Anatomy of a Song: Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on “Some Loud Thunder”

Examining the Title Track to the Band's 2007-Released Sophomore Album

May 09, 2017 By Alec Ounsworth Web Exclusive
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A song is a chance overlapping of countless variables in an artist's life. Anatomy of a Song is a place where those variables can be dissected and examined. In this edition, Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah discusses "Some Loud Thunder," the title track (and opening track) to the band's 2007-released sophomore album. The band's debut album, 2005's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, garnered them quick attention on music blogs and music websites, despite being self-released, and even brought such music legends as David Bowie and David Byrne out to their shows. With Some Loud Thunder the band was in the difficult position of trying to follow-up an acclaimed and hyped debut album. Read on as Ounsworth discusses working with famed producer Dave Fridmann on the album and how with "Some Loud Thunder" he set out to capture his conflicted feelings on being in a band garnering a lot of media attention. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released a fifth album, The Tourist, back in February via Undertow.

It was the first of three albums working with Dave Fridmann and, knowing him from The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Sleater-Kinney, etc. I was excited to test his instincts. It didn't take much encouragement to convince Dave that washing the song out with distortion (except for the cowbell-this idea likely borrowed from Lou Reed's "Charley's Girl") was better than the clean alternative.  

Before we began recording, I had an eye on making this the first song on the album as it was meant to speak to my relative discomfort with "blowing up" (e.g. "All this talking/You'd think I'd have something to say"). Anyway, it seemed a natural way to begin a second album.

Lyrically, I took a few jabs at myself and ended up trying to dissect the arbitrary nature of "making it" as a musician ("That was me breaking glass and pretending to start something big, some new taste"). I don't know if everyone can hear the lyrics well but this is pretty much the gist of the song.  

I think it turned out well but sonically it did divide people, which wasn't exactly the intention (the intention was to make the song fit the album) but is fine by me. It's a document of that period of time and now is done live in a completely different way and probably will be done differently next year as well.

I think one of the reasons for blowing it out the way we did was to reflect the pretty dirt of the demo, which I had recorded a short while before tracking with Dave. At Dave's studio, we recorded the song in the same key, same tempo, more or less the same arrangement but when tracked clean, it seemed to be missing something. For or better worse, that something was a thick layer of distortion.

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Sandeep Maheshwari
May 18th 2017
1:26am

Thanks for sharing the knowledge.