Track by Track 1/10: Hooked

In an attempt to shine a light on each individual song on Starlight, we’re doing a blog series entitled “Track by Track.” Each week a different member of TRN will write about the 10 songs that make up our new album.

By Brendan O'Connell

So many R&B artists have found chart-topping and artistic success with songs that are essentially instrumental loops of 2 or 4 bars with infectiously catchy vocal riffs. Beyonce's "Put A Ring" on it especially comes to mind. The idea is pretty ingenious and originates with the incorporation of samples in pop music (taking the best part of a drum break or instrumental groove and layering new vocal melodies/lyrics on top of it). I wanted to try my hand at writing something of that nature. That's the benefit of working with a singer like Stef. Her voice is made for singing big, catchy parts. 

Seems simple enough, right? Get a rocking drum groove, killer bass line, write catchy parts for Stef, and call it a day. For whatever reason "Hooked" had such a concise and clear genesis but an incredibly muddled path. It's a thing that can happen with a group of seven people. One idea ("hey what if we change this?") leads to another ("oh we should switch the groove here!") and another ("well then we'll change the chords there!") and, pretty soon, the simple tune becomes something else completely.

I want to stress that this process is just the natural outcome of having seven passionate musicians who give a damn. I write a tune. Everyone puts in their two cents. We try a bunch of stuff and maybe workshop the song live a few times. We edit some more. It's painstaking but hey, that's the way it goes when you want make a good record.

So how did we get all the way back from Convoluted Town to something simple? Enter our producer, Vijay Tellis-Nayak. He started asking questions about the different sections and multiple dynamic shifts. He also leveled a devastating critique: "It sounds kind of bar-bandy." As a band with higher aspirations this is territory that we avoid like the plague. Strip it back to its roots and keep it simple, VTN told us. So we did. 

I love where we ended up. A Vijay-crafted synth dive launches the tune before Lucas's drum groove gets things going. There are only three vocal sections (not really verses or choruses, per se) and Stef shines on all of them. Stef and I wrote these lyrics together years and years ago. We wanted to explore the idea of unbridled love as an addiction: powerful, satiating, yet potentially dangerous. It all culminates in a cacophony of horns, drums, and synths with Stef wailing on top. "Hooked" ends Starlight with a bang, for sure.