Behind the songs on The Green L.E.D.s debut album—track 4
Of all the songs on the new album Satellites is the most directly inspired by the pandemic and the ongoing global poop show of… gestures at everything. I think it’s one of the most dramatic songs of the set and I think it captures both what I was thinking about the world and why I needed to work on a non-comedy album. It’s about being in the moment, being aware of the world, and how willful ignorance to science or accepted verifiable facts is going to send us all to H-E-double toothpicks.
In my notebook, right after the first draft of the chorus, I wrote these notes to try to sum up the feeling behind the track:
“Gotta put the work in to benefit from science, we can’t have an advanced system with a willfully ignorant population. Some basic science literacy is needed, not that you have to understand the details of everything[,] but understand the process and the procedures by which knowledge is gained, tested, and accepted. ‘Measure the degrees so everyone can see the satellites.’”
Writing-wise this song came together rather quickly. The first audio note for it is on April 28, in which I have the general melody of the verse and chorus worked out. Later that day I have a longer audio note with most of the song together. The next day I have the lyrics just about finalized. But my favorite note for the song is a production/arrangement note from May 1, 2021: “oo-ee porta-lead synth for Satellite,” it’s that electronic whine you hear in the 2nd and last choruses (chori?).
A few people have mentioned that this is their favorite track on the album which is really gratifying because it was the one that took the most effort to get the vocal right. I think I rerecorded the lead vocal three or four times—that’s not three or four takes mind you, that’s three or four sessions recording multiple takes, comping together a vocal, listening to it and not being satisfied, and going back days later to try the whole thing again.
I was so particular about the vocal because to me the backing tracks, especially the final double chorus, really delivered the intense energy of a world out of balance and I wanted to vocal track to live up to it. I’m still not overjoyed with the vocal in the verses, but it’s best version out of all the ways I tried it. To help out a little on the first verse I doubled the vocal track with a vocoder—a voice controlled synthesizer—and layered it just underneath the lead. It ends up sounding like a dreamy kind of reverb which really fit the song.
It’s really satisfying when a song captures the emotions you felt when you were putting it together and “Satellites” does that for me. I hear this track and I feel both my frustration with the world and my attempts to ground myself and be present in it.