Inspiration and Composition:
I only write three songs: Action, Comedy, and Goodbye.
Or rather, all my music tends to be refractions of three songs that I write over and over again. “Vanishing Point” is the my most refined version of the last category, songs that say farewell. As life unfolds, you get far too many opportunities to say goodbye. After some time, “Vanishing Point” became the right place for me to do it correctly, to celebrate farewells, and to remind myself to remain susceptible to the beauty that is in all things, even sad things.
I wanted to write about this song for a long while, and I wish I could say exactly when I began it. The title is a mash-up of the geometric concept, like the parallel lines of a highway vanishing in front of the car (driving home, or away from home?), and the phrase itself, as in “what’s the point ?” I can remember writing it straight out of the cold resolute place in your heart somewhat just past a break up. There was other fuel on the fire also, some of it having to do with my older brother Casey’s suicide back in 1989. That weight takes a long time to figure out.
Nuts-n-bolts wise: “Vanishing Point” is an early song, but it contains several reoccurring elements. Its form, AAB, is real popular for me for some reason (“Muddy Waters”, “Liberty Bell”, “Mushmouth”, “Funhouse”, etc), as is the whole delicate dance of subdominant resolution. IV to I is grand, and I got into thinking “What if subdominant resolutions replaced all the dominant?” This idea got more exploration in “Thin Air”, which is older by perhaps a few months.
A1 is a simple vocal-like melody that came about the same time at the chords. Once I had it written, I decided to add a more sophisticated harmony line during A2 as a way to stretch the harmony just so slightly. This is the line that is feature on the “Projector” version. The B section is probably the most successful thing I’ve written yet. The chords and the melody are both just right, a little bombastic, and yet work together so well.
“Vanishing Point” was first recorded on Projector. Since then, the song had really come so far and come to mean so many different things, I decided to record it again. I first wrote a whole new counter line during A2 built from a sequence (1 5 7 3 5 9 4 7 1 5 7 5 2 3 X X ). I took that line, split it into two lines, and then harmonized the top line, making for a very effective 3 horn part. I gave the counter line at B a harmony part also, and for the coda made some voicings for this strange “long 7/4” event that was added some years ago.
Three horns on all these lines… I remember getting chills during the first rehearsal. The band knocked this one outta the park right away. The arrangement was really fun to play because each section had something special going on. Greg and Peter finish this dramatic setup for A1 and then Marlon and Robby pull into A2 in a lovely fashion. The melody keeps getting passed about, in the guitar for A1 and then guitar/trumpet melody for B twice before Jacob breaks free. The counter line during the guitar solo could make any solo sound great, and then it’s back into the melody at B with fills that set it up for this smashing coda drum solo.
Post production, not much changed. I dubbed a little guitar under the horn intro to foreshadow the counter line, and I struggled to accept if the existing guitar solo was “the take” (turns out it was).