I think it's time to talk about Floods' Transmission, as the album is now almost a year old. It was released on August 8, 2008. I know this album very well because I'm one of Floods' two band members. I played a lot of guitar for Transmission and even sang a little bit, while my good friend, Brother Todd, handled the synths, programming, and editing. We shared arrangement duties and we never fought about anything, I swear.
It's sort of an interesting story, and it begins in the winter of 2002. I don't want to tell you the whole storywhat fun would that be?but I'll tell you just enough. Or maybe a little too much.
I was living on the 14th floor of a 23-story apartment tower in downtown Newark, NJ, and dating a pretty girl who lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn: Emily. She had (and still has, I imagine) the kindest blue eyes and a smile to match. Emily grew up in Seattle, and, for Christmas that year, she would return to spend the holiday with her parents. Yes, we would miss each other dearly, but Emily would be back in Brooklyn soon after the New Year, and we would continue where we left off; 2003 would belong to us. I was 26 years old, and I felt ready to devote myself to one person and to build a shared future. I had told Emily that I loved her. She loved me, too. We made all sorts of plans.
While Emily was in Seattle, I contacted Todd. I had a little idea. As a Christmas present, I would like to record an album for Emily, I told him. I had begun jotting down some lyrics, collecting a few riffs.
Todd was very excited. We had played together during college, and were always deeply inspired by one another. This would be a much needed reunion. We planned to meet at Todd's home, near the Pine Barrens of South Jersey, one cold winter weekend. The album was written and recorded, in fact, just as 2002 turned into 2003. I was full of hope.
It all took place in Todd's cold basement. We plugged my guitar into effects boxesmostly phase, reverb, and echoand from the effects boxes, we plugged directly into Todd's computer. I don't know what recording software Todd used, but I'm sure he could tell you. Todd set up a sort of click track, and I would play a riff. I played the riff over and over again until Todd felt satisfied that he'd have enough to work with for later splices, loops, cuts, and pastes. It was sort of grueling. I remember thinking that Todd was being a bit of a slave driver. "Just one more, just one more, just one more…" It was a side of him that I was unfamiliar with. But, in my experience, all good producers share this ability of squeezing out the best from their musicians.
After we had captured a few guitar tracks, we would go about layering them, one on top of another, in ways that we thought made sense, attempting to create the framework for songs that would have real dynamic movements, songs that would tell stories and hold the listener's attention. Next, Todd and I discussed rhythms and experimented with percussive sounds. We added these as we went along, inserting a thunderous bass kick at just the right moment or punctuating a melody with a sparkling crash cymbal. And then, of course, there was generous application of what I came to refer to as "shakers," a maraca-like element that, I felt, gave the music a certain momentum.
"Alright, brother," I would say, "I think we need some shakers here."
And so on.
We worked like this for almost two days, stopping only to eat, sleep, and take walks through the quiet, bare woods. During our walks, we would think about our lives and discuss our ideas for the songs. I described the train ride from my apartment to Emily's, through the icy Meadowlands and down into the subway, from Newark's Broad Street Station to Greenpoint's Manhattan Avenue. I had written some lyrics that expressed my love for Emily:
I want to give you rooftops
I want to give you histories
When you look at me like that,
I hear you say more than you can say
All the swamps are frozen now
Tall grass caught, standing still
You can't be held that way
It was right about the time that we had completed the basic tracks that something happened between me and Emily. We spoke over the phone and I could hear in her voice that something had changed. Her return from Seattle was not marked by relief and love, but by anxiety and uncertainty. We barely spoke. We barely hugged. A few days later, she broke up with me at the City Bakery on 18th Street over coffee and cookies.
I tried to argue, but it was no use. Then again, inside me, somewhere, I was relieved. In time, I returned to Todd's home, squeezed of hope but filled with sadness, to record a few more songs and track vocals over a couple of others. It's funny now, of course, but what's really sad about it all is that an album which started as a sort of love letter suddenly became a document of pain. But perhaps it makes for better art. Who knows? I've grown to love it, Transmission. In fact, I'm very proud of it. I like it more each time I listen. I don't even think of the pain anymore. But maybe it helped that it took Todd so long to complete the albumnearly six years from the time we started to the time Transmission was officially released.
Todd did an incredible job with the production. The album sounds amazing over the hi-fi, with fascinating stereo effects and startling depth. Transmission is thrilling and captivating and feels exactly like a train ride through the Meadowlands in winter. In addition to recording and producing the songs, Todd designed all of the album art, and created a very nice-looking website for the band. We have a bio and everything! There's even a Myspace page where you can listen to a few of the songs.
I will always remain thankful to Todd for his dedication to my little idea, for his hard work, and most of all for his friendship. I love him; he is my brother. And, of course, in some ways, I will always love Emily, too. Transmission was made for her.