24-hour songwriters

Chico musicians get prolific thanks to 1day Song Club

The idea is simple: “One-day EP project, in which we each write and record a song in one day … on a shared topic (provided ’round midnight) and put them together to make a pop-up concept album.”

Local musician Michael Bone (Bogg drummer/Pageant Dads guitarist), the originator and instigator of the 1day Song Club, elaborated on that online description: “I came up with the idea because I enjoy concept albums, and I like doing things on a whim. I thought of it one afternoon and made the Facebook page by nighttime. I’m very impatient when it comes to writing and recording. I think the one-day concept keeps me from overthinking songwriting, making it a more fluid process. I’m glad others seem to be getting a lot out of it as well.”

Indeed, they are. And they’re putting a lot into it as well. The members of the club’s Facebook group—a wide range of young and old Chico-area musicians—have stepped up to the regular challenges, issued every couple weeks or so, and produced seven albums’ worth of material on the various themes (plus one album of the artists covering one another’s tunes). In chronological order, the topics/albums (available for download at 1daysongclub.bandcamp.com) are: Future, Food, Party, Animals, Youth, Found Sound and Spooky. Considering that the Future collection was published on May 9 and the latest, Spooky, became available on Aug. 9, that is a lot of original local music being written, recorded and distributed in a very short time. Which is exactly what Bone hoped would be the case when he issued the first invitations to participate.

“The objective [of the project] is to spark creativity,” he said. “Choices when creating art are infinite and intimidating, but when you have a specified topic and a designated time limit, it can narrow your choices and help [stimulate the creative process] immensely.”

Digging into the albums at random, the consistency of tone within the variety of styles employed to address a wide range of topics is striking. Affordable digital recorders have replaced the boom boxes and four-track cassette decks of yesteryear’s lo-fi recording revolution, and keyboards with built-in drum machines make putting a rhythm track behind self-recorded songs is fairly easy. Tape-hiss is a thing of the past, and vocal and instrumental clarity—with and without digital reverb—is sharper than ever.

Bone says, “I take time to order the songs in a way that makes sense as a cohesive album, which is one of my favorite parts of the process.” He works each album the same way, providing a thread through the project as a whole. Opening up Future, “Suture Future” by Braden Young (of Hello Biplane), has a science-fiction meets rock ’n’ roll theme that suits the entire project. And closing out the latest release, Spooky, “I Dream of Genocide” by Tim Goodwin evokes the theme via layered keyboards presided over by eerie, chiming notes that could emanate from a haunted ice-cream truck.

The 14-song Party collection, Bone’s self-confessed “favorite,” probably won’t inspire much ecstatic dancing or unrestrained laughter, but as an exploration of a group of artists’ expressions of how they feel about parties or partying, it’s pretty interesting. Starting off with Bone’s lighthearted “Suburb Party,” the collection descends quickly into Kelly Brown and Elliot Maldonado’s super-downbeat “What Are We Even Doing Here????,” and hits similar depths of alienation and ambivalence with Josh Hegg’s instrumental “Sad Clown Gets the Last Laugh” and Mad Bob Howard’s “Everybody’s Happy,” a queasy piano rollick with such jolly lines as, “I’m like an overworked elf on Christmas Eve—everybody’s happy but me.”

All in all, the project gives a glimpse into the fascinating and nearly infinite possibilities opened up by collaborating, the availability of affordable technology for recording, and the instantaneous distribution of music. It’s a free-for-all new world, well worth listening in on and maybe even jumping on board.