Track By Track: Single Twin
Ex-Deloris frontman Marcus Teague is Single Twin. ‘Marcus Teague’ is the debut album for Single Twin. To allay, or perhaps exacerbate confusion, here’s a ?track by track? by MARCUS TEAGUE for ‘Marcus Teague’ by Single Twin. The album was recorded and mixed by Teague himself over a period of six years, in his Melbourne home using only GarageBand and a single Rode NT-1000 microphone.
?Fish In New Leaves?
One of the bummers about recording on GarageBand is that it’s really hard to mix in. I learned a while ago that I don’t like my quiet stuff recorded ?properly? in a studio, but doing it on a program not designed for acoustic recordings means you have to just guess most of the time. A nice trade-off though (when it happens) is that there’s usually happy accidents that make the final mix – whether there’s other song fragments floating around; removing things would upset a balance that would be too hard to correct; or you just can’t see it and forget about it. Or just can’t be bothered doing another pass because the whole thing’s too clunky and chewing up your hard drive.
A “final mix” is on shaky ground when you’re recording off and on for six years or so anyway, ’cause you kind of forget what you’ve actually done. Or what you were trying to do. You move through naivety, excitement, boredom, disappointment, maybe hatred … and then a year later you open up a badly named file and go, ?Oh yeah that’s good?, and none of those feelings are associated with it anymore. You can hear it almost like a listener would. Which is maybe why the record – and this sentence – took so long.
This song is in two halves, one about an event occurring simultaneously in two people very far away, the second about what reactions then fill the absence that that event introduces. An explanation which is longer than all the lyrics of the song.
?Came Home Dead?
The morning after a particular conversation, I sat up in bed one day and wrote this song from start to finish. That pretty much has only happened three or four times in my life and those songs are usually winners. They come after a long period of not being able to write anything and nothing makes sense and you think everything sucks, but in hindsight you see that all crap was leading to this ?easy? point. Yeah. ‘Came Home Dead’ is partly about being very far away from everything and juggling with a great power over a glass-top table video game. And how some things are granted a certain awe or mythical status’like say, Stonehenge. And placing that on more mundane things. Like, the folklore and magic of the Pyramids bestowed upon the loading dock of a fruit shop in Doncaster. Or a kitchen. Which – when you break up with someone or someone dies – kind of happens to certain places anyway.
There is an opera singer singing on this who lives over the road and who doesn’t know she’s singing on this. I recorded most of this song over a period of late nights and the practice of just jamming in bits and pieces here and there to see what happened. So like her part, there are other things going on in the song that I didn’t see coming but here they are.
?Dirty Sleeves In The Salty Water?
I borrowed this banjo not knowing how it was tuned and this was the first thing I played on it. Which made me think, ?Yeah, I can play banjo now.? But I can’t play anything else on it, as it turns out. Every instrument has at least one interesting thing waiting for you the first time you pick it up, but not necessarily anything else. It was a bit out of tune, so I had to tune every other instrument to the banjo, which meant that later on I couldn’t tell what the chords were supposed to be – making it difficult to teach anyone I get to play with me. Places included in this song are: the look-out of a restaurant in Mount Dandenong, a yard in a Chris Ware comic, the back section of an illegal hi-rise apartment in Elizabeth Street, and a half-imagined diorama of a cork-floor room in Frankston North with plastic on its couches.
?My Silken Tooth?
I was reading a horrific book that has a beautiful, nutso sequence in the middle, where the protagonist is hurt and doesn’t realise he’s hallucinating. Which, like nearly every song I write, infuses somehow with one or all of the four close friends of mine who each died at comically precisely intervals in my life. Party times. I’ve tried to avoid that influence over the years but it’s inescapable and I realise now just kind of what I do.
Even though I’ve spent a long time layering stuff on a computer for some songs, all of them have at least one element that is as true to me as possible. This partly comes from the fact that it’s next to impossible to edit finger-picked guitar in Garageband, so the guitar take always has to be a single take played from start to finish. Which is hard, especially when you’re recording in a house, when a car going by or a phone ringing or it raining can ruin a take. Or just your mic placement is all over the shop. And if you mentally focus too much on those things, you can reach a point where you just get disgusted with edits and affectations and adding effects, stuff like that. And so you just want to capture something as dry and unaffected as possible.
This song is maybe the only time in my life where I literally sat down on a chair in the kitchen with my guitar, wrote the whole thing in about an hour, and then went and recorded it in the next hour and it was done. Which was pure enough to me that, for days I agonised over whether to put reverb on the vocals or pan the guitar even a little, working myself up to the point of thinking that if I did it would be a cop out; that I’d be an imposter, trying to be make something divorced from who I physically am. Which is dumb, considering songwriting’s all stories anyway. But also ties in to why I called the album my own name.
