Monday, December 31, 2007

Practice Time!

Tomorrow (New Years Day) at 3pm U.S. Central Time, we will be performing a set from our "Studio North" facility, streamed live on the internet. We've been having a lot of fun looking back at our new inventory of 365 songs from which to choose, figuring out which ones we can tackle. Unfortunately, Pizza: The Rock Opera is a bit too complex to put together for this show, but maybe someday...

Jason rockin' out

We'll post a link to the stream at, so "tune in" and check it out tomorrow at 3! As you can see, we're doing some serious practicing.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coming Up For Air

Wow. The Song Of The Day 2007 is done. I feel like I've surfaced after spending two years under water writing, recording, and producing songs for The Song Of The Day. This freedom seems like a whole new experience: I awoke this morning (actually afternoon) after many hours of sleep without thoughts of "oh man, we have to get the drum mics set up and had better get started recording because we have 30 songs to work on." It's strange - the entire two-year experience seems like it was a dream and right now I have no idea how we did it.

We are at our Studio North location in Lake Geneva for New Years - the first time in a long time that we are here not to record songs, but just to rest, relax, and celebrate. Oh yeah - and to practice for and perform our live New Years Day internet show (tune in at 3pm Central Time at

I can't wait to see what 2008 has in store. We have LOTS of ideas and I expect this period of rest to be very brief. After all, you can't stop a creative freight train like the one we worked so hard to get rolling.

Friday, May 11, 2007

On Songwriting (Part 1) - Unconventional Approaches

We are often asked the question "what is your creative process?" Because of the quantity of songs that we are in the process of writing, recording, and producing, there are many ways we might come up with music and lyrics for our songs. I'll try to share as many of these creative processes here in the Backstage Blog as I can. Hopefully those of you musicians out there who are either stuck in a creative rut or have not yet tried your hand at songwriting can get some ideas and inspiration from our experiences. Leave a comment and hopefully we can get some inspiration from yours!

Today, I'm going to share a unique technique for writing music I learned in a recent songwriting class at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago - deal yourself a song from a deck of cards. Yes, that's right - randomize it. It's really a great way to get out of a rut and explore new musical ideas. Many songwriters tend to gravitate to a "default" strum pattern and even the same basic chord progressions (G-C-D anyone?). Here is a great way to break out of your comfort zone and explore new ground with chords and rhythmic patterns:


This is a technique for "randomly" generating a rhythm and chord progression and requires a deck of cards:

Divide a 4/4 measure into eighth note beats, giving you 8 "slots" where you can put a chord.

Remove 7 cards from the deck - Ace through 7 (suit doesn't matter) and shuffle these 7 cards: Deal one card. That's the number of "strums" in your pattern. For example, let's say you drew a 4. You will have 4 strums in your measure.

Now, add an 8 to your seven-card hand and reshuffle. Deal a number of cards equal to the number of strums in your pattern. The face value of these cards become the "slots" in your measure where you will put a strum. In our example, you would deal 4 cards because you dealt a 4 in the previous step. Let's say you've just dealt 2, 5, 7, and 8.

Divide a 4/4 measure into 8 parts: "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and". You can also write this "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8". Your strum pattern in this example is "r 2 r r 5 r 7 8" where the r's represent eighth note rests and you strum on the 2, 5, 7, and 8.


Now that you have a rhythm, you need to generate a chord progression. You have your 4 slots where you will put your strums, so you could have just one chord for each strum, you could have a different chord on each strum, or any combination in between, changing the chord somewhere in the measure. So, to randomize this, do the following:

Take 4 cards, Ace through 4, and deal one card. This is the number of different chords in your measure. Let's say you deal a 2. You will have 2 chords in your measure. Now, what chords will those be? Do this:

Take cards Ace through 7 and deal two. These map directly to the diatonic I through VII chords in a scale. If you are not familiar with finding the 7 chords that fit in a single key (the diatonic progression), the following web page has a pretty good explanation. This is something that is good to learn as a songwriter:

Unless you're working in jazz, the VII chord is least likely to fit in this type of scenario, so you might want to leave out the 7 card, unless you're adventurous.

Let's say you dealt a 5 and a 1. You will be playing the V and the I chords in the scale. If you are working in the key of C, this will be G and C (starting with G).

