Pre-release show this Friday at The Saint in Asbury Park

Brian sitting outside The Saint
Tomorrow, Friday February 25, 2010, Wrong Side of Dawn will be playing a pre-release show at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ! Our set will begin around 9:15pm, but the music should begin around 8pm, so come and support the other bands too, including Betrayall, Father Divine, The Shock Trials, and Scantily Clad. Tickets are $10 at the door, or $12.55 if you buy tickets online due to “convenience fees.” Sorry, we didn’t make that stupid pricing decision 😉 Anyone 18 years or older can attend, so bring your college friends 🙂 RSVP to the Facebook event if you’re a Facebook-y person.

We are aware that there will be some snow the day of our gig (although it should be dying down by the afternoon), so to entice you to come we will give you this exclusive offer: we will give our new CD to anyone at the show at whatever price they desire! Yes, tonight only at the Saint our CD will be pay-what-you-want 😀 I will also be giving out free hugs or high fives to anyone who needs one.

Oh god, I’ve used up my exclamation point and smilie quota for the day, I have to stop writing now! Hope to see you at our show 😉
The view from the stage

We are alive and well

Several days ago, while our web site was down and we were in the process of moving to a new web host, an ancient blog post was somehow re-posted to our Facebook page, claiming that we were on “indefinite hiatus.” This is definitely not the case, Wrong Side of Dawn has never been more active. In fact, we have booked a show at the Whiskey Bar in Hoboken on March 17 at 10pm. We’ll remind you plenty about that show in the weeks to come, and about other shows and events as we confirm them 🙂 Do not worry, Wrong Side of Dawn will continue to make great music for you for the foreseeable future.

Our web server died

We have to apologize for the current state of our website.  The server that our website was previously on abruptly died, taking our website down.  We have moved to a new web host, and hopefully we’ll be able to get our site back up shortly.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, why not listen to some of our music on our Bandcamp store?

See us live on Dec 29 at the Lickety Split

On Tuesday, December 29, 2009, Wrong Side of Dawn will be playing its first live show in over three years! We will be the featured artist at an open mike at acoustic venue The Lickety Split in Philadelphia, located at the corner of South St. and 4th St. (401 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147). The musicians actually start playing at the open mike around 9pm, and we’ll probably be playing sometime between 9 and 11, we’ll post an update if we find out our exact set time. We’ll be displaying our softer side, so perhaps you’ll be able to hear all of the nuances to our music that you might miss when we annihilate your eardrums at our louder concerts 😉 Please join us! There’s no cover charge, just awesomeness. (This is a 21+ venue, our apologies to our younger fans.)

Temporary drummer fix

I’m happy to say that we’ve found a drummer who will be able to fill in at least temporarily, enabling us to book gigs without worrying about whether we’ll have a full lineup to play them. We’re still looking for a drummer who wants to be a more permanent member of the band though, so drummers please e-mail us at or call me (Nelson) at 703-942-9378 if you’re interested in playing with us!

Recording backing vocals with Karen Rustad

Karen leans on the keysThe lovely and talented Karen Rustad has been with working closely with Wrong Side of Dawn since its formation. Karen was there at our first rehearsals, with just me and Brian before we had any other musicians to work with. Karen has repeatedly lent us her artistic skills, doing an amazing job on the cover art for our old EP and the Grinder’s Tale 3P, and she’s currently working on a draft of the cover art for the upcoming Stay Awake album. She also did all of the graphic design and most of the web design for our beautiful website. [Incidentally, she’s currently looking for work. Maybe you could help her out? 😉 ]

In addition, Karen is a serious singer and songwriter in her own right, having sung in choirs for many years, contributed her voice to musical groups such as Tryad (you can hear her singing lead vocals on “Beauty” from their album Listen) and written and recorded several wonderful tracks on her home computer. We had good experiences with her contributing vocals and some keyboards to our previous album attempt, so it is no surprise that we brought in Karen again to help us compose and sing the backing vocals on the “Stay Awake” album.

Adapting live vocal harmonies for a studio album

Karen with guitar (no flash)Karen has been performing at open mikes etc. with me since before WSD took its first steps towards recording a studio album. One song that she sang with me was Break Free (which is an ancient song that I originally wrote when I was in high school), and she wrote her own vocal harmony part to accompany me. On our previous attempt at recording this album, Karen simply sang the exact same vocal harmony that she sang when performing as a duo with me. However, this didn’t work quite as well with a full band, because Karen sang what amounted to a vocal solo during the bridge, at the same time as Brian’s guitar solo. Having two “solos” going at once made the song sound a little busy and disorganized, although there were a few nice interactions between Karen’s singing and Brian’s lead guitar.

