FIRST THOUGHT OF THE MORNING

Okey-cokey-pig-in-a-pokey. On to the ‘ART’ EP’s.

I mentioned in an earlier post the very first TBOTB releases (namely the ‘CITIZENS’ and “SOULS’ EP’s…) as that Yin and Yang aesthetic is just something that I always seem drawn to. Opposites attract. Two sides of the same coin. All that stuff.
I find this view in life very appealing and artistically satisfying for some reason. I suppose because most of the time with music you’re presented a band with a certain image and genre (folk, pop, reggae whatever…) and they only play that one type of music and look exactly like you’d expect. I was never very happy to do that in TBTOB as I don’t listen to just one musical style – it seems a bizarre and unnatural way to do things more to do with marketing than anything else. Of course there are certain bands or types of music that I favour over others but I can’t think of one genre that doesn’t have both amazing songs in it as well as terrible ones. Except ska-punk. No excuse for that.

Anyway…

At this point, The B of the Bang had naturally started to shift from the fluid, ever-changing collective to a more stable line-up. University was ending and JD had moved back home to his Hastings castle. Matt was dabbling with domestic bliss and also exercising his inner-freak with his excellent and much missed Marvellous Mechanical Band (their live version of the Blind Date theme tune was something to behold…) and most of the other guys (Big Matt, Andy Foster and a few other waifs and strays…) all had their own musical projects to focus on.

Although I’d been in bands with my oldest and sexiest pal David Rhodes since the age of 14, he’d given it a bit of a breather when I started TBOTB but, after attending an 80’s Matchbox gig together at The Joiners (they seem to crop up quite a bit in our story as I was ousted out of our old, old band after trying to join them…) and chatting, he was up for entering the fold once more. He’s the finest lazy guitarist I’ve ever played alongside and I’ll perhaps miss that the most about t’Bang.

Jack was also involved at this point in a few other musical outlets – one was City Safari where I first noticed what an incredible voice he had (so very loud and….as I would find out after years of being friends so very irritating…) and the other was emo-pop types Whitsun (there was also Hats are for Heads which was myself and him knobbing about on silly instruments. We once did a gig on a park bench.). The drummer in Whitsun I first met in the studio whilst they were recording and he was wearing tracksuit bottoms. Instead of throwing him out as I so rightly should have done, I invited him to drum with us. That man was Elliott Gregg. How I rue that fateful day now.

So….the fantastic four….me, Elliott, Jack and Dave….fresh and ready to go….armed with a few tunes hit the studio and recorded what became the ART DECO ep with Nelly at the controls once again. The first track was ‘First Thought of the Morning’. It was actually an old song I’d written that just didn’t come to the forefront when doing the album. A few changes in structure and style (especially Dave’s Beach House-style woozy guitar…) and it seemed to work. It comes from the same lyrical lineage as ‘Last Day on Earth’ and, as that was the last ‘official’ song on the first album (not counting ‘END’ or ‘not-so-secret song’ ‘A New Road’…), ‘First Thought…’ worked as a link and also as a fresh new beginning. That’s certainly how we felt at this point I think. Invigorated and ready to go.

Here’s a couple of videos of it live…one unplugged at Record Store Day 2013 in the ace Pie & Vinyl for our second album launch where I fluff all the words (an all too regular occurrence) and another (from 6 minutes in…) where me and Elliott where powerfully hung over and he gives my favourite response to a lightbulb-based interview question ever.

 

Published in: on September 1, 2014 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  

A NEW ROAD

‘A New Road’ was written fairly late on. I was going for a Jeff Buckley guitar kind-of-thing here I think. We once played a Jeff Buckley tribute night and I got an electric shock from the microphone. True story.

As I said previously it should really have been a secret track on the album, kind of a bridge between ‘END’ and the EP’s we would go on to release next. If TBOTB ever released a Christmas single this would have been it. I love a good Christmas single.

I’d always wanted to write some round-robin style vocals, akin to ‘Happiness Runs’ by Donovan or…er….’London’s Burning’ by, whoever wrote that nursery rhyme (not The Clash song of the same name…or the early 90’s TV show….). The line at the end – ‘We will dismantle this false cathedral, brick by brick’ – seemed to suit that style of singing so we went for it. Kyle from The DC popped in to the studio whilst we were recording it so among me, Jack, Matt and JD shouting along, he’s in there too. Lad.

