(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  Leave a Comment  

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)  

THE MAKING OF THE MAKING OF

A wee oddity this’n.

I think it was one of the last written for the album. Played it live a bit when it was just Matt and me as a duo with him on xylophone (or ‘underwater milk bottles’ as one reviewer wrote…). I really wanted to record a proper church organ but alas we had to make do with a synth in the studio. I always think the outro with the melodica sounds like the old Hovis advert. Say ‘as good today as it’s always been’ out loud over it and you’ll see what I mean. You can also hear Matt exclaiming his joy at getting the xylophone part right at the end.

The title comes from a conversation me and Cal had whilst he was shooting the ‘Lung’ video. We were joking about having a DVD release of it with a ‘making of’ section and I suggested we should shoot a ‘making of the making of’. You just can’t bottle this kind of genius eh? He was on about making a sitcom and using this as the theme tune. He says a lot of things.

Listening back to the lyrics I guess it’s about the moment you first meet someone and how that shapes what comes next. I don’t know. It’s best not to think too hard about this stuff. I like it though. A simple little number.

Published in: on August 21, 2014 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  

LUNG

‘Lung’ is probably the centrepoint from where The B of the Bang sprung.

About 10 years ago, myself and David were living in Brighton in a band called Redlight (that then became The Dirty Touch….I know….i’m sorry…coming up with band names is horrible…) At the time we thought we were the bees knees and would be NME darlings within a matter of months (as you do when you’re a carefree 21 year old…). In our heads we sounded like a sexy Queens of the Stone Age crossed with T Rex but we actually probably sounded more like a damp Thin Lizzy covers band. Still, we had a ruddy good time whilst we were there.

When that band went the way of the Dodo, it was the first time that I actually took a step back, sat down and consciously thought properly about the music I wanted to write and play. I began to jot down lyrics that were a bit more personal to me and song structures that were perhaps a tad more sophisticated than your standard 3 or 4 chord rock n roll. Whether this is a good or bad thing in pop music is open to debate but there you go. Blame Radiohead.

The band Dave and I went on to form with our ol’ school mate Ash was called Manifesto (I mentioned it in an earlier post) and, though we only played a few gigs – all in London, it was much more direct, thought-out and focused. I loved it.

https://myspace.com/manifestomusic (it was 2006…myspace was king)

We recorded a couple of tracks to hawk around – one of which ‘The Coming Lights’ eventually ended up as an Analogue Manilow song (our noisy grungy side-project featuring sometime-Banger Big Matt the Myth from a couple of years ago…)

https://soundcloud.com/analoguemanilow/the-coming-lights

The other one was ‘Lung’.

If I recall rightly Dave came up with the main guitar part and originally it was much faster. We were both listening to lots of Interpol at the time and it certainly has that measured kind of tone to it. ‘Maps’ by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was probably ripped off a wee bit too but we knew we had something to be pleased with and to try and take further.

As far as lyrical content goes I still find this very hard to sing. My mum died of cancer when I was 20 and I’d never ever been the sort of person to show my feelings or talk about stuff in public. Without getting too deep, this song allowed me to do so in a much more guarded, and therefore more comforting to me, way.

The video was made by my good pal Cal O’Neil (him on the escalator…) and his partner in crime Chris Moon (the fisherman at the end…) under their filmmakers guise of Pinter Moments. Cal has played a bit in TBOTB over the years and we’ve also worked on some soundtracks together – if he ever gets round to filming his screenplays….

The actual version of ‘Lung’ on the video is the Manifesto one, not the re-recorded TBOTB one that ended up on the album as we’d not got to that point yet. I actually prefer this version too….there’s just something about it. We had a splendid time making the vid and there are lots of little bits and bobs in it that make me smile watching it now. Not just my 2007 haircut. The fact that I had to be a ‘hand double’ for my (now) wife as she wasn’t around on that day of filming. Our original logo comes from that Dymo label maker I used. It’s my nephew with the Radio Control car on the train, my sisters old walkman and my Dad’s house where the fake NME comes through the door. Cal & Chris did an ace job on literally no budget whatsoever and the whole ‘listen and pass on’ thing we actually did in real life I think. We also had a screening of it at TBOTB’s original spiritual home of the newly opened Little Johnny Russel’s pub in Southsea. I seem to remember clearing the dancefloor at my one and only DJ set by playing 8 minutes of ‘Swastika Eyes’. Good times.

As I was looking for that I’ve just found the earliest footage of TBOTB live! At The Good Ship in Kilburn. JD on bass and Maff on drums. Blimey.

Published in: on August 20, 2014 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

ALFRED, LIGHT THE FIRES

Onto ‘Alfred…’ then.

This song probably encapsulates early Bang the best. It’s still one that I love playing and overall am pretty proud of. I think it was Breaking More Waves (a local music blog that was one of the first to feature us…) that said it sounded like ’80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster gone folk’ which at the time I relished, being a big fan of Mr Mcknight and co.

