"Still Here" was our first song with Just Another after my move to Dublin, and as such, has a lot of different aspects and means a lot to me personally too. This is a behind the scenes entry about how the song was created, what challenges we had to face during the writing and recording processes, and of course, what this song means to us as a band and to me personally. First things first though, here is the song itself!
It's intertwining. I've always looked for inspiration from my own life when writing songs for Just Another, while the band itself has definitely become one of the most important things in my life in the meantime. Those four guys in the band, the music we play, the gigs, the fans are all super close to me.
Just Another is a project that I've been a part of from the very start, but when I moved to Dublin, it seemed that I wouldn't be a part of it until its finish. I was at a pretty big crossroads in my life being hired at Riot Games, and I knew that when I moved, the guys would have to look for a new singer to take the band forward. Although I was very vocal about the search for a new singer, simply because it was the right thing to do, deep down it wasn't easy. The goodbye gig was phenomenal with hundreds of people coming out to see us together as a band, seemingly for the last time. I was thrilled on one hand and devastated on the other.
There are crossroads in everyone's lives when we have to decide which way to go.Coelho depths in our announcement
I moved to Dublin and the guys started looking for and auditioning singers in Budapest, which I don't have an awful lot to say about, simply because I wasn't there. All I know is that the band had a number of guys (and even girls!) auditioning, ranging from passionate and talented beginners all the way to established music industry veterans. A couple of months later I flew to Budapest for a long weekend – we decided to meet for a pint, plus since the guys still hadn't found the perfect match, we thought we would jam a litte too. It was amazing, I had a great time playing music with the guys again. Probably they had a good time as well, because after I came back to Dublin, they reached out to me on Skype and said that if I was in, they'd like to have me back as a singer, even if my bandwidth was minimal due to living abroad. It felt great!
By then the guys already had a nearly finished demo for a song of Andy, our guitarist, called Schlaager (which is humbly a misspelled version of the Hungarian word for "hit"). I was listening to it a lot and came up with the lyrics, the melody, and named it "Still Here" the next time I was on the plane to Hungary a couple of weeks later. The only thing that ended up changing with the vocals was the chorus – we made it twice as long and added two extra chords in there as a kind of a bridge before and during the "cause we are still here" part. This is how the chorus sounded like back then without the changes:
We always wanted Still Here to be a very raw and powerful song. It's a statement of Just Another still very much being here although all that's happened to us, while it also has a personal touch for me – I moved abroad and lost a huge chunk of my life, was fighting against the odds and trying my best not to give up in a completely new environment, but still, being still alive and rockin it out. To convey this creative vision further, besides the lyrics, the whole thing sounds very raw and energetic, stripped down of effects and me screaming probably harder than ever towards the end of the song. We to put a big melody into its chorus to symbolize that although someone is deep down, they can very much be working their way back up. That was the idea at least, showing that there is still hope, no matter what.
Even if everything ends tonight, I will
Keep on fighting until that last breath
And in the final I will crash and burn
Bot not yet, cause we are still here
(the rest of the lyrics are here)
Recording the song was always going to be a tricky process, which got a lot more complicated due to a couple of unforseen happenings. The guys first recorded the demo of song at Andy's place, then I brought the lyrics and the melody in, and we made the aforementioned changes to the chorus. Afterwards the guys re-recorded the song with the changes and finally we demoed the vocals at Charthouse Recording in Dublin. It was actually the first time I ever recorded a song abroad, and although I had a sore throat and was very far from sounding good, it was definitely a pretty nice experience, and I had a great time working with the producer, Ian McNulty. Here is a sneak peek into how the demo vocals ended up sounding (it's far from good, to be honest):
After the demo vocals were done, the guys took it to Black Hole Sound, the studio where we recorded our first album, Polarities. We were so much in love with the place and the producer Gabor Vari's professionalism that it was no question that we'd do Still Here there too. The guys recorded the song on top of the demo vocals coming from Dublin, and they did an awesome job: you can hear it in the final version of the song. The plan was that I'd go to the same studio a month later and spend the day with Gabor there to sing the song and wrap everything up.
