On October 18th we celebrated “Surviving” the album’s 2nd birthday with a quick dirty cover of “Surviving” the title track.
Check out the official recording by Jimmy Eat World here:
I’m not always super aware of the key dates that I know in the back of my mind I should probably note down for this kind of thing, so it wasn’t until sometime in the afternoon that I saw the band post about Surviving’s birthday and by all accounts, I wasn’t planning on recording anything for this project that day.
But I love that record, and I’ve said before it was in many ways the catalyst to what’s now become 3 music projects, this entire website, blog, and now a new podcast series. So, we rolled up our hypothetical sleeves and got to work.
Skip down to the bottom of this post to hear my cover, or read on to hear about the decisions behind it first.
While I’d normally duke it out with the acoustic guitar first, I already knew I wanted to keep the main rhythm guitar line as close to the original as possible, and I knew that I wanted to build it up in my own way, so in the interest of time I skipped that this go around and plugged in ol’ Gibby and began what really was the most important part of this cover: finding the right rhythm tone.
My initial “promo” videos for this project on the Instagram are actually what originally sparked the thought process behind this cover, but the tone I used then wasn’t what I settled on. I was looking for something with a little bit of jangle and a lot of distortion because of how I envisioned the track growing from start to finish.
After a few spins through the Fender Mustang (which is the amp you see pictured above), I thought the Far Beyond Driven preset captured well enough what I was looking for.
I tried to think of my cover from this point on from the perspective of a fan watching the song played through live and how it might sound.
One of my favourite parts about this record is the way the band builds each track, getting heavier and heavier as the seconds pass, and the glutton I am wanted to hear that twice. Of course, I wasn’t sure how long I’d need that first build to last, so I had to play the chords through a few times starting from a more subtle palm mute to full-powered strumming to find the right number of rotations. Once I got there, it was time to take a second to put some drums in.
Because I wanted the cover to start largely the same way I kept the drums out for the first few measures. The key difference I think between my cover and the original here is that the band goes straight to the overdrive with purposeful strums and mine is more of a casual walk-up.
As a general rule I don’t try to mimic the drumming from any original recording, in fact when I listen through to the songs just ahead of recording again, I almost try to ignore them completely. Sure, I could copy each fill exactly as is, but there’s not a whole lot of fun in doing that with midi, and as I’ve always said about every cover, if you just wanna hear the track they way the band plays it, listen to theirs instead (it’s at the top of this post).
I have the drums enter a few bars in in the most minimalistic way I could at the time, just kick, and then as I push the rhythm guitar into strums, more pieces of the kit enter the stream to drive the track forward. And just as they all get on “stage”, I pulled them out just as fast giving the track that much needed anticipation I was looking for.
We’d need them again of course, but not until later in the mix.
I’m almost embarrassed to talk about the bass line on this track because often times, bass is the one part of building any song that I really like to do something funky with if I can find a place for it.
But the reality of this track is that most of the dynamics already happen just the way I need them with that rhythm guitar line, so what I really needed to do was just compliment that.
And while I considered for a while playing virtually the same notes as the rhythm guitar to achieve that here, I really like the dark undertones of just chugging along a deep E note underneath it all, especially with the way it carries through after the first build leading into the first verse.
Without this, I probably wouldn’t have wound up chasing what became the lead guitar tone that really changed the whole colour of the mix.
We had gone from cool party arena-rock into… disturbing back-stage arena rock and we chased that phantom all the way to the underbelly of the stage.
In all honesty I forget entirely what the mixture I threw together for this guitar tone, but what I can tell you is that when I imagined the band on stage performing this cut, I wanted it to help draw-out the introduction in an almost sinister way, again, building upon that feeling of anticipation but maybe we weren’t heading to a great place with it like that lyrics of this song otherwise imply.
I wanted to get a little bluesy but not like Muddy Waters-bluesy, more like John Mayer-bluesy, which meant chorus, delays, and some vibrato.
And to achieve that live-recording feel the only way a girl recording every part of the project herself knows how? I let the track rip and just walked along the fretboard a few times. I think I ended up going with take 3 of 5 (in which all takes are just full runs of the track). As much as I was digging the tones and some of the stand-alone riffs I fumbled my hands into, getting too deep into editing this one would’ve again, changed the entire feel of the cover, so we left it all as is, little errors and all, just a like a real live band!
I’m not gonna lie to you guys, after the instruments were in I had a brief moment of panic. “How the fuck can I sing this one now?”
This track is so anthemic when you hear it on the actual album and I had just brought it into a scary alleyway where all the fire escape ladders are too high to climb and that droning bass line was fucking taunting me.
It’s pretty hard to describe the decision making from this point on here, guys.
I followed my lead guitars lead (ha) and ended up holding out the tails of lines longer than the band does on theirs, which closed those back-stage arena walls even tighter.
My biggest challenge on this track was the outro. It’s supposed to be empowering and high energy but I was bringing it up from a sewer of mush and it was hard to emulate that feeling. Plus, I was still getting over my annual Canadian Fall Cold and was having trouble really pushing my vocal here, which it needs. Ultimately I think it still works to serve the lyric but I much prefer the band’s version of this outro, personally, they pulled it off a lot better than I did in this moment.
On the weekend following this release we spent a couple days putting together our first featured cover off of the “Futures” record – we went with “Kill” and to be frank, think it’s our best cover to date so far.
You can hear it already over on the @jaimeeeatworld instagram page, but make sure to subscribe to the blog if you wanna be notified on when we release the breakdown of it.
Thanks for reading & see ya back here soon!