Plainsongs is my new long player released 02.06.23. It is available for order on Limited Edition CD from Subjangle here. It was recorded on analogue tape at New Cut Studios, Bristol with help from my friends Joe Brown, Paul Kench, Hugh Lyford and Richard Kilbey. The basic tracks were cut live in the studio and overdubs were kept to a minimum - hence 'plain songs'.
To the right is a track by track rundown of the songs on the album, together with the home demos I made prior to going into the studio.
For more background to the LP, check out my latest Blog posts.
I started writing this song in 2013. Since that year I have recorded nearly all of my demos on my phone. This often happens early in the morning when I’ll wake up with the melody of a song that I have dreamed in my head. Invariably, I can never remember the whole song, but what I do remember I hum into my phone so I don’t forget it and then I figure out the chords on the guitar, very quietly so I don’t wake up the rest of the family. Anyway, I was listening to some of the older recordings on my phone while I was walking the dog one day and the riff on this demo stood out. I ended up adding words and completing the song very quickly and knocked off this demo to play to the boys at our first rehearsal.
Time for a Change
This is my favourite track on the LP. It’s a three-minute pop song and I like its structure. Paul plays a lovely guitar solo and Joe’s bassline is perfect. Hugh suggested the breaks. It’s about self-esteem, or the lack of it, but also the promise of transformation.
Make Love Not War
I went full-out sixties love and peace message with this one. Sadly, cliched as it is, that message is as relevant now as it was then. The pre-chorus sections (what I would term a ‘bridge’, although I know that’s technically not correct) are a summary of ‘scapegoat theory’ from the work of theologian Michael Hardin and his mentor René Girard. I try and get at least one beloved shuffle beat per album and this one is it for Plainsongs.
I'm the One
This song was recorded entirely live in the studio, apart from a handclap overdub. It takes its influences from The Modern Lovers and Belle and Sebastian and (therefore) The Velvet Underground.
Another song strongly influenced by The Velvets, I wrote this about that feeling of euphoria that arises at the beginning of a relationship, which can be experienced as, and perceived by others to be, a kind of madness. The version we cut in the studio developed from the initial jam through of the song.
I Wish I Had Never Believed In Love
I wrote this about the 2019 General Election. Anyone who follows me on Twitter is aware of my political allegiances. Let’s just say I was angry and disillusioned. It was like the crowd choosing Barabbas, as far as I was concerned. “And pure repetition can make truth from lies” – I hope this isn’t too veiled to make its meaning clear: you throw enough shit at someone, and people will start believing it. However, there is a line of hope in the song, too.
Plainsong/Hear Me, Jesus
I can’t quite remember why I thought it would be a good idea to write a medieval plainchant now, but I did, and it formed the concept, in terms of the artwork, at least, for the album. The Plainsongs title nicely lends itself to a double meaning, referring to something simple and unadorned, which was the premise of the way this album was recorded – straight onto tape with minimal overdubs. I got a nice field recording of walking into a church as an introduction to this song to add to the monastic vibe, but I was advised by the engineer of the record that listeners might lose attention with a lengthy intro. I may add this version as a bonus track on the Bandcamp page.
I changed the key of ‘Plainsong’ when I came to record it, so it could segue into ‘Hear Me, Jesus’. I had sought help from a local choir to record the song in a church setting to gain some lovely natural reverb but it became too logistically difficult to arrange in time for the submission of the masters to the label. Instead, Joe and I recorded it at my home studio, double tracking our voices.
‘Hear Me, Jesus’ is a song that came together quickly when I wrote it and I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound. However, the way it took shape when I first rehearsed it with Hugh, Paul and Joe was beyond my expectations. On the first run through in the rehearsal room, Paul played this killer guitar solo, which I asked him to recreate for the studio version, Joe played a bass line I wouldn’t have even thought about playing and Hugh’s drumming was Bonham-esque in its attack.
This is the oldest completed song on Plainsongs. I was considering ‘Up’ for a place on Kaleidoscope, but I felt I had stronger songs at the time. It was similarly over-looked for The Book On Love. I am very happy with the studio recording we made, however, and I especially love Richard’s lap steel additions.
Sweet Country Lady
This was influenced by Badfinger when I was writing it, but it ended up sounding more like a Stones or Faces pastiche. It was originally titled ‘West Country Lady’, a sort of Somerset based parody of southern rock. It’s great fun to play and Paul’s slide part is fab.
This was the most challenging song for me to record for the album because I was so exposed. I really enjoy hiding behind the band’s wall of instrumentation, so I wasn’t looking forward to the red light going on with just me and an acoustic guitar. I don’t mind doing this when I’m recording at home with nobody watching and I can allow myself the luxury of endless takes, but I had to capture this in just a few attempts. Tape and studio time are both very expensive! Richard added the lovely analogue synth part and this, together with the Tubular Bells, brought out the early seventies atmosphere I was after.
Out of Reach
The last song written for Plainsongs, this one took the place of a track called ‘The Magic Mirror’ which proved a bit too challenging because, for some perverse reason, I incorporated three time signature changes into it. I was listening to PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’ a lot before we went into the studio and I ended up writing ‘Out of Reach’ as something for Hugh to get his teeth stuck into. It’s based on a true story.