Now, which of your four strums will be which of the two chords? Deal out two cards from a shuffled Ace through 8 set. These become the eighth beats in the measure where you will change chords.

Suppose you dealt a 4 and a 7. You will change chords on those slots in your measure. In our example, you will be playing the following pattern in the key of C (changing chords on or after the 4th slot and again on the 7th slot):

"r G r r C r G G" - "r" denotes a rest.


Now, you have your one-measure pattern. Play through the pattern and see how it feels. From here you may decide to break free from the randomization process and take the song idea wherever you'd like to take it. Or, you can always re-deal a new pattern if it doesn't work for you. You can take this concept further, by using the cards to:

- randomize your key
- randomize a capo position if you're a guitarist
- split a measure into 16th notes and make more complex rhythms
- split two measures into 16 eighth notes and make a two measure pattern (or even more)
- randomize your time signature and do the same for 3/4, 6/8, 5/4, etc.
- randomize a key change

You can also use less of this process - just "deal" yourself a rhythm and choose the chords and changes yourself. Once you have generated a basic pattern, you can take control and shape it however you like, even changing it if you want. After all, it's your song and there are no rules!

I have used this technique once - it generated a pattern that I never would have thought of myself, but sounded good, so I used the one measure pattern for the verse in a song called "It's Raining In December." I wrote the song last December when the weather was horribly rainy - I walk to work every day so when the weather is bad I tend to write a song about it (because lord knows, we need the songs :). I'll tackle the subject of creativity in songs, lyrics, and themes in an upcoming post. Oh yeah, the song "It's Raining In December" hasn't appeared at yet - it will be released later in the year (in December, of course).

Are there any unusual techniques you've used to generate music ideas? Drop a comment and let us know!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The IPO festival

This is the fifth time that we were at the Abbey pub, I believe, and as always, it was a pleasure to play there. The set that we played was almost entirely new music. Out of all of the songs we played, there were perhaps three that were ones that we'd played before. So this one was a bit of a challenge.

We really enjoyed the bands that played before us, and we also want to thank David Bash for inviting us to the IPO festival for a third time.

Unfortunately, this is probably the last time that we'll play live on stage for the rest of the year. We have a lot more songs to write and record to meet our 365 song goal, and recording is difficult to do when you're practicing for a live show. We have plans for live performances, however, which may include some web-streaming concerts this year, a possible show or two at coffee houses, and other possibilities. We haven't gone through the options yet, but we'll definitely announce this when we know more.

Now, we're back in this studio this weekend at the cabin in Wisconsin to record drums and other parts, write new songs, and finish up a bunch of songs that are near-done so that we can queue them up for the coming few months. We also may be making web updates.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Radio Show

The Razor and Die show was a ton of fun. This was our first time on a radio show, and especially playing live.

We spent about an hour getting the sound straight, and practicing the songs. It's strange when you play for radio, because you can't see your audience. Although we're used to recording, normally, when you record, it's not live. You can go back if you make a mistake. Instead, we had two mics in the middle of the room that we were singing towards.

The saxophones, especially the Bari sax, were so loud compared to the rest that they had to be played from another room. Normally, when they're played with the band, are drowned out.

After we finished the sound check, we literally wrote two more songs for Song of the Day while we were in the band room. Next time we make it to the studio, we'll record full versions of them.

The interview was quick, and over before we knew it. We'll be posting the show soon. We want to thank Razor and Die for inviting us!

Now, don't forget to come to tomorrow's show at the Abbey Pub to see us live if you are in Chicago

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

BT Live on the Radio

We're just going into the studio tonight to do some final rehearsing for the live radio show that we'll be doing tomorrow, Thursday, April 26th at 11:15 CST.

This is the first time that we have ever played live on the radio, and we're excited for the experience. We can't wait. We'll get some photos, and we'll also write a blog about our experience afterwards.

If you are alive and on the internet tomorrow at 11:15 CST, tune in. You can stream it from

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Death and Rebirth of Web Radio

Web Radio, often called webcasting, is likely going to die. This isn't necessarily news for indie musicians at this point, as we lost out on it years ago due to overregulation. There's a reason why you don't hear indies talking about webcasting much. Most webcasters nowadays are terrestrial radio stations that are simulcasting their feed on the internet. The other ones are usually affiliated with larger organizations like which handles the paperwork, some of the cost, and the requirements that the original agreement imposed on webcasters. This first agreement took what was a groundswell of excitement and technological innovation and basically quashed it.

