Earlier this year Kanye West began the apparently never-ending process of releasing his seventh studio album, “The Life of Pablo.” First the album was called “SWISH,” then “WAVES,” then it became “The Life of Pablo” and then West held a sold-out release show at Madison Square Garden. As the album rolled out, many of the songs underwent slight changes – a new verse here, a new drum track there – and some songs underwent more drastic edits, like featuring an entirely different singer. He then brought the album out on the streaming service Tidal and continued to tinker with it and tweak it. The songs became living things. (An idea that Brian Eno agreed with in a recent Rolling Stone interview.) Maybe Kanye had been reading the work of the French poet Paul Valery, specifically Valery’s line “Poems are never finished, just abandoned.”
Fixing Wolves 2day… Worked on it for 3 weeks. Life Of Pablo is a living breathing changing creative expression. #contemporaryart
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 15, 2016
Jason Mundok and Anne Kirby of the Lancaster-based atmospheric band Here Inside definitely adhere to Valery’s axiom. Their latest single, “A Long Day,” has been in the process of evolving since the late ’90s.
The band began in 2014 as a vehicle to revisit one of Mundok’s previous projects – a sprawling conceptual album from 1994 called “Never to Return.” He brought in a band to reinterpret the original album and write a sequel to it. Mundok refers to the continuing saga as “The Big Project” (with capital letters). It’s an ambitious project. The plan is to hold a huge multimedia show and play both the albums. But during the long planning sessions and behind-the-scenes preparations, some of the musicians began to drift in and out of the band.
The Candy Factory – a co-working space in downtown Lancaster where Mundok and Kirby both have office space – fosters a collaborative spirit, and is, in fact, where Mundok and Kirby first discussed the idea of exploring a musical partnership.
“[The partnership started by] just having a conversation about music,” says Kirby. “It just kind of speaks to the fact that that is happening all the time in a space like this.”
After reinterpreting the initial concept album, some of the musicians left and Kirby came on board, and Here Inside became more than just an outlet for “The Big Project.” They became a band. They released an EP called “Starboard” in April of 2015 and they’ve spent the last year figuring out their identity and soldiering on with the development of “The Big Project.”
Itching to get out and play some new music, but not wanting to reveal too much of “The Big Project,” Mundok gave Kirby a selection of material from his solo work, including tracks from his 1998 album “Artichoke” to see what songs could be reworked to fit the band’s atmospheric sound. One song that stuck out to Kirby was called “A Long Day.”
“I was looking for something that could be reworked for today’s audience, but still speak to the influences we had in the ’90s,” says Kirby. “And it’s the kind of song I like to sing.”
Mundok was intrigued by her choice of “A Long Day.”
“I had sort of let that song go,” says Mundok. “There are songs from that time period that I’ve played over the years in various bands, but that was one song that I just sort of never had on my radar. I was pleasantly surprised to revisit it.”
Jason Mundok and Anne Kirby on the creative process behind “A Long Day”
When Mundok began Here Inside he made a conscious effort to be open to criticism and explore the infinite possibilities that other people could bring to the music.
“I’d done a lot of work in a vacuum over the years,” says Mundok. “I made a promise to myself to be wide open to other people’s opinions and I think that’s really helped take the music to a new level.”
During the summer of 1997, living in a modular home in Murfreesboro, Tenn. with his wife, Mundok was taking a break from playing in bands and working on solo material using acoustic guitars with lots of electronics and effects. Inspired by bands like Love and Rockets, REM and The Cure, Mundok wrote the music to “A Long Day.”
The inspiration for the lyrics to “A Long Day” came in the form of gigantic prehistoric-looking crickets.
“We would get these massive crickets in the house that were so loud,” says Mundok recalling mornings with the chirping of crickets coming from all directions as if they were being cranked in stereo surround sound in his living room. “I wanted to kill those fuckers.”
But Mundok’s wife stopped him from playing exterminator. She explained that in Kentucky, where she grew up, it’s considered bad luck to kill crickets. Mundok, wanting to keep his karmic slate clean, took his wife’s advice.
In an eerily similar fashion to William Faulkner’s vision which served as the impetus for his classic novel “The Sound and the Fury,” Mundok envisioned a scene with an eccentric little girl perched in the limbs of a tree and refusing to come down all day as she preached her message of peace for crickets.
“I do that I lot,” says Mundok. “I have this little, like, movie scene play out in my head and I write as though you’ve seen that before.”
Listen to “A Long Day” from Jason Mundok’s 1998 album “Artichoke”
When Mundok and Kirby decided to rework “A Long Day” to fit the band’s aesthetic, Mundok hit the studio with bandmate Christopher Bohn to jam to a drum track and explore what the song could eventually become.
“I was like, ‘Here are the chords, just do what you want with it,'” says Mundok. “It was really jangly and kind of alt-country. I thought, ‘there’s no way this is going to fit with this band,’ but we ended up going down that path.”
Listen to the January rehearsal demo of “A Long Day”
Mundok took that version and played with the idea of washing the guitar out – hitting the chord and letting it ring. Bohn came up with a new bass line, which took the song to a completely different place. The last part was the chorus.
“It wasn’t weird enough,” says Mundok.”We changed the C major chord to a C minor chord and once we did that it became a Here Inside song. That was the key. It added that layer of Here Inside mood.”
The minor chord change fit Here Inside’s atmospheric dream pop sound.
“Here Inside’s sound is very dark and very moody,” says Mundok. “One of my friends says it’s pleasantly uncomfortable.”
Listen to the acoustic demo from February of “A Long Day”
Recorded in March, the studio version of “A Long Day” adds a spacey Pink Floyd-like psychedelic riff and features Kirby on vocals, Mundok on vocals and guitar, Bohn on bass and Kelley McClain on electronic percussion.
Listen to the studio version of “A Long Day”
Even after all those changes, Mundok still isn’t done. When I went to visit him at the band’s rehearsal space at The Candy Factory, he was on his laptop playing with the minimal electronic drum beats from “A Long Day.”
“I want to do some straight-up electronic remixes,” he said, smiling.