When we started recording Break Free again at Portrait Studios for “Stay Awake,” I asked Karen to try writing some new harmonies that would be more choral and less busy-sounding, to avoid the problem of it sounding like there were two solos at once. Karen obliged by singing two-part harmonies, using them to create chords rather than an entirely independent melody line. I think the resulting backing vocals step back during the main part of Brian’s guitar solo in the bridge and give him more space, but also sound more impressive in a Cranberries-esque fashion. Naturally this is impossible for Karen to sing live without help, but that’s what’s great about studio albums, they free you from limits such as how many people you can put on stage at once.


Another issue that we had to confront frequently when recording with Karen and mixing her parts was when and if to use Auto-Tune. This is not because Karen has bad pitch, she’s probably on key more often than I am. This is because almost all of her vocal parts are harmony parts. Brian and I could get away with being a little loose with pitch when singing by ourselves, but whenever we bust out the vocal harmonies, any sourness in pitch is immediately and painfully obvious. Although some of Karen’s parts came out fine, we ended up having to use Auto-Tune extensively in some passages. One passage in “Out of Time” couldn’t even be saved by Auto-Tune (which says bad things about my ear because it sure sounded in tune to me when she recorded it) and we ended up having to throw out her part in that section. Whenever we discovered that Brian or myself were irreparably out of tune during mixing, we could re-take that section on the spot, but Karen wasn’t around during the mixing process, so it was a case of Auto-Tune or die. If someone is doing a difficult vocal harmony (or something similar) and you can’t get them in the studio again easily to fix any problems, I recommend that you record multiple takes and save them all, just in case there are undiscovered problems with the take that you thought was perfect.

For the record, Brian and I would have preferred to not use Auto-Tune at all on this album. We generally went for a straightforward “live” sound on this album, we didn’t want to sound too heavily processed and suspiciously clean. However, there is a trade-off between the time necessary to re-record a passage and the time required to Auto-Tune it. If you’re perfectionist enough to go and fix every little note by re-recording it, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the studio, and a lot of dough (unless you own the studio). Besides, if you have to do a zillion re-takes for each section to get it right, how much more genuine is that than Auto-Tune? Aren’t you using machines to cover up your shortcomings as a musician either way? The best, most “genuine” and impressive way to avoid Auto-Tune would be to practice until your vocal cords bleed, and then sing the song perfectly, without requiring any re-takes or Auto-Tune. Sadly, we just aren’t that good yet, and reality forced our hand.

Surprise harmonies

The vocal harmonies in the chorus of The Grinder’s Tale (listen around 2:55-3:15) came as something of a surprise to all of us. In one of the last recording sessions, we entered the studio with the vague mission of “add more vocal harmonies to the album” because Mr. Gutkowski (my old Latin teacher and indie rock mentor) had said something about how great vocal harmonies separate the pros from the amateurs, and we had agreed with him wholeheartedly. Brian came up with ideas for a couple harmony parts in his car while driving to the studio, singing along to the rough mixes. Karen had a different idea, however, and that sounded good too. So we figured, why not put all of those harmony parts on the record? Karen went off into another room in the studio alone with my iPod with the broken earbuds singing and re-singing the harmony parts until they gelled, and then we recorded the 4-part harmony together.

Similarly, the harmony during the “oohs” on Last Warning was a last-minute addition (listen around 2:44-3:04). I said something like “Hey Karen, Brian sounds kind of lonely in that part, why don’t you go help him out and add a harmony part?” The toughest part was the last note of the harmony. Karen tried a couple different notes, but nothing sounded right except that 2nd we have on the record. Karen was like, “You really want it to end on that dissonant note?” And we were like, “Yep.” The suspension resolves, sort of, when the rest of the band comes in, but dissonant or not we love it to death.

Karen’s interview

N: Karen Rustad, you’ve just finished recording all of your vocals for the Stay Awake album. How does it feel?
Karen: Uhhhhhheehhhhhhhhh [Karen fakes dying]
N: Speak words, woman.
Karen: 😛 Nah, it’s good. I’m glad we got it done in time – barely. I’m happy with the new harmonies we were able to add on, maybe. We’ll see… It’s something different!
N: Alright. And what was your favorite song to record?
Karen: Probably Contained. It was easy. And, sounds good as ever.
N: OK, least favorite?
Karen: Break Free took too long! Ohmigod! I think it’ll sound really cool, but it took *forever*, and I had problems with pitch, until I realized that it’s a lot easier if you only cover one ear.
N: Interesting. So just having one ear outside the headphones…
Karen: Yeah, even though you have a monitor feeding it back to you, for some reason it’s a lot easier if I hear my voice for real, rather than it being broadcast back. A lot easier for me to adjust.
N: OK! And how do you think the album is coming?
Karen: I think it’s coming really good! This is wayyy better-sounding than the previous attempt. And I expect it’s going to be really playable and I hope that it gets lots of interwebs attention 😀
N: Alright, well, thank you 🙂

We need a drummer for live shows

We have successfully found a new bassist! His name is Andres and we’re very impressed with how quickly he has learned all of our songs. Unfortunately, the drummer we were going to use for live shows had to cancel on us. We don’t dare book gigs without a drummer, so it is vital that we find at least a temporary drummer ASAP. Can you help us?

