Day Twenty-Four (ii): Woah, woah, we're half way there

Well, just under halfway. After spending Friday devoting six hours to one song on my own, Saturday's session reversed the trend somewhat, and by 7pm, we'd managed to get a record-breaking nine backing tracks down in eight hours. Considering the drums took about two hours to soundcheck, ripping through nine barely-rehearsed new songs in seven hours is a mega achievement. One can only assume that the intense musical connection between the four members of the band (Sharon is, as always, overdubbing her keys afterwards) is strong enough for us to read each others' minds and determine exactly what's needed where. Either that, or we did such a half-arsed job that it sounds rubbish. I'd like to think the former.

One of the key components of the album's sound was simply: Make the drums sound like The Flaming Lips. This was one of the few points we sat down and discussed at our annual Christmas dinner when we first seriously started talking about doing this challenge. James had become a huge fan of Embryonic, particularly the overcompressed drum sound, and we all agreed it would make a brilliant step forward in our creative lives if we strarted to pretend to be The Flaming Lips rather than The Wedding Present. Mercifully Simon knew exactly what we were talking about, so on top of his wonderfully mic'd kit, he added an extra overhead mic and compressed the shit out of the sound - hey presto, instant Flaming Lips imitators! Combined with my new bass making its recorded debut, we started sounding like an entirely different band.

It was a chore to get started at first; we began with the track now know as 'DJ Shadow', which is as much an exercise in loosening us up as it is a song. The loping groove, however, took about five takes before we got a decent version down; even then John's insistnce on '95% quality control' rather than Simon's usual high standards meant it wasn't quite perfect. Nothing, however, that can't be fixed with a couple of overdubs.

Such sentiments ('we can fix it in the mix') became prevalent throughout the course of the day. But wht we did get down is of excellent quality, and easily useable. There was even time at the end to add live drums to Friday's session track (played by yours truly), and for James and Martin to add alive rhythm track to Martin's home-recorded synth tune. The latter sounded particularly great.

What we didn't get down though, was one of James's songs we hadn't rehearsed (we pressed on him to simply record the drums along to the demo version which we could replace at our next studio session, but after some thought, he decided to simply abandon the song), or Sharon's keyboards. Nonetheless, the latter was a blessing in disguise, as Sharon's been busy outside the band and didn't feel confident enough with the songs to be able to put her parts down. To make up for it, we spent most of last night's rehearsal going over the songs and giving her space to familiarise herself with (and sometimes compose) the songs in time for the next recording session. We also finalised the last song for the album, the only one without drums. We managed to spend the first portion of rehearsal on this as we waited for James to turn up, and the originally-envisaged sole guitar and two-voice arrangement has expanded to include some nicely-played bass (by Martin), the possiblity of claves, and a tremolo guitar solo which I somehow plucked out of nowhere but sounded great. The plan now is to start Saturday's session with that, then overdub or correct mistakes with guitars and bass before putting down keyboards and finally vocals. By the end of Saturday, all the songs shoudl have all the recording done, and we can spend the final day of the challenge mixing. This is going to the wire (especially considering there's still 50% of the lyrics to compose!), but it wouldn't be any fun if it wasn't a challenge.

Wish us luck.


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