A Christmas Gift To You from The Gresham Flyers

It's that time of year again, and in celebration of our superb 2009 (with an even better 2010 promised), we've decided to offer up a small gift in the shape of our two previous Christmas songs; Diamond White Christmas (from 2007's A Very Cherry Christmas, Vol. 3) and Perfect Christmas Snow (Perfect Christmas Kiss) (from the 2008 followup A Very Cherry Christmas, Vol. 4). Since the songs are quite long, and our MySpace player wouldn't be able to handle them in a decent quality bit rate, we've put them here.

The songs:
Diamond White Christmas was written by John, and originally recorded by his band The Milburns as part of a Christmas EP from 2003. That version featured our dear friend Tricia Stubberfield on the female vocal part. The Flyers version was recorded in 2007 and was the first thing we did in our five-man configuration (and James's first recording with us). We spent n whole day doing it, and most of us think it's one of our finest moments.

James: 1st Drums, Choirboy
John: Lead Vocals, Guitar, 2nd Drums, Glockenspiel, Choirboy
Sharon: Lead Vocals, Melodica, Choirgirl
Martin: Guitar, Choirboy
Thom: Bass, Guitar, 3rd Drums, E-Bow Bass, E-Bow Guitar, Hammond, Rhodes, Tambourine, Bells, Choirboy
Simon Trought: Producer, Choirboy
Elisabetta Pezzaioli: Choirgirl

Perfect Christmas Snow (Perfect Christmas Kiss) was written by Thom as a tale of a romantic Christmas Eve rendezvous at a suburban railway station, and a heartbroken ex-lover looking on. Once again we spent a whole day making this (although we might have recorded our cover of Magic on the same day; no-one can quite remember), and the result is another festive epic (complete with the sound of Diamond White Christmas over a shopping precint PA on the intro). The mandolin sound is part of the Acoustic Guitar Orchestra; this was three guitars played by Martin, John and Thom, and triple-tracked to give a full nine guitars. It was written specifically so that all three singing Flyers could take a verse an chorus, and thus is James's first released vocal.

John: First Vocal, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Orchestra, Choirboy
Sharon: Second Vocal, Keyboard, Choirgirl
James: Third Vocal, Drums, Sleighbells, Choirboy
Thom: Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Orchestra, Rhodes, Sleighbells, Glockenspiel, Choirboy
Martin: Tremolo Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Orchestra, Choirboy
Elisabetta Pezzaioli: Choirgirl
Kate Turner: Choirgirl

Anyway, if you enjoy these, please have a look for our new Christmas song Mistletoe Misadventure, written and sung by James (who also plays all the brass band parts) on A Very Cherry Christmas, Vol. 5.

Link again:


The sun sets on 2009...

...and we've done our last gig of the year, probably. We only have one more rehearsal left, and John's gone swanning off to Antigua for a fortnight, while Sharon, James and I have another tELLEY gig next Saturday, so there's not much chance we'll get much done in December. The pressure's off a bit, though, as it seems we've only been rehearsing for gigs, and thus neglecting our back catalogue of tunes a bit. True, we pulled a couple of oldies out of the hat - Red Nose Day got played again for the first time in three years, The Little Sisters of The Poor got two outings including Berlin - but we've had so many new songs pouring forth that we've not had time to adequately rehearse some of the lesser known songs that we've started and forgotten about or just stopped rehearsing.

At some point in the year, I printed off and laminated a sheet of A4 with every Flyers song we'd tried live or recorded and it totalled nearly 50 songs. For a band with one album and three singles, that's quite a lot of stuff. Some of it has gone forever; though officially I think the only song we've all said we're never playing again is Falling Down, I can't foresee a time when Cat Hits Car, or Rat Attack (which hasn't even been released yet!) make a reappearance. It's hard enough trying to coax Sharon into playing anything she has no enthusiasm for - even Frittata, which appears on our upcoming EP, has been added to potential future sets under duress, so anything we've mothballed for a couple of years has no chance. The fact that the three songs I've mentioned were all my compositions is neither here nor there, I'm sure...! saying that, we did dust off Pretty But Not Beautiful and Suits at the last rehearsal and they both sounded OK, so we might give them a chance sometime. It's easy to forget that out of those 50 songs, only about 15 or so have actually been heard on record, so balancing the new, unheard stuff with the old 'classics' remains an eternal battle.

