|Photo by: www.deanandjake.bandcamp.com|
Every year, the School of Media Arts and Studies sponsors a contest called the “48 Hour Shootout” in which groups of students form teams and create an entirely original short film in only two full days. Dean Tartaglia, front man of local rock outfit, Mind Fish, wanted to try an equally challenging concept, but for a musician and songwriter instead of an aspiring filmmaker.
In just eight short hours, the same amount of time as a recommended good night’s sleep, Tartaglia wrote, recorded and produced eight original songs. This September, Tartaglia actually completed his second “8 in 8” in less than a year—he finished his first “8 in 8” series last spring with help from pianist and songwriter Kaitrin McCoy. Audio production majors Dave Polster, Vice President of Artists and Repertoire for Brick City Records, the student-run record label at Ohio University--and Adam Rich, President of BCR—produced and mastered both EPs titled End of the World and Back2Skool, respectively.
Tartaglia took the idea from a project by Ben Folds, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, Damian Kulash of OK Go, and novelist Neil Gaiman (Stardust and Coraline). The quartet met at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston to write and produce an “8 in 8.” The musicians wanted to show the increasing ridiculousness that went along with record labels’ excessive amount of creating promotion and buzz for new artists and singles. Their “8 in 8” tried to highlight raw creativity and musicianship instead of countless hours spent behind a computer screen, tweaking and manipulating a song into perfection, then promoting the single until it is stuck in everyone’s head (See: “Party in the USA”). Tartaglia read about the project on Twitter and thought to himself, “That’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”
“So I stole the idea,” explained Tartaglia, “but that’s what musicians do. They take ideas and make them their own.” He added with a smile, “The Beatles were really good at that.”
Tartaglia released the first “8 in 8” EP on May 21: the day marked by belief that the rapture was coming. Tartaglia poked fun at the idea with a song titled “Before the Rapture,” in which he lists a series of different things to take care of before the rapture occurs.
Laughing a little, Tartaglia recited some of the lyrics, “Call your dog over and help him scratch that itch / Call your ‘ex’ a saint even though she’s a…” One fan took exception to this rhyme, and let Tartaglia know about it, but that’s another story.
Many musicians and songwriters find it difficult to work with each other with deadlines weeks away, let alone hours. On his first “8 in 8”, Tartaglia realized McCoy’s brain processed things differently from his, but by the fourth or fifth song, the two found their groove. Unfortunately, after this newfound chemistry, the duo only had a little over an hour and a half to finish the EP’s final three songs.
“It was hard the first time,” said Tartaglia. “It was a lot of, ‘Let’s try this, let’s try that.’”
Ukulele player Jake Loew joined Tartaglia for his second “8 in 8.” Polster and Rich again teamed up behind the soundboard to produce and master the tracks. Tartaglia admits his and Loew’s style clashed a little bit at first, but after the first three or four songs the musicians started feeding off each other more than fighting against each other. Tartaglia also tried to embrace Loew’s folk roots. Tartaglia admitted that after a while he even started to follow Loew’s lead.
“It’s weird because the first thing you realize is how different you are as musicians,” Tartaglia explained. “I explained to [Loew], you write the song and then you record it, and you don’t worry about messing up.”
Tartaglia pointed out a big difference between his first and second “8 in 8” series—the number of guest appearances. Mike Petruccelli (who now works as a professional musician in Chicago), Dan Barbera (the guitarist in Mind Fish), and Tartaglia’s friend Luke Swisher (who sang the lead vocals on “Unicycle Lovin’”) all contributed to Tartaglia’s End of the World EP.
The only guest appearance on Back2Skool is Tartaglia’s brother, Dom, who rapped over the phone on the song “Dom Likes Crackers and Snacks.” Tartaglia and Rich agreed that Dom rapped a good verse despite not being able to hear the beat at all.
Tartaglia also laughed when remembering the inspiration behind the tracks “Oh Kaitie, Kaitie” and “The Skeezer.” The former was written for Ohio University student Kaitie Firm, who for years asked Tartaglia to write a song about her. On “The Skeezer,” Tartaglia sings about a creepy old man who tells his perverted story from a prison cell. He envisioned British actor and comedian Russell Brand as the “skeezer” while writing the song.
“It’s not about lyrical content. It’s what you can come up within eight hours. Those are the lyrics. If it looks good, if it sounds good, roll with it,” explained Tartaglia.
The main lesson Tartaglia took from the experience was to try and do something every day. He realized hard work, talent and a few good songs aren’t enough to make it in the music business. With the increasing role of the internet and mass communication in music, combined with listeners’ short attention spans for artists and a constant craving for something new, Tartaglia discovered it’s not enough to write a few songs and sing them well.
“We’re in the 21st century. If you’re in a band, you gotta do other stuff. You have to come up with things people aren’t familiar with, like this, and get their attention that way.”
When he’s not in class, practicing with Mind Fish or writing new music, Tartaglia serves as the teacher’s assistant for MUS 124, the History of Rock Music. Tartaglia revealed a love for teaching and enriching others through music and learning. He stressed a less structured approach to music and letting creativity flow. He also jokingly asked that young musicians not try to be a huge pop stars, because pop stars only have one or two good years.
“The thing with young musicians is they’re too critical of themselves. Just write a song and keep it. Just see what happens. Just get the song done, make it pretty good, and then time will turn it into something else,” stressed Tartaglia.
Tartaglia isn’t finished with this new concept of making music. He hopes to find a recording studio outside of his apartment. Stylistically, he is still unsure of how he wants his next “8 in 8” to sound, but is tossing around a few ideas.
“The next one we want to do is gonna be completely different,” said Tartaglia, who welcomes the challenge an “8 in 8” presents and how it allows him to grow as a musician. “My whole thing when I started this was ‘it’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about the process.’ It’s all about the process. It’s all about the experience, it’s all about the process, that’s what makes it what it is. That’s the most important thing I took away from this.”
Listeners will have to stay tuned to hear about Dean's next "8 in 8," coming soon.
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