The mix of this song was inspired by "When You Sleep" by My Bloody Valentine. "Bumbler" was basically completed but I didn't want to release another fuzzy rock song that sounded like all the fuzzy rock songs I release, so I busted out the Yamaha SPX90ii to see if the reverse reverb setting could take the song to a different place. I think the noisy, reverse reverb guitar makes the song; without it, the song is bland and empty sounding.
Another big inspiration taken from "When You Sleep" is the lyrics and vocal delivery. The juxtaposition of heavy, noisy guitars paired with sleepy, ethereal singing is one of the things that makes MBV special. Also, the lyrics in "When You Sleep" seem to be chosen for sound over meaning, which is something I'd like to incorporate more going forward. In terms of vowels, words with "O" vowel sounds seem to often work better than words with "A" or "E" vowel sounds.
I stole the structure of this song from "E-Pro" by Beck. When writing "Bumbler," it seemed like I had two good parts (a verse and a chorus) which were distinguished by two lead guitar parts. I was thinking about simple, repetitive songs that hold your attention and "E-Pro" came to mind. "E-Pro" is a masterclass in song structure and making the most out of a minimal amount of parts.
The artwork for the song was created by Jason E. Lambeth. Here's what he said about the process: "I feel like Mike had a different title in mind before "Bumbler," but I don’t quite remember what it was. It might have been "Bumblebee"? Either way, couple that with the chorus of “buzzing in my head, buzzing out my window,” and I was off and running with ideas for images. I began the task of digging through my piles of vintage magazines and looking for any cool images related to bees and buildings. I found both the beekeeper and the full page building image in the same sitting. I pieced them together and snapped a photo with my phone and texted it to Mike. He liked it. I thought, that’s too easy, and told him I was going to work on it a bit more. I found more people and tried to add them, but both Mike and I felt like the first image was perfect. I even scanned both images into the computer, as I typically would for an album cover and layout, but it didn’t look right. There was just something about the way the phone had captured it with the first photo. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it felt right and we stuck with it."
The Yamaha SPX90 is one of those pieces of 80's rack gear that is on a lot of albums. I heard about it when researching the Flaming Lips drum sound for Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. Many of those drum sounds are one mic distorting the Yamaha SPX90 in bypass mode. Program 90 on the SPX90ii, Reverse Reverb, is the one used by Kevin Shields for guitar sounds on Loveless. The parameters I used for the noisy guitar throughout "Bumbler" were: TYPE = Reverse, ROOM SIZE = 20.0, LIVENESS = 6-7, DELAY = 75.0 ms, LPF = Through, BALANCE = 100%, OUT LEVEL = 100%. There's a lot of threads you can explore online about the parameters. If you opt to get one of these units, make sure the internal battery is in good condition. They can be replaced, but it'll set you back.
This is the mic I use for vocals. The vocal sound on this song is the vocals through this mic, then doubled. There's a little bit of plate reverb to push them back into the mix, and that's about it. In terms of EQ, I rolled off the lows to combat any rumble that might have occurred.
I use this octave pedal for lead guitar sounds. It's also useful to turn your guitar into a bass without needing to grab your bass (which I totally did when I was composing the song!) I have the older, big box version of this pedal. I like it because it thickens up lead guitar parts and adds some dimension to their sound. I also like pedals that excel at multiple jobs. (I actually picked up the POG after seeing Grizzly Bear play in Kingston, NY a few years back. The guitar player uses a vintage Fender Vibro Champ and a Silvertone 1448. He also uses the big box version of this pedal. I figured, I already have two out of three pieces of gear that he uses... why not try it? I'm glad I did. I don't think I would have thought to have gotten this pedal otherwise.)