The current news is that webcasting is being burdened with costs so high it will make it infeasible for stations to exist profitably. There was a recent hearing appealing these rate hikes, and the appeal was rejected. See here and here for some good articles on the topic. The rate hikes are as much as 300 to 3000 percent.

We aren't writing this little editorial entirely unsympathetic to the copyright holders. From their point of view--which we find understandable, actually--is that it is their music and creative work that is giving these internet radio stations listeners. They are used to having an income stream related to playing their music. And if there's a new way to basically broadcast it without people needing to pay for it, it will reduce their income to nearly zero quickly. We've heard some people say things like: "Why don't you do some REAL work like playing live." We know that they are not musicians. Call us any day, and if we're available, we could play a live show that night, no problem. Now, call us and ask us to write and record an album. We can't get it done in a night, that's for sure. And the equipment for recording is more expensive than what it costs us to put together a live show. In short, it's hard to write and record music. Some people seem to believe that just because it's easy to copy means that it's easy to create. It's not, and musicians deserve to be rewarded for their hard work.

But what the music industry has never done well is taking advantage of new technologies quickly. They even had a lot of trouble when piano rolls were first created. And radio, for that matter. But the internet is probably going to be the death blow. It will be impossible for the industry to make money off of recorded music any more in the future. Still, more than a few people believe that they made the costs of the webcasting licenses so prohibitively high because they feared this new technology. If they really wanted to, they could have left the rates reasonable to let this technology emerge.

What has saved web radio and given it a rebirth is podcasting. The energy and desire of the thousands of people who wanted their own radio show (remember them? The ones driving this technology revolution?) just turned to podcasting instead, which also can infringe music rights, but is in essence unregulatable because of the simplicity of the technology.

Naturally, the major players also work hard to keep their music off of podcasts too. They want to make money off of that medium as well. Again, we can't blame them for trying to protect their income streams. They have been quite aggressive about going after any of their music being shared, and are unafraid to litigate, as we have seen by their legal campaign against file sharers. Most podcasters don't want to use major label music because of this, and are looking for non-infringing alternatives.

This is where indie bands come in. It's such a perfect marriage: Podcasters need music to play, and indie bands need places to get played that the major players can't shut them out of. What indies got was even better than that: the major players are actively keeping the entire medium of podcasting pristine of their music.

We never thought we'd say this, but thank you RIAA.

In the meantime, we want to give a message to podcasters: If you need music, we're happy to provide it. You are creating the new spirit of radio on the web, and we will support you in any ways that you need.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another Busy Weekend

This weekend saw Beatnik Turtle working on website updates, new pages to make it easier for podcasters, some music, a finalization of the All In A Day's Work album so that we could send it to, and a big rehearsal for the International Pop Overthrow and the Razor and Die Show. We also started planning the albums January, February, and...what's the third again? We always forget. Oh yeah, "March." Unfortunately, lots of work to do on them, but we're trying to get radio demo versions done of those albums so that Razor and Die can have them for their radio shows.

Tonight and tomorrow, we'll be doing more work on the new podcaster section of our websites, and we hope to release it shortly. We promise there'll be a big post about podcasting and Beatnik Turtle soon. In short: We want to make it as easy as possible for podcasters to get music, because they can't really use RIAA music. So we've licensed ours as podsafe, and we'll happily send a high-quality version to podcasters if they ask. We're trying to simplify it for them.

And lots of other things. You have only to look at our earlier post to see what we're up to.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Our Current Projects

For those that are interested in just knowing the projects that we have going on, from a backstage standpoint, I wanted to do a quick entry to talk about all of the things that we have going on now. It seems that every day, there's some progress on some front or another, because of the number of band members that we have working on different aspects of these projects.

IPO Show: We're spending time rehearsing and developing a setlist for the International Pop Overthrow. Most of the music is new and much of it is based off of our new album, All In A Day's Work. We're also getting the rust out of playing live, as we haven't played on stage since the last IPO, one year ago.

Razor and Die Show: We are truly excited about our first live in-studio radio performance, and are continuing to rehearse unplugged versions. There will be just four of us in the studio for the show, which is much less than the 8 that we usually have on stage!

