"Hiss" is an album that I made and released in early 2020. It's a short album of songs for acoustic guitar, bass, and vocals. Zack Clark played an important role on bass. I also got the great Thom Howard to play mando on a few tracks.
Here are some links.
The masters are also available in masters/.
I started writing for this near the end of 2019 and early 2020. In 2019 I had pushed myself hard on various goals, and I was burnt out. I was a bit anxious and depressed, dealing with chronic lower back pain and tinnitus, struggling with a close friend's alcoholism, and on and on.
Given that context, I had a lot of things I wanted to say and my goal for this was just to express myself in the most sincere way I could. I also wanted to create something that I could be proud of and wouldn't regret making. I felt that a lot of music that I made up until then was not well thought out or executed. And I wanted to change that for this album.
I came up with around 14 simple musical ideas (guitar parts, melodies, etc.) mostly while sitting alone in my room watching Rust streamers on Twitch (CoconutB, Posty, etc.) -- trying to avoid interactions with my close friend.
Most of the songs on Hiss take some piece of direct inspiration from Nirvana's In Utero. The basic process I employed was to listen to a track on In Utero and filter it through what I thought of as a Dixie Chicks / Dave Matthews Band aesthetic.
Many components (melody, form, harmony, etc.) are very obvious if you are familiar with Hiss and In Utero. For example, Fashion Kilogram is formally similar to Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle. Yee-Haw takes heavy melodic inspiration from Tourette's and the soft-to-loud transitions on Milk It (although this quality is common in 90s alternative rock). Festive Bird, Tofu, and Pre-Therapy have less obvious origins -- at least I can't remember immediately.
Pizza Night and It's Time were the two songs not written in this manner; they are simple and traditional folk/country tunes. Although I will admit the vibes on It's Time draw lots of influence from Tim Reynold's That Way album. His acoustic guitar playing is something that I've spent a lot of time in my life studying.
I refined and/or eliminated these ideas over the next few weeks and months while slowly adding lyrics. During this time I rehearsed regularly with Zack Clark who helped me get the feel of the songs right.
Prior to this, I'd give up on refining lyrics at some point and just go with what I had written. But for this album I kept refining until I was satisfied with everything. I also leaned into making the lyrics as personal as possible.
As far as influences go, I was listening to a lot of Nirvana and Dixie Chicks at the time and my aim was to create music that was at the intersection of Nirvana, Dixie Chicks, and (inevitably) Dave Matthews Band.
I booked some time at Wil Reeves' Centro Cellar studio. I wanted him to do all of the recording, mixing, and mastering. We recorded 9 songs over the course of a week or two. Fashion Kilogram was recorded live with a few overdubs. It's Time was also completely live. The rest of the songs were recorded to a click without vocals and I added the vocals later.
I cut two songs. One was just a little "too much" and the other had lyrics I was ultimately unsatisfied with (and paid a little too much homage to Nirvana).
I got my good friend Brian Fitzgerald to make the album art. I was super happy with what he whipped up.
As of 2023, I've listened to this thing a few times over the last few years and I can honestly say I'm proud of this thing. I don't cringe too hard at any part. I said what I wanted to say and I haven't felt the need to say anything since.