But it's all about the future, I suppose. And looking back, 2009 was pretty cool for us, so 2010 has much potential. We've managed to get four new songs out this year, play abroad, do more gigs than we've done in a single calendar year, got our music on the telly (if you're not Welsh, you will have missed Blackpool being played - twice!- over the footy highlights a couple of Saturdays ago), shared quite a few rousing car journeys, and generally done all the things that being in a band should be about.

Next year, we've got a new EP, a track on a Jonathan Richman tribute, and most excitingly, plans to put two new full-length studio albums out. One is the official followup to Sex With Strangers that we've been recording over the past two years; at the moment it's probably 60-70% complete, with just a few more songs needing to be recorded. But before that will come our second album. This album has no songs written for it, no titles, no preparation yet, nothing. All that exists is the deadline; the album must be finished by Sunday, February 28th 2010. And we're not doing any work on it bar some loose 'pre-production' (i.e. talking about it) until February 1st.

Does it sound daft? Certainly. Is it possible? Yes. For the past three years, John's made a solo album each February as part of the RPM Challenge; an international event where participants must craft a full-length LP (10 songs or 25 minutes) in 28 days. Last year, James and Martin made one each as well. This year, we're going for a Flyers one. With any luck, we'll finish it, then put it up on iTunes or something, but also press up a few physical CDs to sell at gigs. Whatever; it'll be an official Flyers LP. We've resolved so far a couple of limiting factors:

i) Collaboration. So far, every song we've made has been the result of one person completing it from start to finish and showing it to everyone else in rehearsal. That's why the songs are all credited to individuals. This time, we're bringing in half-finished bits for everyone to add to.

ii) Drums. James wants to play more guitar and less drums for this. We're resolving to find additional means of percussion, be they human or programmed. I have a feeling this will have a big effect on our working methods. If it makes us sound more like Saint Etienne, that's great.

We haven't got much further with it than that, but after our last rehearsal, we have our annual meeting/ slap-up feed. I'm sure it'll be discussed there.

In the meantime, I'll try and keep blogging if anything comes up. All that's left to say is that 'Misteltoe Misadventure' is appearing on A Very Cherry Christmas Vol. 5. James wrote and sang it, and it's got a brass band on it. Enjoy!



The wibbly-wobbly world of The Gresham Flyers, summer-autumn 2009.

The wibbly-wobbly world of The Gresham Flyers, summer-autumn 2009.

Christ, I’m not very good at keeping this stuff updated am I? As luck would have it, I have a free evening, after a few post-work drinks with John at the George in London Bridge. After all, what else am I going to do on a Friday night? I’m 30 now.

So. My usual style is the old feast-or-famine routine wherein I detail everything that’s happened since the last update. But to be honest, we’ve had so much going on that we’re starting to feel more like a real band, as in one that goes out and gigs and people like and stuff, that it’s all melting together. So I’ll try and pick out some highlights.

Try these:
- John in vest, jeans and headband (was it a tie? Probably.) at the launch night for the Bruce Springsteen tribute album. Ten bands played, and we somehow ended up with the headline slot above people who deserved it far more than us. But hey, that means we’ve had Darren Hayman support us! Woo!). It’s all credit to the bands and Sean Price (Fortuna Pop) and John Jervis (Where It’s At Is Where You Are, who put the album out) that all ten acts managed to play and still run ahead of schedule. I was impressed with the breadth of acts on show, my favourites probably being Hillary & The Democrats and a band whose name I’ve totally forgotten, but do a stunning version of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Is it Vatican Cellars? I want to say The Leisure Society, but it’s not them though they’re similar. Anyway, we did our cover of Magic that’s on the album, and a hastily learnt medley of Factory and Factory Records Museum. John says he thinks it’s the best gig we ever played, even if it was only three songs long. Band opinion on the actual album is very much mixed; those with a thorough knowledge of Springsteen aren’t a enthused about some of it, whereas I find it all pretty cool. We’re mostly agreed that it is a bit too long though (38 tracks, plus additional singles/ downloads/ an entire album of Springsteen covers by The Wave Pictures).

