Jerome LOL, the Los Angeles-based producer who came to our attention back in 2012 with “Changes”, one of the best tracks of that year, has been steadily releasing a series of brilliant edits and remixes, (like his edit of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” which we lost our shit over) Today he’s just put out his debut solo EP, Deleted/Fool, on Friends of Friends, including the track “Deleted”, a swinging, supine, jazzy number in the “Changes” mold, featuring vocals from Sara Z.
There’s a pop music element to Jerome LOL’s productions, and they come served in the trappings of electronic dance music, whatever that means anymore, but tracks like “Deleted” and “Always” another standout from the EP, are precisely layered, and, seemingly painstakingly crafted to maximize the listener’s experience of the sonic textures at work. Or are they actually? That’s why we asked the producer to deconstruct the track for us, in a sort of audio commentary-like director’s cut. We’ll let him take it away from here.
Sara Z first sent me a demo in early 2013 seeing if I wanted to collaborate on a song with her. Though the timing wasn’t right with that song, I knew she was someone I wanted to work with in the future. When I was working on demos for this EP, I had been experimenting with a lot of sounds and warped vocals, which acted more like instruments. I was happy with these demos, but I wanted to write a pop song, with a conventional verse / chorus / bridge arrangement. What came out was “Deleted,” which completely reshaped the rest of the EP. I scrapped those early demos and now have four songs that are my version of pop music 🙂
So, I guess this is a little behind the scenes type thing that breaks the song down. I hope this doesn’t spoil the “magic” and hopefully someone can learn something.
0:00 – 0:20
This is the intro. If DJs want to play this song out (I’m thinking yacht, art gallery, menthol-infused steam room, etc.) this little intro will allow them to mix it easily. The intention was to set the mood of the song with just the drums and some atmospheric chords. All of the drum sounds on this song come from this old Yamaha keyboard called a DJX-2. It’s a pretty goofy digital keyboard that that has a lot of 90s rave vocal samples and is described as “entry-level.” On vintagesynth.com the most recent comment is: “This keyboard is a piece of junk! I wouldn’t even ask a 12 year old kid to use this one.” But, the drum samples are recorded well, and there is a really wide variety of different drums sounds to start with, not to mention the amazing onboard distortion. It’s definitely a secret weapon of mine that I encourage any producer to get. (I’ve seen a few on eBay).
Anyway, back to the song. For the past year or so I have been extremely inspired by swinging percussion that is a little bit new jack swing, a little bit slow garage. Basically, I keep the kick and the clap on the grid and then I move the tiny snare hits off the grid to get a nice swing. Here, all of the drum elements of the song are present, because, well…I wanted to start the record with a full beat.
In a demo of this song, I had the drums still playing along with Sara’s vocals. Then I thought, a nice way to introduce her voice would be to cut most of the drums when the vocals come in. I think I heard this type of arrangement in a Rihanna song or something, and I was like “oh yeah that’s cool, that’s dramatic.” This might be obvious, but adding in and taking away drum elements can be an effective way to keep the momentum of a song. One focus of mine with this EP was to keep everything minimal. I took out a lot of superfluous things and just let the vocals and the drums carry the song; the synths are more for mood and atmosphere.
This is something like the pre-chorus. I change up the chord progression here to build anticipation for the pay-off of the chorus. Also, this is where the sub bass comes in along with another synth, which is a patch I made in Novation’s MiniNova (a super fun, super portable synth). I used a simple sine wave for the sub bass here. In the second four bars of this section, I also bring back those off-grid snare hits. Oh and those bells right before the chorus that were earlier in the song are also from the DJX-2, the samples are well-recorded and there is an enormous variety of sounds.
This is the chorus. The synths in the pre-chorus were all whole notes that helped create the buildup to the chorus. Here, they are given a break and are spread out and creating their own melody that plays alongside Sara’s melody. I remember when writing the chords for the chorus the image of a sad sailor at sea came to mind. So, maybe think about that when you listen to the chorus. At the end the is a reverse cymbal, which is a classic signifier that something in the song is about to change. This is the second one of those used so far.
Here is a little post-chorus 2 bar instrumental thing. This acted as a nice segue into the next part of the song. Also, I heard 311’s “Down” on Jack FM the other night, and they did the same thing, so I guess I’m in good company.
This section is the same vocally as the 0:20-0:40 of the song, but this time the drums are full, and there are added synth elements. If there is anything I learned from Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” it’s that repeating things over and over is a successful method of keeping a song stuck in your head for ages.
The pre-chorus here has the same added synth elements. The added distorted synths build the drama even more than the previous pre-chorus. Just listen to the two of them back to back and you will feel the difference immediately. There also is a harmonizing background vocal in this pre-chorus.
As is with most pop songs, this song’s chorus is the same throughout. Like the pre-chorus before it, though, there are new added synths and an added vocal harmony.
This is another post-chorus thing. Here, the chord progression from the chorus plays over the simple instrumentation for 4 bars leading nicely into the bridge.
This is the bridge. This is the first time this chord progression is used in the song. This is also the first time I have ever attempted to do a dedicated bridge part in a song. And though I don’t expect to become as godlike as The Neptunes at writing bridges, it’s something I definitely will continue to do when writing. Because it is the bridge, I wanted to do something different with Sara’s vocals, so I used some pitch shifting, some auto tune and some filters.
Back to the chorus. If you notice here, there is a pitched up version of the chorus panned slightly to the left channel. I wanted the song to keep building and building in subtle ways to become more full by the end. When the chorus repeats at 3:03, you can hear another more prominent distorted synth come in. This again is to add completion to the final time that we hear the refrain.
The distorted synth that came in during the chorus carries into the next section as the lead, while the rest of the music is simply the instrumental from the chorus. I was considering a more traditional solo here, but when I had one written I thought it took away from the mood of the song. To me, this part is a nice instrumental break that would sound weird with cheap frills.
This is the outro of the song. I thought it would be effective to end the song with a new vocal that gets stuck in the listener’s head. The next time you listen to the song, you will be waiting for the “Got deep inside…” vocal that is sung only in the last 40 seconds. The music continues to build and swell until 3:58, where the reverse cymbal announces the conclusion of the drum track. The end has Sara’s vocals lying on top of a bed of synths creating closure to the whole song. I end the entire thing with a high pass filter and a little ping pong delay to have the song kind of drift off instead of coming to a concrete end.
Well, that was a really interesting exercise for me. I suggest any producer do this with one of their songs; I actually learned a lot about the song by deconstructing it in this way, so thank you to Bullett for asking me to do this.
Images by Paley Fairman