muted tones

december 05

don't go stop

Melissa Rodenbeek writes, performs and produces as one half of The Harvey Girls. The band's latest release, The Wild Farewell, is available through SVC Records.

curator log:

Done! (dang)

january 01st, 2006

Dear muted tones,

A few last things before I go:

We could spend a lot more time mixing this (and remixing and remixing and remixing), but time’s up. We will certainly be revisiting it on our own time. For now, please forgive any problems.

The lyrics are below. It’s an attempt to write a work song in the vein of “Five o’Clock World,” “Working in the Coal Mine,” or “Working for the Weekend,” but differs from these slightly in that in the end the character sits alone on a nude beach. So, it sort of turns out to be more like “Ya Ya” by Lee Dorsey than “Coal Mine,” and it’s not really a cautionary tale or anything, just a tale.

The “woo” in the last half of the song was recorded during a KU football game. It’s our neighbors screaming after a touchdown. We live close to the stadium, and recording crowds became an obsession for about a month for us, but it takes up too much space on the hard drive for a few seconds of pleasurable bits, so we’ve cut it out.

There are a few samples used; please feel free to contact us at theharveygirls(don’tneedyourwienerenlargementtechnology) if you’d like to know what they are. (Yes, “meanwhile I’m still thinkin’” is completely stolen.)

Thanks to Josh Dumas (who will be toodling along shortly with the song for you) for the invitation, and to the unbelievable talents of DJ Sku, El Peeps, and of course, my own Phil Spector sans firearms, bad hair, or morbid jealousy, my dearest Hiram. And thank you for reading and listening.

Don’t Go Stop

And here it is, what you’ve always heard from those who’ve managed to turn their postfab homes into bitter fruit lined with nothing less than what you’d die for. Little comfort from the TV’s glow. You know I can’t complain; wouldn’t help me if I could.

Swim swan swim eight hours and back again to a sung song dumb for a vacation, for a vacation.

And all the girls are shopping at Dillard’s trying to look like women in their first real jobs, stealing hateful glances at those with the same shoes they paid for yesterday. If California is a state of mind, then my brain has gone south on a wire, so tell me mirror what is wrong? I’ve tasted enough salt of the earth to know I can leave. Let’s throw off our collars and go to where the retirees grow thick with routine. We can take pictures of ourselves pretending to be royalty.

Swim swan swim eight hours and back again to a sung song dumb for a vacation, for a vacation.

Sitting alone on a nude beach is more awkward than you’d think.
(Meanwhile, I’m still thinkin’.)
Sitting alone on a nude beach is more awkward than you’d think.

Your friend,

here’s where the snares came in

january 01st, 2006

Dear muted tones,

I try to keep a generally clean tongue. That makes a genuine collapse into obscenity a sharper tool, as it was meant to be: scissors on the social fabric, or a truly powerful curse against a powerful foe.

That said, recording live drums is a motherfucker.

As promised, Brent Piepergerdes (aka El Peeps) spent hours, and I mean hours, trying to match his beautiful human drumming to the both inhuman and irregular beat programmed for him to follow. As you know, canned drums are nice placeholders and occasionally perfect instruments to express one’s cold alienation or icy despair, but in the hot funk sea we’ve already created, they sound like like pure ass. So, El Peeps to the rescue.

After much cussing, cutting, and pasting (and realizing that we hit a button on the compressor for a certain part and forgot to put it back on), we dubbed our way through some loopable patterns. There were also some instruments in the way, namely a single note piano line that was interfering with the new timing of the song. It was a mess, and it took hours of painstaking effort – with Peeps playing and replaying, us recording and rerecording, and then the mixing. The mixing! We don’t like to complain, muted tones – the fact that we’ve received competitive prizes for it in the past should not fool you, we don’t choose our gifts, we are chosen by them – but our recording/mixing station is, again with the language, a large odorous pile, as from the hindquarters of a Yeti. Files take 10 minutes to open, hours to offload to backup, the monitor is wavy and headache-inducing – it crashes crashes crashes as predictably as surf against the shore – it hurts our tender feelings every damned day.

