Today is June 1, making it the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper. Giles Martin’s remix of the album is a stunning achievement and you should absolutely pick it up (or at least listen to it on Spotify).
It’s also been one full month since we released Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans — and what a month it’s been! We thought we had created something worthwhile, but we didn’t really know if people would discover it, or if they did, if they would connect with it. We posted the album at 6am on May 1, and the first major press outlet, io9/Gizmodo, wrote it up just 14 hours later. That was way faster than we expected anybody to notice, and the commentary was far more positive than we could have dreamed — press and fans alike started throwing out the kind of overwhelmingly positive adjectives that make us blush.
The next few days were a wonderful rollercoaster of shock and gratitude for us, as more press outlets and geek luminaries weighed in. After a month, we counted close to 100 blogs, sites, and podcasts (that we know of!) that shined a spotlight on the project. Some of our favorite and most flattering comments included:
“The best parody album ever.” — Nerdist
“Surprisingly elegant…the perfect combination of two giants of pop culture.” — Rolling Stone (France)
“Master satirists…lyrical geniuses…this is Weird Al-level parody but even greater in scope. An instant classic.” — The Spectrum (USA Today Network)
“Masterful” — Entertainment Weekly
“Even Darth Vader would be impressed.” — CNET
“The kind of comical mashup the Internet was made for.” — NPR
“A lot of elaborate internet jokes result in a sort of amused chuckle—’Hoo boy, someone had too much time on their hands!’—but Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans transcends this. It’s about as ambitious as such projects get…It’s hard to imagine someone biting off a larger task than this, nor someone chewing as vociferously as Palette-Swap Ninja does here.” — The AV Club
We were also amazed to see the project covered by huge outlets like Empire, Polygon (with an interview!), Slate (which noted the Porkins joke we hid in track 13), IGN, Radio.com/CBS, BoingBoing, Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, Comicbook.com, The Mary Sue, Uproxx, and of course, Reddit. And the whole time, friends are reaching out to say “I just heard you on my local radio station” or “I was going to send you a link to this album but then I realized you made it!” Meanwhile, we’re just thinking…can this be real? It was all super humbling.
But for all this positivity, there was a high point above all others — one that made our hearts absolutely leap.
Folks, Luke Skywalker liked our jokes about Luke Skywalker. I mean, JMS ain’t nothing to sneeze at, but an actual Star Wars actor — and a huge Beatles fan — making our project his pinned tweet for a day? The Force will be with us, always.
And course, there’s all the “Have you heard this?” posts that you fans created to spread the word. All we wanted was to get this thing out there, and you helped — so sincerely, thank you!.Words can’t adequately express our gratitude for all of this. We did this project because we really thought it was an idea worth exploring, and we committed all our energy to doing the best job we possibly could. Getting the kind of acknowledgement and praise for that effort has really made us feel amazing.
Thank you as well to everybody used our tip jars (we beefed up our website hosting, and it did not crash, so now we can cover that expense!) and the kind soul who tried to create a PLSDSP page on Wikipedia. The rules of that site are understandably strict, and since the band doesn’t have a page already (and nothing was linked to the band’s mention on Dan’s page), there wasn’t much hope of the project itself getting a page — but it’s the thought that counts!
We’ve got a few more stories to tell about the making of the album, so for those of you who really want to know more detail, watch our site — when we get it together, we’ll post it! Until then, sincere thanks for all the support, kind words, and amplification you’ve given us over the last month. It means everything.
After five long years, we are thrilled to announce that our new album is available today — and it’s free! (more…)
As promised, we’re updating our website — rather dramatically. New theme, streamlined sections, better back-end support, all kinds of good stuff. Thanks to Kat for taking the lead on the redesign, and extra thanks to Ian, Will and Matt for the additional tech assistance. Expect that the site may misbehave a bit over the next week or so as things are optimized and configured. There are some significant changes behind the scenes.
Over the last week we also did a final check with a fine-toothed comb, looking for spelling errors (we found some), checking the videos, finalizing URLs and filenames….all that stuff that we don’t want to see posted publicly and suddenly regret because we were stupid and didn’t triple-check. The biggest near-mistake we caught: We forgot the hyphen in our name on the album cover. Four people missed that. You can never be too sure.
Dr. Demento should receive a package next week with a CD of the album (because that’s how you have to submit tracks!) and both digital and printed press kit assets. As you have probably figured out, that means…we’re pretty close!
This weekend the final track was mixed, mastered, and approved by all stakeholders. That means that after five years, the music for this project is finally done. We have MP3s all tagged up and ready to go with the final album art; the album credits and lyrics are being designed as a PDF that will come with the download. We are thrilled, as you would guess — we get a mental break after the last five months of pushing hard, and after that, we might start hearing the album the way other people might hear it.
