Track-by-Track: “Thank You for Holding”

Given that it’s the title track of the album, you might think that I recorded “Thank You for Holding” fairly early in the game, but I was actually working on a few other songs before this one came into the picture.

Somewhere along the line, though, I looped a few bars of “My Head” and layered in the “ooh-ooh” voices and thought it sounded like Muzak or elevator music or the music you might hear when you’re on hold with a customer-service help line. That’s when I started ad-libbing the lines about waiting for a customer service representative to come on the line.

As each new line came out, I started thinking of the voice as a robot’s voice and decided to make him a little bit lonely and depressed a la Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The flute solo was on the track from an earlier version of “My Head,” and when it interrupted the flow of my robot soliloquy, my first instinct was to take it out, but then I thought that playing the flute would make a great hobby for a lonely robot.

Ideally, when you listen to this track, it will come on right after “My Head” with no pause between tracks; I want it all to sound like a single song since the backing tracks are essentially the same. Of course, that makes the song seem incredibly long.

On its own, “Thank You for Holding” is a little over six minutes long. With “My Head” tacked on, it’s about eight minutes long. Whenever I listen to them together, there’s always a point where I begin to wonder whether the joke is going on for too long, but it always happens at the same point in the song: the part where the robot says, “A customer service representative will be with you shortly… shortly… shortly…” as if to underscore the fact that “shortly” is a relative term when it comes to being on hold.

Actually, I’ve been on hold a few times since recording this song, and whenever it happens, I can’t help feeling like the universe is getting me back for recording such a long track about being on hold. I also think there’s something eerily and maybe madly comical about stretching things far beyond their optimal lengths. “Kristin Schaal Is a Horse” is one example that comes to mind. “Too Many Cooks” is another one.

In terms of production, I got the eerie vocal effect by using a combination of effects in Reason, my preferred program for recording. One of the effects is a virtual delay unit called The Echo, which allowed me to give the voice a kind of wobbly feel like a tape that’s slowing down and speeding up. I also used an effect called Neptune Pitch Adjuster to lower the timber of my voice (though, oddly enough, not the pitch). The overall effect I was going for was that of a tape on tape deck with dying batteries. Or like the sound of DC’s voice in Twin Peaks: The Return.

Oh, and one last thing: In case you haven’t guessed it, I love the idea of robots that run on spinning reels of magnetic tape. It makes me think of Philip K. Dick‘s depictions of a future that’s now gradually fading into our collective rear-view mirror.

 

 

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