Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The mix is final!!

Well well well.. its looking like the time we've spent in the studio mixing and mixing has paid off. We've now agreed that the mixes for the forthcoming cd are final.. We've dotted the 'i's' and crossed the 't's' and its sounding brilliant. We decided to spend our time in January being productive.. and its definately paid off.

The final studio session on 24th January went more smoothly than expected, just running through and nipping and tucking here and there to finalise the mixes.. realising that when you hear something 10 times, it has to be right. There's a school of philosophy that suggests it should be "right first time"..which would technically make life easier in the long run, but, imho, makes it slightly dull.. there's something about hearing the variations in the various takes, the somewhat slightly out of synch pieces, which brings and adds colour to the piece, making happy accidents along the way.

We've used the studio as our third band member really, only when we had the basic tracks down were we then able to get creative and 'see' what the songs needed to give them a full and productive life.. rather like feeding and nurturing the songs to allow them to develop their full potential. Its the creative process in full flow.. with there only being two of us, its not always easy at first to hear what a song can become, only by getting it down, and hearing it back have we found additional pieces, decided on the theme of the song and coloured it in as each song starts out as a sketch and develops over time to become what you hear live, then in the studio it develops its wings!

So, we're now flying... we're awaiting the masterful and supremely creative Jon Aldersea to create the cover for us, then we'll be sending it off to get it produced and will hopefully have some available to buy soon. Don't worry.. we'll keep you updated!!

Gigs.. well, its been a bit quiet.. the start of the year normally is, tbh, but as I've already said, we've put our time to good use, spending it in the studio. Things will pick up, as they inevitably do.

Saturday 25th January - Rubber Soul Session, The Roebuck, Leek

Having played the Rubber Soul Session at The Old Brown Jug, we asked Rob if he'd slot us in for the Roebuck in Leek, as well.. and what a superb evening it was. Kicked off with the local lad Dom Morgan, who sung his usual brand of covers and originals for the assembled crowd (and what a crowd, standing room only!).. we followed doing a set of original numbers, all of which went down well. We were followed by Jacey Rayne a lovely girl doing an acoustic set, very powerful voice and excellent songs (she's going a long way.. ) A bot of stage jostling and moving equipment around brought us Faux Pas a bunch of guys from Keele, who have a kind of Franz Ferdinand thing going on, though I suspect they were a touch loud, but good at what they do.. followed by the excellent Longwave, who's sort of Prog rock/New wave/whatever sound carried us off into the night. For a three piece, they certainly sound like they have a lot more going on. So, it was a great night, a chance to catch up with old friends (The Longwave) and new friends made, made it a much welcomed great night out.

Right, that about wraps it up for another blog... I wish I could give you a date for the CD release.. promo versions should be ready in a couple of weeks (for radio stations and venues).. then its only a matter of time before the real life, all singing, not much dancing CD is ready.. Can't wait.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Studio musings...

I promised myself that I wasn't going to blog anything yet.. But I'm bursting to tell you how excited I am about the CD.
We spent last night (17/01/14) Mixing again at Tremolo Studios. Going through each song, tweaking things like reverb and volume levels and generally scrutinising it to find any slight blips that can be ironed out (or erased).. It really is something watching Dan work, he listens intently with a very fine tuned ear if you suggest "this doesn't sound right".. .or"There's an extra note there"... and will swiftly, like a bird of prey swoop into the mix and pull it out and work his magic. With a light touch he tweaks levels..and we discussed amongst ourselves as to whether we (by that I mean Graeme and myself), find it suitable. "No, needs little less reverb".. "Oh now the volume needs dropping".. "No, that's too much, you can't hear the.... (insert whatever can't be heard)". So we discussed, decided and now have a load of tracks to listen to again, to see if we've managed to iron out the wrinkles.