I seem to recall another review not taking to it at all and saying something about ‘jazz hands’ and me being a ‘public school boy’. Well…I’ll accept the jazz hands bit gladly but if you saw the school I went to then you’d know that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the time there were loads of lad rock/sub-Oasis bands – it was rife in Portsmouth and I used to get pretty annoyed that, as a working class lad, it felt like I wasn’t allowed to write about anything other than going out and getting pissed. I’LL SHOW THEM I thought….

Anyway….back on subject…

‘Alfred, Light the Fires’ (or ‘Alfred, Burn the Cakes’ as my Dad calls it…he also calls ‘Knockin on Heavens Door’ by Bob Dylan ‘Up the Garden Gate’…don’t ask me why… ) was actually based on a dream I had about an old man in a Nursing Home writing his memoirs. In them, he tells the story of when he was a little boy in the 1920’s. Messing around as a kid he accidentally burns down this big old house and, in the story, said mansion turns out to be the very nursing home he’s now in so he ends up killing his future self. Deep eh?

It was the first song I wrote that wasn’t typical verse/chorus/verse stuff and we tried to pack a lot in to it’s 3 minutes. This was the pre-Mumfordisation-of-music and the use of instruments like the ukulele and accordion were fairly different to what was going on around us. I remember we also played a gig where, in the middle section of the song we held a meat raffle. You don’t see Radiohead doing that do you?

I met Matt Allen the drum-meister on the first day of our Music Tech course and, like me, he was a little older than some of the other students. He also played in local heroes The Ridgeway who I really liked and had played alongside in an old, old band of mine. I think he’s only ever listened to 3 bands – The Beach Boys, Super Furry Animals and…..OK make that 2 bands. After my early solo outings, me and Matt did a fair few as a duo before being joined by James Dennison (JD) on guitar and bass. He added the lovely little guitar run in the waltz bit of ‘Alfred…’ so that meant he was in the band whether he like it or not. Even though he liked Genesis.

The early recordings we did of all the stuff that would later go on the first album were actually initially destined for 2 EP’s called ‘CITIZENS’ and ‘SOULS’ respectively. I like the twin EP thing showcasing two different aspects of a band – we repeated it later with the ‘ART DECO’ and ‘ART NOUVEAU’ releases. I shoddily set up ‘Stroll On Records’ and managed to blag them up onto iTunes but the recordings weren’t great as I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing which is why we redid them for the album. All except the track ‘Sleeping Sickness’ which is lost somewhere in the annals of time. Probably best as I seem to have ripped off the main theme from The Da Vinci Code for it. The reason Jack Malpas-Coker ended up in the band is that he did a remix of that song whilst he was working in the studio and made it even more depressing than it already was. Some skill I think you’ll agree.

A very talented chap called Joseph Loughborough did the artwork for the single so if you have a copy then perhaps hold on to it as it might be worth something one day (the music itself won’t!) – his stuff is fantastic and his images suited the song perfectly. He also did our one and only t-shirt design fact fans. A live version of ‘Lung’ recorded at local station Express FM and a remix of ‘Alaska’ by my friend Phil (as Hexa Decibelz) became the b-sides…such things still existed at that point you see.

Alfred

I’ll chat about the guys who recorded and released our stuff in the next couple of posts….meanwhile – I’ve managed to find that the CITIZENS EP is still up on line in Kenya! Good lord:

https://itunes.apple.com/ke/album/citizens-ep/id265593361

x

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 10:46 am  Comments (2)  

ALASKA

I guess ‘Alaska’ is maybe our most recognisable song? It’s certainly one of the first that I thought had a particular sound to it – something that I guess became a TBOTB signature….or at least a recurring theme. I was trying to write heartfelt music that wasn’t cheesily epic or overly bombastic but still had a ‘widescreen’ sound to it. I’m still not sure I’ve achieved that properly. The whole ‘starting quiet and building up to a loud ending’ was utilised on a few songs on the first album too. And the second come to think of it.

If I recall rightly, Alaska was almost a joke when I originally wrote it. The band I was in previous to TBOTB was called Manifesto (featuring the one and only David Rhodes on geetar, me on bass and my other best buddy Ash Young who now lives in Oz on drums). We used to practice in London near Waterloo Station and ended up doing some recording at Alaska Studios under the bridge there (more about this in future posts…). The name just sort of stuck as I used to soundcheck with the intro riff. 

The drone throughout is from my shoddy old Yamaha DJX keyboard I’ve had since I was about 14. I love that thing. It’s got some amazing sounds on it. At early gigs we used to gaffa tape the key down to keep the note going. I also remember playing a show where we forgot to turn off the kick drum sample that plays through the song for the whole gig but didn’t realise. Brilliant.

I played this at very early solo shows using a sampler and loop pedal (badly) and I’m pretty sure I originally intended on writing more words to it but, being the lazy toad I am, it ended up with just the repeated ‘it only happens once, and you won’t believe it when it does’. What that thing is….i’m not sure to be honest. It’s open to interpretation to you, the dear listener. I’m dead chuffed though as I know a few people have had this song at their weddings (including my very own brother) and that makes me extremely proud.

The recorded version is just me and Matt Allen (drums) I think. More on this chap and the other players involved in the next post….

Here’s a live rendition from The Camden Wheelbarrow from 2012:

Published in: on August 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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