A track by track breakdown by MC/Producer Garnet Clare (Tall Man).
1. Don't Grow Up To Be Like UsWe wanted something bouncy and fun for the title track, and we knew this was it as soon as we heard the guitar sample. This beat would fit perfect on a De La Soul or Tribe Called Quest album, and the break down's got all sorts of vocals from Jay and Silent Bob to Eminem to Willy Wonka and Big L, which all help make it more fun.
This was the first beat I made where I learned about semi-tones and pitch-shifting samples, and that just because you find a dope sample in G, it doesn't mean you can't use it for your song that's in E.
None of the samples in this song were in the same key, and it was fun learning how to make them fit together.
2. Throwing Knives
This was one of the original beats Mark and I made during our first recording session together. It was 5:30am, and we had just walked an hour home after talking our way out of a DUI. It's definitely got that late night smokey-studio vibe. (That night we created a couple loops with all the guitar, drums, horns, and keys. Those became the layouts for the first and second verses. Later on we added the bass, intro samples, more drums, and changed the arrangement.)
The lyrics are all about being on the road - "Four deep in a Queen-size bed, no sheets, no sleep for days, smoke weed on stage, no heat. Three-ways in JJ's living room, four nights in Saskatoon, and sold out every one of them."
3. Girls on Bicycles
Jeff Waters and I wrote this song together and it seemed like a good summer jam for the album. We also knew that we wanted to feature our Saskatoonian friends Pirate Fridays somewhere on the disc and thought their style would work great here.
Jeff and I left the track pretty bare (guitar, drums, chorus) and sent it out to a few friends to get some guest players. Pirate Fridays took care of the bass, and threw a bit of electric guitar in there, while Ben Fawcett added keys, and Sean Rose took care of the solo in the middle and the spacey intro.
I love the first lyrics of the first verse "I was sitting at the skate park, getting kinda day drunk, at the picnic table carved out for rolling J's on" because the picnic table at our skate park does have a perfectly carved out spot for rolling joints, and it is awesome.
Another beat from the original session. This one was all Mark at the beginning, with Mike and I being a bit skeptical of the simple 808/rim-shot beat. Mark convinced me as soon as he spit his verse over it, and I spent the next few months finding more samples, cutting keys, adding more bass, and generally fucking with things until it was something I loved listening to. I wrote my verse from finish to start, with the last 2 lines coming from a short story I wrote two years ago while living in Halifax, "he told me good writing comes from bad living. I said 'I know. I need to start living so bad.'"
5. Headphones, Drum Machines, Beats
This was the first beat we made together for this album. Mark played the guitar line and I kept it simple on the keys. At first we used different drums, and I wasn't a big fan of the song, but Mike and Mark heard something in it and really wanted it on the album. We tried quite a few drum samples, and almost gave up before finding the one that made this track one of my favourites on the disc.
Still, it seemed almost too easy, so to challenge myself I ended up using 27 different drum tracks to create the drum solo after the verses.
6. Mark Ejack
I actually made this beat for a local MC before we started the album, and started regretting sending it to him as soon as I emailed it. I really liked it and wanted to use it, so when he told me it was giving him writer's block I was stoked.
It was Mike's idea to write a song about "the loudest, most social person we know", and I wanted to use our signature Animal Nation back/forth rhyme style. We did an interesting thing with the back and forth part where it gets quicker and quicker. We both rap 8 bars each, then 4 bars, then 2 bars, then 1, then a half, finally going sentence for sentence at the end.
7. Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk
Based off a Hey Ocean sample that Mark found (left as-is in the intro of the track) I spent a few weeks practising my piano chops to get the pizzicato plucking sample just right. After that I added in the huge/simple piano chords after listening to The Heist too much, and combined a few different synth basses with a bass guitar to get some strange sounds.
Originally titled "The Get High Beach", I wanted to make this a fun song about a fictional place where you could do, find, or be anything you wanted. But with lines like "I'm looking for a Squirrel-suit, to go with my girl's boots. Not a suit for flying, I mean a suit made of squirrels, dude," it got a little too silly too fast.
Mark wanted to make it the intro song, with Mike scratching "Animal Nation" & "Sly Business" over the intro (Mark's vocal samples we intended to use were left in, un-cut).
We ended up using the first half of the song to feature some of my favourite lyrics on the album, and the second half to showcase our good friend DWhiz cutting the shit out of a few samples we sent him. Just to keep things on the squirrel-suit-silly side of things we took his cuts, and rearranged the end as to make it an invitation to a "Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk party".
8. Summer Love
This was the easiest song to make on the album. Even though there are at least 25 different samples throughout the song it all just fell into place, including the lyrics, which were written on the spot while we were recording. The song features our good friend Lozen who fits the vibe of the song perfectly.
I originally wanted to get kids to sing in the chorus, back and forth with the sample "Every morning" "Alcohol!" "Every evening" "Weeeed!" "Love, love, love, love, love you." But everyone else wanted to talk about love. Pft.