Well, the plan went totally wrong. Although I flew to Hungary solely to record the finalized vocals to Still Here, I got a pretty bad flu a couple of days before. After going home from a rehearsal with the Pentakill band in Dublin, the weather was so bad that I got pretty sick. Still, I thought the situation totally fit the song: I would push myself to the limits and I still would be able to do it. Well, I wasn't. The studio is in Szeged, a couple of hours away from Budapest by train; I went down there pretty early to make sure we can spend a proper amount of time on the song, but after trying the first couple lines, I knew I was just unable to sing it. It felt terrible to fly 2000 kilometres, travel another 200 by train, and be unable to do this and let the guys down. I still had a couple of days left in Hungary, so we agreed with Gabor that I'd go back and try recording the song again the day before I flew back to Dublin. He was great and cancelled the band he would have been working with on that day.
I had a couple of days off, so I headed straight to the laryngologist – it turned out that my vocal chords were totally swollen, so no wonder I wasn't able to do anything. Still, to make matters worse, we had a football game the day before the newly planned recording date... and I got injured. I was pretty much unable to walk. I thought it couldn't be true. There was a song which was about fighting against all odds and hitting rock bottom, and I was at the same place: fighting against all odds to be able to record the song itself. I had one day before my plane back to Dublin, my vocal chords were swollen and I could barely walk to the next room, let alone to the train station to travel 200 kilometres to the studio. Still, the guys from the band, the producer (and mainly myself) were all counting on me to nail the vocals – it all just fit the song perfectly. I was sure that if I was ever going to pull it off, it had to be then.
I made my way to the studio in Szeged for the second time in 5 days. Everything was so much against me that it just had to work. I stood in front of the mic, and... and it didn't work. It was terrible. The song and the situation got the better of me. We tried recording the song in a couple of different ways, but my voice was totally weak and I was unable to hit any of the higher tones. I was devastated. My flight back to Dublin was a nightmare: I came to Hungary to record this song and completely failed.
After a couple of weeks of rest I went back to Charthouse Recording in Dublin for the second time. Altogether it was the 4th time I tried recording this song. By then it had really grown on me, and the whole experience ended up being a total rollercoaster with me moving to Dublin and leaving Just Another behind, then me getting back to the band and still not being able to record the song. Still, for the 4th time I was totally healed, rested and relaxed, and could finally nail the recording; so at the end of the day, against all odds and planning, the vocals ended up being recorded in Dublin.
We shot a music video for Still Here as well; the idea was to show the whole story in a bit more artistic way. According to the concept, the guys in Budapest are auditioning people for the role of the singer of the band at a rehearsal, while I'm singing on my own and walking around in Dublin, forever alone style. In the middle of the song I become a hologram and miraculously appear in the Budapest studio from the streets of Dublin and we're playing together... until I'm back on the streets of Dublin again. We shot the video with the excellent Frisk Media, half of it at a studio in Budapest, the other half on the streets and at a hotel in Dublin. It was a great experiece to stand around on Grafton Street with a mic and a stand, having people giving me all the weird glances and/or coming for autographs (like you have to be someone special to act like you were singing on the streets). Also, recording a music video with a band is pretty different than what you see at the end, mostly because all you can usually hear are the drums. Here is a sneak peek of how shooting a video like this goes behind the camera!
A couple of very cool singers from the Hungarian music scene came out to star in the Budapest scene of the video: we had the singers of Fish!, Blind Myself, Plastic Bitch, and Nonverse coming out and act like as if they were ridiculously fail at the casting. Thanks a lot to all of you guys!
Still Here is probably the closest song to me that we've ever written so far. It signals the raw energy of Just Another being back from its ashes, me finding my own feet after I've left everything behind, and finally, it has a crazy story around its recording process too, filled with a number of ups and downs. Well, mostly downs. I think that no matter what happens though, we have to try our best to keep our head up, jump back every time, and come back stronger than ever.
To me that's exactly what Still Here is about.
Disclaimer: the articles on this website solely represent my personal views, opinion, ideas, etc., and although they might be similar in nature, concept or vision, they do not, under any circumstances represent the views or opinion of Riot Games, Just Another, Managerzone, or any other person, firm, or entity. Click here for more info.