photography by All Poets & Heroes
The Story Of A Record: Colorful Lungs
By All Poets & Heroes
“Making Colorful Lungs Pt. 1 &2”
Rob McCall and Corey Jordan are All Poets & Heroes. The essence of the band is to immerse themselves in deeply human reflections, the highs and lows of life. They digest questions that all of us have and the answers we are all after through their music and over the last 2 years, they’ve written and recorded their 2-part EP “Colorful Lungs“, trying to make sense of the world around them as well as the emotions inside. They told us their story and provided us with an in-depth look about the creation of the EP and how the songs did begin to fill out and feel more and more like them. And we enquired in greater deal on if they have become more reflective during the past years, their struggles with their own demons and get inspired by what happiness means to them.
It’s October 13th 2020, our debut album Occhiolism isn’t even ten hours old and Corey and I are driving to Brooklyn to begin working on our next project, Colorful Lungs. Corey and I are used to being on the road and the conversation is usually good and the topics change quite often. However, on this trip, we had a focused excitement and we talked about the songs we wanted our producer Allen Tate (San Fermin) to hear. We listened to some of the demos we had made back home in Syracuse and tried to get ready.
After some chaotic driving on my part and some fantastic navigating on Corey’s part, we pulled up to Allen’s studio to unload our gear for the sessions that would take place over the next ten days. We hauled our gear through a maze of indistinguishable white halls with inconsistent numbered doors, eventually stopping with Allen as he unlocked one. His studio was open and cozy – with high ceilings, exposed brick accent wall, soft light and few comfy places to sit. There was part of a drum kit in the furthest corner of the room, and an upright piano along the corner with the exposed brick. There was also a back room with amps and other assorted music gear. I felt like this is exactly where we needed to be.
Once we were loaded in we sort of just hung out. We spoke about the songs and our plan for the week, but really we just spoke. Corey and I didn’t really know Allen all that well. I was first introduced to him by our mutual friend and co-producer Mark Bengston, after he played a set in Syracuse. Mark had sent him Occhiolism and Allen liked it and said he’d like to work on whatever we have next. So, we stayed in touch, and when the songs for Colorful Lungs were being teased out we sent Allen a message and set a date to go down to NYC. The communication was pretty professional up to this point, and mainly done over email and text. So, this hang out was much needed for us to just get to know each other again.
At some point during the hangout, Allen suggested that we go grab some pizza and a beer. Corey and I moved the car over to our rented apartment a block or so away – throwing our stuff inside and rushing back out the door, leaving the car in the driveway (I know. A driveway in Brooklyn?). Right down the street was the pizza place and Allen was waiting for us. We treated him to a beer, and all got personal pizzas. It’s a terrible cliche, but pizza really is better in NYC.
Corey and I walked back to our temporary residence and Allen took off on his Citi Bike. We were staying on the second floor of the two home dwelling, and it was small for us, but quite spacious for The City – two bedrooms, a bathroom and small kitchen and living area. We put away some of the groceries we had brought with us, and set up our rooms – each of us trying to settle in the best we could, both of us excited and anxious to get working. I grabbed my laptop and set it up for us to watch something, Corey grabbed some beers from the fridge and we kicked our feet up.
We had a few days off to go and explore the city, but for the most part we stayed in Brooklyn just enjoying the local scene.
The next day I woke up early and tried to do some yoga and figure out how the coffee maker in the apartment worked. Finding the space to practice a little yoga was hard in the combined living room and kitchen and I tried not to wake Corey as I moved some furniture out of my way. I opened the windows and let in the cool fall air in – which in the city isn’t quite as cool and refreshing as it is upstate. Where we were was quite quiet and calm, and there was only the faint hum of the busy city only a block or two away. After a quick session, I made a cup of coffee and Corey woke to join me. We ate, showered and hustled over to the studio. Most of our mornings would go like this, and it was nice to have a routine.
Waiting outside for Allen to arrive we had a cigarette in a misty haze that hung about the city. Not long after, we saw Allen on his bike and we slowly settled into our day. The first thing Allen wanted to do was to hear the songs as stripped down as possible, noting that a good song can stand on its own. It also allowed Allen to get to know the songs more intimately – the chords and the changes, etc. Corey and I strummed out the songs on an acoustic guitar or banged them out on a piano. Each time Allen gave us notes on how he thought the song should be structured, what instruments he thought should accompany the piece, and so on and so forth, while Corey or I took notes in our notebooks. A few songs still needed to be finished, like “Give It To Me Straight,” which still needed a second verse and a refined chorus melody, and “Colorful Lungs,” which Allen now gave an abridged chorus too, but still needed to be shortened. It wasn’t a particularly long day and we grabbed another quick drink before heading back to our apartment to get to work on our homework.
