Hi, everyone. My name is John Vucinich and I’m the drummer for Still Time. I dabble in funk, polyrhythm, and long walks on the beach. I’m really excited to write this blog for Modern Drummer, but I had to think for a while about what I would write. I eventually decided to do what I always wanted to see other drummers do, which is break down some of their own songs. This gives me a great chance to look back at what I’ve done and explain to myself the reasons for many of the instinctive decisions I made while writing and recording. Incidentally, this allows me to understand myself a little better, but if anyone else can take something from it, then all the better. I decided on “Power Of Now” and “First Date,” two tracks off our new album, Stream of Consciousness. They’re both available to download on iTunes, but you can check them out on stilltimemusic.com as well. The first track is a funky pop song with a constantly changing feel, and the second one is an acoustic love song that constantly builds up to an epic climax.
“Power Of Now” came out of a jam we had in our singer’s bedroom a couple years back, and is built around the guitar line, which starts the song. The intro is basically a condensed version of that first jam: everyone listening and coming in one at a time with their part. The first beat (with the doubles on the snare every downbeat and the accents on the hi-hat) used to be played throughout the verses, but when everyone else started layering parts it became too busy (especially with the out-of-time vocals), so I cut it back to the beat I get to four measures later when the bass comes in.
The key part about the verse beat is all the ghost notes that fill it in. Since both guitarists are playing very tasty but light parts, the bass and I need to keep it moving along. The chorus opens up on the ride, and although I improvise a lot of it each time, the one thing that never changes is the collective emphasis on the second syllable of “settle” and “nothing” with a hit. I clean up the beat a bit for the second verse to allow some room for the scratch part that one of the guitarists is playing. The sax solo is my favorite part of the song because I love what our friend Ryan Moss threw down. Unfortunately, I recorded the drum part before he improvised his solo, so I didn’t get the chance to play off him like I do live. To compensate, our bassist and I tried to keep the groove going as hard as possible so it would stand on its own, like all the Medeski, Martin & Wood breakdowns I love (think “Bubblehouse”). If you listen closely, you can even hear a little cowbell during the solo.
“First Date” is much less of a jam song and more structured than most of the other songs on the album. It is constantly building, so I start super simple. The entire groove builds around the 3-3-2 that the acoustic emphasizes, and then grows from there. The lack of snare builds tension throughout first two verses so that the introduction of the snare in the chorus works as a release. Verse three is where it starts to get interesting. I keep the 8th notes going on the hi-hat but use my right hand to cycle around the snare and toms on the 3-3-2. After one more chorus, the beat starts to build again, subtly at first by adding extra bass drum beats around the original beat. In the last chorus I change the right foot to a constant quarter pulse to build it a little more. For the bridge out, I open up the hi-hat and add little flourishes with the right hand. The key for me is to have the original beat there and keep adding things around it without ever changing the 3-3-2 pulse underneath everything. We briefly flirted with the idea of double bass for the last few measures, but that sounded just a little too ridiculous.
I hope these explanations were useful or at least interesting. Please check out the music, and feel free to drop me a line to talk drums.