Thursday, March 31, 2005

Great moments in lyric writing, vol. 1

Jay-Z, feat. Bun B and Pimp C - Big Pimpin'
Nigga it's the - big Southern rap impresario
Comin straight up out the black bar-rio
Makes a mill' up off a sorry hoe
Then sit back and peep my sce-nawr-e-oh
Oops, my bad, that's my scenario
This is lyric writing worthy of Shakespeare. No, we're not being sarcastic. Rap lyrics have to stay musical despite the lack of a melody, and good lyricists will have a keen ear for sound and rhythm of their verse. The above is a fine example of the more unusual rhyme "ahrio". As if impresario and barrio aren't impressive enough, he rhymes it across two words with "sorry hoe". And then, in a brilliantly comical, but unpretentious, self-conscious moment, he "tries" to continue the rhyme with "scenahrio" but realizes his error in pronunciation and corrects it in the next line.

Concert update

Steven is putting together the support band for The Tonics. The setlist will be decided tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A concert! Yes, really...

Mark and Steven have agreed to play at a benefit concert on April 9 to benefit children. Therefore, we have to rule out our nihilist, anti-life anthem "Hamlet," but we will nonetheless be putting together an exciting setlist, and perhaps a support band, in the coming days. Check this space for details.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Nothing happened today

What do you expect? We go to school.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Spotlight on duets

(The kids at Somesongs like "Distance." It currently has the highest rating of the week.)

Duets are of particular interest to us because we have two lead singers.

PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke - This Mess We're In (One of the best duets from the modern era. Notice how the two voices weave in and out of each other.)

The Beatles - We Can Work It Out (Aside from the vocal work, also notice the amazing time signature switch at the end of John's section.)

Blonde Redhead - (I Am Taking Out My Eurotrash) I Still Get Rocks Off (This is a typical exchange between Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace. It looks as dramatic as it sounds onstage.)

Pixies - Tony's Theme (Kim Deal is usually mixed as though she is a second lead singer, even when she's doing a harmony or countermelody. Yes, she says "This is a song about a superhero named Tony..." even during the live performance, which I think rocks.)

The Sugarcubes - Motor Crash (Einar's poor rapping tends to make Bjork sound even better than she does. Still, this song is a good example of how two lead singers can switch off: one of them [Bjork] starts scat singing, and the other takes over on words.)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

More copies mailed out

Copies 09 and 10 mailed to KALX (UC Berkeley, attn: The Next Big Thing) and KDVS (UC Davis). Three years ago, we had "UFO" and "Telegraph Avenue" played on KALX's "The Next Big Thing."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bureaucratic stuff

Copy 09 is built, but not mailed yet, because Steven ran out of stamps.

If you type "The Tonics" into Google (with quotes), we're the first thing that shows up. Huzzah!

Friday, March 25, 2005

How are our downloads doing?

(Copy 08 built and shipped.)

According to CNet, we had more downloads last week than our indie pop peers Showroom, The Hong Kong, The Decembrists, Crooked Fingers, Hippie Cream, Viva Voce, and others. We are also the top artist in the category without an editor's review. Before we celebrate, however, it's important to note that part of the reason is that we dumped the whole EP on there, while most other bands have only one or two songs picking up the download count. Also, the leader in our category (The Postal Service) had 7,774 downloads last week, compared to only 476 for us.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Great moments in vocal harmonies, vol. 2

The Cranberries - Ode To My Family (1:04): This is a good example of creative double-tracking. The second vocal track alternates between singing harmony and countermelody. Sometimes it sounds like the two vocal tracks are switching roles.

The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again (1:52): Notice how Morrissey's moan fades in from the background as though branching off from his main melody.

The Beatles - Help! (throughout): It's very frustrating that no one's topped The Beatles in the last 40 years. "Help!" is a fine example of what no one's been paying attention to...

Rufus Wainwright - April Fools (throughout): ...or maybe Rufus Wainwright was paying attention. He's got a whole choir doing cool shit. The best part is the long bridge, beginning at 2:03.

