Anatomy of a song – Sun Tunnels “Fruit Fly”

In 2001 I wrote a song called “Fruit Fly” and then recorded it in 2008, here it is now:

This is its story.

I built it on an A chord shape with embellishments that follow the main vocal melody, which transitions to A7 and D for the bridge, then G and D for the chorus. Not actually those chords since I tune down a whole step, but those shapes.

I have a memory of playing it at the Red and Black cafe in Portland in 2001 and two women at a table telling me they liked it. I looked like this at the time.

I still wear that shirt to do yard work


“Fruit Fly” dropped off my set shortly after and I don’t think I played it for a while. I remembered it in early 2008 apparently as that’s when I started recording it in my basement in Madrona.

For the recording I did some things I usually don’t. I didn’t want to bother the neighbors so I kept things quiet in that house — no drums, no loud amps — unlike in Wedgwood where our neighbors didn’t seem to care. Anyway, for “Fruit Fly” I tried programming drums and using an amp simulator for the guitars. I used this thing:

But I think just for the amp simulation, and used other effects boxes for overdrive and delay.

I recorded lots of guitar parts and then spent time editing and mixing them so they did interesting things without competing too much with the vocals. The main/rhythm guitar part, i.e., that simple chord progression with embellishments with which I played the song solo, has a delay on it here to give it a driving kind of quality.

The long outro guitar solo was new, I never did that before the recording. I think I was listening to a lot of Tears for Fears at the time so I like to think that part was inspired by them somehow. Maybe?

I programmed the drums using Sonar’s MIDI “piano roll” which is kind of awkward but it worked. I used samples of the drums from when I recorded Andrea Maxand’s “Here Comes the Revolution” from Ball of Wax #4. This was a bit interesting because I used one mic for that and so the kick and snare both have a lot of hi-hat in them. Old timers call that “bleed.” I call it art.

piano roll. Worst sushi ever

For bass, I thought I’d try programming that too, so it’s also a piano roll MIDI composition. I borrowed some kind of synth keyboard from Sugar McGuinn and picked the “Jazz Overdrive” preset on it, set up the MIDI track to drive the keyboard and then recorded that. I’ve heard it called “printing” when you record something on one track that’s sourced from another track playing through some outboard stuff. Printing.

bass piano roll. I see now the sushi joke would have worked better here

Instruments and vocals were tracked between January and March 2008 and then the song was pretty much done. But it wasn’t! I put an early mix on SoundCloud in 2012 but for whatever reason I didn’t really finish it until this year 2017, when I added some handclaps, did some final mixing and then had it mastered by Rachel Field at Resonant Mastering.

I don’t remember why the title “Fruit Fly,” I think it was a random working title that didn’t get changed. I rewrote the lyrics a few times. I think it used to be about worrying that your desires are transparently obvious and foolish so you should anticipate rejection, and now it’s still about those things but the chorus says to not waste time worrying about that and just get on with it, whatever it is.

And now it’s done. The recording sounds good (Rachel helped a lot) and represents the original song while also being very different from what it sounded like solo. It’s not perfect but spending any more time on it would be ludicrous.

What next? “Fruit Fly” is on a 5-song EP I’m finishing any second now called Old Haunts Volume 1.

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Arduino Morse – pt. 3 – then no more

I’ve been meaning to write something about this for a long time, but didn’t, so let’s do it now. My last iteration of the Morseo project (on Github) includes an example that works with an LOL Shield to write out alphanumeric characters and blink visual representations of Morse code dots or dashes at the same time, to display a message. It’s completely useless but was kind of fun to do at the time, here’s a video of it in action:

I’m starting to work on some more useful Arduino projects, I’ll try to write about those.

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My town rules

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Ball of Wax 47

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What they have done is a desecration

“What they have done is a desecration, a foolish and vindictive act of vandalism, by which they betrayed all the best and most valiant labors of our ancestors. We don’t want to accept this, because we cannot accept that the people, at least in the long run of things, can be wrong in our American democracy. But they can be wrong, just like any people, anywhere. And until we do accept this abject failure of both our system and ourselves, there is no hope for our redemption.” — Kevin Baker

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Reading Carrie Brownstein’s memoir made me think back to 1999 and (long defunct — don’t go there).  Maybe I can recreate some of the playlist using youtube, with some help from

I wrote about before — it was a low-bitrate Shoutcast mp3 stream run by Portland’s Rich Burroughs.

Here’s another article I found about it.


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Book Review Revue Pt. 6

I won’t apologize (again) for once again not publishing one of these blurb collections in over a year and a half because, one, who cares? and two, who cares? I read these to think of birthday and Christmas presents during the year.

Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory (1984)
I picked this up to see how Banks’s “straight” fiction compared to his sci-fi. I didn’t like it much, it’s ultra-dark and sick and I wasn’t in the mood for it. I guess I could have stopped reading it.

Ernest Cline – Ready Player One (2011)
A dystopian vision of a not-to-distant future of hellish wealth disparity where people escape their crappy lives by plugging into a massive virtual community that’s somewhere in between World of Warcraft and Facebook. The plot is the Bourne Identity meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was very entertaining.

Barbara Tuchman – The Guns of August (1962)
I know this book is a famous and popular history of the beginnings of World War I through its first month. Therefore I’m not likely to say much about it that you don’t already know. I overheard a coworker talking about it so gave it a shot, and liked it quite a lot. Depressing though.

Eric Schlosser – Command and Control (2013)
Speaking of depressing, Command and Control is good if you don’t want to feel secure about how the world’s nuclear arsenals are designed, stored, and handled. The book is written around a central narrative regarding the accidental explosion of a Titan II missile in Arkansas in the 80s, with the history of atomic weapons, their safety mechanisms, deployment around the world, strategies of use, and the stories of various other “near miss” incidents weaved in. You get the impression that the odds of a “full yield” accident taking place, possibly triggering a war, are very high, and that it’s strange that one or the other hasn’t happened yet.

Nicholson Baker – House of Holes: A Book of Raunch (2011)
If you’re sexually repressed or overly religious you might not like this. Or maybe you would? House of Holes is a series of bizarre wet dream vignettes that ultimately sort of tie together but really showcase Baker’s amazing facility with language and his weirdo imagination. Very fun and also uncomfortable to read in public.

Hector Tobar – Deep Down Dark (2014)
Remember the Chilean miners who were trapped in that mine for a while? This publicist-approved retelling of that event fills in all the details of the human drama you forgot you cared about. It’s well-written and engaging, but ultimately feels like a last attempt to cash in on what’s kind of a boring story (no pun intended!).

Peter Mehlman – It Won’t Always Be This Great (2014)
Peter Mehlman used to write for Seinfeld and this is his first novel. It was alright.

Jonathan Waldman – Rust: The Longest War (2015)
For a history of human attempts to prevent rust (and other forms of corrosion) that reads a bit like someone’s master’s thesis, look no further. It’s pretty interesting and for a bit of controversy, touches on why companies that use BPA in their products (like can manufacturers) think it’s just great and you should stop worrying about it.

Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
As the title implies, this famous book gives you advice on how to not come across as a jerk so that you can be more successful. It sounds exhausting.

James Bowen – A Street Cat Named Bob (2012)
James Bowen was a recovering drug addict and street musician/newspaper salesman when he found a cat that helped him stay straight and sell more papers. Kind of a sweet story, nothing wrong with it.

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