- Back at the Buffalo Bar a few days later, singing my first lead vocal with the Flyers on a cover of Trouble In The Message Centre as part of a Blur tribute night. The other bands, Resigned and The Overcoats, brought along a tremendous crowd, and the place was rammed with curious Blur fans. We weren’t lynched, so I think we did okay.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned our first ever international gig! This is a story in itself, but the upshot is we played in Berlin with the superb Pocketbooks. The things that stick in the mind are things like the wait between our post-pub arrival at Stansted airport and finally taking off to Berlin at 6am. This time was spent holed up from midnight in a strip-lit Ponti’s cafĂ©, nursing bottles of grim cheap red wine and disgusting coffee. We were far from the drunkest people there, that award going to a pair of overly-refreshed young men, attempting to slyly lure attractive young ladies to their table with the promise of free alcohol. Unfortunately, they’d reached the point of no return, drink-wise, and any attempt at skillful patter was merely reduced to a repeated bellow of ‘IGOTTABOTTLEUHWINE’ at anything in a skirt. Emma from Pocketbooks later told us that shortly after we’d left, the pair starting throwing muffins about the place. Needless to say, we were very glad they weren’t on our flight (if they made it onto any flight at all?).

We also got to look very cool walking through Berlin airport with our guitar cases, like proper rock stars. Only the fact that my case contained not only my guitar, but a hefty amount of badges, CDs and vinyl (not to mention the wah pedal that got used on all of one song), and therefore weighed a bloody ton stopped me from enjoying this experience fully. Getting off at the wrong stop and having to walk the last mile to our hostel was also a literal pain – by the time we arrived, it felt like my hand had been put through a cheese grater for an hour.

Since I’ve mentioned it, the hostel we used was called The Transit Loft, and we recommend it to everyone. We know it has good pedigree – last time I was there, Architecture In Helsinki were staying – and its cheap, clean and comfy. James and his girlfriend Lizzie were lucky enough to stay with a friend in a proper house, while the rest of us shared a room at the hostel. I can report that no-one snores.

The gig itself was very very good. Once we’d fixed Martin’s guitar amp (which made the intro to The Little Sisters Of The Poor quite protracted), we were onto a winner, playing all the hits and a couple of new-ish ones too. The merch flew off the table, as we sold our last copies of Berry Buck Mills Stipe and quite a few Factory Records Museum 10”s. Simon from Soup Studios had forewarned us that Germans like buying vinyl, and by the end of the trip, there was literally none left to take home!

Speaking of the return journey, I can now attest that dragging three drunken sleep-deprived musicians from hostel to airport is not an experience one should have to endure; while James, Lizzie and I spent our free evening exploring the culinary delights of Berlin, and marvelled at the wildly differing architecture of the east-west divide, Martin, Sharon and John managed to behave in true rock n roll fashion, eschewing culture and sleep in favour of alcohol and a table tennis club (I am assured this is far wilder than it sounds). Next time, I’m leaving them there…

Once we were back in Blighty, it was on with the serious business of recording our third annual Christmas song. James volunteered to pen this year’s contribution, and upon talking to Rachael at Cherryade, we discovered that since this volume of A Very Cherry Christmas was getting a full release (i.e. in shops rather than just via Cherryade), we had a mere two weeks to rehearse and record the song. Only trouble was a) Martin was going on holiday for most of those two weeks and b) James hadn’t written the song. Somehow, though, James put pen to paper and mouth to iPhone, we absorbed his demo, recorded the song at Soup Studios in about three hours and made it our own. The result is pretty special. It’s not as epic (i.e. long) as our previous tracks, but it still beautifully layered and arranged. I can’t give too much away without asking James’s permission, but it’s out in about three weeks.

