My my, time flies. It’s been an absolutely band-centric six weeks since the last blog entry, but in reality there’s not much I can tell Johnny Public that’ll be of any interest, I reckon. Our first birthday has been and gone without much fanfare, but we’ve managed to record four new songs (all of which are available to listen to in varying versions at our Myspace site) including our best recording so far. Go and take a listen to Foolscap and you can see why we feel like proud parents.
The actually quality of the recordings belies the fact that the initial recording was quite a trying task. We decided that instead of doing our usual trick of recording and completing two songs, we changed tack and decided to put down four basic tracks in one day, then come back a bit later and polish them off. This was technically more convenient; Sharon tends to spend most of the day sitting round adding her keyboard and vocal parts at the end of the day, which means seven hours of boredom for her. This time, it meant a day at home for her while we did the basic stuff.
So, we booked a usual ten til six session at Soup Studios with Simon, whose magic fingers and endless patience are an asset we always value. Since it takes about an hour to set the drums up, I decided to take a leisurely train journey up and get to London at ten. 9.55, my phone rings- Kerry’s having trouble getting into town, so has to head back out to get some more petrol. Fine, I say, I’ll see you in an hour. By the time I get to the studio, Waz, Andrew and Martin are there, so we set up the guitars. Kerry calls- she’s stuck in traffic. So we start telling some stories, and before we know it, it’s midday. Kerry is slightly closer, but still inching along. A coffee break follows, and by the time we’ve called Kerry again (still in traffic) and got back to the studio, it’s one. My famously cool temperament is starting to melt a little- we’re nearly halfway through the session and nothing’s been done. We later find out that there were anti-war demos, a triathlon and a carnival all in the very local vicinity, so it’s not Kerry’s fault, merely a horrendous stroke of bad luck.
So, 2pm rolls round and at last Kerry’s here and the drums are being set up. Options are being weighed up; do we stick to Plan A, or just choose two tracks to record and admit defeat? We decided to see how we’d go. And somehow, we get Theme… down in three takes. Everyone Has To Meet… takes four goes, Suits manages to go down in one almighty take. Foolscap is slightly tougher, as the basic track has to be done to a click-track and my psyche-damaging guide vocal (no, it hasn’t been preserved, masochists). Still, seven takes is pretty good going, and by now any pent-up anger I’ve stored in response to the horror of the morning’s events has swiftly dissipated and replaced with an unreserved love for everyone in the room. And it’s still only 4pm! Overdubs (Andrew, Kerry and my synth parts, Martin’s guitar, some other stuff) go quickly and we manage to run over time by a mere 45 minutes. Simon, sympathetic to our cause, waives the overtime.
It takes a couple of re-arranged sessions to finish them off, but given the nature of the sessions, we decide to take a few risks; on Foolscap, I’m allowed to add not only my live MicroKorg part, but also a Rhodes part that I hadn’t worked out until I actually sat down at the thing. For Theme… the beers and wines consumed by Sharon, Waz and Martin (not teetotal me, though!) were enough to coax us into the vocal booth to improvise some ‘Bonanza’ vocals for an otherwise-instrumental performance. In the end, Simon refined our two takes of unpolished bellowing into something quite listenable- check it out! For Everyone has To Meet Somewhere, the plan of having a lead vocal by both Sharon and Waz as a compare-and-contrast exercise worked so well that the band is split down the middle as to who’s provided the definitive version; we’ve put Sharon’s attempt up, which is the first time she actually sang the song properly. I prefer the ‘proper’ version of Waz singing. Andrew says that if Sharon’s vocal were more polished, it’d be the keeper. Sharon says she can’t do it live and play her keyboard parts, so Waz’ll have to do it for now, but it’ll be fun to chop and change at some point. Martin, who wrote the song, remains uncommitted. Kerry only realised there were two versions last night.
On the live front, we’ve veered wildly; our second appearance at the Bowlie all-dayer the day after my birthday being unanimously nominated as our best show ever, whereas we agree we didn’t do our prestigious slot at the launch party for the How Does It Feel compilation justice. We’ve added a new song to our set, which is one of Waz’s, called Red Nose Day. Kerry gets to show off her bass-playing skills, while I get to do my best Stevie Jackson jangle on the Telecaster. We’ve got another three songs entering our live repertoire- the long-threatened, never played Higher Education (which was supposed to be in the set for our first ever gig), the Pulp- inspired Clockwatching, and Waz’s absolutely storming Cricket Bat, which I cannot wait to get my teeth into onstage. The lucky denizens of Edinburgh (Teviot Hall- Friday 29th) and Leeds (The Cardigan Arms- Saturday 30th) will get the first airings of some or all of these songs. On top of this, we’ve still got the mythical Aggregate Horse, Waz’s Farnborough Trolley Dash and FOUR new songs from the pen of Mr. Martin Hall. By the time we hit London again in November, we may not be recognisable…
P.S. This just in: we've been asked/ put ourselves forward to possibly appear on a Sparks tribute album. We're not sure entirely what we're going to do yet (though the tantalising prospect of recording The Number One Song In Heaven in a Wedding Present-esque arrangement has been mooted), so if anyone has any nominations or ideas, just send em in...