Shake Your Foundations
Track 2 - Rock'n'Roll Singer
Reese was having one of the best days of her life.
She wouldn't say she had grown up knowing more bad days than good days. Her family wasn't well off but she never had to go hungry. She had managed to enter Haven by merit of her grades and fighting skills. She wasn't miss popular but she wasn't a social pariah either. She had a good life.
Good but terribly restrained, damn it.
Ever since her parents had managed to save up enough money for that vacation to Vale city, ever since she saw them play... Her life had changed. A new passion blossomed in her heart beside being a huntress and moving her parents out of the boonies.
A passion that she had been born in the wrong place to nurture. Her life had been good but restrained, gimped.
"Yes! Hold still, Jaune." Which was why those thirty minutes spent setting up the equipment they had purchased in Cadmium Town with Penny, May and Jaune had been some of the happiest of her life, and they hadn't played a single note yet! Two turns later... "Aaaand goal!" She jumped back in a standing position, excitedly looking down at the now assembled drum kit.
"And that's one drum kit successfully constructed." Jaune stood with a grin on his face. All that practice helping his mother with the furniture paid off.
"We are also finished!" Penny announced and lo and behold, the string instruments were also now hooked to their amplifiers, and so was...
Jaune stiffened for a second as he laid eyes on a microphone which May finished straightening.
"Alright!" Reese clapped her hands. "So, who wants to jam?!"
"Huh? We're making confections?" Once again, Penny earned the stares of her newest team-mates and then their hilarity as they laughed. She flushed. "Uhm, I misunderstood another term of jargon, haven't I?"
"Yes... You did." Reese recovered first, only allowing herself one last snerk before addressing Penny. "We're talking about 'jamming'. It's a term for... Playing together without any sheet music to follow."
"Huh?" Penny stared back at Reese, tilting her head to the side. "But without sheet music prepared before hand, how do you know how to play?"
"You just do it." May interjected and sat down in one of the chairs of the sound-proof room Beacon had provided them. It was in the first underground floor of the complex and they had arrived there by going into the same elevator that usually brought people to Ozpin's office.
The beanie-wearing girl strapped on her Bass and grabbed onto the white pick she had picked out. She plucked a single string, the amp letting out a low humming note. Satisfied, she plucked the four string in a random pattern. She cringed at the result. "That was bad."
"That's what I'm saying!" Jaune chuckled at Penny's reaction as he put on his guitar. Unlike May, he didn't use a pick. His sister hadn't either and that was how he had been taught, blisters and all.
"Penny, do you think people making music have someone else telling them what to play?" Penny turned to Jaune, eyes slightly widening and then turned her head to the front, puffing her cheeks a little.
"That's true... But I just can't... Imagine doing it. I mean... Where do you even start?" She said, looking back at him with a pleading gaze.
"Heh, I remember my sister had the same question once." Her teacher, mister Hetfield, had a hearty laugh at it. He tried to remember the exact words he had used to explain but couldn't fully. "Well... You know how in a movie or series they use background music? The music has to... Fit what's going on the screen, right?" Penny nodded. "Alright... They say you can use dance to describe what a song is doing... But you can also do the opposite, you know? Use music to... Tell a story, an action."
"Hmm..." Penny brought a hand to her chin, her eyes looking like something in her mind was going a mile a minute. Reese and May observed, the former taking her seat at the newly formed drum-kit, her hands shivering as she grabbed onto the new, polish drumsticks, the wood feeling heavenly in her hands. "Could you maybe give me an example?"
"What about someone walking through a dark alley?" Reese suggested, twirling the drumstick in her left hand with practiced ease. One of the plates of the drum kit rang true a split second afterwards. Jaune snorted at the suggestion. That was random. The aqua haired drummer just shrugged her shoulders.
"Okay! Dark alley then!" Jaune said, grabbing the guitar's neck with his left hand hovering on the frets, while his right placed itself on the main part, ready to strike the strings. "Hmm... Alley, darkness, forebonding... So let's go with the thickest string at the lowest possible tone." The blonde said out loud, striking the sixth string, producing a low, mournful sound. "But maybe... Something is following the poor guy..."