Our friend Rob Smith put on his biz-dev hat and approached some potential partners to make videos for some of the songs, but the DIY spirit that has powered this entire project actually wont the day. Katrin Auch has created videos for all 13 tracks, and they look excellent. So in addition to hearing the album upon release, you can watch it too! (Fun fact: Kat also appears on the album, one of only two guests…)
Now we’re working on pre-launch details. That PDF booklet is being finalized; the website is partially upgraded in case we get a rush of traffic but still needs some configuration; the current topic of discussion is nailing down the final release date. It won’t be long — we want to get it out there ASAP once everything else is in place.
But for about an hour this weekend, we actually relaxed and enjoyed the moment!
PS: Thank you to Todd Gagel, who gave us our first donation. If we could frame PayPal and put it on the wall, we would.
It’s with some amazement that we realized we now have 12 of 13 tracks done. That’s all the way done — mixed, lightly mastered, ready for release. I’m embedding ID3 tags and album art and the whole bit now. Only the final track is left to complete and that should be done in about a week’s time. It’s a little surreal to finally be at the end of this five-year mission, but it’s time to boldly go release it for people to hear. We will offer the album here as a free 320K MP3 album, and probably a FLAC download too.
Our attention is turning to other aspects of release now. We are going to offer the album for download here on the site, but that won’t be the only place to hear it. Since we were unable to secure a video partner, Kat is creating lyric videos for the songs, so people will be able to hear the whole album on YouTube; she’s almost done and we’re just finishing up the little things like end cards that link between songs and stuff like that. We’ll also upload the tracks to SoundCloud so you can listen to them there if you like. Our pages on YouTube and Soundcloud are on our list of links on our sidebar, so if you wanna bookmark…do so!
The other thing you’ll notice on the website sidebar is the tip jar. We always give our tracks away for free, but have been asked for years if fans can buy albums or even just send us donations. (We sell t-shirts but we make no profit from them — we figured having people wear our logo was thanks enough.) So we’ve decided to finally offer a tip jar for people who want to use it. As they have for the last decade, our tracks remain free, and that includes the upcoming album — but if you want to throw us a few bucks, you can now use the PayPal or Venmo links to do that. You choose the donation amount; whatever you choose, we’re flattered and we’re not going to say no. We’ll use the money to recoup some of the investment in our gear and the website.
Speaking of which, the website is about to incur a larger expense. We feel there’s a fair chance of this project getting some mainstream exposure (especially since it’s free, which is the internet’s favorite word), so we’re going to invest a little money into a beefier server setup, so nothing crashes. Lots of attention is a nice problem to have…right up until the moment it crashes your website. Many thanks to our old friend Matt Hancock for his advice on this front.
So…we’re agonizingly close now, and we’re looking forward to posting the darned thing. We’re still considering a few different dates, but when we do launch, it’ll be with all cylinders firing.
The last month has been very productive. While we had hoped to have everything squared away and done by the end of February, we are spilling into March — but there’s enough wiggle room in the schedule that it’s not terrible.
We have eight tracks fully complete now, with the ninth in final mix, on the bubble of being approved for release. That leaves four songs. Two of those are complete except for relatively minor instrumental additions/changes; we have some digital instruments that can be improved or replaced or both, so that needs to happen. The remaining two songs were pretty bare as of last weekend, but now have content all the way through to confirm structure, whether it be bass or guide vocal or piano or some mix of the above. Now it’s a question of “decorating the tree” (or “hanging meat on the skeleton” if you prefer a different holiday). We are each adopting one of those tracks as we build them out, then we’ll swap and finish each other’s work. That will probably take us a few more weeks, but with so many songs done — the first six sequentially, and now very close to the first eight in order — we’re in good shape as the video pitches get underway.
We have a friend representing our biz dev interests, approaching online content producers and distributors about making videos for some of the songs we’ve recorded. While that’s happening, Kat is working on album art (which is pretty darned close to done) as well as a few other visual surprises, including new promotional photos. And weirdly, we are working on getting this very website — which is as clean as a whistle — removed from some internet malware blacklists. Guess there were old issues with WordPress that got us flagged, but after the site was fixed, the flags were never removed. We’re now going to the individual watchdog sites and asking for new evaluations. That’s what we get for running our own website.
While we considered working with outside musicians, we did wind up doing everything ourselves — drums, esoteric instruments, you name it — and we are still working all weekend every weekend, plus some time after work during the week when energy and responsibilities allow — at the expense of our gaming, for sure. But we’re definitely at the point where we listen to the tracks and no longer say “What the hell are we doing?” but “Wow, we did that?” Hopefully you will, too.
For the second half of 2016, we were basically sidelined by real life. The last two months, we’ve done everything we can to make up for that; the last three weekends have been particularly fruitful/exhausting. We’re also at that crucial time where we feel like we’re getting a lot of great work done…but we still cannot tell anybody what we’re up to. This will all be explained once the project is officially announced and we start promoting it, but trust us — we’re bustin’ our butts here.
