I’ve been moving away from folk-pop toward electronic and neo-classical music for a while now, but it appears that what I really was looking for was Anthony Garcia‘s “Haunted Hotels.” It has all the joys of folk, electronic, and classical music without sounding quite like any of them.
Yes, “Haunted Hotels” combines folk guitar, electro beats, neo-classical violin and piano, and even a touch of classic rock (those vocal melodies!) for a truly unique experience. Lots of genre mash-ups can come off as trite or unfinished, but Garcia’s fusion of styles is immaculate. The delicate acoustic guitar work, mysterious harp, solid beats, ’80s keys, and desert-rock guitar solo all fit together like a beautifully composed photograph. Garcia’s arrangement and composition shine throughout, as this five-minute track does not feel nearly that long–it floats by effortlessly, which is no easy feat for a song this complex. It’s a brilliant, evocative piece of work that shows off an impressive skillset.
Anthony Garcia was gracious enough to provide a peek behind the curtain into the songwriting process of the song, and I’m happy to give you the scoop on that. (Fun fact: I swoon anytime some says “ostinato.”)
Inspiration behind the song
The song was inspired one day when I was visiting San Antonio and happened to be in the Menger Hotel in downtown San Antonio, which is right across the street from the Alamo. I’d been there before, but walking through this time, I spent a little time looking at the old building that dates pretty far back, and all the old rooms, and noticed some very old pianos in there. That was the catalyst that inspired the idea for the song.
Electronica style of the song
I am not sure I made a conscious decision to make this song more of an electronica-influenced song compared to the rest of the songs on the album, but it is what ended up happening. I think that it does, however, compliment the lyric: an ethereal, paranormal love story where the characters live in an old hotel in a Texas town. I wanted to mix the classical piano elements with “lo-fi” style beats, pizzicato violins, and some “A Fistful of Dollars”-style guitar.
Recording the song
Recording the song happened in phases and in bits and pieces. The piano was recorded live at a friend’s house on her father’s restored baby grand piano; the beats were made by producer Jeremy Fowler; the violin was played by violinist Megan Berson; and the rest of the instruments and vocals were tracked at Transient Mic Studios. We took quite a bit more time with this song than most and were very meticulous about every part of the song. I feel, in this style of music, it is necessary to take a more minimalist approach, meaning sometimes leaving space where you might not leave it in other styles of music. (e.g. choosing to have a sparse beat pattern; a minimalistic ostinato piano pattern; a single melodic guitar line). Essentially, I approached this song as if the instruments and parts were “sampled,” although they were actually all (with the exception of the beats) played using live instruments. It was more of a puzzle at times, making all of the pieces fit just where they needed to.
What the song means to me
I wrote the song and then took off shortly thereafter to play a contract on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean for two months. (Yes, I was a cruise ship pianist at one point in my life. Not my proudest moment…) But I managed to take along my laptop, mics, and MicroKorg, and I turned my shoebox, windowless cabin into a de facto recording studio. It was during this time that I demoed (i.e. made a rough draft, lo-fi recording of how I envisioned all the parts would fit together once I would eventually enter the studio) the songs on my laptop and worked out the lyrics and final parts. It was a special moment for me writing about an “empty desert town” while floating around the Mediterranean Sea in my tiny cabin. Although I was having a great time visiting the different countries, I was missing the freedom of being back home.
I am very happy with the final version. This song went through many different transformations over the course of the process and was probably the one that was scrutinized by me the most. I wanted it to be perfect in the sense that I described above: building but not being too overbearing, while maintaining a keen sense of subtlety. It might be the song I am most proud of on the album for this reason, and a style I would really like to delve into to develop more.