Bonus Song: “Bitter Dancer” – Fleet Foxes Cover

Since last week’s song is still in progress, I thought I would share this Fleet Foxes cover song I recorded this past weekend. Jeff Schwinghammer and I went out into the fresh snow on Sunday and found an awesome spot to shoot a music video:

Behind the Song

It was a pretty slow night on Friday, so I decided to finally record a Fleet Foxes cover. I had learned “Montezuma” a while back, with the intention of doing a one-take recording. But I decided instead to try out my favorite moment in the entirety of their new album Helplessness Blues: “The Plains / Bitter Dancer.” I really wanted to learn these beautiful three-way harmonies.

Production-wise, I tried to keep things simple. I recorded the main fingerpicked guitar line on my electric, then laid a couple other guitar lines on top of that. The “cha-ka-cha-ka” rhythmic section after the first verse is actually muted electric guitar strumming. I ran it through a vocoder noise effect to make it sound a little like a snare drum.

Ableton Live's vocoder effect in "Noise" mode.

Behind the Video

Jeff and I brainstormed ideas for the video on Sunday morning. Our first plan was to greenscreen three of me lined up and singing together. But that idea seemed way too gimmicky after seeing some of the naturally beautiful footage Jeff shot outside.

When we started our journey outside to film, we didn’t have any idea what we were going to shoot. We just hoped there would be something cool around the lakes in Minneapolis. Sure enough, we spotted the awesome Kenwood Park Water Tower on our trip around Lake of the Isles.

With this iconic image in mind, we spent the next couple hours grabbing shots that we could edit together into an abstract story. Don’t ask me what it means. It’s so mysterious it just defies all explanation.

To add to this mystery, Jeff shot me singing in our dungeon-like basement, in near darkness. I have to confess I imagined myself looking pretty dorky singing this song, but Jeff’s lighting was like magic. He really did an excellent job with this whole video. I’m thankful he was willing and able to work with me on this and finish it up in just two days.

You can check out more of Jeff’s work and say hi on YouTube, Twitter, and at

Week 13: Luke Friedrich – “Just Like Today” (Charlie Parr Cover)

After 8th grade graduation, it was rare that I got to see my buddy Luke Friedrich. I missed out on a whole chunk of his musical life. He’s been playing in three (or four?) bands, and writing some great music. Luckily we discovered that we’re now neighbors here in Minneapolis. This past week, Luke came to me with a bluegrassy Charlie Parr song he wanted to try recording.

Just Like Today
Performed by Luke Friedrich, words and music by Charlie Parr

Audio MP3

Behind the Song

Luke brought over his beautiful resonator guitar, and we recorded a demo track of him playing and singing at the same time, to get the overall structure down. Luke recorded guitar and vocals individually after that, but then we realized his demo recording was the take. Sure there were a couple buzzed notes here and there, but I loved his delivery and the emotion in this demo track. I was only recording the guitar in mono for this demo track, which I wouldn’t normally do, but it actually worked out great for the Iron & Wine-style production I wanted to try out. At key points during the chorus, I have the overdubbed guitar part enter in stereo, to fill out the soundscape a bit.

After that, Luke laid down vocal harmonies and slide guitar, and I played a violin part. When it came time to master the track, I resisted my urge to produce a “clean” track, and added a little hiss and pop to give it some old-timey warmth. I added a couple other cool Ableton Live effects to give it the old tape sound:

  1. I set up a Frequency Shifter effect to make the whole track warble a little. I randomized the rate and boosted the amount a little bit at the beginning and end. If you try this effect, make sure the Dry/Wet knob is at 100% wet, otherwise you’ll get some funky phasing effects.
  2. I added a simple overdrive effect, mostly acting as an EQ filter to take some of the high and low end off. I have the effect gradually decrease over the whole song so it sounds more lo-fi at the beginning.

I’m glad Luke introduced me to Charlie Parr’s music. You should also check out Luke’s own music, too. He plays drums in Crimes, who just released an album. He sings, writes, and produces music in Squares:

Latest tracks by squaresmn