“I never cashed in a promise before it breaks, and the only thing I learnt in life it takes, expensive mistakes”
Back in college, my first girlfriend asked me to write a song around the line “you pass me by in a snowy place”. She never got to hear the finished song, and that saddens me as it is truly one of my favourites and the words really stand out on their own. I am very proud of this song.
One of my very first songs though was not part of my early band repertoire, as it was a ballad. On an occasion, I performed the song acoustically for a friend and she would say she was deeply moved by it, and that steeled me to bring it into band list. When The Resistance would split up and begin a reform, drummer at the time Tony Serwatuk suggested that instead of teaching yet another singer how to sing my songs that I should in fact take over the lead vocals, mostly based on how I sang this song. When Rob joined the band in 1997, he would say it was his favourite song, though his favourite band was Radiohead so I took it with a grain of salt. Not only would Expensive Mistakes be on our first album, it would close out the album and be the album title. When the decision was made to re-record for the new album, we took the song apart and built off of Rob’s bass intro to make a completely different version. The bridge arrangement was changed around substantially and we decided to kick the song in, in the midway part.
“For sure, at the 3:07 mark, it is the one ghost vocal phrase “calling, calling” that you can hear in behind the lead vocal “and the ice water washes away”, perhaps because I could never have envisioned this phrasing, and that it appeared by fluke, that it is the tastiest treat in the song, that most folks won’t even notice.”
In the first go round of this album in 2015, there is a much slower version recorded, and that was fine, but not very inspiring and I was feeling disenchanted until one day while sitting in my car, The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ came on the radio, I was surprised that such a quick tempo could be used for a ballad. I googled the tempo to find it to be 123 beats per minute. I set the drum machine tempo to this tempo and attempted Expensive Mistakes, and thought it could work. I then created a simple drum machine track to give to Lisa, who basically said, “yeah, I like that simplicity, I will build off that and hold off the snare until the second chorus.” This faster tempo posed a bit of a challenge now for Rob with the intro, but it allowed the bridge to have much more life. The drums and bass were recorded and I hadn’t a clue what to do with the guitars when the clean tele idea came along to compliment the bass line.
Late one evening while working on the crunchy rhythm with the Gibby, I began noodling around and the very simple lead solo riff came to me. I knew Rob would not be keen on it, and he wasn’t, telling me I needed to work on it and make it more intricate. However over the weeks, I could still hear this simple riff in my head, telling me it was memorable and needed to stay just as it was, I re-recorded the solo but it was basically the same riff.
The song was recorded and yet I was just not overly thrilled with the bridge section and so I sang a completely different melody in a different tempo and phrasing on another track. I wasn’t overly excited about that version and decided to leave that idea though the track was not erased. However on one particular day of mixing as I was painfully making dozens of mixes, I accidentally hit the wrong mute button and this “ghost” second vocal track played along with the original. It took me 4 beats to realize that I had hit the wrong button and then hit it again 4 beats later, and lo and behold I just kept hitting the mute button every 4 beats and this ghost track would appear/disappear every 4 beats and create a ghost track behind the lead vocal. I recall howling in delight and I knew I had to keep it.
Mixing Expensive Mistakes would go on for weeks with 67 different versions mixed from completely stripped down versions to the fully completely version that would be selected to be mastered. Worth repeating, there are 67 versions of Expensive Mistakes mixed and saved.