The idea of playing a cover of “Arriving Somewhere but Not Here” by the venerable Porcupine Tree was by our very own Shounak Roy. Fresh off a college gig where he had played some of the introductory keyboards and most of the guitar parts for the same song, he suggested that we try it out for our maiden show with our new drummer Shawn Jacobs. We were still rehearsing and it seems like a good, long song that suited the bands sound.
We also had a violinist, Arpit, in our band. Shounak asked him to play something while the introductory swirling pads created the atmosphere in the background. Some rehearsals and a lot of reprogramming of backing keyboards later (this is where I have developed mad respect for Richard Barbieri), we ended up playing a pretty nice rendition of the song.
After the show, Shawn suggested that we should do an acoustic cover of the song. It had not been attempted before. Even normal cover versions of the song were hard to come by on YouTube.
Although the track is very popular among modern prog-rock fans, the song isn’t that straightforward to do once you start deconstructing the elements. The process of deconstruction and replacing elements with alternative “interpretations” is also not a straightforward thing. In doing so, one can easily steer away from the essence of the song. In fact, it was so challenging that we had to revisit certain choices and redo parts just because it did not feel right.
Here are some of the decisions that ended up shaping the cover.
Firstly, the length of the song was trimmed. Especially, before the introduction of the first vocal line and the last round of guitar solo played with a volume pedal driven swell. I ended up using a version of the background ambient track that we had used in our live show.
Secondly, the drum is actually a cajon acting as a kick drum and a muted snare drum mic’ed using two overheads, one kick and two room mics. It gave a nice earthy sound. However, it was a massive work to shape the tone and make it work with the track during mixing. I am happy how it all turned out.
Thirdly, the introductory violin piece is the very first piece played by Arpit. We revisited the piece for an alternate version many a times, but in the end, I chose to incorporate that instead of all others. For me it sounded the most authentic.
Fourthly, the instrumental interlude has a small vocal part. Also, a bit of “aahs” were added to the beginning of the second verse. Some other parts of the original song were shifted to the violin.
Fifthly, Shounak tracked a very nice outro for the song that is a big departure from the original. I ended up liking it so much that I learned how to play it.
Penultimately, I decided to tackle the softer solo between the heavy instrumental interlude and the third verse using an electric guitar instead of an acoustic. (Yes! Even though we have labelled it as an acoustic cover.)
Lastly, The original vocals are delivered in a very flat manner according to Sudipto. In my opinion, he put a bit more melodic soul to the otherwise “flatter” approach preferred by Mr. Wilson. Sadly, I don’t know how to qualitatively describe what he means although I can appreciate the difference.
The only person who didn’t have to revisit anything was Sricharan with the bass. He is so good as a player that he had to sit through it once and he was done with it.
After all that’s said and done, we had to make a video for YouTube. Let’s face it, no one likes to listen to songs without any visuals nowadays. I believe I threw in this idea to showcase Shounak’s work as a photographer and use it as a slide show. Of course he had to choose appropriate images that went with the words and the music. In the end, the art direction of the video was well appreciated by the community.