The Ateliers: Moon: Colombo By Night
Hi! Welcome to our ninth entry. In this entry, we’ll be discussing the writing and recording of Colombo By Night.
I started writing Colombo By Night in 2015. I had friends Andy and Maria over for dinner at my apartment. After they left, I wrote the first 2 verses and the chorus. They were dating and I could see that they were learning how to love one another. This song is about learning how to love someone more every day. I felt that there would be a bridge but nothing was working so it sat incomplete for a couple weeks. In August of that year, I went to Sri Lanka to teach music. I was with a group of friends at the house we were staying at when one of our Sri Lankan hosts came to the house and said, "Do you want to see Colombo By Night?" We were really tired from teaching all day, but it would’ve been rude to say no so we all jumped in his van and bounced around the city as he told us what different buildings were. Sometimes the moments we feel joy can be very peculiar. That memory of being in the van is definitely a happy one. When I got home, I took out my acoustic and wrote the bridge.
When I first started playing music, I played in C minor a lot because I was playing in a metal band that drop tuned. For this song, I play C major shapes but I put the capo on the third fret so I’m in the key of Eb major, which is also C minor. This is the oldest song that I’ve written that I still play live. Something about this key has always felt comfortable.
Let’s talk about the chord progressions.
The verse is Eb, Bb/D, Cm7 and then tagging the Bb on the E string, and then going to the F on the B string, sliding up to G and back to F.
The chorus is Ab, Eb, Bb/D.
The bridge is Cm, Bb/D, Ab, Eb, Cm, Bb/D, Cm, Bb/D, Eb.
This is actually the second time recording this song and I’m grateful I got the chance to do it again. The first time, I did it with a producer when I was releasing the songs under my name.
This is one of the songs that Branden, Daniel, and Sam connected with and we’ve been playing it together for about four years. I wanted a recording of it that captured the four of us and the new found magic we’ve found in the song.
Our studio situation was about to change at the end of the month because the building we were recording in was getting demolished. I decided to record the acoustic for Colombo and the final 2 songs on the album to keep as much continuity as we could on the album. When I opened Colombo the next day after recording all the songs, the guitar track was gone. I accidentally saved the session after I prepped for the next song so the file was gone. Fortunately, I was able to find it in another spot where logic saved it. That was a huge relief and it has helped me be a bit more careful.
The percussion was really tough on this one because we had full kit in the last version but we didn’t have the resources to do full kit this time around. We’re using an apogee duet as our interface and it only has two inputs for recording so we could only record 2 mics at a time. I knew we had to fill out percussion as much as possible so I played every drum in the studio. Some things felt right and some didn’t but I kept it all and listened the next day. Surprisingly, the snare shuffle felt really good and some of the shaker stuff worked as well. Branden and I found some samples of some stomps and then we recorded the cajon over everything. You might have recognized the tiny trumpet part or the cymbals from Where You Stay, the third song on the album. Both songs are in Eb so we were hoping to share some of the audio to connect the two songs. Where You Stay and Colombo are both about commitment and I think it’s because of how similar the chord progressions are. I believe most music portrays something specific and part of the challenge as a musician is to explore those interpretations and the impacts certain types of sounds have on various people.
I worked with a violin player named Madison, which turned out to be a really cool session. We had to move into one of the empty rooms of the school because the closet now had nothing in it and sounded very echoey. Unfortunately, the light in the room made noise so we recorded in the dark. Madison was really cool about it and it led to both of us expressing deep emotion and having a lot of fun recording.
Sam and Branden both worked really hard on their vocals for this song and it’s so cool to hear the diversity of our voices all singing together. If you listen closely at the end, you’ll hear our friend Suren speaking Sinhala. He has had a big influence on our music so we thought it would be appropriate to add him to this song. He sent this clip to Branden for a tattoo idea he had that says "from the ashes came beauty, in my darkness there's light". Branden shared with me that the first part is a reminder that no matter how much you feel beaten down or destroyed, that something more beautiful will be coming after. The second part is a reminder that there is always a light in your dark times and that you just gotta find it. Sometimes it's an inner voice trying to help you along or sometimes it can be a close friend helping you through tough times. He liked it because the context of the meaning can be applied to any point of where you're at in your life to help remind you to not lose hope or joy. Thank you for reading, we appreciate all of your support!