After our morning routine of coffee and moseying about, we met back at Allen’s and showed him the finished songs from the night before and he approved. Now it was time to get recording. Over the course of the next few days we would put together the jumping off point for every song on the record – acoustic and electric guitars, piano parts, scratch vocals, backing and group vocal ideas. Allen pushed both mine and Corey’s musical imaginations, but kept it light hearted and was quick to laugh with us (or at us) when we made a mistake. We’d pick his brain about the music industry and about stories he had with other bands and artists. Some nights Corey would cook us dinner and we’d hang out with a beer on the couch and just talk about anything. We had a few days off to go and explore the city, but for the most part we stayed in Brooklyn just enjoying the local scene. It was a nice mix of working and goofing around and it felt nice to live, even if briefly, like artists in The Big City.
Our final day with Allen, I remember feeling a bit uneasy. Allen had made it seem like the songs were almost done, and should be done by January. However, to me the songs still felt so naked, and they really didn’t feel like All Poets songs yet. I obviously didn’t tell Allen this, but when I told Corey he tried to calm me down. I will admit that there were other things on my mind- some business stuff that I didn’t want to deal with at the label we were signed to, and just an overall feeling of self doubt as I asked myself “how the hell are we going to pull this off and are people going to even give a rats ass?”
We said our goodbyes and thanked Allen for all his hard work. He truly gave these songs form, and on our drive home Corey reassured me that we would take them back to Syracuse and give them color. He too was worried about handling the business end of things, but he also was realistic and knew that we’d have to take this all in stride.
Back home in Central New York, we began to assemble our team and fill out this record. Mark Bengston set up a studio in our practice space and started to capture the sounds that would fill out all the emptiness that we left after NYC. Rob Zaccaria, possibly one of the best feel-drummers I’ve ever met, came in and interpreted the energy of the songs with impeccable taste and flair. Our bassist Nash Robb became much more exploratory on this record, and added much more creativity than is typically displayed by bass players in general. Almost bringing a Colin Greenwood atmosphere to certain songs like “Keyframe” and “Half Step.” Ryan Jockel supplied some light percussive flashes and sparkles, and our former guitarist, and still friend, Zack Fitzgerald flew in from Denver, Colorado to spend a few weeks working on other guitar and synth layers, even jumping behind the drum kit for a song. Zack brought some much needed laughter back into the studio; a lack of seriousness that I know I personally needed.
However, the songs did begin to fill out and feel more and more like us – like All Poets and Heroes.
All of this took place over the course of several months, and we were not done by Allen’s expected timeline of January. However, the songs did begin to fill out and feel more and more like us – like All Poets and Heroes. In the midst of recording, we lawyered up and got out of our label deal, a decision that did not come easy, and was hard for Corey and I to get through, but when it came to the songs and recording I was so happy. Small disputes happening in the studio were nothing because it meant that we were all passionate, and wanted this to sound as good as it possibly could. In the end, they were all resolved because once you hear it back, you know what the best course is for the song.
As the songs went into the mixing phase, Corey came to me with an idea for us to write, film, direct and edit our own music videos. Being the naturally anxious person I am, I met Corey’s proposal with some hesitation and pointed out the road blocks I saw ahead of us. To Corey’s credit, he clearly had a vision and even though I was having trouble seeing it, he stuck to his guns and told me that we should at least try it before giving up on it completely. The first storyboard was for Tinderbox, a song we had recently decided would be a single. I liked the idea, and it seemed doable.
We decided to meet in Tipp Hill around 2:30 in the morning to film the first part of the story because all the bars would be closed, and the streets would be empty and feeling deserted.. The night we filmed it was unseasonably cold, and I wore yoga pants under my jeans to try and keep warm. A fine mist was coming down, and we had some beers as we went over the game plan. Nash would film while Corey directed and went through his shot list. I was surprised at how well the shots were coming out, and I began to realize Corey’s vision a bit more. We laughed, and froze our asses off that night, and when the footage came back I began to organize it for editing.
To finish the video, Rob Zaccaria threw us a party… or so we thought. In actuality, he was having a party, and we could film while it was going on. It proved to have its own challenges, but we found that many party goers were extremely interested in what was going on, and decided to be extras. Once again the footage came out better than expected – and being at a party wasn’t a bad way to cap off shooting.
Back at my house, I continued to organize footage and began to edit it all together. It turned out we didn’t quite have enough footage, but found a way to piece it all together. The Tinderbox music video wasn’t perfect, but it proved that we could pull this off and for every subsequent video, we had Nash filming, Corey or myself directing, and myself editing with the final stamp of approval from Corey.
With that confidence we continued by creating the album artwork, and in the process, grabbing some press photos. With help of local artist and friend Nick Sheridan, and photographer Nici Alex the presentation was finalized, and it was wrapped and ready to go out into the world.
