Track By Track 5/10: Up All Night
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.
UP ALL NIGHT
BY LUCAS GILLAN
"Up All Night" is The Right Now’s epic disco jam that reliably gets crowds moving on the dance floor. Perhaps some of them are moving to a style of music they thought they were supposed to hate. I like it that way.
When Donna Summer died in 2012, certain voices on social media eulogized her by saying things like, “Donna Summer transcended disco,” or, “Donna Summer was so much more than the disco queen.” While Mrs. Summer indeed was a transcendent artist with a far-reaching appeal, I felt like these caveats were unnecessary. Disco’s musical validity should be iron-clad by this point; it doesn’t need apologists. Who can argue with Summer’s ‘70s dance music, or that of Chic, Bohannon, Rick James, The O’Jays, Kool and the Gang, and so many others? Now that the goofy clothes, drug culture, and “disco sucks” rallies have faded far into the rear view, we can deal with the music on its own merits. And what we’re left with is some expertly-crafted, life-affirming music that people will be dancing to for a long time to come. So I was thrilled when Brendan brought in “Up All Night” to a TRN rehearsal — we now had our own entry into the long line of booty-shaking disco anthems.
Starlight is the first TRN album to come out since I officially joined the band as its drummer. I had played plenty of gigs as a sub for the previous drummer, John Smillie, though, so I knew the entire catalog. What was different this time around was that I got to be part of the process of shaping new songs with the rest of the band. "Up All Night" is a prime example of how much a song can be refined and shaped by a series of continual minor tweaks in months of rehearsals and gigs. It was a lengthy but fun process of working together towards a common goal (that goal being: get the people to dance to some gosh darn disco).
A bulleted list of every single change we made to "Up All Night” between Brendan’s demo and the version on Starlight would read like a lengthy Wikipedia revision history page. The biggest project we tackled as a band was the outro, which takes up just over half the run-time of the track. We set out to craft a slow-burn build from the guitar-and-kick-drum-only breakdown to a big, cathartic finale. While the horns relentlessly repeat the simple chorus melody, Stef breaks away from it, ratcheting up the energy through a series of vocal ad-libs. Behind this foreground is the rhythm section, which churns through four different chord progressions. The series of chords you hear on the record came after months of trial and error in rehearsals and on gigs (and more than a few on-stage mistakes while we were still working it out). It was a truly collaborative process, and I was happy to contribute the final set of chords, which are the weirdest and most chromatic ones. By the time we get to that last set of chords (Dm7, Bm7, Bb/C, then a quick series of sus chords in ascending minor thirds), the energy level is high, and we’ve almost crossed over from disco into ‘70s jazz fusion, another much-maligned genre that nonetheless is still ripe with musical ideas. Don’t believe me? Check out how Stevie Wonder used fusion sounds on “Contusion” from Songs In the Key of Life. If you wanna call that cheese, then it’s some of that gourmet fromage that gets better with age. I’m hoping listeners will say the same about “Up All Night” in a few years’ time.