For me this is a continuation of the last Deloris song ‘Woah Oh’ on our final record Ten Lives. In that song I got into the idea of things being reduced down to a single element, and so then if it that element irrefutably exists, then it still exists in the past and future and everywhere, all the time. Which is a crap appropriation of an idea I read once, but which was fun and absurd and made a lot of sense to me while trying to marry it to a four-minute pop song. ‘Wandering’ is, like I said, a continuation of that, whereby in each verse, the narrator imagines themselves as a single moving element in a bad scene, as a way of propelling themselves forward into the next, hopefully better one. Which is in itself, a circular imaginary tool. Of all the sounds on this song, the one I’m probably most proud of is the constant floor tom throughout its entire length that I did in one first take with no editing in a middle bedroom in Carlton North.
?Get To Love You?
Sometimes when I introduce this song I talk vaguely about a time I was on tour in Bunbury, WA. After shows that town pretty much gets (or at least did then) shut down, so it was a ghost town this night we’d played. We were drunk and the only place open was a pizza shop, and because we had misguided alcoholic energy to burn we vaguely tried to steal the lights from the awnings there. And ever since then ?pizza lights? has been in three of my songs.
I often have a handful of ?placeholders? or something that I shuffle around in my head, settings where I ?see? where my songs take place, and outside the pizza shop in Bunbury, WA, at about 2am is one of them. There’s a few more about driving at night, places near where I grew up, people rooms, pubs, that sort of thing – all I picture kind of watery like in a dream. This was another one of those songs where I had to play it from start to finish with no mistakes. I got lucky and happened to be recording the best version of it I’ll probably ever perform. Which is good. Love songs can’t be cheesy. Lewis Carroll, ancestors of the Polly Woodside, people smashing jugs in a front bar and the influence of Matt Hensley appear.
?The Blow (Fell Out The Window)?
This was another fingerpicking song that I had to play from start to finish and it took me hours and hours. I remember it was really humid and through take after take I was sweating onto this old nylon acoustic guitar and could see the wood changing colour under my drops of sweat, and in between trying to zone out and not pay attention to whether my fingers were squeaking I was mainly hoping the sweat wouldn’t stain the guitar while I waited for the take to finish. There’s some good sounds in this one, something that makes it both light and dense at the same time.
This is about three different things and how placing them side by side in a song forces them to share. I had to give the banjo back this day, so I recorded it really quickly and then for ages I completely forgot I’d done it. I like the bass.
The only song here that is a true lament. I also thought it was funny having a sad, quiet song, with the line ?don’t do drugs? in it, sung by its impotent narrator. I recorded this one so quietly that it was really hard to add other instruments over the top. Especially when ?having just one mic and one input – you’re recording a drumkit one drum/hit at a time. I was a bit nervous about how the timing of the drums waver, for a while. But I got over it. Matt Voigt, who recorded Deloris a few times, told me that when he was recording Cat Power’s Moon Pix, that on ‘Crossbones Style’, her timing was so all over the shop that when Jim White came to lay his drum tracks down, Voigt had to manually dial in delay all through the song just to try and sync up Jim’s attempts at time-keeping with Cat Power’s bad guitar playing. Good story.
I sang and played this at the same time into the one mic. I added the electric guitar part a long time later and wasn’t sure about it until it clicked while listening to it super tired one night in a supermarket carpark in Albury. This song is about darkness and pine needles and someone who realises they’re a fuck-up, the process of which helps them realise that what they’re wanting doesn’t require them to be a fuck up.
?Splinters And Seeds?
The only song not recorded at home and which has someone else playing on it other than me. I had the lyrics kicking around for a while and I was staying at my friend Matt Blackman [Charge Group, ex-Purplene’s] ridiculous warehouse space in Sydney, where he has all his music gear set up most of the time. A friend was hassling us both for a song for a compilation album she was putting together, and by this time the deadline was in a few days. I suggested to Matt we do something together, as a way of us both appeasing our friend simultaneously (hi Leigh!). Matt had to go out for the afternoon and I was flying back to Melbourne that night, so he set up his recording rig for me in his spare room, I came up with the guitar part and then recorded about four run-through’s doing it and the vocals live. Then left. Sometime over the next week Blackman chose one take to lay down his guitar part on, so I didn’t know at all what it sounded like until he’d finished it for me. Turns out he made it 100x more beautiful and evocative, and pretty much negated us having to ever do anything together again. And the song’s about not having anyone to do anything with.
####Single Twin’s ‘Marcus Teague’ is out now via Remote Control. A national album launch tour is in the works for July/August.