Friday, December 21, 2007

Sweet Diss and the Comebacks

Coming from Ellensburg, Washington, Sweet Diss and the Comebacks are one of the best pop punk bands in the, forget that. Sweet Diss and the Comebacks are one of the best bands in the world. Heavily influenced by bands like Green Day and the Travoltas but mixed with just the right amount of influence from Brian Wilson and Queen as well, Nate Reinauer, the band's front man and song writer has been creating perfect pop songs for years.

Sweet Diss and the Comebacks have already released a full length album and an EP, and are releasing their first "official" album soon. I absolutely love Sweet Diss and I'm glad I was recently able to ask Nate all about Sweet Diss, his music, and the new album, I hope you enjoy reading it and downloading the songs below.

Eric: Could you explain a little how Sweet Diss and the Comebacks got started? When and where you formed?

Nate: I started the band with some friends of mine almost three years ago in Connell, WA. We needed a drummer, so we searched around myspace until we found Lori. About a year later it was down to just me and Lori, and we eventually found Nick and Bryan to play bass and lead guitar. We've been going strong ever since!

Eric: Most people probably notice your power pop influences, but Sweet Diss also has a few acoustic and piano songs, what kind of thing do you go for when you're writing a song?

Nate: I usually just try to write a really catchy pop song. The easiest way for me to do that is to put a power-popish skin over it, but sometimes a song will just sound better if you strip it down to piano or acoustic guitar. Most of the time I don't try to write piano songs or acoustic songs... it's just whatever I think might sound best with the melody and chords.

Eric: Sweet Diss and the Comebacks released their first full length album "Coulda Been Worse" in 2005 and sold it at shows, and is also available for free online. And you've also said "Screw Itunes", so does Sweet Diss ever have any intentions of selling their music, either through distributors or online?

Nate: That is an awesome question. I have to think for a minute...

Eric: Haha, Thanks.

Nate: When we finally release our "official" debut album that we're recording right now, we're probably going to start out just selling it at shows, and possibly through iTunes. I can see how that conflicts with the 'screw iTunes' thing on our myspace page, but that was mostly a response to all the Office fans wanting us to put "Pam Pong" on iTunes. I thought it would be lame to make people pay for only one or two songs and not a whole album, so that was my response.

All the recording I do I basically do at my house for free, so I also don't think it's right to make people pay for that when it didn't cost me anything to produce it. The new album coming out was done in a real studio and was actually kind of expensive though, and we'll need a way to support ourselves when we go on tour after releasing it. If a small label comes along and wants to release it for us someday, we'd definitely consider that too!

Eric: That is a good answer!

Nate: Thanks! It was a really good question, and I had to think about it for a while.

Eric: I'd like to ask a little bit about that first album, its an extremely polished first release and from what I understand it's completely independently recorded and mixed by yourself, what was it like to record your own album and mix it? And could you explain how you did it?

Nate: I think one of the main things that makes that one sound really good is the drums... they are actually fake drums that I programmed with my computer in FL Studio. Drums are one of the hardest things to make sound good, so when you start off with fake drums that are sampled to sound like extremely polished real drums, you are off to a good start, sound-wise! That may seem like cheating, and it probably is, but it's just a lot easier to record that way, and much cheaper. In our defense though I usually consider the songs with fake drums "demos" and never sell them (which kind of goes along with the last question). Also, the new album will definitely have Lori playing real drums, which is why I consider it our real "official" debut album.

For the guitars and bass I ran them through a BR-8 zip disk recorder from BOSS to get the distortion and other effects, which then runs directly into the computer. For vocals I used a dynamic mic, which I now know are actually used mostly for live performances. Nowadays I use a condensor microphone, which sounds a hundred times better for recording.

I mixed everything with Adobe Audition (formerly Cool Edit Pro), which is basically a way cheaper, way easier-to-use version of ProTools. I'd never mixed anything before, so I definitely learned a lot. I spent a lot of time listening to my favorite CDs, trying to match how the levels sounded on those albums. To this day I think I mix vocals way too quiet, but oh well.

Eric: I also wanted to ask about my favorite song off the first album, Something New, in a lot of ways that song represents a lot of the best things about Sweet Diss, the catchy melodies, the hooks, the harmonies and a cappella parts. Could you explain a bit about that song and what it's about and how you wrote it.

