9th demo done -- It's country time!
This is a little departure, but The 'Berts tried it anyway -- some country tunes, or rather, what they think country tunes are. This is probably a one-time deal. Tracks include the perky "Don't Stop the Train" that Herb was singing in a recently shot audio-less commercial for Hawaii Family Dental (it's a long story), two "Me" songs: "Believe In Me" and "Tell Me", two "You" songs: "Just Like You" and "My Dream Is You", and one song inspired by Herb's computer-assisted music students at St. Andrew's Priory School: "I Lied." They did not actually lie to him. They thought of the title and some of the lyrics. The next set of songs should be more experimental, including "The Opposite of War", the title of which also came from a piece by the same name composed by Herb's students.
8th demo finished, and 4 more planned
Within a month, the 'Berts finished their 7th demo "Tiare," and their 8th, "Bert Is Evil." The 8th demo contains more humorous material, including the title track about their encounter with a certain unstable female. This is a true story, not funny at the time, but fun to talk about now. Other tracks are: "Private Space" (what goes through an older single guy's mind when he meets someone who might be the one), "Talk" (Herb trying to sound like the Pet Shop Boys, accent and all), "Black Cat" (ode to the animal that wanders outside the studio), "I'm the One" (Bobby's xenophobic anthem), and "Monkey" (no comment).
The Tiare CD tracks: "Tiare," "Do You Know?," "Goodbye to One Dream, Hello to Another," (our one and only instrumental track to date) "The Valley," "Just Another Day," (really, REALLY retro) and "Foolish,"
Work on four more six-track demos starts immediately, beginning with a set of "weepy" songs. This makes a total of 72 original songs in the 'Berts repertoire.
5th demo finished
After a three-month writing period, the 'Berts are wrapping up a new set of four six-song demo CD's to catalog their work. The first of the new demos, entitled "The Road Not Traveled" is complete, and the second new demo "Leave the Light On", is ready to be mixed and burned. "Road" tracks are: "The Road Not Traveled," "January's Child," "Voices," "Shelle," "Come Out and Play," and "Two Hearts." "Light On" tracks are "Leave the Light On," "Betty Blue," "Suddenly Summer," "Ode to Mr. D," and "If I Could Talk to You."
the "Studio" gets a new "look"
Okay, the furniture just got moved around, but it took hours and it actually makes sense since physical contortions will no longer be necessary to accomplish the normal tasks of sequencing and recording.
Herb and Bobby have found a welcome source of information in Herb’s classmate Kuuhaku who is experienced in the local recording scene. After months of nothing but questions, there were nothing but answers at the first meeting. With a new space and a new direction, the light is green for more music and fun.
A new millennium for the ‘Berts
A new year brings new energy and new creativity for the ‘Berts. New material seems to flow out of nowhere, bringing new sounds and ideas to the ‘Berts musical palette. The number of rough cuts with scratch vocals continues to stack up, and it looks as though more demo work is in order.
Where does Bobby get all his material?
After a break over the holidays, the 'Berts are back in the studio working with new material. Herb was feeling inspired over the break after creating his Christmas CD, and has a few new songs for the 'Berts to try. Bobby, prolific as always, also seems to have an endless supply of material in his little brown binder.
Bobby contributed one insane track on Herb’s yearly Christmas project. It was a funky improvised version of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" – pure fun. Local singer/actor Annie McLachlan also sang a song by Lina Doo on the CD, "Spirit of the Holidays." Impressed, Lina suggested that Herb and Bobby help the Hawaii Theater for Youth with their Christmas 2001 show, writing songs to go with the original Christmas stories that will be pieced together by playwright Y. She also suggested that the 'Berts record and sell CD's of the original music at each performance. HTY director Mark Lutwak was enthusiastic, so 2001 will be the year of Christmasberts.
Back in songwriting mode
In a strange and unexplained burst of creative energy, Herb began writing this month. He obviously has some issues to vent about. He also recently completed three arrangements for the Kamehameha Schools Annual Song Contest to be held in March.
