Monday, May 09, 2016

"So, who do you sound like..?"

At certain points over the course of my variegated musical career I’ve been lucky enough to be approached by folks who need a band for their charity event and who know that I strum a bit; to be contacted by people who need ale for a beer festival and have approached a man who coincidentally both works at a brewery and is in a band with me (the two birds/one stone approach) and have sat with a telephone handset in one paw and a printout of venues from the back of the 1989 Music Industry Yearbook in the other trying to see which back room or bar would be prepared to have us – tired and poor - pitch up for the evening and perform for their huddled masses.
Success in these endeavours mostly comes down to being able to answer the question “So what do you do?” and this in turn usually involves handing over a shiny silver disc in a cheap case and saying “That’s us”. In days gone by the agonising decision about what to put first on the cassette frequently took up more time than actually recording the thing, and so it was a blessed relief when the availability of cheap, home-made CDs meant that the pressure was off slightly, as people would now probably flick forward through the ones they didn’t like, so all you needed was a good strong intro or four.

We in Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs have got by so far on a combination of couple of old reference recordings by a group Helen and I used to be in and a rough YouTube video of us playing one song live, the full version of which essentially comprises documentary footage of one guy getting slowly pissed in a thunderstorm while a band plays in the background behind him. With this dearth of demonstrability in mind we decided that it was time to burn some wax, cut some tracks and get hip to the hep groove Daddio or, more succinctly, drop round to Producer Andy’s house where he’d start putting together some demos so we could give them away to people when they asked whether we’d done anything they might like. Also, many festivals these days insist on you filling in a web-based  application wherein you have to link to three examples of your work online and your website, neither of which we currently have (we did, however, get on to last year’s Ipswich Music Day with a Soundcloud demo of one of my songs performed by Shev on vocals, a picture of the four of us at a beer festival Wendell took on his phone, and a link to Helen’s Twitter account, so it can be done).
On the nicest day of the year so far Mr Wendell, Helen and Myself gathered at Trillstar Studios to begin committing our oeuvre to posterity, which involved us drinking tea, plugging in our guitars, and Andy recording them onto a hard drive thereby being able go about correcting our mistakes through the medium of digital technology at his leisure once we'd stopped cluttering the place up. Thankfully our unyielding adherence to the strictures imposed by modern timekeeping meant that after a couple of brace of run-throughs all parties decided that there was no point leaving the metronome on beyond the count-in as after the first two verses it became a distraction when we inevitably veered off-piste and lost where we were. In a spirit of compromise Helen kept time with hand gestures while Andy pointed out that Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is all over the place in terms of timekeeping and look what happened to that.

We have decided to go with a fairly representative five-song collection, at least three of which are newly-hewn, which means that we’re looking forward, not back (one of the others dates back to about 1986, which has tended to balance things out). The idea is to give a fairly representative idea of what we sound like when we perform - we want to record our performance rather than perform our recordings - so although the vocals might be done a number of times until we’re happy with a take, there shouldn’t be more than four of them; and although the bouzouki part will be pretty much as it is live, this time it’ll be in tune.

And, once we’ve done thatthen we’ll add the pedal steel, 10CC vocal effects,  and Welsh Male Voice Choir.