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Men I Trust - Show Me How

Nov 2020

I remember the first time I heard about this band was during the SXSW festival in Texas in 2018, where they played some live shows. From that moment on, I felt a connection with their music. The band consists of bassist Jessy Caron, Dragos Chiriac as multi-instrumentalist and producer, and Emma Proulx as vocalist and guitarist. They claim that both their music and their image are sustained by their idyllic place of residence, Quebec, where nature has been a source of their inspiration.

Like their past couple of releases including 2017’s ‘Hope To Be Around’ and ‘Tailwhip’, the single takes listeners away from the dreariness of city reality and into the haziness of road trips and spontaneous camping getaways. And with our summer now at an end, and winter standing stonily at the end of autumn’s 3-month tunnel, it is a reminder that those sunlit days are sure to come again.

'Show me How' is a thoughtful track with an endearing hook. The soft guitar caresses the angelic vocals cozily and the drums provide a solid, slightly R&B, base.

Take a look at the remake video of 'Show me How', with the vocals collab of Erica Bender:

The song has the following structure:

GUITAR

The best way to start was to record the guitars throughout the song. For the guitar sound I started from a Guitar Rig 5 preset that I usually use as a starting point for any guitar of this style, called ‘Clean Chorus’, with soft and organic strumming.

On this preset I normally change some EQ and play with the delay and reverb values ​​depending on each case. In this song, since it is not a rhythm guitar with a lot of strumming (just once per chord), I put more delay and reverb than usual so those chords have a long sustain, avoiding the song from sounding empty. To help with this a bit, I also ran it through a tape effect compressor and an additional reverb with a final EQ to prevent it from having too much presence in the highs.

Guitar Chords


Following with guitars, a second lead guitar appears throughout the song, providing some melodies. It sounds similar to the other guitar, although in this case it is in the foreground. Surfing the reverb and delay presets section I found one that provided a similar color, with flanger and chorus. I lowered the delay value so it was barely noticeable and put in a spring reverb, without abusing. Below you can listen to these effects.

Solo Guitar

BASS

With all the guitars recorded, I went on to record and shape the bass sound. It is a round and percussive bass, with a color close to the characteristic Höfner. In fact, it has helped me a lot to have a Höfner to record this bass and thus have a good base sound to refine later. It is important to note that the more similar the base sound (without effects) is to the original, the easier it will to achieve a good result. Perhaps recording this track with another type of bass with more bass presence and less bright can make it harder to achieve the same result.

Once I recorded the entire bass track I could see that, without any effect, it was already close to the desired color. For this type of sticky-sounding bass, very beat-grabbing, melodic and with hardly any sustain but with good punch, I find it very effective to record them with a pick and palm-mute, hitting hard. In this way, a strong attack is achieved by cutting the tail of each note, freeing the overall space of the mix, and making this bass more understandable and melodic.

I have added some Waves plugins, such as compression to reduce these peaks generated when playing hard, an EQ that shapes some frequencies, and the Bass Rider, which regulates the volume to control dynamics and adds some color.

Bass

SYNTHS

You can hear to Yamaha DX7 synthesizer in some Men I Trust tracks like 'Numb', 'All Night' and 'Found Me'. This synthesizer came to define the ‘80s, and more recently in Bruno Mars’ throwback ballad 'Versace on the Floor', or in many songs by Blood Orange. This synthesizer is responsible for the warm, timeless quality in Men I Trust’s music. “We found the Men I Trust sound with this synthesizer,” Chiriac from Men I Trust said.

Although the songs of Men I Trust usually have quite a few synthesizers, in this song they go quite unnoticed. However, a faint organ does appear in some parts that adds warmth and fills in some of those frequencies that guitar strumming does not fill.

For this I have used the Arturia Prophet V, a recreation of the classic analog synthesizer manufactured in the 70s and revolutionary for being one of the first to implement patch memory, a functionality that saved the user's preferences for all the synthesizer parameters in an internal memory.

