After 18 or 19 years of attending the Taxi Road Rally, I (Frank Rogala) had been to all the classes and was searching for a way to justify spending 4 days away from being productive (and at work in the studio).
Smash Mob, Jason Eldridge and I (Frank Rogala), have been developing a songwriting method of working with vocal artists and lyracists that would:
- exploit a vocalist's most appealing range, tone, and chops
- allow us to quickly compose and most importantly "finish" a complete song
After several years developing our "method," we felt we were ready to walk into a room with any talented vocalist and to be able to quickly create something that sounded great, expensive and ultimately indisputably great music.
One thing I hear over and over from songwriters is how stimulating and wonderful songwriting intensives are, but that many of the promising songs they started never get finished.
We want to do an intensive where the emphasis was on getting the song done. That meant we left the 4 day Road Rally at the Westin with everything we needed to finish the songs. So we dubbed our little sessions the "Smash Mob Finish the Damn Song" Intensive.
The LAX Westin is right next to the airport, so making vocal recordings in a hotel room that faced the runways was fraught with difficulties. If a jet wasn't taking off, the air conditioning might be blowing or a maid might be knocking at the door.
After an initial test session at the 2018 Road Rally (using a cloudlifter with a lowly 40-year-old SM57) yielded excellent vocal tracks with no hint of jet/airconditioner or otherwise - noise -we decided to put our reputation on the line. We started putting the word out to vocalists and lyricists that we knew would be attending the rally and invited them to participate. We had not worked previously with a majority of the vocalists or lyricists who participated.
The goals were:
- Thursday/Friday - pick out one of our 100 music beds and record a raw loose improv vocal under our supervision. Nothing more than just making sounds were required (but if words popped out we encouraged that!).
- Friday/Saturday - we would cut those improv's into a melodic structure and post them on a custom Smash Mob web page for each singer/lyricist to work on lyrics at their convenience.
- Saturday/Sunday - record final vocals.
Other than succeeding wildly in attracting nearly everyone we wanted, as well as adding a few last-minute additions (it's TAXI - we made new friends), and Jacqueline van Bierk showing up and improving 9 songs (intended for finishing at a later date) - the only major issue we encountered was trying to stay conscious and alert while we ended up roughing in nearly 25 songs in total.
The 16 songs we intended to finish before leaving became 14, with one lyricist/ singer opting to finish writing lyrics after the Rally on their second song.
Super "Get-er-done" award goes to lyricist (well we all know she is much more than that!) Nitanee Paris who, even after getting into a car accident with her first vocalist on Thursday, was able to attend sessions with two more vocalists and to complete lyrics for all 4 songs. We have no doubt she could have done all 6 if the accident had not prevented the attendance of her first vocalist!.
We intended to finish and mix the songs immediately. However, in the world of production film/tv music, you can never predict what will happen. We ended up recording two other full albums worth of material for other deadlines before we could get to finishing the Taxi mixes - which as of mid-April we were ready to play for the world.
There will be a few more tweaks to the mixes, as they were completed in the months of the year that Jason and I spend apart. So we always like to be in the same room for final adjustments which will be happening within the next couple weeks when we are both in northern Michigan for the summer.