The words are about coping with change, dealing with stuff in life you can’t control and all that jazz. Don’t get too comfortable as you never know what’s coming next and such. Coming out of the track before (‘END’) seemed to allude to where we were headed next as a band….

And there you have it really….’Beginning. Middle. End.’ – our debut album – in a nutshell.

I quite liked it.

Published in: on August 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm  Comments (1)  

END

So to END.

The last of the 3 interlude-y bits. This should really have been the last track on the album…bit obvious really….in an ideal world ‘A New Road’ was then meant to be a secret track but that doesn’t really work in the days of MP3 sooooo…..

Once more it’s actually just the solo from ‘Little Bean’ played on glockenspiel. Me and Jack had some time in the studio so we slowed it down, reversed it, re-amped it a couple of times and put it through loads of reverbs until it ended up like this. It sounds to me very warm, comfortable and womb-like. Always a good thing.

Not much else to say on this one – I’ve just found this video with ‘Alfred…’ on though so I’ll just leave it here:

Published in: on August 29, 2014 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

LAST DAY ON EARTH

‘Last Day…’ holds a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons. It’s the oldest song on the album and harks back from the Dirty Touch/Red Light days. I always liked playing this as it was a bit different from the other stuff we did back then. And I harbour a secret love for country music. This is probably the only song that TBOTB ever had that my Dad would approve of – mainly because of my Hank Marvin rip-off guitar solo at the end and the fact that you can tap your foot to it (very important for Mr G Whitear…the rest he’d class as ‘a bit of a dirge’). Hank Marvin was my first ever proper gig at Portsmouth Guildhall when I was about 12 or 13. I wanted to go and see Bush play on the same night at The Wedgewood Rooms. Thank God I was made to go see Hank.

We often used to open or close sets with an unplugged version of this in the audience. Again, I think I nicked the idea (perhaps off Guillemots?) but people always seemed to respond well and, during our tour with The Dawn Chorus, more and more of those guys would join in every night until there was all of us belting it out. Sometimes utilising a megaphone. Happy happy times.

It hasn’t been aired for a while as I vowed never to play it again a couple of years ago. The DC guys teamed up with TBOTB for a ‘super-group’  playing the finest selection of indie-disco covers at my wedding (and if you’d’ve seen Dave’s little face playing the ‘Buddy Holly’ Weezer solo you’d have seen just how super…) – It was absolutely perfect. I didn’t really want to be involved band-wise but this song was just made for the occasion so it went in the set and I got up to sing/slur it. I’d had a couple of whiskies by that point so was pretty…err….’emotional’. Myself and my wife were married on the 21/12/2012 which, in the Mayan calendar was supposed to be the end of the world (hence ‘Last Day on Earth’…). It’s a very personal song and one that you only need listen to the lyrics to get the gist. Carpe Diem and all that. No hidden meanings or mysterious ambiguity in this one. Will it come back for the last gig??? Who knows…

Other stuff worth mentioning for this tune is that it features the mighty talents of Clym Arnold (formerly of The Deads) on the lap steel and also that we recorded a broken old Hammond organ and a double bass for it which I heartily enjoyed. I think we’d done loads to it before I declared that it was a smidgeon too slow as well so we also had to speed the whole thing up a touch before I could do the vocals. What a numpty.

 

Published in: on August 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm  Comments (1)  

(WE USED TO DRAW) TREASURE MAPS

This is probably my favourite song on the album looking back now. I wouldn’t change a thing about it which is quite rare. It features a lass called Tallie singing on it who, at the time, was playing in a now-defunct band around Portsmouth called Plat Du Jour. It also has some beautiful viola and cello from two ladies named Ruth and Sophie that Matt knew from Red Campion, another fantastic and much missed local band of the era. It’s the strings that really do bring the piece to life for me. For that reason we’ve hardly ever played it live. Maybe once or twice? I remember we definitely did it at our album launch where for some reason we dressed up in Miami Vice clothes.

I’d demoed it previously with horrible MIDI strings that I think Neil and Pauly B (trumpeter extraordinaire ex DC now RSP) scored out properly for the girls. I also loved the guitar sound from the demo so much that we lifted it straight out of that session…caused a few timing issues did that….but challenging things are often worth doing eh?

There were loads of different snare drums sitting about in the studio and Matt recorded tons of the blighters in different locations about the place to get different sounds and reverb which we then layered up. Some even upside down in a stairwell if memory serves.

It was also a fella introduced to me through Matt that designed the front cover for the album…Stephen ‘Pinny’ Olden. A fine artist he is too.