Indie Band Survival Guide: We've long wanted to have a method of publishing interviews, and articles related to the IBSG. There's an entire new website coming that will allow us to do this. As of now, it's installed, but we need to brand it, and work out some of the details.

Google Gadget: We're trying to make a Google gadget for Song of the Day. We will hopefully have one out soon.

Song of the Day: We are constantly writing new songs, but since we're busy rehearsing, they are only stub songs, for the most part. We'll work on them later. We actually will be glad when the IPO is done, because we want to get back to the studio to do more songwriting. We've got quite a few more songs to do if we're going to meet our goal.

Beatnik Turtle website: We have longer term plans for the Beatnik Turtle website that will eventually require a redesign. As it is, we've been modifying the front page to be easier to post multimedia, such as Videos and more audio. We also updated it to have radio players for our recent two albums in addition to the mix of songs we used to have. We also added our twitter feed. We may modify the design further as we go. Eventually, we'll be redoing the entire site again

Publicity: We're working on getting someone to help with publicity. We have exhausted all of our own resources, and want to get the word out further. Let's face it, we only have 8 months left! We need to get the word out while we're in the middle of this, and we're literally too busy writing music to do a good job of getting the good word out there.

Blog: We've added this blog to the Song of the Day website. We'll also make it a little more prominent in the BT website soon. Right now, it's really buried.

Twitter: If you like, and want to know what Beatnik Turtle is doing at absolutely every moment of the day, go here, and feel free to follow us. We try to update it when we work on band stuff, when we rehearse, and when we record.

RPM Album: The album art, liner notes, final mastering, and UPC code for the new All In A Day's Work album is now done. We will be submitting this to the music stores very shortly. It unfortunately takes a month or so after that for the album to actually be available. More news on this when we get it, but our work is largely done, and the rest goes out of our hands.

Song of the Day Albums: We are preparing albums for each month of Song of the Day. It takes time, because, as we mentioned for the above album, we need to mix the albums, master them, create the art, get UPC codes, and all of the other stuff that you put into an album. It's a lot of work, and in particular, it's a lot of work on top of everything else. But we'll try to get those out soon, because we know that people would like those songs.

The Song of the Day Website: More than a few people have asked us to provide a radio stream of all songs on Song of the Day. For a number of reasons, that's a time-consuming process. Because this is the backstage blog, I'll let you in on why:

  1. All of the songs have our podcast bumper on them. We need entirely different MP3's for this without the bumper, and they are not prepared yet. This takes time.

  2. We need to create a player, and make a playlist for it that makes sense. We have this technology, but it would probably take about four or five hours of work to get this straight.

  3. We'd like to provide some voice over work to connect the songs, and provide breaks from the music.

So we'd like to do this, but for now, it's a little lower priority than some of the other projects above.

Also, we're working on a new part of the Song of the Day website for podcasters, as there are a number that have wanted our music. We want to make it easier for them to get our songs. We love podcasters, and we want to help solve their music problems. They can't use RIAA music, and thus, need to get a source of music that is licensed for podcast use. All of Beatnik Turtle songs are, but we need to simplify the process that they get the music from us. More on this later in a blog post soon.

Commissions: We have a number of commissions queued up, and we haven't quite had the time to tackle them. We expect to be able to do so once the IPO is over, as we need to write more Song of the Day music anyway, and these all count as songs for the project, as well as helping someone else.

So, we're busy busy busy as you can see. Just thought you might want to know what we're up to.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Rehearsing for IPO

Last night, the band got together for a second time to rehearse in the studio for the International Pop Overthrow scheduled for April 28th at 4:30 at Abbey Pub. We also put together some "unplugged" versions of our songs on for the Razor and Die radio show where we will be playing live on the air, scheduled for Thursday, April 26th at 11:15 AM.

We have been working in the studio for for so long, it's literally been a year since we all got together in one room to play music. Most of our music is made piecemeal in the studio over the course of months. So it was a challenge as we got together to generate a setlist for the show, because we wanted to play a bunch of the new songs that we released on the RPM Album "All In A Day's Work" and also songs that we had only played on The Song of the Day.

Now, the ironic thing about recording music is that if you wrote it and recorded it close together, you might have only played a melody just once. And when you sang it, you had a lyric sheet in front of you. We literally had to figure out our own songs. The horn players were fumbling to figure out the notes of parts that sounded so confident on the recording. Not to mention, some of the songs had band members doubling, tripling, or more on their own parts, and they could only play one part on one instrument at a time. We had to make "live" versions of our songs.

