JUMEAUX Q&A SERIES PART 4 – LIBBY LAVELLA & ANTONIO GAMBALE on FIND THE WORDS
In our next installment of the Q&A series, JUMEAUX take on your questions about the song FIND THE WORDS. Like we’ve done in our previous Q&A’s, we’ve drawn up a series of questions based on the most popular things we’ve been asked by fans into an interview-style format, for your reading pleasure. OK let’s have it!
SPOILER ALERT: IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T CAUGHT ON YET, IN OUR Q&A DISCUSSIONS WE INEVITABLY END UP MENTIONING EVENTS FROM THE BOOK SERIES, BE IT FROM THE FIRST INSTALLMENT ALL THE WAY TO THE LATEST RELEASE. SO IF YOU’RE NOT UP TO DATE ON YOUR READING YET, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU GOTTA DO!
Q: On your facebook, you said that FIND THE WORDS is your theme song for JOSH NEWMAN. Can you tell us about the song and why you wrote it about JOSH?
AG: Hey, and thanks for the question. Yes when we got going on this song, we did have JOSH in mind, I think there’s an energy and a pace to it that is a reflection of JOSH’s energy as a character… He can’t sit still for five minutes, he’s a “why walk when you can run” kind of a guy, so we wanted to inject that kind of energy into the song. Also though, for me the song isn’t just about JOSH, especially in the lyrics. As we were writing it, we were talking a lot about the concept of the “awakenings” that JOSH and SOPHIE both go through in the series. It fascinates me to imagine what that must feel like, and I think the way MICHAEL SCOTT describes this process in his books is remarkable. It’s not just some kind of simple transformation where hey presto, you suddenly go from being an ordinary person to being some kind of superhero like in comic books, shows like Heroes or movies like X-Men. In the Flamel books, the description of exactly how this transformation happens is so much richer and so much more tantalising. I love the way he explains to us that the modern world has dulled us, deafened us, blinded us, so that we’re no longer able to see or feel the truth of what’s around us, nor tap in to the true power inside us all. So when he writes about the “awakening” of JOSH and SOPHIE, it’s so compelling to me the way he describes all their senses going into overdrive. It’s like all of a sudden a dam breaks, and all this previously blocked off energy inside you is set free. Michael’s description makes so much sense that you can almost feel it for yourself, like it’s just there but tantalisingly out of reach. Anyway, this concept, this feeling was a big part of the inspiration for this song. The repeated looping lyrics “I can’t stop thinking it, I can’t stop feeling it” – they were really inspired by this sensation, the rush of the awakening.
LL: Awakenings…yeah, I remember those discussions. A lot of the subject matter for this song was inspired by the main lyrics idea “For the first time, he realized….”, which was written by Antonio. I really liked the idea and ran with it, however, for me personally, as a lyricist, I was channeling my only personally experience of being adopted, and finding a whole new family and persona later in my life. In fact, I was close to the age of Sophie and Josh when I discovered the news, and this is a HUGE reason why I feel so connected to the characters. What Josh is going through as he realizes he’s waiting to be made “great” while his sister is being “great”, is something that resonant with me. When I discovered I was adopted, It was about 3 years and change before I discovered the whole truth (or as whole as possible) of my origins. It was a frustrating time and one that couldn’t be helped. My parents were 100% supportive and helpful and still it was fraught with questions, second-guesses and closed doors, and then…lots of really cool open ones too! So, even though this is about Josh, I’m really singing about myself.
AG: Sure thing. As usual I’m sure Libby will have more to say about the lyrics than me because she write lyric proper me just dumb moosician Libby is the real lyrics-meister. I just throw suggestions into the pot and she is the one who weaves it all together into, you know musical rhyming poetry. So, now that’s all cleared up, here’s what I think about the lyrics for FIND THE WORDS.
When writing song lyrics, I’m discovering that it’s not always the case that you start from the beginning and write your way to the end. More often than not, it’s a chorus that comes to you first, or an idea for some lines in a verse. For FIND THE WORDS though, it was literally the first lines of the song that came first for a change. Anyway, the intro lyrics “For the first time he realized, there’s nothing special to his life” were the first lines that got stuck in our minds for ages before writing the rest of the song. I guess for me it describes a pretty general state of mind that could apply to anyone at some time in your life. Kind of like an admission to yourself that maybe this is as good as it gets. Or that maybe those dreams you’ve always had, maybe they’re always going to just be dreams. Depressing stuff. But also not, because I think sometimes admitting honest things like this to yourself is the way you move forward in life. In this day and age where every kid in school gets a medal just for trying, there can be a tendency to just accept that near enough is good enough and I personally think this isn’t always a good thing. Anyway, in relation to the books, I guess this lyric for me really gets inside JOSH’s head when he watches his sister from the sidelines as he sees her awakened. It makes him feel suddenly like the most ordinary person in the world, like nothing about him is special anymore. It provokes a pang of jealousy in him, but also ignites a spark – planting the seed in his mind that he wants more than anything be everything he can be. Well you know, that kind of thing anyway!