I did actually used to love drawing treasure maps as a kid. On beer mats apparently. In pub beer gardens with family and friends it seems. Plain and simple.

Looking online it seems someone liked the song enough to post it on Youtube with an image of a foot. The internet eh? Crazy.

Published in: on August 27, 2014 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  

SEEDS

Seeds, along with Lung, was the other song that came from the Manifesto days of myself and Mr Rhodes. There was this Geordie fella who did the sound for us a couple of times who seemed to like this one so I can’t think of it without his voice in my mind shouting ‘SOW THE SEEDS MAN’.

I think Neil & Rich also did a great job mixing this as it sounds better now than I had in my head at that point (though I wouldn’t have admitted it then of course…). The heavily delayed guitars in the chorus especially. We got that odd bass sound as the start as, when I recorded it, I failed to realise I hadn’t turned the tone knob up. Knob. Sounds good listening back now though. Although it’s also astoundingly apparent how much I’ve ripped off Idlewild’s ‘I’m a Message’. Ah well. Matt’s drums make this song what it is really I think, those great little hi-hat accents and the big fill into the second chorus. Lovely.

The ‘seeds’ in question are big ideas I guess…there’s mention of mankind’s incredible historical achievements and innovations and talk of Utopia and Valhalla etc…but we still completely stumble at the most basic human stuff every day (you know…not killing each other over made up people etc…). It’s a question as to whether it’s too late for us as a race. I’ll just dismount from my high horse now and say I’m also well happy at getting ‘Gallup Poll’ into a song.

One other memory about this song is playing it in Cambridge and Jack playing completely the wrong chords on the keys for about 50% of the duration causing much merriment on stage. We may have been drinking.

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

DESIRE LINES

The second appearance from a guest vocalist – this time from the sublimely talented Jessica Winter (or Spencer as she was at that point) from the excellent Hall of Mirrors…although I’m not sure whether they are still a thing? Anyhoo – she is fab. She sent me her mix of it once with loads of comedy car-horn parping in. Brilliant.

Desire Lines are paths created in say, a forest or snow, that people use to get from one point to another. Usually the easiest or shortest route. I really liked that image, a route to follow which someone prior to your being there has created. Everyone else then follows because it’s not difficult. In the words of Alan Partridge: ‘Perhaps a metaphor….for……”

The whistle all the way through I wanted to create a feeling of unease. I was listening to lots of film soundtracks at the time (hence the whole ‘Beginning. Middle. End.’ schtick…) and The Exorcist used a recording of buzzing bees throughout to keep you nicely unsettled. The noise I had chosen was meant to be a recording of crickets chirruping that I pitch shifted (I had crickets in my flat because of Dolores The Dragon you see…!) but it didn’t quite sound how I wanted so ended up being some sort of synth patch I think…

Lyrically I was going for the kind of Nick Cave/Kylie murder-ballad call and response thing I suppose. A weird couple who love/hate each other but can’t live apart as they share too many murky secrets. Or something.

Ruddy Deerhunter went and nicked the name for a song on their last but one album too. Cheeky Bradford.

As an aside, because we’ve just played the wonderful Victorious festival this weekend just gone – I thought I’d pop this video up from last years event. Me and Jack talking balls. Standard.

Just 2 gigs left to go now! Bestival and Southsea Fest…..blub blub…..

 

 

Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

DOLORES

Ahhhh Dolores. A bit of jauntiness. Throwaway jauntiness. Some much needed respite from the more downbeat, melancholic stuff around it on the album. It features the first of three guest vocalists Roberta Fidora who, at the time, fronted ace spiky post-punk band Hold Fast. She now fronts ace electro-poppers Curxes (http://www.curxes.com/) and her vocals are still stunning.

This was my attempt at writing a breezy guitar-pop song I suppose. The Stills (RIP) were one of my very favourite bands and the guitar parts especially are indebted to them. The middle noisy bit was pretty Weezer-inspired I guess and it’s probably the most ‘fun’ thing on the album. I mean….it has a stylophone solo. If that’s not fun then I don’t want to know about it. The lyrics are deliberate trash. Rhyming ‘Dolores’ with ‘thesaurus’. I wasn’t going for any Pulitzer Prize here.

Neil who recorded most of the album at The Old Blacksmiths studio did a particularly great job on this song I think as there were bits I wasn’t too sure about at the time of recording. We had a few clashes along the way and he summed it up well by saying if there was ever something on a track we disagreed over, it was whoever shouted the loudest that finally got their way. I got mine a few times and he got his too.

