It’s a long way back
The phantom scream that lies in wait for me
The night awakens all my demons
I can’t go back
All the ways that I have memorized you - let go
Oh the waking goes
In all the ways you’re seasoned for the wolf
It’s a fight to fill my mind with all you borrowed
I can’t go
And all the ways that I have memorized you - let go
Let go (the lies, the lies that I have memorized)
I want to fight it all
I want to fight, I want to fight it all
The fray, the way the midnight oscillations come
(Back and forth and back)
I want to fight, want to fight it
The way the midnight modulates, the wounds that stay from sleep to waking up
I want to fight, want to fight it
Want to fight it all
"Night Wakes" began in a time of intense writer's block. I was stuck in a creative rut, playing the same things I had always played, questioning whether or not I'd be able to make the magic happen again. I started with too big of a vision: WRITE AN ALBUM. It wasn't until I tried to WRITE SOMETHING that anything happened. I did a lot of reflecting, thinking back to times when I created most easily and I realized that I needed to step outside of myself and try things from a completely different perspective. I started playing a lot of piano, learning songs by artists such as Thom Yorke, Asgeir, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens. I love the way that the piano voices things differently and how visual it is. I grew up taking piano lessons from my mom so I know how it works but I am not nearly as fluid on it as with guitar.
I came up with a chord progression by messing around with the Scaler plugin from Plugin Boutique. This plugin comes up with different chord voicings but it doesn't initially tell you what the chords are, which is great for writing because it forces you to use your ears and not your brain. I came across the chord progression that starts this song, originally calling the voice memo "Sam Smith Radiohead". Here it is:
A couple weeks after this I chilled with my friend Hank Donato. I showed him a bunch of unfinished ideas and then pulled out "Sam Smith Radiohead". I saw a lightbulb go off in his eyes and he started playing the progression over a simple drum beat that he had been working on:
I thought it was totally killer but I thought it would never work for a Ben Noble album. I had created boundaries in my mind for what I wanted my next album to sound like and didn't think there was room for this. I took it home and started singing some stuff over it, definitely going for an airy, Sam Smith vibe and it started feeling great. After working through the first half of the song I started to realize, maybe I need to stop trying to create the album I envision in my head and let it take on a life of its own. That was the key to unlocking the writer's block this time around.
I started writing lyrics by singing random phrases that I thought sounded nice, knowing that I would change them later. Another thing I've learned: DON'T WAIT FOR THE PERFECT WORDS TO HIT YOU, just write what sounds good, you can make sense of them later.
The lyrics, along the title Night Wakes, are inspired by a Nayyirah Waheed poem. There was a week in January of 2018 where I went to the same coffeeshop every day and read through two of her poetry books, meticulously writing down quotes that I found inspiring. From there, any time I needed words to break me out of a funk, I would go back through quotes of hers until something sparked. "Stealing" has become an integral part of my writing process; "stealing" means starting with someone else's words or ideas so that I get out of my head long enough to bring in my own original thoughts. The line that began the concept for this song reads: "the night wakes up in the middle of me, and I can do nothing but become the moon".
Here are some of the inspiring sources behind many of the sounds (for you music nerds):
My friend Andrew loaned me his stratocaster and Caroline Guitar Co. Kilobyte delay pedal (both of which I immediately bought from him) - they greatly inspired all of the guitar tones on this track.
Reese Kling played the drums and all the drum machine stuff. For drum
machines, he used his TR-8 for a lot of the sounds. Then we loaded up his
SPD with sounds and sent them through a bunch of pedals. It was very fun.
Other fun things... Cooper Doten tracked bass and we got some wacky
This was the first song of the album to be mixed by Matt Patrick.
He drastically changed the beginning of the song. It originally began
with just the drums grooving for awhile, but Matt cut the drums entirely
through first verse. It took me a few days to get used to the change but I
am so glad he decided to do that - it created much more dynamic contrast.
Huntley Miller mastered this. Laura Vail took the picture that I used for
album art. Again, she is amazing.
The craziest thing about this song is the music video that was made for it. My friends Andrew and Evelyn over NOBLE Productions absolutely blew me away with their work. Andrew did the video for my song Worldspin and has done videos with a number of my music friends. Be sure to check out their work. This video is a whole other story that needs to be told, so for now I'll just post the video!
Hopefully this sheds some light on what this song means to me and how I created it! Here is Night Wakes.