Nate: That song basically came from just trying to write a super catchy song. I had been toying around with the lead riff for a while and just kind of built the song around that. Also, I wrote that song when I was first trying to figure out how to fit lots of harmonies into pop-punk songs, so one of the first things I wrote was the 2nd verse a capella thing, and I made the rest of the verse around that. I remember having trouble coming up with a harmony part for the last chorus, but I think it turned out okay. One of Lori's favorite drummers is Travis from Blink 182, so I tried to make the drum part in that style (with the off beat cymbal hits and stuff during the verses). Because of all that stuff with the harmonies and everything, I was a little too eager to record it and kind of rushed through the lyrics without thinking, so the lyrics are pretty terrible (case in point: I basically wrote the lyrics around the phrase "something new" because that's what I called the notepad file when I first started writing the song). It's one of the most fun songs to play live though and we used to start every show with that song. I'm glad you like it!

Eric: After recording your first album you released an EP, "...And Don't Forget To Tip Your Waitress". To me it seemed like a much less optimistic release than the previous, could you explain a little about when these songs were recorded and what it meant for you?

Nate: As with almost everything else in life, it basically came down to girls. From the time I first started seriously writing songs (mid-high school) until right after "Coulda Been Worse" (early college) I had been with the same girl, so pretty much every song I wrote was a happy song. All good things must come to an end, however, and when it did, I think the mood of the songs unintentionally changed too. So when I wrote the songs for "Waitress" I guess they came out a little darker and more bitter than what I was used to writing. I have a strange fear of being emo though so I try not to get too bleak!

Eric: I wanted to ask more about your song writing process, how do you usually go about recording a song? Is it lyrics first, or music? Do you write songs on a guitar or piano? Elaborate a little on how you write songs?

Nate: I actually write songs on napkins and my cell phone, mostly. I usually don't try to sit down and write a song... most times I'll just suddenly get a melody in my head at random times during the day. A lot of the time this happens when I'm busy doing something else, like working, so it's pretty annoying. I have a terrible memory so I have to immediately write it down on something or sing it into my cell phone's voice recorder before it goes away. Then later I'll get a guitar or piano, whichever is closer, and play it over and over, coming up with chords and new melodies. I usually also store these in my phone. (Seriously, you should see my phone... it has like almost 200 ten-second song ideas in it). I usually dread writing lyrics, cause I'm not very good at them and the music is way more fun, but eventually I'll open up a notepad file and come up with words. Once I have all the melodies, chords, and lyrics, I'll try to figure out the order of the song. Usually I go with Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus, but that gets old so sometimes I do something different. I almost always come up with the bass guitar part and vocal harmonies while I'm recording.

Eric: Well when you do write lyrics, how do you decide what topic to write about? Does it depend on the mood of the song or just how you feel at that time?

Nate: A little of both. If the music comes out a little darker and more aggressive, I usually won't write about cotton candy flavored puppy dogs, and if it's happier I probably won't write about genocide or anything. Seriously though, mood has a lot to do with it too. If I'm feeling lonely, or elated, or just happy that it's finally summer time, those things are easier to write about. Lately I've been trying to put a little bit more effort into lyrics, but I guess I won't know how well that's going until people hear the album!

Eric: And one more question about writing, you make heavy use of vocal harmonies and a cappella segments in a lot of songs, how do you go about writing harmonies and recording these different vocal parts?

Nate: I used to hate doing vocal harmonies when I started writing songs, cause they rarely ever sounded good. Through trial and error I gradually started learning "rules" for making them sound better... and listening to Queen and the Beach Boys helps a huge amount too. I studied music for two years in college and some of my "rules" were validated there, and I learned cool ways to break the rules and have it sound even better. The most important rule I learned along the way is that you should never forget what chord the music is playing underneath the vocals when writing harmonies. For instance, if the music is on a C chord, you shouldn't let the vocal harmonies stray too far from the notes C, E, and G. That might seem obvious, but it took me a really long time to figure that out, and my harmonies suffered. Another thing is that I spent a really long time trying to figure out what made Queen harmonies have that signature Queen sound, and what made Beach Boys harmonies have that signature Beach Boys sound. Basically, Queen achieved their sound by overdubbing a ridiculous amount of voices, all singing only 3 or 4 parts, to make it sound like a giant choir of one person. I think I read somewhere that the opening to Bohemian Rhapsody is something like 100 tracks of Freddie Mercury singing the same 4 parts. I try to do that sometimes with like 20 or 30 voices... it's really fun. Beach Boys get their sound by forming really jazzy chords with their voices, and making use of 5 part harmonies, which is really hard to do. I'm still trying to figure out how to make 5 part harmonies sound good. Brian Wilson is insanely brilliant.

Eric: So you went to college for music for 2 years, how was that, and did it have any impact on Sweet Diss and the Comebacks or your song writing?

