Saturday 29 December, 2012
Forget what I said about demos and warm-ups. As I write this we have three song skeletons in the can and almost an entire tune done. By “skeleton” I mean a good rhythm take, over which we can later add lead parts and vocals. We tend to do as much live as we can – it’s the only way to achieve a credible chemistry (that’s why we make sure we can all see as well as hear each other) – but there’s no way of getting a good quality take of things like vocals and trombone/cello while drums are playing, there’s just too much bleed between microphones in the setup we have here. So what we have now is pretty much everything that has a direct input into the mixing desk – keyboards, bass and some electric guitar as well as drums. Once we’re done with the rhythm section we’ll move onto the more delicate stuff, probably towards the end of next week.
The big surprise was a song called Year Of The Bitch. It’s one of our oldest, indeed I wrote it in 2004 before the band even formed. We haven’t played it for years but I always wanted it to go on this album, albeit in a different arrangement to the live version. Up to this point we’d always treated it as a rock number but there’s an element of classic swing in there that I suspected might suit an LP more. We all had different ideas of how best to play the various run-downs and changes but couldn’t agree on a definitive structure beyond what had already been written. My main idea was that it should sound a bit drunk, like a man on a barstool broadcasting his life philosophy to anyone who’ll listen.
So after playing round the structure a few times we decided to just get into the live room, bash through the song and record whatever came out, something we could listen back to afterwards armed with notepads and plot it out properly.
So that’s what we did. It lurched from verse to verse, instruments tiptoed in and out unsure of who was leading which bit, bum notes punctuating a shifting groove stumbling from one sticky metaphor to another.
It was exactly what we wanted. We tried recording it again out of a sense of formality (surely that first take couldn’t be the one) but we couldn’t recapture the spontaneity of our first attempt. So that’s the one going on the album.
There are some mistakes you just can’t fake.