‘We all pushed for perfection on Morning Birds,’ says Finn Swingley, songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for The Embryos. The opening track of the record, National Absurdatory, is indeed an example of a perfectly beautiful song.
Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Swingley and songwriter, drummer and singer, Joe Daley about musical socialism and the creation of the new record, which will be released on Kool Kat Musik soon.
How did this record come together?
FS: The first session for this album happened in February of 2020. It was the first time we’d started recording the complete rhythm section at our new studio (Soapbox Music). I think we were all excited to record as a band with total control over the outcome. The songs from this session were Rattlesnakes, Someone to Hold Me, and The Funky Embryo.
Then, of course, COVID lockdowns started in March. For a long time, we were not really getting together to make progress on the record. Little by little, new songs were coming together. These were starting out more and more as individual contributions that we built up piece by piece.
A lot of painstaking work happened then, tracking and re-tracking parts. That “social distance” period impacted the outcome, resulting in quite a few more acoustic-based and introspective songs.
The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?
JD: We’ve ordered 25 CDs to sell online and at our shows. I would consider it a tremendous success if we sold all 25.
FS: We do it because we enjoy it and want to have a record of the music that we write. We consider each incremental thing a success, a good review, a new fan, radio shows picking up our songs or an appreciative audience. Unlike Zappa, we are not in it for the money.
How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?
JD: At this point, the opportunity to be creative and to have fun are the driving forces. I think we find songwriting and creating music as natural as taking a breath. It’s part of who we are.
FS: I think we all have a bit of a drive to continue to create. Even if there wasn’t a band, I do not doubt that each individual member would continue to write, record, or perform. We’ve all been doing this for most of our lives, and we keep learning more.
Speaking for myself, I try to trust the music. Songs either come fully formed in one go or get worked out slowly over a long period of time. For me, It’s rarely anything in between. I also seem to have streaks where a handful of new songs will come at once and then lulls where I don’t do anything new for quite a while.
As long as new things continue to come, I’m happy. If I do hit a writing block, you can use techniques to kick start the creative process. I certainly would be surprised if I don’t continue to write new music into old age.
When was the last time you thought, ‘I just wrote a hit!’?
FS: We all pushed for perfection on Morning Birds, with everyone contributing to multiple rounds of the process. Our bassist Brian wrote the tune. There was an initial tracking. Then, our guitarist George made some pretty significant changes to the arrangement and tempo. Joe came back and re-tracked the drums. We brought in the string players, who did a fantastic job. Then we went through numerous mixes and eventually re-tracked the vocals. We hired Brian Deck to do the final mix. We think it’s a hit anyway.
You can pick three co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?
JD: Oh man! The list is endless.
Ray Davies – genius lyricist and melody writer.
Lee Hazelwood – unique and legendary.
Harry Nilsson – among the greatest signers and melodicist of his generation. Why not work with the best?
Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?
JD: Certainly…yes. Radio programmers, writers, and bloggers are being inundated with new music. The advent of DAWs, Garage Band, and affordable recording gear have lowered the barrier for entry. Technology has thrown open flood gates of creative expression to anyone with a smartphone.
On one hand, it is an incredibly fertile period for musicians and artists at every skill level. On the other hand, quality control does not exist anymore. It’s a bit of a mixed bag.
You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?
JD: Hopefully, people will hear interesting lyrics, catchy hooks, and strong melodies. I think the element that set our songs apart is our collaborative spirit. Our uniqueness flows from our ability to work together on guitar parts, vocal arrangements, glockenspiel, or whatever, and make songs more original than they would have been if we acted independently—musical socialism.