Analogue Music | Story Behind the Song: Side Saddle's "Bottom of the…

Story Behind the Song: Side Saddle's "Bottom of the Ninth"

One of the best spring musical releases we've stumbled across this year is a humble four-song EP from Side Saddle entitled Forever and a Little While. Ian McGuinness and company packed up their instruments and demos for two weeks in Bridgeport, CT to work with the great Peter Katis and the results speak for themselves. We've got a full-length feature coming with Ian to hear more about the band, but we also asked him to tell us about one of the new songs, "Bottom of the Ninth". He graciously obliged.

The one question I get asked the most since having recorded and now released most of the EP is, “How was it working with Peter Katis?” The eloquent answer I’ve been giving is, “Well, it was fucking awesome."

When Peter agreed to produce and mix, I was sort of like, “Oh wow, this is actually going to happen." I remember in our first phone conversation he had said, “The kind of tunes you write are easy to make sound good.” We talked about how many tunes we could fit into two weeks, landed on four, and then talked through some more logistics before ironing out the dates.

So, my wife agreed to let me use (at least) one week of paid vacation plus some savings to take the ferry from Port Jefferson NY over to Tarquin Studios (a Victorian house in Bridgeport, CT) and record what my wife and I had both felt were my strongest tunes. On April 10th, 2023 I hopped on the ferry to Bridgeport, Eric Tait Jr (bass + keys) drove down from Maine, Ryan Sniffen (guitar) drove up from Tarrytown, NY, and Miles Nasta (drums + percussion) took the train from Newark, NJ. We arrived at Tarquin Studios, dropped our bags off in the bedrooms, peeked into the studio, and then we all had some chili that Peter had made.

Though you might think the certified gold records lining the bedroom hallway would be discouraging, it was a reminder of how special Peter and his studio are. It was also a kind of confidence booster and made me feel like we somehow belonged there—but that could also just be Peter. The folks who would come through Tarquin before us include The National, Frightened Rabbit, Kurt Vile, Interpol, and Pup to name a few.

After chili, Peter and Greg, his engineer loaded up the demo sessions, and Miles started knocking out the drums. Every day that week, we recorded from noon to about 8p, and then Peter and Greg would leave to go to their respective residences, and the guys and I would have some beer and watch Pat Finnerty’s “What Makes This Song Stink” on YouTube. That was pretty much our week. We would sleep in, have a late breakfast together at the house, chat through what we wanted to accomplish that day, head up to the studio around 11a, and fuck around/work through parts until Peter and Greg showed up.

My biggest takeaways from working with Peter (in the context of recording “Bottom of the Ninth”):

1. Never Underestimate the Power of Dynamic Playing (mostly referring to guitars and drums here)

Peter’s direction to me for “Bottom of the Ninth” was to focus my attention on strumming the acoustic very delicately. When I was playing the guitar intro/verse, it felt like I was hardly hitting the strings but it worked. It actually draws the listener in and the ”hammer-on” heavy parts simply sound better played softly.

2. Move on when you’ve got it

When we self-produced, we would often re-record vocals and guitars over and over again until we felt like it was the best we could do, and I think we probably wasted a lot of time. Perfection isn’t always what sounds the best. I also think because Peter was mixing in addition to producing, he was able to have the foresight to know that we could record a guitar dry, and he would play with reverb, compression, or other effects later on.

3. Work Off of the Demo Session

Working off of the demo sessions was not only a huge time saver, but it also helped us recapture some of that demo magic and the early gut decisions that turned the core song into what it is. All of the synth that you hear on “Bottom of the Ninth” was from the original demo that made its way into the final recording.

4. Give Yourself Space From the Tunes

Peter suggested the two weeks of recording be separated by at least 4 weeks to give space from the tunes, which turned out to be really helpful. Listening to what we had done for a few weeks allowed me to process how the tunes were evolving and gave me a glimpse into what it was that we had (that being the EP). It helped me make better decisions in Week 2 and there’s a lot less I would change about these songs compared to most of the older tunes, where we recorded in short bursts, and went straight into mixing.

5. Push Toward Interesting

When we were about to record the two-note piano lead in the chorus of “Bottom of the Ninth”, Peter said, “I know what we’re going to do” and then explained how he wanted to double that, and harmonize that part with a vibraphone and a celeste, which turned it into this lovely and bright sound that plays so well with the chorus melody.

6. Work with a producer

It’s worth it. Going into it, I wasn’t sure how directional Peter was going to be and what he’d have opinions about. When you make a song, you made hundreds of little decisions, and having someone who knows what they’re doing guide those decisions makes all of the difference.

VISIT: Side Saddle