Right…let us continue… track 2, Pitching Far Too High
We’ve been kicking this around for a little while and Ed, Rich and I had done a 12 minute demo which just looped round and round the “All that I know now” and the end choral section. It was one of those demos we do a lot of the time which has the bones of a song spread over about quarter of an hour – Rich’s Graceland-esque guitar riff, the fairdground organ sound – but I think it only really fell into place when Gary and Simon added the bass and drums which I think the song is all about now.
Quite often when we’re writing I’ll have only one lyric and I’ve no idea where the song is going. All I had for this was “All that I know now, I’m pitching far too high, I cannot behold”. No idea where it came from or what it meant. It developed from there into something which, for me, is the focus of the album: In a faithless world, what do we believe in? What is there to protect us when “the darkness now is coming”? There’s lots going on in there personally for me but in terms of us as a group of friends who try and make people happy with what we do it’s important – let’s come together, in this place, and ward off the sadness with these songs and this celebration. That’s all in there – “something is grounding me, something I like.”
Top work again from Simon on the tiny string parts. The difference between the “musicians” and the rest of us became apparent when Simon was recording this and it just didn’t sound right, the violin was too apologetic somehow…I was grappling for words and James just said to him (something like) “try something more mid-1800s Russian rather than 19th century German”. He got straight off that bat after that.
The song is practically a live take (Ed, anything to add?)…although obviously we added everything we could to the end, horns, strings, choir… that’s how we roll.
[Ed’s techy bit]
I think it is a live take (or made up of them at least)… The way we worked on just about all the band based songs on the album was that we’d track them as we finished writing them. We were so short of time that we’d book in a day and that would be the day that we would finalise the arrangement, structure and parts as we started tracking and actually over the first 4 or 5 takes. Usually by the last 5 or 6 takes we’d all be pretty on it. Once Gary though he had the drum take we’d tidy that up (maybe take a chorus from take 8, an ending from take 7) and do any teeny timing fixes. Then if everyone else was happy we’d just go through parts… Say Goff liked take 7 for the bass on most of the song we’d use that and fix any teeny fluffs from other takes. Sometimes with me and Rich we’d have a part which we were trying to play so we’d just make a good version of that or other times we’d almost use the editing as a writing tool… “I loved that thing you did on the second chorus three takes ago but you stopped doing it” No problem… just fly it in from three takes ago… “I love that mistake you did on the last take… Sounds really exciting!” No problem… fly it in! (More me than Rich this… [grin])
On Pitching everything was built like this. Drums, bass, piano, guitar and keys all built from us playing together in the room. We had the core of the song done by the end of the day. Often we’d then continue working on it using the live guide vocal until Si finished lyrics so in this case we added strings (the talented Mr Goff working his magic again over 11 channels of loveliness which he built up from a little vocal hook Si had been singing on the jams) and the brass was just 8 channels of trumpet from James Hamilton which he scored out on the sofa as we were tracking. There’s another 8 channels of choiry backing vocals which were super quick to do (I think we did 4 channels of Rich and Si singing at the same time on the big “Aw, Aw, Aw”‘s at the end), an additional high guitar part from Rich in the last half of the end bit and that’s about it I think. The little burbly loopy guitar at the start and end is something that Rich did on the original demos and that we flew in from the old project. So there’s lots of stuff going on but fundamentally it’s the band playing live and it all (including overdubs) happened really really fast! Probably within a long working day although actually it was spread over couple…
Tracking as a band like this was great for me as a mixer (harder as a player tho!). It’s a compromise a little in terms of sonics – you don’t get as long to work on “unique and special” sounds – but there’s so much more energy and ease to the performances that it’s totally worth the effort. This album in the whole was so much easier to mix because all the parts fit together better because they were actually played together. We’re pretty experienced in the studio so don’t really get red light fever but still everyone plays differently alone with the headphones on and everyone watching than they do when you’re basically just rocking out with the band in the room. Which is just fun for everyone. It’s not work or stressful, it’s just a joy and I think that comes across a load on this album.
Gear wise I used some normal mics. In very normal positions and in the main through very normal gear. Nothing special or worth talking about really… All the good stuff was happening in the room way before the microphones got involved… Could only have f*cked it up really!