In the organ sound bank I found a preset that provided that warmth I was looking for. I reduced the cutoff value to make it more mellow and combined with the Vulf Compressor, from Goodhertz. Specifically, this plug-in not only compresses, but also brings that ribbon-like warmth and some modulation to the organ.

Below you can see the difference of that lofi touch that the Vulf-Compressor plugin brings in:

Prophet V Organ without Vulf-Compressor

Prophet V Organ with Vulf-Compressor

There is another pad that goes quite unnoticed. It is a kind of strings that act as a pedal note throughout the duration of the chorus. Whenever it is strings that play sustained notes for a long time and have a fill-in function in treble, I usually use the Solina by Arturia. With a viola sound a suitable sound is achieved for this line.

Below you can listen to these parts with and without this pad. Can you hear how it fills in that sharp left-panned frequency band?

Chorus without Solina Strings

Chorus with Solina Strings

DRUMS

For the drums I used an Addictive Drums 2 kit where everything sounds clean, with small room feeling. It is a VST where you can modify all kinds of details of the drums, starting with choosing what kind of kick, snare or cymbals among a wide variety. Then you can add all kinds of EQ to each element, filters, distortion, reverbs and other types of effects. In this case, it was important that both the snare and the kick drum sound without much hall sound so that it was quite round and compressed, like hip-hop style. 

A tambourine appears in the chorus, adding some air in the highs. Below you can hear a fragment of verse and the entrance to the chorus.

Drums Verse-Chorus

VOCALS

Finally, I have had the pleasure of working with Erica Bender to record the vocals. Erica is the singer of Terry vs Tori, a band from Sevilla with whom I have shared stage in Spain and with whom I also coincided at the SXSW festival in Texas (USA). You can listen to their music on spotify.

Erica has a mellow voice that fits perfectly with Emma Proulx's vocals, so that made things very easy. To give the vocals more body and stereo, there are 5 different tracks, all singing the same line and panned sideways. It's a basic trick that usually works for dreampop vocals. I just added some EQ, the Waves Vocal Rider to control the dynamics, and the Valhalla VintageVerb, one of my favorite reverb plugins, that gives that ethereal space to the voice. Below you can hear her vocals. You will also be able to appreciate how in the chorus some choirs appear making a perfect fourth interval (2 and a half tones) over the main voice.

Erica Vocals

EXTRA COMMENTS ABOUT CHORDS & THEORY

For those who have read this far, i am gonna end with a short dive into chord explanation this time.

The song is in A minor, so in this key we find: Am Bm C Dm Em F G. But also the chords in C major are the same with different order: C Dm Em F G Am Bm.

In music, relative keys are the major and minor scales that have the same key signatures (enharmonically equivalent), meaning that they share all the same notes but are arranged in a different order of whole steps and half steps. So in this song, we find A minor as the relative key of C major.

So if the song contains the C major and A minor chords, which key do we choose? In this case we will consider the song in A minor key because the song starts with the chord Am7 and it appears a lot throughout all the song, acting like tonal center and the resolution point. There are more evidences, like the E7 dominant chord (5th degree) that always leads to Am (1st degree). In music, the dominant is the fifth scale degree also noted as V of the diatonic scale. It is called the dominant because it is next in importance to the first scale degree, the tonic.

However, even if there are a lot of E7 throughout this song, you can find a G7 (also dominant) in the pre-chorus part. G7 is the 5th degree of C major key (and the relative minor of A minor key as said before!), so it does not sound out of the scale and it adds an extra color to the song in this part.

Also, the Bbmaj7 and Amaj7 chords are not in the A minor key. Bbmaj7 is one semitone above the tonic A and it is used sometimes in music and its called upper-neighborhood. The Amaj7 chord is borrowed from A major key (we are in A minor key) and it adds that special "major" flavour when the chorus starts, giving that sunrise feeling. This is called modal interchange.

David Alonso patreonthanks for reading!

If you liked it, or if you want to download the Ableton Projects with the
plugins used and all the tracks & midi files by one click, check out my Patreon page!

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