If you are a drummer, and you think you could help us play at least a couple gigs per month for the next few months, we’d like to jam with you! (If we work well together, longer-term arrangements can be made.) Please live in the Philly/NJ/NYC area, we’ve been practicing in North Brunswick, NJ but we aspire to gig all over. Also please be under the age of 35, so that there isn’t too huge of an age gap (Brian and I are 25). Check out our music on this site, or on our Bandcamp store… and if you think you have the technical chops to play for us and you dig the music, just e-mail us at or call Nelson at 703-942-9378.

Recording electric guitar with Brian Rose

In our efforts to bring back the best features of classic rock, Brian’s lead guitar has been our secret weapon. We think that the emotive, virtuoso guitar solo is an important part of rock music that has been neglected for far too long, and we’re trying to fix that. Brian is a bit of a perfectionist, and that can be frustrating when we are paying for studio time by the hour, but his attention to detail really shines through on this album in every note the lead guitar plays. Sharing the studio with him has been a joy, an honor, and a learning experience.

Choosing an electric guitar

"Slash" guitar w/ flashBrian used three electric guitars on this album: a “Slash” Les Paul, an American Stratocaster, and a Mexican Stratocaster.

The “Slash” Les Paul has a very raw, hot, unforgiving sound. Brian used it for the lead parts on Out of Time, Running Scared, Flight III, and Last Warning (you can hear semi-final versions of those songs from The Grinder’s Tale 3P right now!). I was a bit surprised that we didn’t use the “Slash” Les Paul more, it can sound really mean when you play it right and I was very impressed by it in rehearsal. It turned out, however, that we didn’t want the lead guitar to sound quite so mean and in your face all the time. If we didn’t want a guitar part to cut right through the music and slice open your eardrums, we had to pick a different guitar instead of the “Slash” guitar, because that guitar really demands attention.

Brian experiments with effects pedalsThe American Stratocaster is the smoothest-sounding of the three guitars, but it still has a thin, jazzy sound. It is very versatile, you can make a very wide range of different tones depending on which pickups you select or pedals you use. We used it for the lead guitar part on The Grinder’s Tale, Flight II, My Private Asylum, Break Free, and Contained.

(If I recall correctly, the picture to the right also features Brian experimenting with his effects pedals in order to get the several layers of feedback right that appear at the very end of Out of Time. We left the door to the amp closet open so that the guitar would feedback, and we played with delay pedals that gave us some rhythmic patterns, as well as producing some bizarre results that reminded me of the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. This was one of the few times we used multiple pedals, as I’ll discuss later.)

Mexican Strat w/ flash
Finally, we used an inexpensive Mexican Stratocaster for rhythm guitar. (We didn’t use it for lead guitar at all.) Brian likes it for rhythm because it has a little bit of a wobbly, unstable sound that gives more flavor to the rhythm parts. We used it for the rhythm on Last Warning, Running Scared, and the electric guitar at the end of Bobby McGee.

Pedals, or lack thereof

Brian's effects pedals Back in the day when we were in Nuzzo’s basement studio recording our old EP, Brian used to use lots of pedals at once in his pursuit of the ultimate electric guitar sound. The photo to the left shows a typical pedal setup from the Nuzzo sessions. We’ve learned since then that sometimes less is more. If you have a good guitar and a good amp+preamp, and you’ve got a good sound, throwing lots of pedals on top of that will just screw it up. On the “Stay Awake” album, Brian mostly used only one pedal, a distortion pedal. We’re keeping it simple and raw.

The “Out of Time” solo

The guitar solo that closes “Out of Time” just might be the crowning moment of awesome for this album. It’s the solo that made me say “we need to get this into Rock Band” (stay tuned for more on that). The interesting thing to me is that the most emotionally powerful part of the solo, the climactic 20 seconds, is the only part that is simple enough for me to play (although Brian plays it much better, of course). Van Halen-esque theatrics are impressive, but sometimes what you need for a great solo is to play just a couple notes very passionately, and I think that’s what Brian did. Which is not to say that Brian doesn’t also have amazing technique.