Nate: It definitely had an impact. Lori and I both went to the same school, and that's also where we found Nick and Bryan, so it was nice having us all in one place. It's really hard to schedule shows though, when everyone has different classes at different times. The music theory classes I took had a huge impact on my songwriting, for sure. I'd learn a cool new chord or unusual chord progression and I'd have to run back to my dorm room and try to work it into a song somehow. Also, people have told me that taking choir helped my singing. I used to be really nasally and bad. Like, really really bad.

Eric: Also, recently you've recorded a couple songs about the show, The Office, that a lot of people really like, what has it been like to record those songs and have other fans really appreciate them?

Nate: Writing the two Office songs was a lot of fun! Since they were just for fun I felt like I had a little more freedom to experiment and try new things. "Pam Pong" is the first 'piano ballad' type song I've ever recorded, and I tried some different things in the vocal harmonies on "Dunder", among other things. The fans seemed to enjoy the songs, and Jenna Fischer (Pam) even had "Pam Pong" on her myspace profile for about a month, which was amazing.

Eric: I wanted to ask about your upcoming CD, fans have been waiting a while for it, so what kind of thing can we expect from your upcoming release, and when will it be ready for release?

Nate: A lot of the songs on the new album will be updated versions of songs people have already heard, but there will be some new songs in their as well. The sound will range from Sexy to Awesome, with a dash of Heroin (for good measure). Recording it has been a very long and bumpy road, but I think the end is in sight. It should be finished before the end of the year, and fans of catchy power-pop should be pleased! Unless it turns out awful. Hopefully it won't!

Eric: I have heard a bit of the new album, and it really is an amazing release and I'm extremely excited for it, but it's also a little bit of a departure from your earlier releases, it's a lot more adventurous musically and a lot more emotional. I wanted to ask about the song She Could Call Me Tonight, which is up on your myspace, it's one of my favorite songs, period. Could you explain what that one is about, and how it was to write it?

Nate: Thanks, I'm glad you like it! That song is about someone who has just gone through a breakup and then meeting someone new, and finding that he can't stop thinking about the girl he broke up with. At the beginning he's saying the new girl he met could call him tonight, but by the last chorus, he's just waiting for the girl he broke up with to call him instead. Not really based on any real experiences, I just thought it might be fun to actually make a small story. It was a lot of fun writing the music, cause it's basically just a pure pop song. The new version of that which will be on the final album is a little bit different; I added some piano and more acoustic guitar, and changed some of the parts a little. Also, Lori will be singing on some of it, which should be sweet!

Eric: And I wanted to ask the same thing about The Terminal. It's the closer to the new album, and a really expressive song. It really feels like you're singing about something that happened between you and a girl, I've noticed that your whole discography seems to be following a relationship, starting with the optimism of "All That's Green" to the sheer emptiness of loss in "The Terminal". Could you explain what that song is really about, and if I'm just being a raving lunatic?

Nate: You are correct! and The Raving Lunatix would be an awesome band name. If it's not already one. I would change my name to Lenny Lunatic. Anyway... The Terminal probably has the most honest and personal lyrics I have ever written, which is why I tried to cover them up with airplane metaphors. I usually tell people that my songs are on average, 50% true and 50% made-up, but this one is 100% true. Which means one of our songs is probably completely made-up, to even it out and make the average work. Seriously though, the song is basically relating a relationship to an airplane trip, starting with a bumpy lift-off and ending with the main character being alone in the terminal again. I realize that sounds really emo, but sometimes life can get pretty emo on you. By the way, "Life Gets Emo On You" should be The Raving Lunatix first album.

Eric: So after the new album is released, what do you plan to do with the band, and what are your plans for the future with Sweet Diss and the Comebacks?

Nate: As soon as we're done with the album, we'll probably put it up on iTunes or something like that, and send copies of it to all of our favorite record labels. We're definitely planning on doing a gigantic tour across the US in support of it also (hopefully next Spring), regardless of whether or not we are lucky enough to get signed or get a distribution deal of some kind. It's taken over a year so far from the start of the album to the finish, so I've already got a bunch of new songs in various stages of completion for a second album.

Eric: That's really awesome...and thats about it!! So thanks a ton!

Nate: Thank you dude!

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Listen and download some tracks from Sweet Diss and the Comebacks

visit their myspace
download their first album free
buy some music

p.s. Sweet Diss' latest EP, ...and don't forget to tip your waitress can also be purchased at the Itunes Music store!

1 comment:

guy code said...

nice eric!
im a big fan! you nailed it