Sweat Pants

Sweat Pants by Phil Johnson and Roadside Attraction

Sweat Pants is now available on all music streaming and download sites!

Let me take you through a little history of this new song “Sweat Pants”… You may have first heard it in a short video during the 30 Second Song Project.

The next version you heard was probably the studio acoustic version from the Itty Bitty Ditty Committee album. 

And now you’ve got the full length, fully ridiculous, fully over the top studio recording!

While I was working on the arrangement for the song Eddie Van Halen passed away.  Since I already had a David Lee Roth type character in mind for the lead vocal I thought “What if I did this like a lost Van Halen track?”

The odd part being that I was never a big Van Halen guy.  Appreciated them, sure.  I’m a Dave over Sammy fan just for the fun factor even though Sammy’s the better singer.  And I always knew Ed was one of the greatest guitarists ever. 

But for some reason they never hit the top of my pops.  I think I owned OU812 when I was a kid.  Everything else I’d heard on the radio.  Which, of course, is still a ton of songs.  

So in setting off to do this Van Halen pastiche I had to dive into their catalog and the playing styles of each guy.  I settled into some of the early Panama/Jump stuff as a template.  Unchained was my main reference as that’s always been one of my favorites by them.

I dialed up a nice 5150 tone in Guitar Rig and jumped into working through Eddie’s guitar parts in those tunes to see how he constructs his stuff.  So much going on in there!  Being in a quartet like that means the guitarist has to cover a lot of sonic space.  And Eddie’s parts would deftly weave beefy riffs with little fiddly fill in bits between the vocal lines.  Lots of cool little harmonics, whammy bar dives, and little decorations.  

It’s common to double guitar tracks to build up some thickness on a recording.  Ed’s playing style is so loose that I was cringing at the idea of have to try and double it.  Fortunately a quick Google search told that he felt the same way and never doubled his parts.  Yay!

What we did do is use the same panning trick the used for Ed’s guitar on the early stuff. The guitar is almost all in the left channel and the right channel is just the reverb part of it to fill out the stereo spectrum.

I really put my hands through the ringer on this one.  I couldn’t do it without some of the fingertap stuff Ed was known for.  The main riff has tap parts and the solo has some bent taps at the beginning.  Besides all the play throughs to work out the parts I recorded probably a dozen takes before I got something I liked.  My fingertips hurt for about a week after I got it done.

Then I dived into Alex Van Halen’s drum work.  I’m a way less sophisticated drummer than I am a guitarist.  But I managed to pick up some of his trademarks.  He liked a 4-on-the-floor kick and 16ths on the hi-hats in places I wouldn’t have thought to use them.  

Michael Anthony was always known for that good 8th note chug on the bass.  Simple, but effective.  My only question was whether he used a pick or fingers.  Watch some video, did some searching, and got the answer “Sometimes”.  Ok, then.  I used fingers.

Those Michael Anthony backing vocals were more important to me.  And it was fun to dig into those high harmonies that are loose but still hit close to the right notes.

On the lead vocal I didn’t go full Roth.  He’s got a cleaner tone than I generally do on a track like this.  And when I tried it clean I didn’t really like the result.  So I gritted it up a bit in my style.  But I had to do the whole stilted, overacted talking part in the middle.  Which of course features a guest appearance by a formerly famous 70’s soul singer.

One interesting video I saw was this one where they guy quantized an old Van Halen track.  Most modern music is really locked to a grid.  The beats don’t come early or late.  But Van Halen played without a click track in the studio so their sense of time is very loose.  And it turns out it’s not nearly as good if it’s quantized.

So when I sent the tracks off to my mix engineer, Federico (who loves a good quantization) I said, “Don’t quantize anything!”  And he restrained himself to keep the track loosey goosey.  

And that’s how we got to the final track.  You can click this link to hear it on your favorite streaming service.
Or if you’d like to pop for 99 cents to own it forever and ever you can download it from BandCamp.  


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