by Nate McCarthy
Nyack High School graduates Nate and Ben McCarthy, Anders Fleming and the late Jesse Yanko formed their band Regret the Hour before enrolling at Hunter College.
One of the things people ask us about most often is the songwriting process.
“How do you write songs?”
It’s one of the most difficult questions to answer.
For us, songwriting is, and has always been a collective process. After all, being in a band is, if nothing else, ultimately about collaboration—about allowing everyone’s ideas and opinions to be heard out. The best songwriting happens when everyone is able to contribute something meaningful to the process.
That said, our process usually goes something like this: Someone brings an idea to the table: a riff, a chord progression, melody line, or even drum beat. From there, things can go in two different directions. Some songs are written from start to finish with no discussion whatsoever—in other words, we’ll just sort of play through a tune, and that’s it.
But more often than not, a lot of discussion takes place, and various arguments will ensue over what shape or form a song should take on; what each person’s part should sound like, what the structure should be, etc. This is where things can get ugly, especially when it comes to everyone’s divergent, and sometimes-obsessive feelings about what music should be. “Too predictable, too boring, too poppy, too abstract, too ambient, too theoretical”
We throw out more ideas than we keep. Sometimes I worry that the essence of a song will be lost, but I’ve come to learn that revision is most-often a positive thing, as long as you’re the one doing it.
Regarding Indie Rock…
One thing I find disheartening about today’s “indie rock” scene, which grows increasingly more difficult to define by the day, is this over-emphasis on ethos. So many of the bands we run into in the clubs of Brooklyn and Manhattan are so fixed on looking the part, that they lose touch with the music—and it’s evident, it feels contrived.
– Nate McCarthy
One song in particular (still untitled), was for a long while on the verge of being discarded, but after going through a number of incarnations, is now the standout track.
We always try to be democratic when writing—but there is a problem with “majority rule” when you’re working with four people. Should one person’s opinion be devalued just because they are outnumbered by three? Ideally, the best decisions are those that everyone agrees on.
If I could give one piece of advice to other young bands, I would say to focus on simply writing music with heart and purpose in it, and not being concerned with image.
Regret The Hour will perform at Webster Hall on President’s Day weekend, opening for Jesus On the Mainline, an amazing 12-piece band fronted by Grammy-nominated Andrew Neesley. For more info/tickets visit ListenToTheMainline.com.