"Okay, too dark! Give it a little life!" Reese laughed and started striking the plate on her left rhythmically. One. Two. Three. Four.
"And yet the rhythm you're giving it is slow and foreboding. " Jaune snorted. "Hmm... Then we need a higher note." Jaune nodded to himself, Penny keeping her attention on the room... Before closing her eyes in focus as Jaune struck the sixth string again, then the fifth and fourth in rapid succession, the latter two notes played at the seventh and fifth frets respectively.
"Don't stop." May smiled, observing the exchange, keeping her hands off her instrument for now. Reese suddenly struck the plate twice in rapid succession, before returning to the rhythm she had set before.
"Then... Hmmm..." He grumbled to himself, repeating the first three notes he had struck down... What if he went back? 'Sixth string again.' Sixth string, fifth string, fourth string... Then two times the sixth string again, but at the sixth and fifth fret.
"Almost there, baby. Almost there..." At that Jaune flushed and raised an eyebrow, looking at Reese who only laughed at his reaction. "Don't give me that look! You owe me one more note!" Jaune just stared back, hands still on the guitar, holding her gaze as she continued striking the plate... Before striking the fifth string at the seventh fret, without breaking eye contact. "Woohoo! That's what I'm talking about!" He rolled his eyes before turning to Penny.
"See? It's easy. You just... Put sounds to the things going through your mind." Jaune explained before starting to play the sixth notes he had just put together over and over, in rhythm with Reese's plate. Penny kept her eyes closed for a few more seconds before opening them and turning slowly to her own guitar. After a couple seconds she stood, picked it up and strapped it on.
"So I just... Join in?" She asked, also forgoing a pick.
"When you think it's best." Jaune nodded, Penny keeping her gaze on his fingers all the while... Then suddenly, when he went back at the beginning of the tab, Penny suddenly struck the strings while her right foot shot forward to the pedal connected to her amp, producing a distorted chord. Everyone's eyes went wide at that, and stopped whatever they were doing -nothing, in May's case-. As she realized what had happened, Penny blushed and held the guitar closer to her body. "W-Was that bad?"
"... No, that was... Good." Jaune let out, before acquiring a big smile. "That was pretty good."
"That wasn't good, that was great! Let's do it again!" Reese exclaimed before trusting her right drumstick in May's direction, who startled. "And this time you're joining in too, little miss! Put those fingers to work!"
"A-Alright..." May nodded, flushing under the attention. Penny beamed at the praise and grabbed on her guitar properly again.
"Alright, then. One, two, three four!" Reese exclaimed, beating her drumsticks together to give the others the tempo and this time let Jaune go a split second before her, the six notes loop starting right before her plates. At the fourth repetition, she did the one two with the plates again. "Okay... Join in when I speed up on the hat!" She said and Penny and May nodded, counting down the repetitions. Five, six, seven... On the eight Reese quickened up the rhythm at which she struck the plates, and at the fifth strike... "Aaaaand...!"
Penny joined in with the distorted chord once again, while May started firing out a rapid rhythm with the thickest string of her bass. Reese, in return, forgone the plate completely, instead focusing on the middle and small tom. Jaune's eyes widened in surprise at the sudden shift but kept in the loop for three more repetitions, before going off it and starting to go for chords as well. After the fourth repetition, Reese struck the hi-hat again and that's when he stopped. Penny and may joined him in inactivity right after, and Reese was the last, the music -because to Jaune's eyes that couldn't be called anything but- echoing for the last few seconds out their amps as they stared at each other.
"... A bit too dark for my tastes but..." Reese begun only to lower her head and hands, her body visibly shaking. "THAT WAS AWESOME!" She squealed out, unable to contain her excitement any longer. "This! This is what I've always wanted to do!"
"... I was making music." Penny let out in a small whisper that went unheard because of Reese's loud 'whoops' and random yells of approval, but May noticed the way she stared at her guitar.
'That... Was actually fun.' Jaune realized with a grin, rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand, any leftover nervousness now gone. Reese's enthusiasm was infectious. "... Wanna go again?"
