So this was a little different. No sooner had we decided we were making an album that we’d got to the point where we had to finish it. Yeah, two days to finish this thing. What needed to be done?
Looking at the pot of songs already completed one thing stood out – if we wanted ten songs on here we needed the last two to be about two and a half minutes long each. Or they simply won’t fit on a 12″ vinyl without the sound quality suffering. Is there a huge dip in quality once you jump over 36 minutes? Is it just something hardcore vinyl aficionados would notice?
Maybe so, but there is nothing like a deadline to sharpen the mind, and the challenge to not just write two shorter songs, but also tighten what we we had was a pleasant one. Especially for a project that is essentially studio based. It can be easy to forget someone has to actually listen to this and 10 five minute songs might not be quite right.
We started the day tracking drums and guitars for ‘The Invisible Anchor’ and ‘Escape Notes’ which involved teaching them to Dan since they’d only been finished the night before. Both these songs cannibalised previous unfinished or unreleased songs and smashed them together with new sections. In their unfinished forms, the main sections of the songs were expected to take the form of quite long but energetic cycles of the main chords, the former in the style of Thurston Moore’s The Best Day album and the latter as some cross between Runaround Kids and Pretty Girls Make Graves. It’s testament to the harsh cutting that in Escape Notes this recycled and expectedly long and developing part only made up 22 seconds of the final song. Strict editing may save us from self indulgence.
Both songs are faster and more energetic than the rest of the album, but they match most of it in that they don’t have a chorus and the sections don’t repeat. Much like When I Loved Music, When Everything Was New, they cycle through their one-off sections instead. In just drum and guitar form at the end of the day, they seemed quite dull, but I had confidence there was something among it all. They had hooks at least.
In contrast, we also worked on ‘Hammer & Anvil’ which had only been written the night before, a completely fresh creation. I honestly can’t really remember writing it. I was just messing with my little drum machine, found something I liked and tried to write. It wasn’t happening but i dawned on me i usually just drop on something interesting in a drop-D tuning, so tried that and it all just arrived.
It may have been time issues, but it dawned on me that if I just wrote three bits and structured it normally, with a verse, chorus and middle section then i’d have a song… I wouldn’t need to write any more. It just never really struck me before, probably because I’ve not had confidence in my own writing. But with things going so well in the studio, I decided to just leave it at that and assume we’d elevate it beyond the obvious structure later. We got the drum machine, guitar and drums down and it felt kind of cool.
I also got to play a drumkit that Ringo used when in The Beatles
However, disaster then struck and Greenmount’s computer had a hiccup as we were about the lay the bass down. So the day was called short.
But I was straight back at it once home. The following day – the last of the sessions – i’d need to record vocals for four songs. And I hate doing vocals. And I didn’t have finished lyrics. Or melodies. And I suck at writing melodies.
I got a big can of Desperados, back up Budweiser bottles and a box full of half scribbled lyrics from the year. Two of the songs (above) were constructed from leftover bits so had a few lines that could be carried over and subjects developed from there. Hammer & Anvil was brand new and untitled at that point. The last was For Coca Cola which had a lyric and melody from the demo released on U-Boat, but I wanted to rework it.
In what was a genuinely brilliant evening, I somehow pulled them all together. It was hard, working on four lyrics at the same time, but I pieced them slowly but surely from various fragments. When I say brilliant, I just mean that it felt right, productive, like a dark cloud was lifted and it all seemed to make sense. Especially with Hammer & Anvil which something that seemed to come out of nowhere, was quite different to the rest of what had been written and was completely it’s own thing i.e. it wasn’t created from fragments of previous ideas, it all just arrived with the music.
So, one day to go and lots to do, with a mild Desperados hangover to endure.