To our surprise, those songs came together just great, and for those who can come to the show, you'll get a chance to hear a lot of new music, with unique instrumentation and a live twist. We're finding that we can perform more of the Song of the Day songs live than we thought.

I think that the best part of both of the practices have been the times where we were working on the unplugged set. We had to take songs that have full drum parts, electric guitar, and a chorus of voices, and do it with just the four people who are going to the radio studio. We did those in the living room next to our studio, sitting on the floor until late at night last night. Not only are we happy with how they sound, we actually have more songs ready than we can even play in that short set, and may just hijack an open mic night at a cafe so that we can do more of these unplugged versions.

With these live performances looming, our studio recording and writing production is really dropping off. We have found through our history that recording and playing live are both different "gears" and we can't easily do both at once. When the show is over, we will have to dig in to the studio to catch up and write more songs. We have quite a few more to do in order to meet our goal of releasing one for every day of 2007.

Friday, April 6, 2007

A New Video

Last night, our friends at Stone Face Productions graciously allowed us to use their facility in Evanston to film a new video. This one is for a song that will be released in April. Jason, Randy, Tom, and Ted were all there, and helped out with the video, as well as appearing in a few frames.

But the stars of the video aren't people at all - they're all puppets.

It turns out that Ted knows someone who does puppetry, and created Muppet-like characters for the video. We also had a green-screen, so the final result should turn out to be quite interesting. We were laughing most of the time at what they were doing with the characters. It was just filmed last night, so there's a whole lot of post production from here. Ted's got a lot of work ahead of him. He was the main driver for this video, so he deserves a lot of credit for setting this up, and doing all of the pre-work to make this happen. And looking at the puppets, which were custom-made, there was plenty of setup for this one.

We can't wait to see how it turns out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What We Want To Know About the EMI/iTunes Deal...

EMI has decided to be the first major label to release their music DRM free from iTunes. What we want to know is: When can WE as an indie band sell our own music DRM-free on iTunes?

Our feelings about DRM are spelled out nicely here. We only put our music on sites that have DRM as a convenience to people, in case they want to purchase it that way. For those that want to buy our music, we recommend non-DRM sites, such as But iTunes, like it or not, is really the 900-pound gorilla. Most of our online sales comes from them, and their overseas affiliates. And since they did not allow us to choose, our music is burdened with their filthy DRM.

I hope they decide to give us the option to remove it soon.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Joe Murphy

We found out yesterday that Joe Murphy, the person that Mason Rocket was written for, lost his battle with cancer on April 1st. Based on the outpouring of messages on the internet, he was beloved by many many people. We wish that we had gotten to know him. But we are glad that we were able to give him and others some cheer by writing the song.

We had actually scheduled Mason Rocket for today's song at The Song of the Day previous to the news, and only found out afterwards. But this means that we can highlight the memorial fund set up in Joe's name found at We did so in the song notes, and want to mention it again here.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

RPM Challenge Listening Party

Last night, Tom and Randy went to the RPM Challenge Listening party for Chicago, and met with the other bands who participated who are in Chicagoland.

We had a blast, and really enjoyed meeting with the other bands. The music quality was very high across the board for all of the bands, and it was really a trip to hear our own music played over the bar PA system. We also enjoyed meeting with the other musicians, like us, who love to write and record music.

We wish that there were nametags, but we could tell the tables of people that were in the RPM Challenge because they invariably had a stack of CDs in front of them. We traded discs with quite a few bands, and are looking forward to listening to them.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mason Rocket (Spy Extraordinaire)

Track 4 on the new "All In A Day's Work" CD has a special story to tell. While we put it on the RPM album, it was commissioned by Mur Lafferty. Mur has more achievements and accolades than we can cover here, but she is a podcast guru, author of the book Tricks of the Podcasting Masters, a science fiction writer, and of course a podcaster, running Geek Fu Action Grip, among many others. We first ran into Mur when she requested if she could play a song off of ours on her podcast in 2005. (Were All These Beer Cans Here Last Night, from the Cheapass album.)

She kept up with us, and when we released our Song of the Day daily podcast, she announced it on her own site, and wrote us a note. A month later, she asked us if we'd do a commission for a friend of hers. We said we'd be happy to!

