A theme I’m playing with in my latest EP Old Haunts Volume 1, and for that matter any other volumes I might make, is how recordings can collect pieces of sound or ideas from different places and times and then mix them together into one moment. “I Guess Not” is in some ways the newest song on the EP and in other ways not so much.
It began as a microcassette scratch recording of guitar and melody from May 2003. I have tons of these “proto-songs,” but since tapes are an annoying medium I didn’t listen back to most of them until months or years later while at the same time capturing them in digital form, at which point I would decide if they had anything good in them or not.
Most of these proto-songs are very bad but some will have a hook or at least something interesting going on. Among this subset most don’t become fully realized songs, but a few like “I Guess Not” do. An even smaller subset of those go on to become “real” recordings.
I started this recording in September 2008 in a practice space with drummer Terry Kyte, who was in Open Choir Fire at the time. I had sent him a demo a few days earlier, then we met up I think in their space on Capitol Hill and ran through a couple of takes with me on guitar and him on drums. His part and performance were awesome.
A couple of months later my friend and erstwhile bandmate Sugar McGuinn came to my house and recorded bass on top of what Terry and I had done. He also played a few takes and was great.
Then nothing. I think in my head it had been a good attempt but not worth pursuing, either because I didn’t mic the drums well, or because I didn’t like the lyrics much, or because I didn’t get a good guitar take. So it sat on a hard drive for years and years… til last Summer, when I was looking for recordings to finish and came across it again.
At the time my wife and I had recently become a “waiting couple” for adoption, and one piece of advice we got was to find projects to work on while waiting. I picked “finish some old recordings and put out an EP as Sun Tunnels” as one project. Also I started occasionally running around Greenlake while the weather was nice, and I’d listen to mp3s of stuff while running to decide what was worth working on and what specifically needed to happen to finish each song.
“I Guess Not” needed new lyrics, a second guitar to join (and partly cover up) the one I’d recorded along with Terry (the guitar and drums bled together in the audio and so couldn’t really be separated), maybe some harmony vocals, an instrumental solo of some kind during the interlude, and better mixing.
In the end it got all of those things, as best as I could. Lyrically I kept some of the original lines from what I wrote in 2008 (or whenever it was) but bent them toward a new theme. I think the song now is about smartphones and how weirdly hypnotized we are by them in a way that might seem extremely strange to an observer from 2008. I think about it most every day on the bus how weird it is. We’re all staring at our hands.