"Do I?!" A rhetorical question, really.
"Owowow... Aura, I wish you protected me from pain." It had protected him from damage, so there would be no further calluses building on top of the old ones, but Aura couldn't do anything for the immediate pain. After close to three hours of jamming and making music equal parts nice and terrible his fingers cried for rest.
"My wrists are so sore..." Reese lamented witj a half-smile half cringe. "We should have taken it easier."
"Ice pack." May muttered out as she started putting her basd away. Penny instead...
"Owowow! I am in so much physical pain right now!" Was exhibiting herself in a very unconvincing pantomime of pain. Hadn't they already experienced her unique brand of social akwardness they may have thought she was trying to mock them. You're all wrecks while I'm totally fine! Gnegnegne!
But they knew. So they realized this was just Penny's awkward way to try and share in the pain, so to speak.
"Riiiight." Jaune rolled his eyes and stood, stretching his back before removing his guitar. "Well, we should probably pack up."
"Yeah. No more jamming for today." Reese agreed and Jaune was thankful. "Let's just stretch the old vocal chords for a bit and then go." Reese added and Jaune cringed.
"Ah... Right. Singing." He looked with dread at the still mounted pole mic and swallowed saliva and hot air. In a few minutes, the instruments were properly cleaned and put away for the period of inactivity that awaited them.
Only his enemy remained.
Maybe if he glared at it really hard it would spontaneously combust? Grrrrr...!
"How should we do this?" May asked, poking the still-not-burning pole with her right index finger. The poke was amplified by the amp into a loud low thud.
"We sing, no? Everyone's got at least one song they like to sing along to." Reese shrugged and approached the microphone, grabbing the pole with her right hand and the main part of the microphone with her right.
"Oh! We can use a Scroll to look up the instrumentals on Scheentube!" Penny added and used one of the spare cables to connect her Scroll to one of the unused amps. Moving things along. Damn, Penny, stop being so helpful! "What are you going to sing, Reese?"
"Hmm... See if there's an instrumental for Key to the Skyway." At least he wasn't going to go first. He would be able to delay the inevitable for just a bit longer.
"A few, actually. Different artists." Reese grinned.
"Yeah, it's a Blues classic. It's great that more people are listening to it, now." Jaune blinked at the foreign word. "Hit me up with the version by Brik Clapton, plea~ase!"
"What's Blues?" Jaune asked and Reese turned to him with a smile.
"Blues is a genre of music born among Faunus communities. So it never had that much of a following outside of it until after the Faunus Revolution war." The aqua haired girl explained as Penny found a video featuring the track she had requested. "Now that more Faunus are living among humans though, it's started to spread and even humans have started playing it! Brik Clapton is such an artist, from Atlas... Except he uses an electric guitar." She chuckled.
"Some say he's a thief." May added and Reese rolled her eyes and scoffed.
"Yeah, yeah... Some say he's 'stealing the sound' from Faunus people. Oh, wow. What a crazy idea, someone finding a genre of music he likes and wanting to make his own songs." Reese sighed, shaking her head. "I can understand that Faunus have their problems, but complaining about someone liking Faunus things and wanting to partake in them... Isn't that a good thing for integration? And Brik's entire band is made up of Faunus, anyway. It's not like people are going to forget who created the genre."
"So... People complain that he himself isn't a Faunus but he's making music inspired by Faunus artists?"
"Pretty much. According to them, he should just... Not do music at all." Reese frowned at that though and shook her head. "Penny, hit the instrumental! I really feel like singing this, now!"
"Certainly!" The ginger smiled and touched the scroll's touchscreen. A sound of strumming electric guitar immediately echoed from the connected amp, followed right away by what Jaune now distinguished as a bass, then drums and a new instrument: a piano.
"I got the key!" Reese began as the intro reached its crescendo, flowing into the first verse. "To the skyway!" As she sang, Jaune found himself tapping his right foot and slightly bobbing his head to the infectious rhythm of the song. May was in a similar situation even if her movements were much more subdued. Penny just smiled as she watched the mistralian drummer continue.