So for me, that’s one of the main themes for the lyrics in the song. Another thing we wanted to evoke was the chase, the race against time to, well, “Find the words”. And by that I’m referring to the words of Abraham’s Codex. I remember when we came up with this line (which became the title of the song), Libby and I both liked the different ways you could interpret it. On the one hand it can refer to the race to recover the Codex at the core of book series. Everyone is after these powerful words that hold the key to the destiny of, well, everything. But it’s also a reference to the awakenings as well – trying to “find the words” to describe the indescribable – “it’s not an easy thing to put into words”. That was a quote from the lyrics, see what I did there? 🙂
Um, over to Libby?
LL: Actually, Tone, as I’ve mentioned already, you wrote the initial lyrics for this song “For the first time, etc”. The entire song stemmed from this and again for me it inspired me to channel some very personal things.
AG: Yep it does. Like I mentioned before, a lot of what inspired us for this song was the supercharged teen energy of JOSH. But other key influences were trying to capture the sensation of the unrelenting chase that carries us through the whole book series, and also the uplifting feeling of wonder – the pure rush of the awakening process. These were I guess the feelings we wanted to capture in music, the images in our minds that drove us to give the song its pace and its uplifting feel. In terms of actual songs that were a musical influence on us for FIND THE WORDS, I can only think of one, maybe Libby has some others. For me it was this great track (oldie but a goodie) by UNDERWORLD, called JUMBO from their album BEAUCOUP FISH. I’ve always really loved this song and the way it has this unrelenting drive to it, but also weaves its way through a beautifully constructed wall of sound that’s really uplifting. Libby?
LL: I really love Goldfrapp, and I especially love how they take risks, change it up and go for it. True artistry in my opinion. Their last album was very 4 on the floor (beat talk, I’m sure Tone has specific beat nomenclature for the type of beats they used and they types of beats we used, but me just dumb lyricist) 80s pop driven. Lots of repetitive loops and hooks and almost trance like mantras. So when we were working on this, I had that in mind. I wanted to do an almost dance track with mesmerizing hooks throughout. Also, the other songs that we’d released are more ethereal and moody, I felt like it was time to infuse our music with the more frantic energy of the book series and the anxiety within the story. The whole series takes place over a short period of time, and when you get into the book of the year, you relive this. However, contrastingly there is this year long wait between books…, which is really tough once you finish the current book and it (the series) feels more mellow than it really is. Also, I know what Tone is capable of, in terms of beats and programming, so I wanted him to flex his other muscles in this area.
Q: There are lots of instruments and interesting sounds in this song. Can you tell us about what
instruments you used to make it?
AG: Hmm, yep we pretty much plugged in and mic’d up every instrument we could get our hands on in the studio for this one. We even mic’d up our hands and recorded handclaps! I guess we were really aiming for a rich tapestry in this song, so we recorded a lot of tracks. At the start of the song, we kicked it off with a riff on the electric guitar, which we then twisted and turned with reversing and other effects. Then we recorded a lot of synthesizer tracks using the Oberheim Xpander and Mini Moog (check out the photos here if you haven’t yet). We also used a lot of string section in this song, because we found it gave it a really nice epic, cinematic vibe. Hmm, what else? I think there’s even some kalimba in it, cos there was a kalimba lying around in the studio so were like, kalimba yeah? Why not.
Before handing over to Libby, I just wanted to put in a HUGE plug and thank you to the amazing audio engineer who mixed this song for us. I won’t repeat my rant about what mixing means again, you can read about that in our Q&A on THIS WAY FOREVER if you’re interested. For this song, we were humbled and brought to our knees with delight to have it mixed by MICHAEL PERFITT. Who’s he I hear you ask? Well, let me put it this way. Did you watch the series HEROES? Do you watch NURSE JACKIE? Well Mr Perfitt is the guy who mixed all the music on both of those shows. Dude even got a freakin EMMY for the music on NURSE JACKIE. He’s also recorded and mixed albums by SEAL, SMASHMOUTH and MATCHBOX 20. Oh and he has also recorded this singer called MADONNA and just worked on the music for a GUS VAN SANT film. I’ve said it before and will be saying it again, repeatedly: Nothing but the best for Flamel fans!
LL: While we’re giving our thank yous, I have to thanks Nunzio and Maureen Gambale, and also Patricia Churm, because they gave the miles to get to Paris to record with Antonio. THANK YOU! Yes, at one point I think we were contemplating what fanning the pages of the books against the mic would sound like and I said, “Tone I think it’s time to stop!”. It became an exercise in “taking away” after it was all done. It was a monster! This was our “Guernica” (Picasso), in the sense that we ended up taking a lot of elements out to make it work in the end.
AG: Well spotted! Actually this was an idea of Libby’s, so I’ll hand over to her on this one. What I will say is that the languages are French and Italian.. mainly because they’re the only other languages we speak apart from English.
LL: Yeah…I basically bullied Tone into it, he wasn’t really feeling it, but I insisted. I heard it from the beginning and now that it is there I LOVE it. I think I was feeling this because the series is global, and portal (?) LOL! I think it would be quite easy to get really “on the nose “ with the languages and musical influences, almost like a cirque du soleil treatment, but we would never do that….no, no, no. oh no. So this was a nod to the European aspect, the ancient and romantic aspect and the historical aspects of the series.
Thanks for reading. Later this week, we’ll be releasing a new video to compliment Find The Words. We’ll also blog about it too! Stay tuned!