Rich Tamblyn who owned said studio at that point set up the Jelly Maid Music label to release Neil’s old band The Dawn Chorus’ excellent body of work prior to us signing with them. We played an early gig with The DC at the old Havana pub and struck up a firm friendship that has remained in place ever since. In fact, our trajectory of playing our last ever show at The Kings Theatre for this years Southsea Fest literally mirrors their last gasp. Bassmeister Keef was in The DC, I played with them on a couple of tours and Ox & Elliott from TBOTB now play in The Retrospective Soundtrack Players (http://www.therspuk.com/) that came out of The DC’s ashes. Frontman Kyle is an exceptional songwriter. And Southsea is very incestuous musically as you may already know.

Finally – who was Dolores? Well – I had a bearded dragon by that very name. We thought it was a female for the first few years. Turned out to be a male. So Dolores was a trans-gender lizard. There you go.

Published in: on August 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm  Comments (2)  

MIDDLE

Not loads to say about ol’ Middle. One of the little linking tracks on the album. Washes of synth noises. There’s the vocal bit from Alaska popping in and out and a tune we played based on the Little Bean chords with stylophone, glockenspiel and mandolin I think. There’s also what appears to be a goat bleating at the end. Not sure what that’s about.

Published in: on August 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

LITTLE BEAN

Little Bean. Silly Little Bean.

The first thing that jumps into my mind with this song is that I remember a review that said it was awful. Terrible lyrics and you couldn’t listen to it without laughing. I always enjoyed reading bad reviews more than good ones (and we did get those too you know!) because I tended to agree.

One of the things that I think people misinterpreted (and actually still do) about TBOTB is that we’re very serious, moody types. Well – no accounting for the others as I am, in fact, a miserable bastard BUT half of the things we played were either an in-joke, a piss-take or just messing about.

Rehearsals for us generally follow this pattern:

- Play Sweet Child O’ Mine for about an hour
- Have a cup of tea
- Dick around with a crunk drum beat and comedy synth noises
- Play My Sharona
- Have a cup of tea
- Begrudgingly practice our set, halfway through say ‘we know that one’ and abandon it
- Have a cup of tea
- Play ‘Changes’ by Tupac and ‘Regulate’ by Warren G
- Leave

To clarify – when it comes to the actual music and songwriting – I’m through and through devout and deadly serious….but as people, most of the time we were having ‘lunge-offs’ on stage or trying to stitch each other up on tour. I guess when you’re doing posy, arty, black and white band photoshoots then you don’t want your accordion player running down a hotel corridor in the nip (true story) but I recall reading something about one of my fave bands Joy Division where they said that the famously intense young man Ian Curtis was always playing tricks on the other band members by leaving turds in their rooms and stuff like that. Brilliant.

Anyway. This song is a joke really. There is an early demo I did here where it’s all noisy rock guitar and feedback:

https://myspace.com/strollonrecords

But often we played it live just using banjo, harmonica and cajon. See this BBC radio session:

When it came to recording it for the album, we decided to go half and half.

Brilliantly I’ve just found this that I haven’t heard since then too…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/hampshire/content/articles/2009/06/17/bbc_introducing_b_of_bang_feature.shtml

All the tracks seem to be an acoustic version of ‘Lung’ for some reason but there is an interview with us where I recall my one and only celebrity encounter with Peaches Geldof (RIP). Actually I also walked straight into Liam Gallagher in an airport toilet once so make that two celebrity encounters.

Back on subject…

The other thing that comes to mind regarding ‘Little Bean’ is our great friends REVERE (an incredible band – http://www.revereonline.co.uk/band.php – check them out) shouting the words at us loudly and drunkenly in a Liverpudlian nightclub. We made lots of pals whilst touring that I now count as some of my closest – the guys in The Dawn Chorus (who I will talk much more about soon…) especially so…

The words? Who knows. It’s about being a little bean. I’m aware of the clitoral connotations.

To finish – here is an awful live rendition from Sheffield in 2009 where I forgot the harmonica, had the guitar in the wrong tuning and we were all drunk. Nelly from the aforementioned DC (and now The RSP & Oxygen Thief) is on bass here and he recorded much of our first and some of our second album. Again, I’ll chat a bit more about that sexy tennis ball headed buffoon later….

Published in: on August 21, 2014 at 2:09 pm  Comments (3)  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.