Ep. 85: Song “Only In Your Head” (Spacey Piano Rock)

This episode, I break apart a spacey piano rock song called “Only In Your Head,” which is from my recently released album, “Good Grief.” Influenced by The Walkmen and Radiohead.

The song began in 2014 as a little piano piece I was noodling around with. It’s really just three chords, two of which are Major 7 chords, which have kind of jazzy quality to them. The rhythm is also syncopated, meaning many of the notes fall on the off-beat. I recorded a lofi demo on my phone back in 2014.

A week later, I had a night where I had a hard time falling asleep, so I went down into the music room, probably around midnight and worked out another demo, this time with more of an electronica approach. There’s drum machines, a bass with distortion, tambourine, and lots of synths sounds, some of which came from an ipad. I gave it the working title of “works for me.” Here’s what that demo sounds like.

About year later (in 2015), I started putting together the songs for my album and I began to have a different idea in my head of what this song could sound like. I decided to lay down some drums and give it more of rock approach. That drums I recorded (along with a very rough scratch vocal and keyboard part) actually sat untouched for almost 3 years, as I got busy working on other songs and doing the other things I had going on in my day to day life.

In July of 2018, I got a little more serious about finishing the album up and got back to work on the song. I took that drum part I recorded and filled out the core parts to the song, which are the main piano part recorded on our upright piano, bass and some tamborine. To give it a little variety, I played the first part of the piano with just holding out the chords for two bars.

So, I was liking this direction but felt like more could be done to make the piano part more interesting. Maybe even a classical type of influence. So, I started playing the same two chords as the main piano part but at different octaves so each beat, I was kind of hitting a different part of piano with the same chord. Then, to give it sort of a spacey sound, I added a delay, echo effects along with some extra kind tickley sounding embellishments on the high part of the piano.

To give it even more texture, I layered a tremolo style clean guitar with an echoey delay effect to give it kind of a spacey sound. I kept that same sound going in the chorus, but with distortion added to it for more of a bite, as well as a second guitar playing the chords with distortion.

As if I didn’t have enough layers already, I added some synth parts to fill it out some more. First, there’s a harmonium, which is really kind of a carnival instruments. It supposed to sound something like an organ meets an accordion.

Then next, a synth with a sort futuristic sound.

For the ending, I had another idea for the piano. I took the chord and did what’s called arpeggiating, meaning I played each note of the chord one by one. I came up with the simple part that loops over and over and the same part on top of that but an octave higher.

Then I added a track of synthesizer which is set to play each note of the chord at random, given it a really spacey, sort of unpredictable sound.

There’s only one vocal track with no harmonies.

The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone wrestling with reality and with the what’s being told to us by the media in all it’s different forms. I tried to reflect some of that chaos with the denseness of the arrangement.

Here’s final mix of the song (download it for free):

I know I’m dreaming but nobody’s sleeping this early in the morning
Public relations and my expectations are spinning round my head again
Your own existence don’t give you permission, your time is up, you’re out of here
The baggage we claim is the thing that remains there’s no way for us to fix this mess

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re asking of me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

Fooling yourself with the cards you’ve been dealt you can only take it so long
This information and my situation are spinning round my head again
A matter of weeks they’ll be playing for keeps and they’re counting up the votes
It’s too close to call and I’m telling you all that it doesn’t matter anyways

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re asking of me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

I can’t believe what you’re telling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head
I can’t agree, what you’re selling to me
Yeah, it’s only in your head

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