Finding a new rehearsal space is now also a consideration. The ‘Berts new rehearsal space just might end up being Bobby’s apartment.
'Berts perform at Kai Makana
Saturday evening, the ‘Berts performed for some hungry tennis players at the first day of the Kai Makana tennis tournament. The atmosphere was relaxed (Herb and Bobby were even hitting some balls before they performed. Most of Herb’s ended up in the ocean, AND thanks to Kai Makana, both of them were very aware of it.), and the time went by quickly. Rehearsals paid off, as the music went smoothly. The hardest thing was of course setting up and breaking down.
The ‘Berts will be performing
at the Kai Makana tennis tournament on October 21 for a couple of hours. Kai Makana is an ocean awareness/preservation organization, and the golf tournament is their annual fund-raising event. This will be the first live gig for the ‘Berts. They will be performing two dozen songs in two short sets, including originals and some new arrangements of cover tunes. Rehearsals seem promising, and the pressure is low. Look for pictures and the full story soon afterward.
The ‘Berts website is finally up
and functioning halfway decently. Web surfers can now listen to songs by the group as well as download sheet music for selected songs, and leave e-mail for the band. Three unnamed "mystery" buttons will link to surprise pages that will change from time to time, and CD orders will soon be taken on-line. More photo shoots are planned to supplement the less-than-serious current photos located on the gallery page. As an image-impaired band, the ‘Berts need to find a variety of ways to present themselves to the public.
Work on the ‘Berts website continues
Planning and preparation continues for the creation of what will hopefully be theberts.com. Hoping for an impromptu, laid-back look, the two members of the band took a quick roll of film in the office/studio where they recorded their four demos. The photos will appear on the website, the first ever photos of the non-photogenic duo.
Bobby’s version of the ‘Berts history will also be included on the website, for the time being under one of the mystery buttons. The story is an allegory of the formation of the ‘Berts, and names have been left out to protect the innocent. However, some names are listed here in the bertsnews if you are looking for dirt.
Herb’s opera performed
This past month, Herb has been working on the orchestration for his opera "Auli’i, the Last Menehune of Nu’uanu Valley" which he wrote in 1997 for the Hawai’i Youth Opera Chorus’s summer Operatunities program. In the six week program, students rehearse, produce, and stage an original opera written just for them to expose them to the process. Herb worked for HYOC for five years prior to joining the ‘Berts and composed a number of pieces for that organization, including two operas and numerous choral pieces. On the 16th of this month, he completed the full score for "Auli’i" and turned it over to maestro Aaron Mahi of the Royal Hawaiian Band who will conduct the performances. The 380 page score is Herb’s longest work yet, about two hours worth of non-stop music.
Work on theberts.com continues
Things to look for on the future website: insult of the day, things we really hate, other careers we could choose if this music thing doesn’t work out, pictures of our snacks, pictures of our stray cats. Also to be included is a message board for visitors to contribute to the lists.
After five months of work, the ‘Berts finally reached their goal of completing four demo CD’s with six songs each. On June 15th, the final track of the 24th song was finished, and two days later the final master was burned. With a hefty list of original songs and a style that has slowly evolved into a comfortable yet unique sound, the challenge will now be to get the music into the ears of listeners.
The ‘Berts have a definite sense of accomplishment. This is especially the case for the two of them who spent two and a half years working on a previous failed recording project with another band. "After all that work with [the other band], it’s amazing that we could work this well and this quickly, and create this much music in just a few months."
The ‘Berts hope the 24 completed tracks will help to define their "sound", which up till now could only be described as an elusive hybrid of styles. Groove seems to play an important part in the ‘Berts’ music. Most of the tracks are equipped with danceable beats, just a little different from the usual, coupled with lyrics that address diverse issues such as old age, homelessness, sacrifice, indecision, corruption, and emotional co-dependency. The contrast between content and presentation seems to create the tension that motivate the ‘Berts music, and their approach always seems to be that of the casual observer rather than the passionate activist.
