Here we go again, overexplaining ourselves! In this installment of "A Deeper Dive" the guys comment on Porch Light, from our 2021 album Try It Now!
Steve wrote this song, and when I first heard the demo that had no vocals yet, I thought it was an upbeat, happy tune - especially with the cool brass tones from Alan. Then Pete wrote his lyrics, which were very dark and it took me a while to get used to the lyrical/musical juxtaposition (I think I just pulled a hamstring writing "juxtaposition"). Now I find myself tapping my toe to the tune and being all-in on the dark/light contrast. And I am no longer scared of Pete. Mostly.
This was the first ZFB song that I used a guitar sequencer on. It took a few takes to get the effect to match the tempo, but we got it. I think it's a good musical fit with the "Psycho"-ish theme of the tune. Hot lead!
My main remembrance of being introduced to Porch Light was to immediately go to a dark extreme of tone. The fantastic horn line from longtime collaborator, Alan, was just so fresh and perky. The sordid tale of a jealous lover just seemed very apropos. Sometimes you flow along with the tone and sometimes you try swimming against it. It seemed to me to be in the tradition of Cash's Cocaine Blues.
As mentioned by Rich, I wrote the basic musical elements - guitars, bass, drums - to be a hopefully catchy, upbeat, pop-punk kind of thing. Before Pete and Rich ever heard it, I had our buddy Alan add some parts. His contributions were 2 tracks of flugelhorn, and an EWI soprano sax patch that is mixed pretty low but you can hear it if you squint real hard. Those horn parts changed the mood of the song immediately from punkish to an almost Partridge Family C'mon Get Happy vibe.
Rich's addition of the guitar sequencer thing - something I still don't really understand - was a great idea. The song really didn't need another rhythm guitar and the line that he added is just what the tune needed. I remember Pete furiously scribbling lyrics as we listened to the track, and I remember Rich and I looking at each other as he sang them for the first time, exchanging glances that suggested our surprise at the dark turn this song had taken! We had a murder ballad on our hands! My favorite line might be "I loved you, baby."
Pete's exclamation of "What the heck!?" at the very beginning was a reaction to some kind of beer-induced technical difficulty we were having that got captured on-mic. Of course, we don't like to waste audio, so it made sense to cut and paste that snippet to the very beginning of the song, and it certainly helps set the scene for what's to come.
My other hazy memory of recording this is that Rich and I had this *great idea* to shout "Hot Lead!" over and over as a backing vocal. We were very enthusiastic about this idea, but Pete wasn't so we changed course. Turns out he was right - it would have been too much!