"For he who sheds his blood with me this day shall be my brother. And gentlemen in England now asleep, shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us..."
- St Crispin's Day speech, "Henry V"
Well, here we are, little Bombshells: the final installment of Completely Covered. 10 bands entered, only seven came out the other side, but they have been some of the most fun, creative, interesting tracks we've had the privileged of hosting.
To finish up our series, we figured that we couldn't do a bunch of cover songs and not include an actual cover band. Enter Cover Grrls. Due to living arrangements and scheduling conflicts, Cover Grrls were never able to get the full band in the same room on the same day, which lead to some frustrating, piecemeal recording sessions and, ultimately, a version of the song that became a point of contention among the band members.
What was your first impression, when you heard what song you would be covering?
Rae Fehring: I think initially, I was kind of excited about it.
Fehring: Yeah. I mean, Kanye's an idiot, so I thought it would be fun to have a chance to make fun of Kanye.
So you said "initially."
Fehring: I don't know. (Bassist/vocalist Hannah Greiner and drummer Betsy West) and I got together and wrote an interesting, folkey version that kind of made fun of Kanye's lack of rhyming skills.
Greiner: Like that line about "you can see the charm on your arm" or whatever...
West: Rhyming "arm" with "arm."
Fehring: Right. Charm/charm, arm/arm. It was really funny. We had dramatic pauses and all kinds of fun stuff. So yeah, that's how we started out.
So what happened, to evolve the song to the version we're releasing today?
Fehring: I wasn't in on that. That's really more Jenny, Betsy and Hannah.
Greiner: We were thinking about us as The Cover Grrls. I mean, this is my reasoning anyway: We all have these individual elements that we bring in to songs that work. Like Jenny is a great rock guitarist. Even songs like our Fun cover, we have a certain sound.
West: We went folk at first because we all kind of have those roots when we song write. So it was an easy place to start from. Then when we realized 'hey, we're representing Cover Grrls', we wanted a song to match that.
West: So when we did the folk version--at least from my end--we didn't care what it sounded like. But typically, when we cover songs as The Cover Girrls, it's pretty similar to what you hear on the radio. So that's where we kind of shifted.
Kohls: First of all, the time that we put into it was pretty great. But once we sat down to actually do it, we ran into some issues because Rae wasn't there to work out the timing and everything. With the recording that we had to work with, it was easier for us to try to make sense of it (this way). I think it was originally Hannah's idea to revamp it a little more like a live show might be, to better highlight all of our abilities. From there, it was a lot easier to have Betsy play her drum beat, then roll through with the bass. For the guitar line, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, so I eventually wound up just mimicking the opening part with some little pitches and bends all the way through.
Kohls: For the vocals, we decided to have Rae and Hannah trade off verses, kind of like we do with the Beastie Boys. I don't remember who came up with that idea, but it was a great idea. Eventually, the finished product wound up sounding pretty much exactly like we sound like live, so I thought it was great.
Was the process fun? Did you enjoy covering Kanye?
Fehring: I did until it changed, to be really honest. I was not really into doing a straight cover of it, so I was sorely disappointed. The process of writing the original version we had, I laughed pretty hard.
West: It was pretty hilarious.
Fehring: Everything about it was fun. But then, just for me personally, doing the more basic version that we did, it wasn't AS fun for me. Because I went into it thinking that it wasn't necessarily about us doing it like the Cover Girrls would do it live. It was just, we happen to be a band, so let's do with it what we want. So, yeah. It was definitely more fun for me when we were doing more with it, but recording the vocal parts went well, even with the frustrations of recording separate parts on different days.
Since you guys are all on different schedules, how did recording work?
West: We were never all four in the same room.
Greiner: Betsy did drums first, and Jenny recorded that on the Mac. Then I did the Bass. I don't remember when Jenny did the guitar parts, but a week later (Rae) and I did the vocals. So it was recorded over about a month.
Everyone who covered "Gold Digger" agreed that there wasn't much, musically speaking, to work with. But there is a low-end. So, Betsy and Hannah, you guys had more to work with than Jenny did. Did you use much of the original framework within the song?
Greiner: I think we just went with the two chords or whatever there are in the Ray Charles hook at the beginning. I don't think we did anything crazy.
West: No. We just treated it like any other song we cover, and molded it into how I can play the drums.
Jenny, how long did it take you to figure out what you wanted to do with the guitar parts?
Kohls: Not long. I think I spent maybe 15...seconds. In the beginning, hearing Jamie Foxx sing that part, I've kind of conditioned myself with my playing style to mimic the vocals when I don't know what else to do. So I kind of rolled with that. And as to your earlier question about having fun with the song, I had a blast. There was one part where...what's that line where we all put on headphones...
Rae, Hannah & Betsy: "We want prenup."
Kohls: Yeah. That was hilarious. I basically just had everybody stand up and crowd around the microphone and sing that part with headphones on.
Fehring: We had a guest Cover Grrl for that part, because Hannah's girlfriend was sitting on the couch when we were recording. So she jumped up and yelled "we want prenup" as well.
So we'll finish up with the same two questions I ask every band: 1) are you ultimately happy with the version we're debuting?
Kohls: I think so.
Greiner: Yeah. I mean, I'm happy with it. It would have been fun to do the folk, but I'm happy with it.
West: I'm happy with it.
Fehring: I have to be the Negative Nancy. No, I think the other version was much more clever. As difficult as it probably was to work with, I think it was a better version. So no, because I think there was a better version, but yes, because it's now another song that we can add to our set.
Which was the last question: will you guys play it live?
Fehring: I don't know. I mean, we have fundraising galas and stuff, so probably not there. But maybe...
Greiner: I don't know. I'm kind of against it. I'm so done with Kanye.
West: What? You were defending him!
Greiner: That's what I'm trying to say! When (Rae) first told us who it was, I was like 'yes! I love Kanye West!' And ya'll were like 'eh, Kanye West..' Then, like, two weeks later, I became completely disenfranchised.
West: Ha! You saw the light.