Jaune found Reese's voice very energetic and loud. "When the moon!" She couldn't reach all the pitches which he guessed the song required but he still found himself smiling at her performance. "Peeks over the mountains!" He absent-mindendly followed the lyrics, which spoke of a slighted man leaving town via 'skyway' -which he guessed meant he was taking the next airship out- because of a significant over pushing him away. What was really left impressed on him is that Reese loved the song. Even during the long instrumental parts in the middle and the outro she kept grinning and bobbing her head to the music. If they were enjoying the performance, she loved being the performance. "Hehehe, okay... That was a bit of cheating. There wasn't much singing in there."
"That was a wonderful song, Reese! You were good!" Penny clapped enthusiastically, prompting Jaune and May to follow suit. Reese rubbed the back of her head, flushing in embarrassment.
"Thanks for the white lie! I know that I ain't got enough range to do it justice."
"We should practice this." May suggested and everyone turned to her. She shrugged her shoulders. "We need a repertoire."
"That's... A good idea, but we haven't a piano player." Reese answered.
"And we got two guitars." Jaune added.
"We can use a sample track for the piano! And look here!" Penny held up her Scroll for everyone to see. It was a video of a performance for Key to the Skyway where Brik was joined on stage by a Faunus with a headband rings in his ears, and they were both sporting electric guitars. "Two guitars!"
"Oh, man! That's the Crossroads live!" Reese exclaimed, eyes wide and biting her lower lip. "Alright, motion approved! Can I leave finding a sample track for the piano to you, Penny?"
"Sure!" Penny said and then turned to Jaune. "Wanna go next, Jaune?" He shivered.
"... Sure." He groaned. Better to get this over with as soon as possible. He decided to at least try his best and thought of a song he felt more confident than most into. "Uhm, there's this song from a band called The Monkeys..."
"Jaune isn't back yet?"
"Nnnnnope." Nora answered to Pyrrha without raising her head from the book she was reading.
"He should have only been two hours." Pyrrha stated, honestly surprised.
"I guess that band practice has gone well, then." Ren interjected from the kitchen, his voice loud enough to carry over the sound of a blender mixing up his energy drinks.
"... I guess." Pyrrha shrugged as she started removing her jacket, finally allowed to change out of her uniform. "I'm just surprised. Considering Jaune's dread about singing..."
"He probably realized his problem wasn't that bad." Ren shrugged his shoulders. "I can understand why he'd be embarrassed, but... It's nothing that bad. I doubt he's hanging around the likes of Cardin."
"You understand?" Pyrrha turned to Ren with surprise clear on her face.
"I can guess what the problem is... Jaune has a pretty high pitched voice at times, no?" The verdant ninja said and Pyrrha's eyes filled with comprehension. "So, I can only assume that the reason why Jaune dreads singing is..."
"... Please say something!" Jaune whined out after almost a full minute of silence that had followed his attempt at singing the chorus of Believer.
He had chosen a song he knew pretty well on purpose. He knew how it was supposed to go at all times. It was one of his mother's favourite songs and they sang it together so many times when he was young...
But he got too excited.
He had forgotten how exactly the lyrics went and how well they related to him. A song about a person who thought love was beyond his reach, meant for people other than him.
But then he met someone who caught his shriveling heart and jumpstarted it with just one look at her visage.
"Then I saw her face..." Silver hair, aabaster skin, deep eyes and that scar that marring her perfection only served to make her more unique... "Now I'M A BELIE~EVEEEER!" He realized he had failed to keep his instincts in check and let his voice go full himself only afterwards. Slapping his hands on his mouth did nothing, the damage had been done.
And he didn't even know what the damage was. All the three girls had done since hearing him was stare at him with equal parts surprise, curiosity and... Evaluation?
"... Jaune, I realize that since we have known each other for a short period of time this kind of advice may be considered overstepping my boundaries." Thank gods, Penny talked! But what did she mean by advice? "But I think consuming this much alcohol cannot be good on your body."
... Wait, what?