One song, we really thought we would have to spend all night on, re-recording vocals and adding flourishes and.. well, pretty much everything too, was listened to in isolation. The recording booth was set up for the vocals, Dan played the first few bars... and... "Hold on, do you want to come and listen to this in here first?".. The words came through my headphones from Dan. "Yeah, its sounding OK to me".. I uttered as I slid off the headphones and sloped back into the control room. We listened to the whole song, there were gorgeously presented vocal lines with lovely harmonies where I was expecting some snot fueled gobbledegook. I was certain I'd had the sniffles when I'd recorded the vocal lines.. yet, hearing it last night, I realised that it didn't need doing.. It was perfect just the way it was... How very strange. So as to make full use of the time we set to adding in the rest of the instrumentation. Building it up from the bottom.. "It needs something, its too.. samey" suggested Graeme, "Maybe remove the guitars and bass from the start"... Suddenly it was taking shape.. half way through I suggested "Tympani"... Dan set to work adding in some Tympani (I know, I know... using digitised sounds.. But it was all played in, as if we'd had real Tympani... Just without the struggle of getting a set from somewhere and struggling to get it into the studio!).. "Put some more of the oboe here".. "Yeah, now drop the bass in".. The song was taking on its own life, as each of them do. "I'm going to do this effect".. "I don't think it'll work".. a stalemate.."Trust me, its going to sound great".. "Hmm, not sure"... levels were balanced and yes.. I could see what was happening.

I'm not going to name any of the tracks and what we've worked on now, because I want to wait until the final versions are ready. Some people will love it, some people will no doubt hate it.. But you know, it doesn't matter, because its the work of everyone who is a part of it, in whatever way. How I look at it, you can go into the studio and record the songs as they're played, and that works for many bands and many people and I think they're brilliant. Then there are some songs that come to life and come into their own when they have studio production and extra instruments can be added, they become more than what they start out as and develop little lives of their own. With different producers, you get different sounds. With different musicians you get different music. I'm not saying every song has to have heaps of production, some stay simple, but when you have the toolbox of a studio at your disposal, why not pull out a few toys and have a play with the sound, its how albums like Seargent Pepper developed. I'm not suggesting we're anything like the Beatles, cos we're not, but that the toys are there to be played with, if you like, there's no pressure to use them, but its nice to know they're there.

Right, better get listening to the rushes.. and see what it all sounds like now.
Hopefully its sounding good.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

January..I'm sure there's a song about you somewhere

Hi folks.

Well We're well into January and the frenzy for booking gigs is underway.. We have some nice ones coming up, but we're not going to tell you just yet.. Cos we want them to be a surprise. Well, that, and we know with things in this current climate that the pub trade is deeply affected, with venues closing left right and centre... What can we do about it?? We can support our local music scene all the more... And that's kind of how we've kicked off 2014..by popping along and seeing other people perform, attending Open Mic nights and generally getting out there when we can.

Without a local music scene, there would be no national music scene and, well, no music being played outside of people's homes. There's nothing better than hearing live music, its thrilling, exciting and just as much fun for the people on the stage as in the audience. I will say that of course not every band is to everyone's taste and that's a good thing. If every band were the same, if all musicians played the same way, if all singers sounded the same, wouldn't it be boring??? I prefer to live in a place where there is an infinate variety of music, played by an awesome range of people, all putting in the hours to perfect their techniques and develop their style. I might not like all of it, but I like some of it and that's a start.

So, back to Rain.. well, we popped along to The Blacksmiths Arms in Alton to attend their Open Mic, a lovely affair organised by Geoff Smith.. a really nice bloke, with a penchant for Willie Nelson... It was a great night, jamming with some of the guys and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.. a reminder of why we do it.. because its fun.

Anyway back to real Rain stuff.. the CD... eeek.. Its coming along so well, on Saturday 11th we popped into Tremolo to carry on the long job of mastering the songs... We'd mastered a couple on our last visit, so we got stuck into the rest... Dan tweaking and twiddling to our request.. "Put a bit of reverb on that bit"... "No too much, can we turn that down?"... "Can we drop this bit out, but bring it up at this bit"... We listened  and listened and mastered away. We  were joined later by Katharine, who has already put brass on two tracks, but we felt we needed some on a third, and she,as always, didn't disappoint, coming up with a truly delightful piece that has really brought the song together. We were finally ushered out at 11pm, with 8 tracks mastered.. Just two more to complete and master, then the exciting stuff begins, with the design work of Jon Aldersea, adding his magic to the proceedings. Its all getting a bit real now. Its taken nearly a year so far of gigging, writing, recording and the like, its hard to believe the end is nearly here and we'll finally have a copy of our CD.