As you’ve also probably seen, there’s a new Flyers offshoot band called tELLEY, featuring me, Sharon, James and Jim Parsons, whose day job is playing guitar for Spearmint. The band isn’t new; when James joined our ranks in late 2006, he was drumming for them, but then the band went on hiatus and their bass player left after releasing one corking single. Over the past three years, Jim has been piecing together an album of tunes, with James on drums, and a few other talented folk, including Sharon on backing vocals. The album was released a couple of months ago; it’s called Now I’m The Big Sister, and it’s cool. There’s even a Sparks cover on it. One of the best songs ‘All The Girls Want To Love You’ got played on BBC 6 Music, which is more than the Flyers have ever had. I’m not on the album, but I’m playing with Jim, James and Sharon in the live band. We’ve done two gigs so far, and have a third at Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington on November 21st. It’s cool being able to just play without having any artistic investment in the material; the songs are all top notch, and the bass playing is fun, and involves stuff I wouldn’t normally play. Thumbs up!

And then there’s the new Flyers EP. If all was going to plan, I’d tell you about that now. But the release has been pushed back to early 2010, so I’ll save all the juicy stuff for the next blog. All you need to know right now if that it’s called ‘There’s Been A Murder’ and it has four tracks on it. The lead track is called Taggart and it’s superb. Listen out for it soon.

Lastly, there’s our next gig on November 1st. It’s at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes as part of PopArt London’s day-long tribute to David Bowie, wittily titled The Man Who Bowled The World. As you might have guessed, we’re doing a Bowie cover or two in our usual set, and it’ll be a once-only opportunity to see it. What’s more, it’s free!

Blimey, that went on for a bit too long. Hopefully I’ll be quicker next time so I don’t have to ramble on so much.


P.S. I forgot to mention we’re releasing a new album next year. We might even be releasing two new albums next year. I’ll tell you more about that next time. Promise.


Six songs! SIX SONGS!

Happy days! Or rather, happy day! Per our last blog entry, we set aside some time in the studio today; John's off gallivanting around the country so there was just four of us today, and even then Sharon didn't show up until 3pm. So, with little else to do, James, Martin and I managed to work our hardest in the studio pretty much ever.

We initially planned to try and put down the three tracks that we have scheduled for our new EP. One track is already in the can (albeit in need of a minor tweak), so the other three were our top priority.

We managed to put the first one song down in two takes. The other two went down in pretty much one take each. It was barely 12.30 so we still had five hours left and Sharon wasn't showing up for another three hours! Not only that, but there was a tasty looking hollow bodied bass I wanted to try out.

So, after a break for bagels (mmm, salt beef with mustard and pickles) and a chocolate eclair, we resumed work. In one take, we got the bass and drums down for a fourth song. Martin got his guitar down on that, and we started song #5. Once we realised that we really did need John for the intro, we skipped that bit and came in on the verse where we all play. Again, one take. I got to play the hollow-body bass to give it a nice clunky sound, which suited the slightly loping groove.

There was still half an hour before Sharon showed up, so we had a go at James's newest contribution, this time with a nice fuzz tone on the bass. Alas James and Martin got it in one, but I had to re-do my part just as Sharon arrived. Needless to say, she was good enough to get the keyboard parts on five of the songs down in record time.

And yet, it was still only 5pm. I managed to indulge myself and put down some electric piano and glockenspiel. Always a joy!

We've got another session scheduled to finish off the most pressing songs, but there's still plenty of work to be done on them, not least of all John's guitar bits, the singing (sometimes more than one version as there's a couple of songs that we want to try with James singing lead whereas Sharon or John sings them live) and the extra fun bits like percussion and other twiddly bits.

I guess you'll get to hear them soon enough, but for us, it's almost unbearable to not be able to get them out to you now! You'll love em, I'm sure.

Have a nice weekend,


Being The Bloguine

Hello all,

I’m writing this to the soundtrack of multiple versions of Begin The Beguine; my granddad once told me a story about how when he was on shore leave and at a dance, a sailor hopped up to the bandstand, gave the band a key to play in, and sang a version of the song so brilliant, it topped any other version he’d ever heard.

