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.