight of this song’s subject. I was also a little afraid some people just wouldn’t get this song. Like they would take it as some sort of masturbatory guitar diddy. But, I’ve had a few people tell me it’s their favorite on the EP, and I’m pretty proud of it.
But I do hold one deep regret. I wish I’d called it “The FUNeral.” Live and learn, kids.
So those are the stories behind Love Bites. If you enjoyed them, I’d highly recommend you join my mailing list, as these are the kinds of things I like to share in it. You can sign up, and get free music, right here: http://vampirestepdad.com/free
Thanks for reading through my stories. They are a big part of why I enjoy making music. Each song has a meaning, but it also has a story behind it.
Keep being awesome, kiddo.