"Too much smoke, too." May added and only to Jaune's confusion.
"Seriously, man. If I had to take a guess... Oh, you need some counseling." Reese finished with serious concern in her voice.
"Waitwaitwait! What are you talking about?!"
"But you must tell me your secret! Despite everything, your teeth are perfect!"
"No bad breath."
"Of course I d-"
"And your overall skin complexion is incredibly healthy as w-"
"I DON'T DRINK OR SMOKE!" He suddenly exploded, the barrage of confusing concern and compliments becoming too much. He breathed quickly, red in the face. "I-I don't-What the hell are you talking about? I've never smoked anything in my entire life!"
"... Not even a singular cigarette?"
"... Occasionally. But only occasionally! Last time I had a beer was... Way before coming to Beacon." He admitted. He was no saint but he wasn't a drunk-why was Reese grasping his shoulders?
"... You're telling me that those screeching, high pitched vocals are not the result of repeated abuse on your vocal chords but completely natural?" That's what it was all about? His voice was so bad that they thought he was a heavy drinker and a chain smoker at the same time? He just nodded, really noy knowing what to say or what to expect...
Then Reese grinned like a Cheshire and he knew fear.
"... She wants you to be the lead singer."
"I am going to be the lead singer!" Jaune answered Ren's inquiry while bashing his head against the wall of their apartment. Nora chortled and fell ass over teakettle backwards out of her bed. "You know me, Ren! How could I refuse when... When..."
"She asked 'would you kindly' and made a cute face at you?" Jaune groaned and bashed his head against the wall once more, Aura making it a symbolic show more than anything else. This time it was Ren's turn to laugh.
"Not in those exact terms but..." He sighed and pulled his head away from the offended plaster and held his face. "Seriously, this is so many kinds of confusing! I've been nothing but teased to hell and back for my voice but Reese wants me to be the frontman of the band?"
"I thought that'd be a boost of confidence for you."
"Yeah, but I worry that... She might have made a wrong judgment call. I mean, I've never heard anyone with a voice like mine on Schneetify." Ren nodded and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't want to ruin this for her..."
"That's your worry but, knowing what you know of Reese so far, do you think she might have made a wrong call?" Jaune paused, mimicking Ren's pose as he thought of the jamming session they had had that day. While the atmosphere had been relaxed, Reese had been kind of authoritative. She wanted everyone to pitch in and play together and off each other, guiding them on the beat, rhythm, attacks... No, Reese was taking this very seriously while having a blast doing it.
He ultimately shook his head.
"Well, I guess that there's only one explanation left then." Nora offered with a grin as she plopped with her torso back on her bed, head leaned on her crossed arms. "She saw something in your voice that no one else has MOTHERF-!" Nora blushed, catching herself before she could finish a pretty uncharacteristic curse.
But seriously, how did the metal frame of the bed suddenly give in for the second time in less than a week?!
"That..." Jaune seemed unfazed by the whole thing as he thought about Nora's words. Reese had seen something in his voice? "... I guess that could also be it, yes." Jaune smiled, a sense of sudden warmth making its way from his core and to all over his body. "Thanks, guys... Uh, by the way..." He had asked his team-mates for counsel but so far one voice had been missing the whole time: that of his partner. He turned to her bed. "What do you think, Py-" He stopped, eyes widening and body freezing.
Pyrrha was sitting on the edge of her bed, looking up at him with her hands joined and hidden between her legs, looking for the world like some kind of sad puppy. "Jaune..."
"Would you kindly accompany me to Vale tomorrow?" ... Oh, god damn it. He wanted to read through his X-Ray and Vav backlog tomorrow...
"... Sure." While on the outside Pyrrha smiled, on the inside her line of thought was something along the lines of...
'That's SERIOUSLY all I needed to do?!'
END OF TRACK 2
Here's a little challenge for you readers. Can you find all the musical references in this and the previous chapter? And have you guessed what band is the inspiration for Jaune and company yet?
Also, if you like my writing, may I suggest going to my Tumblr at project-jpde dot tumblr dot com. It's home to a little project of mine that I think you'll love.