The Beach Boys - I Get Around (0:00-0:08): The finest acappella opening on a rock song. This is before acappella openings turned into shit like Yes' "I've Seen All Good People."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I have nothing to say today

That's, of course, in stark contrast to the upcoming Tonics album, which will have plenty to say about life, death and everything in between.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Great moments in vocal harmonies, vol. 1

Great vocal harmonies have existed almost since the beginning of music. Here are some random selections:

The Velvet Underground - I Found A Reason (beginning of song): Pedal tone harmonies made with two vocal tracks of opposing rhythms, this trick may be used for the harmonies on the last verse of "Tonight."

Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories - Stay (I Missed You) (1:07): Lisa Loeb gives us hope because she was the first unsigned artist to have a number one single with this song. She also went to Brown and majored in comp lit. Beginning at 1:07, the harmonies, which at times sound more like an extension of her lead vocal, help build the song to a powerful climax. There's also tambourine on the song, if you listen closely.

Radiohead - Sit down. Stand up. (1:48): Radiohead aren't exactly known for their barbershop harmonies, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. At 1:48, the harmonies start creating these weird chords that only create more tension, and make the song creepier as it builds up to the raindrops.

The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice: Notice how the harmonies alternate smoothly between "oohs/ahs" and actual words. And while we're on this song... everyone should experience the joy of discovering what the guitar is playing during the bridge (1:06).

Martha & the Vandellas - Heatwave: Motown produced an amazing string of pop songs during the 60s, another reason to reclaim the oldies station from your parents instead of rebelling against it. Remember, John Lennon's favorite singer is mary wells ("you beat me to the punch", "my guy") of Motown fame. "Heatwave" is a great example of call-response, doubling, and "ooh" harmonies, all wrapped in one high-energy pop song that rocks harder than most indie rockers today.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Indie rock moment of the day

(Steven recorded a tambourine and a new lead vocal for "Tonight": "Completely tranformed the song. It'll blow your mind.")

To show that we're not entirely in the dark about our contemporaries, today we highlight drum machine usage in the world of indie rock.

The Raveonettes - Do You Believe Her (They are sort of a retro band. On this song is probably their most exciting drum track, complete with sound effects.)
The Strokes - Hard To Explain (We covered this song during a Sculpted Static concert. What happened to them, anyway?)
Adult. - Glue Your Eyelids Together (electronica/pop/rock)
Spoon - Small Stakes (Not a drum machine, but tambourine all the way except for a couple flourishes and a coda of heavily reverbed real drums)

Probably the most famous example of drum machine rock is The Smashing Pumpkins' Adore, made after they lost their drummer.

Radiohead cut up and looped samples of real drumming on "Airbag". Also notice the sleighbells at the beginning of the track suggesting transportation of the polar kind.

Here is a list of Sculpted Static songs that actually used programmed beats: "Salvo Social," "Save the Day," "carchase2," "Einsamkeit," "Spare Change." We expect to use the drum machine again on the new version of "Save the Day."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Today(night)'s update

Harmony vocals recorded for "Tonight."

"I heard rumors that the whole album will be re-recorded" ----Yeah, it's called 'The Tonics present their first album live at the Royal Festival Hall, 2008.' It'll be made into a DVD, too, packed with special features like an archive of this very website.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Random notes

Bass and additional mixing done for "Tonight." Roger has received copy 04.

Steven: "'Tonight' is the kind of song you'd expect about 3/4 of the way into an album. It's kind of a downer. It's a lot like 'Haste,' actually. Very depressing."

"Distance" is now at the top of the list on CNet, but the rest of the EP is still in reverse order.

Friday, March 18, 2005


I just realized that I missed an entry, so the last few journal entries may be off by a day. 3/17 should be 3/18, for instance. I don't know if 3/16 is correct as it is.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Tonight" gets synthesizers

Steven recorded a synth part for "Tonight."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"Take Me Now"

Mark wrote a new song called "Take Me Now" and recorded a demo of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

For less than a dollar...

Copies 05, 06 and 07 are ready to be shipped. There's still no word on the fate of copy 04, so Steven will ship the CDs with 97 cent postage.

Mark wants to rewrite some of "The Clapping Song" lyrics.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Strangers listening to The Tonics

With every passing day, more people are enjoying the experience of listening to Pop Go The Tonics backwards on CNet ( From a total of 76 people on "Thank You," 26 of them reached the bottom of the list. That's actually more than a third, which I guess is good.

