What happens when you put a master performance artist, a critically-acclaimed sci-fi author, a guitarist with a penchant for strange music videos and a piano songwriting genius in the same room? What happens if you tell them they have to write, arrange, perform and record 8 songs in 8 hours?
The short answer is 8in8, a collaborative effort that started off as a strange idea to kill boredom that has since raised over $21,000 for Berklee City Music, a charity that brings music to inner city kids in Boston.
Less than a month ago, performance artist Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn) and Ben Folds decided that, instead of going out to dinner, it would be fun to make 8 songs in 8 hours. Crazy? Yes. But to anyone who knows what Palmer and Folds are like, it was as simple a decision as deciding to have Thai instead of Chinese. Fellow musician Damian Kulash (OK Go) and Palmer’s husband, noted sci-fi author Neil Gaiman (Sandman series, Coraline, American Gods) were also pulled into the insanity, and 8in8 was born.
The album, which was recorded and mixed at Mad Oak Studio in Allston, Massachusetts, is a combination of suggestions from Twitter fans and random inspiration. Gaiman, not the most musically inclined (though he did write a Duran Duran biography once), said in his blog “I had expected that my job would be REALLY EASY. All I had to do was write lyrics. I knew I could write the lyrics for songs in less than 8 hours… I didn’t have to write songs, play an instrument or even sing.”
But he didn’t get off that easy.
By the end of the day, the group may have only had 6 songs instead of 8, but each member gave it their all, including Gaiman, who sings on the last track. Singing, especially while Folds played piano, was something that sent him into somewhat of a panic, but in the end, he made it through.
Produced by Sean Slade, the album is a mixture of the members’ various styles, and Gaiman wrote the lyrics based on those styles. The result is a combination of tender piano pieces, funky synth numbers, and punk-infused love ballads. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always odd, the 8in8 concept seems to hit home with many fans. The album was released as Creative Commons, meaning the pieces can be shared and remixed, with limited restriction. As a result, fans have submitted music videos for every song, and 8in8 post the best of them.
After only a few hours of sleep, 8in8 performed their one and only concert at the ReThink Music Conference
1. Nikola Tesla
Clever electrical references to the father of AC power and fast-paced Palmer spitting lyrics in Sleater-Kinney style start the album off on a riotous start.
2. Because the Origami
Possibly the best song on the album, this sweet, sad song about a child with too many extracurricular activities has sparked many a Facebook debate.
3. One Tiny Thing
Can there be a funky-cool break up song? Kulash’s OK Go influence definitely resonates in this chill-out piece.
4. Twelve Line Song (aka the Squirrel Song)
A funny little commentary on life viewed through a squirrel’s suicide in a bath? If there was ever an example of what to expect from Gaiman’s writing it would be this. Cute and happy with plenty of doo-de-doos, this darkly funny song will leave a smile.
5. Ill’ Be My Mirror
On the other hand, this song is full of Palmer style ramblings that, if listened to, make a lot of sense. A lesson learned in a homeless woman’s shouting at herself in the mirror makes for a nice foil for the rock riffs in the background, keeping it from being too much like any of the other tracks.
6. The Problem with Saints
The last song on the album, regardless of Gaiman’s reservations, is a humorous end to the record. Telling the story of Joan of Arc come back to defeat the British, only Gaiman could rhyme “bisected” with “Utrecht” and find a way to reference the Grand-Guignol in the same song.
The album is free with a minimum $1 donation on Palmer’s site. Fans who wish to make videos or covers of the songs can post them on her Facebook wall or link to them on Gaiman’s Twitter.
Written By Nicole Banister