Website is a go
The ‘Berts have decided to go with a website. Logistically impaired because of their location on a small island in the middle of the Pacific, Bobby and Herb decided to open their music to the wider audience of cyberspace. The challenge will be to create a website that represents who they are, and what their music sounds like. Their ever-present challenge is to define themselves and to articulate their sound. Their response to the question of what kind of music they play is simply "pop."
Recording going well
All through the month of May, the ‘Berts continued their twice-a-week recording schedule, meeting on Wednesdays and Saturdays to complete their recording goal. The only interruption to their schedule is the occasional visit by Diane, who’s office is downstairs.
The issue of lead vocals is now resolved. The lead vocal responsibility will be shared by both Bobby and Herb, depending on the song. The two have very different voices, and the sharing will mean a wider range of emotional possibilities for the presentation of the material. They do run the risk, though of sounding like two different bands, but they are counting on the recognizeablity of their developing sound to provide a common denominator for whoever sings a track.
Demo #1 done
On April 1st, the ‘Berts first demo emerged from the CD burner. Titled "Daydreams" after the first track, the demo contains six of the fifteen songs the ‘Berts have been working on for the past three months: Daydreams, One Last Time, I’ll Wait, Common Questions, Almost in Love, and Play. The ‘Berts plan to use this CD to define their sound. Five of the tracks are groove-driven, and not your usual grooves. Above the beat floats Bobby’s lyrics and melodies about uncommon subjects. Daydreams is about a young girl’s dreams that never reach fruition until she is able to see them fulfilled in her daughter years later. One Last Time tells of the silent pain of seeing a loved one leave. I’ll Wait is a tale of indecision on the part of one partner and decisive action on the part of another. After patiently waiting for someone else to decide to love them, the end of the song declares "I’ll share my life with one who’ll never make me cry/ I’ll say "I do" and to you I’ll say goodbye." Common Questions explains Bobby’s philosophy of thinking outside the box. Almost in Love is about settling for something less than a fairy-tale romance, and Play describes the association we have between certain events and the music we were listening to when the event happened.
"One Last Time" recorded one more time
One of Bobby’s songs is being worked on by Joe and some people he’s recruited to record. Their plan is to make a version that sounds like Earth, Wind, and Fire with a very soulful lead vocal. Their keyboard player has created a chorus to insert into the song that they hope will make it more catchy. The engineer (Joe) is planning to release the recording himself. Bobby has been very accomodatin to the idea, and Herb will be lending some sequencer tracks to the mix. Does the idea of someone else recording one of their songs bother the ‘Berts. "No. Whatever they do will be their sound, and not ours. We’ll probably be done sooner."
Bobby’s computer lives!
Bobby’s computer is up and running after a nine hour struggle. Now all of his compositions can be stored on a floppy disk for Herb to use in making his arrangments and learnign the songs. This should greatly accelerate the recording process which is already moving at a promising pace.
The ‘Berts are born
After two and a half years of frustration, the ‘Berts have taken charge of their music and their lives. This month marks the birth of the music duo out of the chaos of their past shared experiences with another band. As the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000, so it seems the time had come for a change in attitude and direction.
In a painless separation, Bobby and Herb pulled out of a stalled recording project and announced they were going to go on their own. They tried a trio with another member, but it soon became obvious that the people who knew what the ‘Berts wanted to do was the ‘Berts themselves. Within days of their independence they recorded their first demo, "Light the World" in record time. The tune, written by Bobby, was originally intended for the Taiwan-based charitable organization, the Tsu-chi Foundation.
The duo’s plan is to demo original songs and in the process, discover and establish their sound, and define who they are as a musical entity.
The two represent a combination of years of musical experience and an interesting contrast in musical tastes. They also bring to their common project their potent individual creative arsenals. If the combination works, they could produce some fresh and original material that may appeal to an audience wearying of popular no-talent acts. On the other hand, they may create music too obscure or elusive to entice a following. In either case, the ‘Berts are willing to throw their hat into the ring.