ONE – Record as much as you can. When we started recording the album, I had a list of 28 songs. This naturally whittled down throughout the process and we ended up with 12 songs that we were completely happy with. I would rather go through this process than start out with a small number of songs and then perhaps having to include something on the record, which I am not 100% sure about.
TWO – Don’t listen to other music. Throughout the entire year of recording the album I became obsessed with listening to the tracks. In fact I pretty much stopped listening to any other music. There was just no space in my head. I know everyone is different, but for me other music became an unwanted distraction. People started to think that I was so vain that I would only listen to my own music…but I guess it was just a very obsessive way of ensuring that I was happy with the way things were shaping up.
THREE – Depression helps. I find that I have to be in a certain mood to do anything creative. If I’m not then I might as well not try to do anything; nothing imaginative will happen. I try to surround myself with sad things when recording so that I can easily access this blue pool of emotions. In hindsight, while it was great for my creative output, it may not have been that kind on everyone else around me…
FOUR – Chamomile tea and Vocalzone should always be combined. Making a record independently can sometimes mean a limitation in regards to funding and, consequently, time. We were very lucky to have the album co-funded by the Musicians Benevolent Fund, but even with that it sometimes meant having to rush through a lot of vocal takes. That was incredibly difficult for me, because I am very, very fussy. And there are only so many hours you can sing for, before your voice sounds different. I discovered the great effectiveness of chamomile tea and Vocalzone in combination. In fact, they were so amazing together, I now take both of them before every gig.
FIVE – Double bass rocks. We had already recorded a fair few songs when we thought it might be nice to add some double bass to ‘Quite Low’. Enter Joseph Kelly from labelmates Etao Shin. He came, he played and we have never let him go since. Double bass is just so cool, and it has added a whole new dimension to the band and the recordings. Needless to say double bass is now on every track of the album.
SIX – It’s expensive, so you need to love it! I really believe that you have to love making music and being a musician and never expect to make a living from it. Only then can you be pleasantly surprised about selling merchandise and getting paid for a gig, even though it comes nowhere near the amount you have had to spend on those things already. At the current rate I should be able to start making a profit from merchandise sales in 2015.
SEVEN – I don’t like recording studios. I’ve never enjoyed working in recording studios. To me they have a claustrophobic feel, and they sound so dead. I would much rather record in open or peculiar spaces. We chose to record the whole album in the Quaker Hall in Southampton. It’s a marvellous Georgian hall, tucked away in the city, with old wooden floorboards, tall ceilings and a grand piano. It was magical. It just made the entire experience so special, and there was all this space around me. It gave my head and my heart space, too.
EIGHT – Keep it in the family. I don’t easily trust people and am slightly socially awkward, so I don’t often say what I think unless I know someone well. Given my predicament, the idea of working with complete strangers on something as personal as an album seems completely alien to me. On this record I worked entirely with friends and family, from the recording process to the design to the promotion. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.
NINE – Try and have a life as well. Recording sessions can be really intense, especially if the songs are personal and bring up certain emotions. I think it’s really important to try and have a life as well as record an album. I definitely tried to see my friends, do fun things and relax a little bit – all things that don’t come naturally to me. But there is nothing worse than an intense studio atmosphere after having spent too much time together. I surprised myself that it was possible to have a full-on argument about the speed of the click track…
TEN – Once it’s done, it’s done. After spending so many months listening to rough recordings, early mixes and first masters, we finally decided that this was it – this was the record. It is a really hard call. You always hear things: new melodies, other instruments, perhaps some backing vocals, different volume settings for different instruments. But once I had decided on the final masters, I decided to give the album a complete rest. I didn’t listen to it for a good five months. When I finally came back to it I was able to listen to the tracks with a bit of distance. They had turned into actual songs and I was really proud of them.
‘And Her Head’