The Clearing Track by Track: Pressure Cooker

Yesterday I talked about the lead-off track on The Clearing called Champagne Birthday and today I’m moving right on to track 2: Pressure Cooker.

Listen to the record in full on my YouTube channel:

Pressure Cooker starts at about the 4:26 mark. Click here to jump right to it.

About the Track:

Like Champagne Birthday, Pressure Cooker first appeared on A Quiet Place To Scream in more of a rough demo state. While I was pleased with the way it turned out, accomplishing my personal goal of creating a catchy pop-punk track with a little grit that would rival many of my personal favourites in the genre, it didn’t quite hit the way I wanted it to when I’d listen back to it. In 2020 I struggled a lot with recording duplicate vocals in a way that added some body to the track and mimicked the sensation of having multiple vocalists with their own tones and I was really still adjusting to seeing myself as any sort of lead guitar player worth their salt. As a result, the chorus felt a little too disjointed for me, and I found myself making odd compromises with myself like, “leave that guitar solo with the error in it at the end” that I’d later grow to hate. You can hear this on the original release.

Pressure Cooker went through a lot of lyric changes from its inception to what you hear today. Initially, the track was called “When She Leaves”, focusing on romantic relationships and how, if left uncared for, your partner will undoubtedly make the decision one day to pack his/her bags and leave, and snarkily the chorus rang out, “you’ll be the only one surprised when she leaves”.

Though the words may have changed the sentiment is the same in Pressure Cooker as you hear it on The Clearing.

Right off the top of the track I talk about the sensation of feeling your body react just to the presence of someone you don’t want to be around anymore, where every thing they do or say seems to irritate and make your blood pressure rise.

It carries through into verse 2 where I acknowledge when the actions of that person/your partner/friend/whomever have escalated from simply being an annoyance you recognize and instead is actively getting in the way of your daily life, “keep tripping on that foot you leave sticking out the hall“.

In the second pre-chorus I find myself acknowledging how this is a pattern and it needs to be broken for something to change, which pulls us right into the chorus where our protagonist, in this case a frustrated and heartbroken woman beings making her grand escape – slowly.

All the while as she puts her ducks in a row to leave she’s riddled with anxiety and hurt about the situation, wondering if he even noticed her at all, if he ever even really knew her at all, and if he even cares and can recognize that she’s becoming more distant.

In verse 3 I revisit the same thoughts and feelings as verse 2 briefly, acknowledging that being in this type of relationship can feel like spinning the wheel and getting nowhere, each day more and more like the last.

And again the reality of the situation is causing a physical reaction as much as a mental one with our protagonist on the verge of exploding if either the dynamic changes or she throws in the towel and gets out before it breaks her down further.

It’s not uncommon for people in these types of relationships to feel stuck or afraid to be the one who initiates the change, holding out instead for their partner to become the person they want them to be.

Ultimately Pressure Cooker is about finding the strength within yourself to know when it’s time to quit and to see it as empowering rather than failing.

Official Lyrics:

From the other room
I hear the squeaking of your chair
Cutting through the static
That sits right between my ears

Breathing awfully loud from way over there
I tick a little faster with every inhale

Better late than never
Best if not at all
Keep tripping on the foot you leave
Sticking out the hall

Spinning the rotary with no one to call
Nothing ever changes, just the packages they come

Do you hear her?
Shuffling her feet
Can you see her?
Avoiding your reach
Do you know her?
What’s in a name?
Can you feel her?
Pulling away

Better late than never
Best if not at all
Keep tripping on the foot you leave
Sticking out the hall
When we talk about the weather
I’d rather not at all
Can’t distract from the pressure
Building up between these walls

A Little More:

As a musician tracking my records in the way I do, I often find myself getting incredible anxiety about having to re-record tracks after the initial recordings. Over the last two years more and more I find myself saying to myself, “if there is literally any part of this recording you don’t like, re-track it right now while it’s fresh instead of waiting”.

The lead guitar in Pressure Cooker is a perfect example of this. I was overall decently happy with the original demo but, because of that one pesky note in the outro chorus, I knew I’d have to revisit it. I knew it then but I put it off, running with the idea that I’d be able to see progress in my playing if I kept some recording of the initial demos (and this way of thinking is exactly why A Quiet Place To Scream sounds the way it does).

If I was re-doing it I’d love to say that I would’ve just ran another couple takes of the chorus and kept the entire original piece but I’m way happier with the new version of the lead overall.

One of my favourite parts of this song is those really quick little notes that happen during the third verse. They’re alluded to just after the second chorus and they just add a little bit of texture that the original release never had. If I had simply re-tracked during the initial demo process, they absolutely wouldn’t exist in this way today.

So I guess I’m still on the fence about if you should let things sit or not.

Make sure to come back for my track by track rundown of Camp!

4 thoughts on “The Clearing Track by Track: Pressure Cooker

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