Fast forward 60-odd years and we have no similar stories, since no sailors on shore leave have invaded our stage and asked to sing (were they to do attempt such a feat, I do believe Martin would give them a thorough shoeing, and rightly so). What we do have is a satisfying, energetic result from the first third of 2009. In short, it’s been a helluva success; since the last blog, we’ve played five more gigs, meaning that we’ve already played more gigs this year than last, and we have a few exciting ones coming up. The best gig of the year so far has probably been 93 Feet East at the end of last month, not least because we’ve got to tread the boards where Radiohead and plenty others have previously trod, but also because we sounded terrific and shared the bill with three ace bands, namely Little Ghosts, Strange Fruit and 18 Carat Love Affair. It wasn’t until after we’d played that we found out that Peter Perrett from The Only Ones was in the audience as his boys are in Strange Fruit (and used to be in Babyshambles apparently). One can only ponder what he made of the Another Girl Another Planet-esque intro to Blackwall Tunnel. 18 Carat Love Affair were definitely my favourite band of the evening though; they’re a bit Art Brut, a bit New Order, a bit 586 (Stephen the singer’s old band, funnily enough) and other things I can’t bring to mind right now. They also have an electronic drum kit, complete with fab drummer. And a bassist with the same bass as me. And they’re jolly lovely people, all of them. Whether they do a cover of Begin The Beguine, I’m not sure. Top marks.

We’ve also ventured out to Oxford last Friday, uncharted territory for us. It went well enough that we were asked for autographs. If you missed us, we’ll be back.

In the meantime, it’s all rehearsing and songwriting. It’s been a while since we debuted any new songs, but the three that we have – Taggart, Trouble At The Garden Centre, Your Friend – have all started feeling like old friends already. I submitted five new songs back in March, and we’ve finished working up one of them, which we may play next Friday if Sharon’s as confident with it as the rest of us are. Speaking of Sharon and next Friday, she’s taken the plunge and finally written us a song. And, as we all knew it would be, it’s ace. It’s very Flyers, but also something totally new – I certainly don’t think anyone else in the band could have written something similar, so it adds a new string to our bow. It’s called Weekend Works. Look out for it.

More excitingly, we’re returning to the studio on Saturday. It’s been over six months since we recorded anything, so the backlog is growing again. We’ve got a new four-track EP in the pipeline, so we’re recording for that, and if we’ve got more time, we’ll put some other backing tracks down. I’m especially looking forward to walking along Brick Lane in the sunshine and grabbing a bagel for lunch. James, meanwhile, is looking forward to three or four lunches from the food stands near Rough Trade. Alas, there’ll only be four of us in the studio as John’s away, so we can’t finish anything, but it’ll be nice to get some songs at least half finished.

Oh, by the way, what do you think of the website? Isn’t it pretty?



2009 - so far, so fine...

A thousand apologies for the lax updates. It's not that it's not been busy since, more that we've all had too much to do and there's been no time to sit down and string together a few coherent sentences about what we've been up to.

It seems that the old adage about finding something the minute you stop looking for it came true after the despondency of the last entry; the day after I posted it, we got about seven gig offers from all over the coutry, which in turn led to more gigs.

In the end, a few of them fell through and we only managed to cover seven gigs in all of 2008 - including a three date Christmas tour that got shortened to two dates, then finally just one evening in Manchester (which was still one of my favourite weekends of the year) - but we've come into 2009 with all guns blazing. We've played three gigs so far; two in London, one in Brighton, and have plans for many many more. Now that Sharon has a handle on her teaching timetable, it's easy for us to plan around her, and take on more ambitious schedules. We've also had a few firsts - James made his vocal debut in Manchester, we played our first set of entirely post-album material (with one-exception) in January, and last night at Gramaphone saw the resurrection of Red Nose Day, which we haven't played live for nearly three years. With a necessary instrument reshuffle, it meant that last night was the first time John's played bass onstage with the Flyers, while I played guitar. In the end, it sounded delightful.

The last two gigs we played were with
Hari & Aino from Sweden, who came over this week for a short tour; aside from being an incredibly accomplished band, they are all wonderfully friendly people and it was a joy to see them both times. I sincerely recommend that you check them out when you can. Due to circumstances outside of everyone's control, we had to absent ourselves from a gig in Cardiff, and our first interational gig in Gouda, both of which would have also been with Hari & Aino as well, but hopefully both of these can be resheduled. In fact, we're starting to look at gigs outside of the UK for either easter or summer. If you can think of anywhere, let us know!