But the song, muted tones. The final result. It’s almost done, we can feel it, and Hiram’s been singing and I have to say I’m in love. With him, as always, but also with his voice, which I loved the first moment I heard his songs. He’s sleeping in the other room now, after spending a day fighting the glitches and anti-funk forces. There’d be none of this without him, muted tones, so I’ll give him a kiss and tell him it’s from you. I know you’d want it that way.



january 01st, 2006

This is what I look like when it’s 3am and things aren’t going well — disheveled and crazy.


december 31st, 2005

The battle-weary Hiram. The anti-funk forces are strong in this world.

Happy Holidays!

december 25th, 2005

Happy holidays, muted tones! This is our favorite holiday picture, taken a few years ago by our friends Joel and Emily (well, I think Emily) of their beautiful daughter. It’s definitely how we feel around this time of year — tired — while wearing foil on our heads.

We’ve pinpointed the song. We’ll use two songs that we’ve worked on this month with a bridge created by the wonderful and talented DJ Sku. Scheduling mishaps have kept Brent from recording drums, but he’ll be over soon. Here’s what we’re looking at so far: the first song is based on the idea of “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie mixed with a bit of Burt Bacharach’s lovely female chorus sing/screaming “Don’t, Go, Stop,” confused by their emotions for the struggling junkie. The second half is based on our decision to move our songs (or at least our next album) into the danceteria, or maybe just a dimly-lit bedroom. We’re not quite sure yet, but the song is sounding a lot like Protection-era Massive Attack if King Tubby were at the controls instead of having the Mad Professor remix it. And it’s all brought together nicely by Sku’s bridge; a finer creation hasn’t been built in the last fifty years, able to withstand wind, rain, and the old computer Hiram’s been recording on lately constantly crashing at the most inopportune times.

Well, hugs and kisses, muted tones. I’m off to watch A Christmas Story at least twice. We hope that you get what you want for the holidays. If you’re into buying things, we suggest the One Kiss Can Lead to Another box set. Sublime stuff, muted tones. But, really, just hope for some peace, relaxation, and harmony and you’ll be fine.


I didn’t mean to leave you lonely, muted tones

december 20th, 2005

Dear muted tones,

I’m on 64 different medications. My blood pressure goes up one minute and down the next. No, I’m not okay…how’re you?

I write this, of course, in the hopes that one day Mrs. Betty Butterfield will google herself (if it’s a sin, you just try casting the first stone) and know that all I want in this world is to work with her, because we come from the same place. It’s called Wal-Mart.

Anyway, muted tones, I meant to talk to you before this, really I did, and if you can explain to me why I took December, I’d appreciate it.

But all hope is not lost! I have been working on a song for you, and not by myself, either, because you wouldn’t like that at all. You see, I should be upfront with you: you’ve had people talk to you who have dazzling ability and musical training, who have deposited beautiful songs in your belly, and if you are a finicky mistress now, I can hardly blame you. Two years ago, I started writing songs with Hiram. Before that, the last time I had done so I was in my teens, and they all had titles like “You’re a Total Hypocrite.” So I drafted Hiram, and some of our other friends, frequent Harvey Girls themselves, are helping too. Brent Piepergerdes is going to be providing live beautiful drums. Brent and Hiram were in a band called Teriyakis for many years, so they do this sort of Kirk/Spock mind meld that’s deeply gratifying to watch, if a bit mystifying.

I also have the beautiful and talented DJ Sku as a guest star. He’s been recording and playing out with us for a year, but he’s in high demand around here, and so we covet every minute we can get. There he is in the picture, recording tonight in our dining room. I love watching him play.

So things are moving apace, don’t worry! The song so far is meaty beaty big and dancy, and that’s all I’m going to say about it, because I don’t want to ruin Christmas for you (unless you’re Jewish, muted tones, in which case I want to say that I totally support the war on Christmas, which all but the most naive people know is all about our increasingly depleted myrhh reserves).


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