“How much of this can we do ourselves” ?
In January of 2014 the Sugar Train sessions began at Southcove Recordings in Porthcawl, South Wales.
The recording sessions ran for four months with seventeen musicians contributing to the finished work. (See production notes)
All musicians gave their time willingly and freely (Law B303).
Showing extra ordinary patience and fortitude during extended sessions, improvisations and re-writes, no quarter was given and no effort too great in order to create the desired results.
Drawing on influences ranging from Bach (Preparation for Despair) The Beatles (Distant Suns) The Chilli Peppers (Family Tree) The Doors (We Are Media) The Clash (The Measure of Outrage) Tim Rice and Lloyd-Webber (Certain Peace) and Marilyn Manson (Strange Situations). The band set out to combine a lyrical intensity influenced by Dylan, Dury and Talking Heads, with the musical joviality of The B52' Bare Naked Ladies and Jesus Christ Superstar.
The band pond-skate across genres with a refreshing freedom of attitude towards expectation and definition... Each song is approached with the emphasis on “Telling a ripping yarn” accompanied by mood enhancing and appropriate sound-tracking.
Work commenced on the backing vocals at the end of the month.
Frozen hours in The Shed followed, with a special guest arriving to add the punk ethic vocal required on tracks including Family Tree and Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah.
Paul Dunlop (Joey Ramone) did it his way.
Sarah then stepped from behind the kit to deliver a stunning Lead Vocal performance on Certain Peace, wrapping up nicely the vocal sessions for Sugar Train.
“How much of this can we do ourselves” ?
It's funny, in the sense that writing and recording the songs turned out to be the easy bit. If our luck holds and people keep saying “Yes” it would appear that anything is possible...
Here's to good mates, good ideas and learning on the job...
To be continued...
My therapist told me to do it.
21 Songs taking the listener from cradle to grave, via the family tree, disco pants, throwing out time at the jazz club, home-made maps, torrid oceans, Parisian incest, media whores, Train-wrecks, sex shop attitudes and spirits of disorder. Along the way there will be showdowns, upper skies, stalked stargazers, women of God, caged birds set free, bodies in the boot, cowboy victims of ghost stories and Hubble's soon to be de-funked eye. Lampshades, spiders, cigarettes, Spanish dreams, tinsel, Mecca, Macca, Christmas on the mountain and the house of work and pensions... Please mind the step.
Production Notes. (Law: B303. Loyalty = Royalty)
The sessions generally ran from late afternoon, through until early morning and often beyond. The first day in “The Pink Room” saw the rhythm tracks all recorded across one file with no click during one 18 hour session. (Analogue Ways Digital Times).
On all but one track Sarah played drums, Jack on Bass with Ed on guitar or keyboard.
Family Tree was added on the Sunday morning by a very bleary eyed Ed (Bass) and Jack (Drums). Jack's parents waited patiently in the kitchen to take him home for milk.
After this The Shed became studio A for the Guitar tracking, which Jack built up over a weekend of little or no stopping, during what became the first of the “Its light again” sessions.
Meanwhile back in the Pink Room Dave Jefferies assembled his Band of the Damned, (Including his son Owen on alto sax), to record the first of the horn arrangements.
Unwritten and Showdown on Main Street were the result of this frantic dash between pub and off-licence. (Required apparently in order to recreate the bourbon soaked sentiment).
All other horn parts were subsequently recorded in the Shed, with multiple tracking variations depending very much upon who turned up on the day.
High points included the “Streets of San Francisco” riffing on Family Tree and the lung punching hits of Red Sky. Here the Smith brothers trumpets blend beautifully with the sax parts of Gary Kenifick and Owen Jefferies. All of this above the rasping trombone of play-maker David Jefferies completing the sound.
A lightning raid to the local Theatre one afternoon to record Huw Griffiths (Sara's old drum teacher) on the Timpani drums during a break between performances of “Phantom,” proved to be the only recording done outside the walls of Southcove. These feature in the play-out for “Spain”.
Special mention must go to Richard and Paul Smith for the Trumpet parts on this track, recorded after midnight, Rioja and a family curry.
Lead vocals were added down the Shed, whilst Swansea native Becky Seary arrived via Denmark to add fiddle parts, over a glorious week in early April...
Various tracks were added via stylophone, percussion, Dr Parry with his cornet, Veronica with her castanets Figgis with his triangle Ed's synthesizer and Jacks octave allowance on the piano.
In late April Pete “Organ” Morgan arrived to add the Spaghetti Western effect for “Strange Situations” with a weird instrument on a plinth. In the same session Ade Boyles laid his melodic guitar tracks down for “Hot Knives” and we were nearly there.
A blistering guitar dual ensued early one evening. Jack Parry and Dave Jefferies moving air for the only extended guitar solo on the album. A fitting end to“Certain Peace”.
A good French horn these days is hard to find... The father and daughter team of Jon and Rhiannon Mainwearing provided the solution with two in the Spring, bringing a majestic end to the recording sessions in early May.
Their work on “Certain Peace” overlays perfectly the flute of Gary Kenifick which had only been added initially to replace the “missing” French horns, but sits beautifully.
Well... that's another story.