Getting into Bedroom Pop: Gear, Techniques & Practical Advice from The Scary Jokes
In this series of articles we speak to some of the best bedroom pop artists out there who capture the essence of what has made this genre so magical. We discuss how to get that signature sound, production, DIY recording, gear, promotion, and creating a visual world for your music.
In part 1, we spoke with The Scary Jokes
Photo by Micah E Wood
Musicngear: What does your overall creative process look like?
I'll usually start by putting a beat together. In the past I've used software instruments, usually presets included in my DAW with some tweaking, but recently I've been programming beats in a groovebox and recording it into my DAW later. My current fave is the Model Cycles by Elektron, you can make some really cool glitchy beats with it. The Novation Circuit Tracks is a great option too.
Once I have an instrumental track laid out I'll do some improvisational vocals, and then I'll try writing lyrics that conform to whatever melody I end up using. I used to have trouble coming up with something to write about but recently I'll just write about whatever. I watched Jennifer's Body for the first time this October and I wrote a song about it just because. I find that it really helps not to put a ton of pressure on yourself to write something specific - just have fun and see where the sound leads!
Also, what's really cool about the bedroom genre is that in a lot of ways it's defined by limitations. It's called bedroom because you don't have a studio. My advice would be not to buy the most expensive, sophisticated synth on the market before you even have any experience with synthesis or programming a pattern, that's a good way to overwhelm yourself before you've even gotten started. It's totally fine to dip your toes in first, and with bedroom music you can do that AND release a finished product that people will dig.
Like I mentioned, you can start with just a cheap midi controller and VST presets. People are always really surprised when I tell them one of my albums was 100% recorded and produced with stock instruments and plugins from Garageband, but it really is a capable little program if you explore it enough (these days I work in Korg & Logic but I always like shouting out Garageband).
If you want to get into hardware synths, I think the Korg Volca series, or even a Korg Minilogue if you want something more powerful, are very beginner friendly and they won't break the bank. If you're into 8-bit or glitchy sounds they're actually pretty perfect for that. The Teenage Engineering pocket operators are also very cute and fun to experiment with, I personally love the Arcade, Robot and K.O. pocket operators. The main idea is to experiment and have fun, try not to get hung up on limited experience or money being an issue because those things lead to ingenuity and experimentation, and I think that's really what makes bedroom music so fun and unique.
Musicngear: As an artist who conceptualizes all of the music and the visual world behind it, what are some useful resources you would recommend?
I have an iPad so I use Procreate! I have basically the same approach to drawing as I do to music, I'll draw some total stream of consciousness stuff until I make something I like. When I did the art for my album April Fool, cryptids were having kind of a moment, so I chose one from my home state, the Jersey Devil. Since the name of the album was April Fools I put him in a little clown costume and people still go absolutely nuts for him. It's not an approach for everyone but I've found that people really like the little guys I come up with for my album art, so if you have a proclivity towards inventing characters you can definitely work that into your music too!
Musicngear: For artists who are interested in getting into Bedroom Pop/DIY Pop, what are some artists you recommend they listen to?
When I first started making music it was Daniel Johnston who really inspired me.
I don't think it gets much more "bedroom" than his work from the 1980s, and his intent & heart shine through the low production value so effortlessly. It really made getting into songwriting much less intimidating because I didn't feel like I needed a studio or training or anything; if you want to write a song you just can. I also got super into of Montreal when I started getting more into synth-based production, I think their work also has a lot of heart & even though they are a more experienced/adept producer they take so many risks. I thought it was really cool that they will switch up the entire genre of what they make just because they feel like doing something new, it has definitely inspired me not to pigeonhole myself into a certain sound just because I found success with it once. I also really appreciate Lemon Demon/Neil Cicierega's work and Jack Stauber, they make really fun & playful music that I find impossible to dislike.
Musicngear: What is your process for promoting your music once completed?
I always flood my social media accounts with singles leading up to whatever big release I have coming up, that always helps get people interested. I've also gone through sites like submithub with variable success, I would say it's worth giving a shot as it's always good to have an article to link to in order to build more hype around an upcoming release.
I would absolutely recommend uploading your music to Spotify, a lot of people say not to do that since they don't pay very much per stream but the draw my music has gotten through editorial and algorithmic playlists, as well as user-created playlists, has been unparalleled on any other platform. I think it's always good for your music to be easy to find. Also, I've found that my albums have had a better chance at getting noticed when I've released them very early in the year!
Next up in the series: Getting into Bedroom Pop: Gear, Techniques & Practical Advice from Senseless Optimism
In this section of the blog you will find recording advice, tips and tricks from fellow artists and music producers.
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