Throughout all this – the video shoots and editing, the creation of the artwork and photoshoots – we were still giving notes on mixes, recording new ideas, and just constantly refining Colorful Lungs, and a little over a year since we left for Brooklyn, the record was done and going out for mastering. There were still some small details to touch up, but now Corey and I had to execute the release.
That work is coming to close now, as we release Colorful Lungs Pt.2. As you’ve just read, we put a lot of work into this and we hope you enjoy our labor of love.
We’re already working on what comes next.
Rob and Corey, you two are long-term friends, what do you appreciate most about each other?
Rob: Corey is a true artist. He never rushes things and isn’t afraid to take a step back from something if he feels too close. He’s always tinkering with ideas, but creates only when he’s truly inspired. He has taught me so much about music and is constantly making me better, and he does it all so casually. He has this laid-back air to him, which is good for me because I can be a bit uptight and high-strung. He’s become one of my best friends, and I wouldn’t want to do any of this without him.
Corey: Rob is a genuine person who always has my back, but doesn’t just accept my flaws. He challenges me to become a better person, and when I feel like I’m drowning, he’s the first to jump in the water and help me get to shore.
Over the last two years, you recorded your 2-part EP “Colorful Lungs,” in which you digest the situation the world went through in the past two years. To what extent has music helped you deal with it all?
Corey: Music helps me in general – not just with making sense of the world around me, but the world of emotions inside me as well. ‘Colorful Lungs’ isn’t really uniquely personal, it just happens to be the lens I’m currently viewing the world through. I may look back in a few years and think I had it all wrong. I could also look back in a few years and think that nothing has changed. I don’t know, but it’s where I am today and that’s that.
Rob: I think that the pandemic allowed me to dive into some deeper thoughts – thoughts I maybe didn’t even know I was having. Some of the subjects that I wrote about sort of came out on their own; and the only reason I think I was able to realize these subconscious concepts is because I had the space to just sort of be. I didn’t have the stress of my job; I was doing yoga and reading; finding time to listen to records and watch movies – the freedom of time allowed me to get to know myself again. I think that, in turn, allowed me to write many of these songs and through the songs deal with everything.
“The project had its stressful moments for sure, but it was a wild and fun ride.”
Have you become more reflective concerning life general through that time?
Corey: Not really. Again, this is all kind of what we do. However, that’s not to say we’ve always done it well. I feel like we took a more honest and concise approach to this record – so I suppose maybe this has made us ‘better’ at being reflective through our art.
Rob: I think Corey and I have always been reflective people, so I’m not sure this made us any more reflective than we already are. We’re always going to be guys who question things and who want to better themselves in all aspects of life.
What song on the LP is the one with the most personal meaning for you and why?
Rob: To this day, I have no idea what the lyrics of “Keyframe” mean, but when I was writing them it all felt so poetic and perfectly fitting for the moment I was in. Performing the song now, I still feel that way – like these words hold so much meaning and importance when I’m singing them even though I’m still not 100% sure why I wrote them.
Corey: “River Pouring Out” – mainly because I was able to enjoy it as a listener. I didn’t really have much to do with the lyrics or story, but I’ve dealt with addiction in my own life. My stepfather was a heroin addict, and I myself, have struggled with my own demons in that regard. So yeah, it hit on a particular personal note that I didn’t know I needed to hear. That’s the nice thing about having a friend who’s so good with storytelling and poetry.
“I feel like unhappiness comes from harboring feelings of anger and regret, but if we can accept ourselves, forgive ourselves and others, and let go of our past then we can learn to be happy.”
What were the most fun moments while recording?
Corey: Living in Brooklyn for the beginning of the recording process, writing/directing/filming/editing the music videos and of course debuting the songs live!
Rob: Creating this record with our friends made this whole experience incredible. From living in New York City and working with Allen; to having Zach Fitzgerald fly in from Denver and crash with us for a few weeks; to our rhythm section Rob Zaccaria and Nash Robb adding their flare; to having Mark Bengston engineering and allowing us to explore our wildest ideas and all the silly moments and beers in between. The project had its stressful moments for sure, but it was a wild and fun ride.
Besides music – what other things do you love?
Rob: Movies, books, yoga and golf – they all keep my gears turning.
Corey: Cooking, running, video games, anything nerdy and my cat Percy.
Corey: “If” – Kipling
Rob: “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
Rob: Happiness means learning how to accept and forgive. We need to accept what’s happened in our past, accept where we are now and accept how we’re feeling. We need to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes, and forgive the mistakes of those around us. I feel like unhappiness comes from harboring feelings of anger and regret, but if we can accept ourselves, forgive ourselves and others, and let go of our past then we can learn to be happy.
Corey: Happiness means my people being ok and safe, and living without fear.
>>> Check out the “Colorful Lungs Pt 2” EP here