She said that her friend Joe Murphy had been diagnosed with cancer. She wanted a song for him based on a nickname that she wanted to give him: "Mason Rocket." And then she said that it could be something about a spy.

And something just clicked.

I had been on Skype with Mur, and I muted it and recorded an idea that had instantly popped into my head. I got together with Jason a day or so later, and worked out the lyrics with him, and the band picked it up from there. The result can be heard on the Beatnik Turtle website in the player marked "Latest Album" on track 4. We're extremely happy with how it turned out. This song was meant to happen.

Joe is really struggling now, by the way, and has a fund in case you're interested in helping. You can find it here. We're glad that we could be a part of the effort to help him out, and we wish him the best.

Oh, and Mur is working on a written piece about a spy called Mason Rocket. We've heard an early draft, and it's just great! When it comes out, we'll announce it on our websites.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The RPM Challenge

The saying, "In for a penny, in for a pound" refers to the fact that a criminal in the UK would get the same sentence no matter what amount he stole. So why go small? Beatnik Turtle took the same attitude in tackling the RPM Challenge. Only in it's second year, the challenge is for bands that sign up to write, record, and produce an album of at least 10 songs or 35 minutes in 28 days, during the month of February. It's an idea that comes from National Novel Writing Month, which challenges writers to write a 50,000 word novel in November.

We at Beatnik Turtle figured since we were doing the Song of the Day, why not try to meet the RPM Challenge too, which seemed almost reasonable in comparison. It turned out to be a lot harder than we thought, but a very satisfying project. The result is our latest album, "All In A Day's Work." We're very happy with how the album came out, and we really enjoy listening to it. You can hear the album by going to the main page and clicking on the "latest album" link. It will be for sale on all of the digital music stores as soon as we finish the artwork and upload it to CDBaby.

Although we started the project in earnest with only 19 days to go, we completed the album in time, mailing it by noon on March 1st, 2007 to the RPM Headquarters. We managed to write 13 songs, and the finished album was just over 35 minutes. We decided, since we always write about "whatever we feel like" for Song of the Day, that we'd add a theme: all of the songs had to be about working. The released album has three additional songs that weren't written in that month, for a total of 16 songs.

The reason this turned out to be difficult for us is that we had high standards for the songs for the album, and we even left one on the cutting room floor. (Don't worry, you'll get a chance to hear it at We also added a lot more parts than the average Song of the Day song, using four different lead singers, and added all of the horns that we could. I even was able to get out one of my favorite horns, my bass clarinet, and add it on two songs. But there's also trumpet, trombone, saxophones, clarinet, and flute parts. We also have a huge host of backup singers, including Cheyenne and Carrie, who have been helping us on Song of the Day.

The workhorses again are Jason and Tom, who did all kinds of mixdown, incidental parts, guitar parts, background vocals, and the "finishing process" for the album. They didn't get a lot of sleep in late February. Not that Jason expected much sleep, as he has a newborn on top of everything else.

We'd do this again in a heartbeat, and I wouldn't be surprised if we decided to do it next year. We are going to be attending the listening party for it, and meet the other bands who participated in the RPM Challenge that are located in Chicago.

We hope you enjoy the new album! Go ahead and give a listen at the Beatnik Turtle homepage, at the Latest Album link. Coming up in another entry very soon is a story about one of the songs on the album: Mason Rocket (Spy Extraordinare), track 4.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Song of the Day

The Song of the Day project is the most ambitious thing that we've done. We concepted the project in 2005, and really only began work on it in 2006, when we pulled in all of the musicians that we knew, and declared that we wanted to try to release a song for every day of 2007.

There's some confusion about how we've done Song of the Day because there's two ways to do projects like these. One is to wake up every morning knowing that you will write and record a song. The other way is to write and record a song for every day of the year. We did the latter. We might not write music every day, but some of the songs take months to complete, to get just the right vocals, or to add a violin part, or record the drums. Often, there are only a few people in the studio at a time, but each of us record on multiple songs when we are there. For a recent set of songs, for example, I think that two days in a row, I was in the studio recording saxophones, flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet, all in succession on four or five songs. Not all of the songs are so developed, of course. Some are just a guy with a guitar in one session, and then done.