Of the 45 people who listened to "Lucy Tricked Me Into Something," all but three moved onto "Lucy." On "Lucy," they seem to be disappointed or too tired to continue. the numbers drop sharply to 30 for "Sad," and 26 for "Distance."

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Backwards messages

We got a bunch of plays on less on merit and more on the fact that we are the newest band in the alternative category. Unfortunately, they have presented our music in reverse EP order, which means our weakest song is on top and getting all the plays, and "Distance" is at the bottom. And there seems to be no way to fix it. Very disappointing, because only slightly more than half of our listeners continued listening to us after "Thank You". Now, "Thank You" is a perfectly great song, it's just one of those songs that you are supposed to love only after you've listened to it a bunch of times. And it is not a representative Tonics track.

On the bright side, 14 strangers have good enough taste to listen to the whole EP. We also got our first two orders! We are aware, however, that our surge in popularity is an anomaly due to's generosity in providing coverage to new entries. There is much work to be done...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Not much happened today

See, we're lazy people. New CDs will not be mailed until Roger confirms that 83 cents is enough postage for our CD (that's 14 cents less than what we spent on postage for copies 01 to 03). Yeah, we're lazy and cheap.

Friday, March 11, 2005

For China Bialos...

Steven started working on copy 05 destined for KUPS in Tacoma, WA.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

For Roger Tang...

Copy 04 produced and mailed to WQHS.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Locked out...

Day two of the lockout from

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A video?

Ian is doing a video for "Lucy Tricked Me Into Something."

"I'm in an 'Advanced Video-Editing' adjunct class and I think I could make a funny/trippy music-video for our website."

I can't get on today, so the upload is postponed.

Monday, March 07, 2005

You can't expect a Tonic to be a Tonic everyday.

Nothing relevant to this journal happened today. Except maybe Arta strumming away at his new acoustic-electric guitar like there's no tomorrow.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A bad sentence in many ways...

"Nothing tangible was achieved today."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sculpted Static song of the day: "Haste"

Fans' choice for the best song on Sculpted Static's Sunny Ash, "Haste" is about the rooming house at 2316 Haste Street, Berkeley, where Steven lived from August 2002 to March 2003.

The band dislikes the song for its gloomy and meandering music, but there are some lyrical highlights including the following twist on pathetic fallacy:
Early morn the sun is in my room
And never mind that it sheds the light on doom
The chorus melody was actually written by Arta. In fact, most of the music was finished in June 2002, before the Sound Check album. Why the song became a hit is still a mystery to the band these days.

Steven: "It's not a bad song. We'll perform it if we have to."

Yet another batch of questions

(The mass e-mail was sent yesterday.)

"What's the strategy now?" ----College radio stations, and many of them. We really can't lose with our eye-catching CD mailer.

"Are you at the mercy of those radio stations?" ----Considering that more people will want to tune in to them when they start playing The Tonics, college radio stations have more at stake than we do.

"What does the new 'Tonight' sound like?" ----Not nearly as depressing as it should be. More changes necessary.

"Why are you making depressing music? Aren't you supposed to go pop?" ----The Smiths were depressing but they were quite pop.

Friday, March 04, 2005

A great day for consumption

Arta got a new guitar and Steven got 50 cd mailers. The mass e-mail will probably happen today.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

What Then?

Celesta recorded on "Tonight."

What Then?

His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
`What then?' sang Plato's ghost. `What then?'

Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
`What then?' sang Plato's ghost. `What then?'

All his happier dreams came true -
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
Poets and Wits about him drew;
`What then?' sang Plato's ghost. `What then?'

`The work is done,' grown old he thought,
`According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought';
But louder sang that ghost, `What then?'

- W. B. Yeats

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Piano for "Tonight"

Steven recorded a piano track for "Tonight." Now it's sounding more like a good song.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Copies 01 and 02 reached their destinations, proving that $0.97 is enough postage, though $0.83 might work, too. Steven is currently waiting for a shipment of 50 cardboard mailers, because buying them one by one was too expensive.