The big news of 2009 is that we're putting out more music than you can shake a stick at. Although it's not
an album like last year, it will hopefully amount to about eight or nine tracks. Given the rather subpar standard of releases so far this year (the new Franz Ferdinand album is truly dreadful, alas), I'm sure this will come as a big relief, especially as this avalanche of quality material will begin in less than two weeks!

On February 25th, we're releasing our third single Berry Buck Mills Stipe as a split single with
The Pale Corners (who're contributing a song called Steve Buscemi). We're particularly excited about this since it's being released on the legendary Cloudberry Records, a US label run by a gem of a chap called Roque. Cloudberry's calling card is the format of their singles - limited edition 3" CDs in little sleeves and zip-loc bags. If you've been to any of what the kids seem to call 'popshows', there's always a few on the merch table. Anyway, we're particularly pleased about this one, not only because Roque seems like a genuinely lovely bloke, but because we're in good company - some of our favourite bands like The Deirdres, The Hillfields and The Give It Ups (featuring early Gresham Flyers member Jess) have all had wonderful singles out on Cloudberry. Also on the single is B-side Blackwall Tunnel; both songs have been played at most of our recent gigs and received rapturous applause, so hopefully this should prove a popular release. As I said above, it's an extremely limited release; I think there's going to be 120 copies, of which we're getting less than 20, so if you're not at a gig, yo're best off trying to get it through the Cloudberry website.

We're also planning an EP later in the year, back on our regular Cherryade label. We've unainmously nominated our newest song Taggart as the A-side, so unless something drastic changes between now and summer, that'll be the lead track with three other songs - Martin suggested that we have one song by each writer in the band, which would make for an interesting contrast, and show our development since the album was finished (which is nearly two years ago now!).

On top of these two singles, we've got our annual Christmas contribution to A Very Cherry Christmas to consider. Last year's
Perfect Christmas Snow (Perfect Christmas Kiss) earned us some pretty good reviews ("a swooning boy/girl duet capturing the giddy feeling in their bellies that two lovers get as they travel home to spend Christmas eve together, it's the sound of Hefner waltzing gently with Belle and Sebastian on icy station platforms. Gorgeous." according to God Is In The TV, "a tale of stolen seasonal moments, lost loves and heart hurting reminiscences that taps loosely into similar pop sentiments as once approached by the Human Leagues’ ’louise’ - will cut you deep." from Losing Today), and this year we've been given advance notice to get it done by August. James has volunteered to write this year's song, and if we ask nicely, he might even sing it (as he did for part of last year's song).

More pressing, though not yet with a confirmed release date is another cover version on the upcoming Bruce Springsteen tribute album "Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool" on the mighty
Where You Are Is Where It's At label. With John and Martin both being fanatical followers of The Boss (and the rest of us are pretty into him too), this was genuinely a dream come true. After our usual bout of fighting and arguing about what we'd contribute (someone had already done our semi-regular live cover Candy's Room, I wanted something from my favourite Springsteen LP The Wild The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle, but alas Darren Hayman had already picked Rosalita), we plumped for a vastly rearranged version of Magic, the title track of Bruce's previous album. We've played it live once or twice and in all, it's probably one of the best recordings we've ever made. Certainly our heaviest. We're dead excited about hearing it in context of the rest of the album.

I'm also in the process of getting our non-album material - the Shiftwork and Factory Records Museum singles, and our Christmas tracks - online for digital release. We've had a few requests for them from folks who don't have record players or don't buy compilations (and to be fair, the third Very Cherry Christmas compilation with our Diamond White Christmas on has nearly sold out), so it'll be nice to get them out. Alas, copyright issues mean that we won't be able to release our cover of Are 'Friends' Electric (which was on the B-side of the factory Records Museum 10") as we don't want to be sued by Gary Numan. Everything else should be just dandy though.

Last piece of news is that we've commissioned a new 'proper' website. Like grown-up offspring still living with parents, we're all a bit sick of MySpace, after initially having our own site, then losing it, and will be glad to have our own site to muck around with, and it'll be ready soon. Rest assured the blog will still be on there.

In the meantime, I hope you're all having a lovely February. All of the band are currently beavering away on individual albums for
The RPM Challenge. We've promised to do a Flyers album next year, but for now we're crafting our own records. It'll be interesting to see what we come up with...