So, lots going on behind the scenes, I've written something close to 19-20 songs that require the Beardmore treatment, due to his amazing ability to transform a rough sketch into something beautiful. So this year will no doubt involve us airing those at some point.. But not until the CD is finished!! So, you'll just have to be patient!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Happy 2014!!!

Well folks, the New Year is well and truly under way and I thought it time to update the blog.. Been busy over the festive period, doing the family thing, eating and drinking far too much and having a general lovely time with friends and family. However, it meant that little things like blog updates were put aside for a while... Though we did share "Boatswains Call" with you as a sneaky peek at the CD.. You can expect music that sounds at least as good, if not better than that, with a wide range of styles and substance..

So what did we do during the rest of December, I hear you ask.. well, here goes:

Thursday 19th December - The Imp, Crewe

Acoustic gigs are on Thursday evenings at The Imperial (The Imp) in Crewe, and we were really pleased to be able to play there, having heard so many good things about the place. The place was rather busy when we arrived, so we unpacked , set up.. then received apologies. A large group of folks were off on their work's Christmas meal, but were apologising profusely, they'd seen the sound check and wanted to stay.. But had tables booked.. Ahh, well, such is the way, sometimes. However, those that were left got into the swing of things nicely, singing along to some old favourites and some of the new covers.. receiving rapturous applause and plenty of interactions with the assembled groups.. Mainly discussion over who the song was by. I've wondered if it might be an idea to hold a "pop quiz", to see if anyone can guess and maybe give away a prize to the person with the most answers.. Then again, maybe not.. Its not about pop quiz, but about performing the music. The bar person was most accomodating, supplying us with an ice bucket with some cider in.. which was most appreciated and rather sweet. Overall a really lovely gig was had there.

Things went a bit quiet over the Festive period, as is the way sometimes, so it just meant lots of time spent with family instead, which has its bonuses and has made up for the busier times of the year.

Tuesday 31st December - New Years Eve - The Shroppie Fly

We'd initially approached The Shroppie Fly with a view to getting a gig in 2014, and were really stunned when Tracy asked if we could do New Years Eve!! Considering we'd not done a lot during December, we jumped at the chance.. New Years Eve is a kind of Golden gig date for a lot of people, and now, we had been asked if we could do it.. How could we refuse?? We didn't.
We rolled up there early, in order to set up before it got busy and were welcomed by the staff, who went out of their way to accomodate us. We knew we were in for the long haul, so with sets sorted we began the evening. The crowd in the Shroppie Fly were brilliant, such a delightful place to play... Lots of people singing along to the covers they knew, our original material well received and simply a really lovely, chilled night. During our breaks we received lots of very positive compliments, which is always nice to hear and is the main justification for doing it. Knowing that you can do something well really inspires confidence. We were slightly disconcerted at around 11.30, when the pub emptied... literally two or three people left.. then we overheard someone say something about the firework display.. We continued playing, and ended shy of midnight, when the firework display was in full swing, illuminating everywhere with greens, reds and bright whites. The chimes of Big Ben on the TV screen, Gary Barlow and friends singing Auld Lang Syne.... a perfect end to 2013 and a huge welcome to 2014.

What will 2014 bring for us??
Well, our resolutions are:

1) To bring you even more excellent music
2) To bring you our CD.. all finished and ready to buy
3) To play even more gigs than we did in 2013
4) To just keep going from strength to strength
5) To work on some more new music to bring you some excellent new and original material and some classic covers just to keep you on your toes.

Happy 2014 everyone.. Hope it brings you all that you wish for...