We've worked with over 30 musicians on this project, and collaborate whenever we run into people that can contribute. This keeps the songs sounding different from each other. We make an effort to use different singers, different instrumentation, and different styles as often as we can. We'd get bored otherwise. As you can tell by the liner notes on each song, however, there's certainly a core of people that work on most of the songs. Just to clarify what we're doing with this: we aren't bringing other bands in to the project, we're really just pulling in collaborations in from time to time. Actually, many times, someone will come to the studio and lay down a guitar and vocal track, and we'll fill in the bass, drums, and whatever else the song calls for. And many times, they are amazed at what happens to the song afterwards.

The website for The Song of the Day was a major project itself. It uses MySQL, PERL, Apache, Flash, and ID3 tags, and it was started from a blank text file. The concept for the site's design came from a cross between webcomics (with elements from,, and, a tear-off quote calendar, and a podcast site. Matt Scholtka came up with the excellent visual design from that mishmash of ideas, and Dana Huyler who created the award-winning website, did the backend work. I had the concept for the site, generally, and coordinated their efforts. The site is automatic. No one has to be awake at midnight central time to change the song over. And the RSS files for the daily podcasts are automatically created at midnight as well.

Mixing and engineering are mostly done by Jason and Tom, both of which have shouldered the vast unsung gruntwork of pulling the music for this this project together. Some of us are done when we finished our parts, but they are the ones who will then pull together the parts into the right places, mix the levels, add those little tweaks that make a song so much better, and then master it down to a MP3 file. Let's not forget tagging and naming the files right, too. All of that stuff takes a lot of time, believe us. And so they are definitely the workhorses of the project.

So that is the "what." We haven't discussed the "why?" And that's actually rather simple. We love songwriting, and it's a great creativity technique to do things based on quantity, rather than quality. You have to shut up that little critic in your head that insists that the new song you're working on is stupid. The only question becomes: "Is this a song?" And if the answer is yes, then you just press ahead. When you collaborate with talented people, even what seems to be a stupid idea can become something amazing. So, it's been an incredible process so far. We've been very pleased with how some of the songs have come out, and it's been a great experience for all of us.

One thing is for sure: We're never bored. Some people like going out drinking. Some like to watch movies. Some go fishing. We like writing and recording songs. And with so many songs yet to write, every time we get together we look at each other and say the same thing: "Let's write a song."

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's been a while...

This is Randy, and it really has been my fault that the blog went on hiatus for such a long time. We've been in the studio recording the Song of the Day project rather than writing about it. Part of the problem was that I was completely unhappy with our blog solution, which was overrun by spammers, and didn't have time to update our server. We eventually went to WordPress, which I'm quite happy with! I hope you enjoy the new blog, and especially the ability to keep track using RSS. I have it as a frame in the website, and if you want to go here directly, you can go to for the non-frame blog.

I'm going to try to catch people up on what's happened in the last months in bits and bytes:

1. We launched which is a website where we are releasing a new, original song, every single day of 2007. That's 365 songs. We'll be releasing that in 12 albums. Most of our time has been spent doing this project, including not just the music, but the custom-designed website as well.

2. We released "Thanks For Coming Out: Beatnik Turtle Live" in February, our first live album, and BT's fourth album. Many thanks to John Liesieki, who did a fantastic job recording and mixing the album.

3. We are releasing "All In A Day's Work", an album created for the RPM Challenge which challenges bands to write, record, and produce an album of at least 10 songs, or 35 minutes in just 28 days. The finished version will have the 13 songs that Beatnik Turtle submitted to the the challenge, and another 3 songs that we did prior that fit the theme of the album, which is all about working. We're very happy with how that came out.

4. We have continued to work on the Indie Band Surivival Guide, and are working on releasing a new "zine" for it that we will use to release interviews and articles.

5. We're playing the IPO again here in Chicago, and we're looking forward to getting on stage again after so many months of being in the studio.

6. We're playing on Live radio coming up soon, at the Razor and Die show on WLUW. This is a station that we've been looking forward to playing on for quite some time, so we've very excited.

So welcome back! I hope to have more background for you later.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Blog is Back

After a long hiatus, the blog is back. We’ve spent so much time making music and writing that we haven’t been able to write any entries.

But we’re back, and we’ll be adding posts for you to keep up with us shortly, as soon as we integrate this blog fully into our website.