The very good news: The first five tracks are as complete as we can make them. Through a friend who has biz skills, we are now ready to approach potential video partners with these songs as our calling card, along with the full (copyrighted!) lyrics and a project overview.
Please cross your fingers.
Thank you for the suggestions, volunteers, and “I’ve got a friend” messages after our call for a drummer. We’ve decided to move forward with MIDI drums, which will give us the greatest control. Half the songs are completely done in demo form and just need to have their drum sounds upgraded. If anybody likes programming MIDI drums and feels like helping with that, shout — we’ll give you credit.
That said, not only are half the tracks completely tracked, but we’ve now got at least something recorded for all but one song, which we saved for last on purpose. The next few weeks are going to be light on gaming and heavy on working in whatever spare time we have outside of our busy jobs and abnormal normal lives. We are still dedicated to a late spring/early summer release window, and if we finish stuff now, we can give video partners time to do their thing for that same time frame.
We had hoped to have the whole album recorded by the end of 2016. The second half of the year turned into a crazy time for both of us. Jude had a major scientific breakthrough at work this fall (which then created more work for him, because that’s science) plus he’s raising two small children. Over the summer, Dan traveled to Germany, France, and various US cities for work, then produced a live concert in San Francisco in October, which was exhausting. Basically, the last six months were a black hole for Palette-Swap Ninja efforts. But in reviewing what we’ve recorded and seeking the advice of some pro audio friends, one thing became very clear: We need a drummer.
In fact, we have tried, unsuccessfully, to find a drummer for this project since its earliest days. When we started, we reached out to a fan who’d contacted us two years prior, saying “If you ever need a drummer, call me.” So we did, and he said “Cool, sounds fun!” A year later, he informed us that he wasn’t really into playing, you know, other people’s music, which made his original offer weird. Jude and I approached two drummers we’d worked with in our previous live bands, and while both were supportive, neither wanted to commit. We’ve contacted multiple friends of friends who say they want to do it but then go silent. We’ve talked to professional drummers for hire who gave us realistic estimates of $2000, which is not feasible for a project that will give away for free. And so we’ve chipped away and soldiered on, repeating to ourselves that in order to do this project justice, we really, really need a drummer.
And completely seriously, maybe that drummer is you.
We live in a crowdsourced world; if you want something done right, ask a few hundred people to help you do it. So this is an official call for people who like our music enough to want to be our session drummer for the project.
We are looking for either of the following:
- a drummer with an acoustic or electric kit who can record uncompressed audio files for us to drop into Logic Pro X
- a MIDI drum programmer/arranger who can create and sculpt our digital placeholders into something that sounds dynamic and organic
This is a full-length album, probably 45 to 50 minutes total. We are planning to release this album for free; if we wind up making any money on it, we will share that with our drummer. But we are currently hoping that we might simply find a serious hobbyist who shares our motivations to make fun stuff for free — or at least someone who might have a more affordable fee that we can discuss. Nobody pays their rent with “exposure” so we understand what we’re asking here, but we also never know who’s out there and what motivates them. Maybe there’s a drummer out there who is just as interested in doing goofy music as we are, and might really be inspired by the concept once we let them in on the big idea. Or maybe there’s someone out there who will work for cheap. Let’s figure it out.
We have chosen a release window, and this project is coming out one way or another, but we really want it to come out right. So if you are a drummer/drum programmer or you know a drummer you think might be willing to go under FrieNDA to learn more, please have them send a mail to email@example.com with links to samples of self-recorded work. It’s a shot in the dark — so please, help us take aim.
We’re about halfway through the year, and I’m happy to say we have six of the 12 or 13 songs for the album recorded. I have done my “final” mixes on them, and they sound good — I’m not ashamed of them, we’ve nitpicked a few things and corrected them — but I am starting to wonder what they would sound like if someone with more experience mixing on modern equipment gave it a shot. Keep in mind that my audio degree is now about 20 years old, and I got it on the last gasp of all-analog signal paths; digital recording was coming in as I was going out. I also never pursued a career in audio recording and engineering as I’d intended, so I’m more than a bit dusty and rusty. Getting a professional, modern set of ears may cost money, so we’ll see how that works out. (We still plan to release this for free.)
That said, both Jude and I really like what we’ve got recorded. It’s kind of weird to listen to our current MP3 mixes and have them inspire us to keep going, but that’s exactly what’s happening — “Wow, that sounds good, we can’t screw up these other tracks, they all have to be aces!” Now that we have a half-dozen songs in, at the very least, advanced demo stage, we are going to approach more partners who might be able to amplify what we’re doing. I really think that’s worth it, and I’m willing to delay the release if it means getting a good partnership from, say, someone who could make quality videos for some of the songs. That will ultimately determine the final release date.
The second half of the year looks very busy so we’ll be recording as we can, but the results are speaking for themselves.