Exit Strategy - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Guitar

I began experimenting with guitar in Larvae songs on Dead Weight. The song "Airplanes" was actually written on guitar, played (poorly) by me, and then re-recorded by Randy Garcia so that the guitar had a nice tone and wasn't completely out of tune. Back then, I had the good sense to bring people in who could play guitar much better than I could so that the songs would sound good. After we finished up Dead Weight, I even tried playing guitar at a Larvae show at Eyedrum, but I found that I was so bad at it and it took so much more concentration to do the littlest things that it just wasn't as much fun as playing with the mixer and laptop on stage.

Larvae playing at Eyedrum for the 404noise Fest in 2006

For the "Turning Around" half of Loss Leader, I played all of the guitar, even on the song "Heavy" where there are probably six or seven layers of guitar tracks by the end. A lot of the weirdness of those songs comes from the fact that I didn't know how to tune my guitar and I have no technique to speak of, so most of the guitar was chunked down to tracks in Cubase and then hacked into time with digital edits.

Randy once mentioned that he liked the uniqueness of this sound and I suppose that's a plus--it's certainly born from a near complete naivete and lack of motivation to actually learn the instrument. In fact, when I DO tune the thing, I have to look up what note each string is supposed to be on Wikipedia because I can never remember.

Fast forward to Exit Strategey and I knew that the guitar was once again going to be an integral part of the songwriting process. As with "Airplanes" and "Heavy", many of the songs on this new record were written on the guitar, banged out one note at a time, and then augmented in the computer. While the sampler is still my instrument of choice, I found that I was able to get at the emotinal, melodic core of what I was doing much more quickly with a guitar than with synths or samples.

Luckily when I moved to Austin, I reunited with the guitarist from a previous band who had a beautifully clean amp that I could borrow. I recorded a handful of songs with the guitar running direct into my audio interface until I got the amp from Eric and realized that the amplified, mic'd sound was about a million times better. I had to re-record those first songs (no easy feat since I do it all by ear and have no idea where to put my fingers to make any of the notes,) and once I did, I realized that I needed to go further in this direction.

Guitar courtesy of Amber, Amp courtesy of Eric

So Exit Strategy is heavy on the guitar. Most songs have at least a couple guitar parts, while some have half a dozen layers of different guitar sounds, parts, and textures. I still can't really play a chord to save my life, but I can pick at the strings and play very simple melodies, then strum open strings or wail on the thing with an ebow to get textures. The result is a batch of songs that I'm incredibly proud of and happy with, even though I know that they could sound better if someone like Eric was laying down the tracks.