Behind The Song is a blog series breaking down each track released by Rival Waves in a bit of detail. In this installment, Rival Waves singer, Joel De La Garza, takes you behind the scenes of the band’s second single, “Transducer”, which hit digital retail outlets Jan 20, 2017. In it, he discusses the song’s origin and journey, and why it was so personally important to see this song released on Inauguration Day 2017.
transducer: noun – a device converting one form of energy to another.
It began with a riff…and some hope…
The initial musical idea was to create a song around a series of angular notes that would work well juxtaposed with the huge open chords of a chorus I’d yet to write. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew where I wanted to end up.
I remember the exact moment as if it were yesterday, sitting with my acoustic guitar on a sofa in the small living room of an otherwise empty 10th-floor condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico when it appeared out of nowhere…that riff. Playing around with the bones of a pentatonic scale, I stumbled upon this particular pattern of notes and had one of those moments. You know, the kind of moment when you realize something is going to work out in your favor.
The riff serves as the standard bearer and recurring theme for everything after. The immediacy of the intense, punk-influenced musicality throughout the song, the chugging syncopation that lies just off the downbeat, the spacey middle 8 that creates texture without losing energy, it all stems from that riff.
So, the hope…and that title…
As a sort of self-affirmation exercise, I used the term and concept of a “transducer” as a metaphor to convey the act of converting energy based on one’s own fears and insecurities into an energy of action and hope – into an intent forward movement. While there were incarnations of this song that go as far back as 2005, the song really took shape when the lyrical idea solidified around quite the seminal life moment.
The lyrics, as they stand now, can be traced back to a night in February 2008. I wrote them immediately after returning home from seeing a then-Senator Barack Obama speak at a campaign stop in downtown Austin in front of thousands at the State Capitol. While it was amazing to see the energy and hope of so many in that audience, there was an unspoken level of sober resolve that many in the crowd knew was required for any hope to be realized. In essence, we were aware of all the work there was to do, and we were up for doing it. It was an incredible feeling of empowerment that I wanted to capture…and pass on.
Fast forward to January 20, 2017, the day that 2-term President, Barack Obama, leaves the White House for a final time. I could not be more proud to release this song as a message of gratitude for the clarion bell. Not only to him; but to all who continuously wake up each day and fight for that ever elusive dream we all strive for…our own pursuit of happiness. We may not have received all the change we were hoping for (who ever does?), but we learned how to work, how to organize, and how to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It is a skill that will come in very handy in the foreseeable uncertain future.
Amid all the disarray in the world, I continue to use this song as a reminder that even when all hell is crashing down around us, we have the power to take control…of our lives…of our world. We have the ability to affect change, to be that change we seek, and to make a difference.
“Transducer” is, at its core, a self-validating call to arms that reminds me of who I am, and what I have the power to be…and it does so every single time we play it.
I am beyond stoked to have a piece of art, a piece of me, that bookends such an important part of our history and am so proud to have been alive during an administration that, I believe, will be remembered fondly and with immense pride – no matter how divided we are at this present moment.
Many thanks to a decent human being that had the audacity to hope – and to incite that hope within us.
“Take control and become so much more…”