One technique that Brian used in this solo that I had never seen before is a pinch harmonic or a “squealie”. Pinch harmonics are quite common in heavy metal and ZZ Top songs, all heavy metal solos are full of pinch harmonics, but I don’t listen to heavy metal much. Neither does Brian, I understand, but he learned the technique from his friend Christan who is into heavy metal giutar. To play a pinch harmonic you pluck the string with a pick, and then immediately after you hit it you barely scrape the string with your thumb. Thumb it too hard and you kill the note, thumb it too lightly and it doesn’t have the desired effect. You’ll be able to hear a pinch harmonic in “Out of Time” at around 3:27, it’s the 3rd note that Brian plays after the background vocals come in, and it is an extremely distinctive sound. I can’t wait for you to hear it 🙂

Brian’s interview

N: You’ve just finished a long day of recording electric guitars, how are you feeling?
B: I’m feeling tired, I’ve been tired for a like few hours now. I’m definitely like several hours, um, steps behind where I should be going to sleep…
N: That’s what our band is about, right?
B: Actually yeah, that’s right, I kind of forgot about that part, the whole Wrong Side of Dawn thing… I mean, I would be staying up until morning if that were true.
N: That’s true, thank god we are not there yet.
B: Yeah, I mean, I feel really good with what I recorded, I’m kind of disappointed we didn’t get through every single song today. But that might have been a little overambitious.
N: What was the favorite thing you recorded today?
B: Definitely the ending solo for Out of Time. We spent a lot of time on the feedback afterwards, which actually I think we need to kind of hold back on that with the mixing so that it doesn’t overshadow the song or anything like that. It’s supposed to be that it comes in for 10 seconds and then goes away. The actual solo itself, I was really glad how that went. I basically got it in one take, had to punch in just a couple of parts. I’m really glad I got the “Slash” Les Paul, it worked really well for that solo. I think it sounds really intense, and once we get other things like the vocal harmonies and stuff in there, that’s going to be a good climax to that song. I’ve definitely really been looking forward to that particular one minute of this album, and it’s gone well so far.
N: What was your least favorite thing about today?
B: Definitely Vulture [now called My Private Asylum], it’s weird how pretty much the solos were the easiest thing to record. It’s something like Vulture that doesn’t have any solos that needs to be exactly right. Definitely the solos were, ironically enough, the easiest thing to do, everything else is hard.
N: How do you think the album is coming along?
B: I think it’s coming along really good. I really feel like these songs are better than good. It’s disappointing when I show people what I’m writing and they say it’s good. People always say it’s good, and it really frustrates me. Your 3rd grade class project that you did the night before is good. I really think our songs are better than good…. so I sometimes wonder if I’m like the only real believer in some of these songs, but I think they’re going really well. Better than well.

We need a new bassist

We are sad to announce that the extremely talented Andrew Angelin, who has played bass on everything that we’ve recorded up to this point, is moving to Florida and will be unable to provide us with wicked bass grooves in the future. This leaves us in dire need of a new bass player who can play live shows with us to support the album when it comes out, and perhaps help us record our next album.

Do you have the technical chops to play Andrew’s basslines? Do you use slap bass, harmonics, bass chords and other fancy techniques when you play bass? Do you have the killer rock instincts necessary to perform with Wrong Side of Dawn? If you think you do, and you want to play bass for us, then send us an e-mail at and we’ll be in touch!

Please be under 35 years of age (otherwise our age gap may be too weird) and please live somewhere in the Philadelphia-NJ-NYC area. We think our headquarters for the near future will be in Philadelphia, but it’s up in the air at this time.

You can download our songs for free

I just want to make it clear that since “The Grinder’s Tale” 3P is “pay what you want”, you really can choose whatever price you want, including zero. Naturally we hope that if you like our music you’ll help support our efforts to finish our full-length album and play some live shows, and that’s why the recommended price is $3. Our top priority, however, is making sure that everyone can hear our music. If you’re broke and you just want to hear some awesome tunes from Wrong Side of Dawn on your iPod whenever you need a pick-me-up, go download them from our Bandcamp store and don’t worry about the money.

If you do decide to download our 3P for free, our site asks you for your e-mail address. We will not give or sell your e-mail address to third parties. We will only use it to let you know about future Wrong Side of Dawn releases, and possibly live shows. You’ll hear from us maybe once a month (maybe even less frequently), we promise not to spam you. We just think that your e-mail address is a decent trade for some free music 🙂 When you enter in your e-mail address, a download code will be e-mailed to you and you’ll be able to download whatever songs you asked for, in whatever quality/format you want.

I hope this clears up any confusion, and I hope you enjoy our music! Stay tuned for the release of our full-length album “Stay Awake” sometime this fall.