Sleep Sound track a day blog: Sleep Sound

Sleep Sound has now been out a few days and we thought we’d do a track by track blog like we did for April last year. Loads of people commented on how much they’d enjoyed reading about each song, and to be honest it was a great way to put a full stop on the process for us so we thought we’d do it again. It’s been a whirl wind recording process – so fast and compacted but so fractured as well. I’ll kick things off (that’s Simon talking!) and then Ed and Rich are going to chip in as well (and anyone else if they’re reading…So away we go…

Sleep Sound

I might be wrong but I think this one started life on the pump organ as a much more maudlin affair and after Ed and I had a heated discussion over the direction it was taking we whipped it roughly into the shape it is now in a matter of minutes. Maybe we should start at the start to talk about this song…because it seems throw away on first listen but for me Sleep Sound is an important opener…

The album began life, as they always do for us, with a night down the pub…or pubs actually. We were owed some money from some drinking establishments in Leeds for Snowball ale and various gigs so I suggested we go round, collect our money, have a drink in each one and plan the next album. The conversation and plans spiraled as we drank and there was the usual over-anaylisis and seriousness. We talked about style and genre, mainly about Graceland and Talking Heads and African rhythms. But we also talked frankly about making an album to party to in the face of an ever growing economic, moral and social apocalypse! Ed depressed us all with economic super-theory about the rise of the far right and the emergence of an extreme free-market economy…and then suggested we started the album with the chant of “This is a party…this is a party…”. Well…we didn’t quite get there but we did go some way to making that statement.

It was quite a daunting task for me personally…I absolutely loved the idea of using the upbeat rhythms and focusing on live takes but the political (Political?) aspect of the lyric writing was new ground in some ways. I can argue with the best of them about the merits and failings of communism and the apparent state of the state but giving it some poetry is a harder task. Probably explains why I wrote the majority of the lyrics days before I recorded the vocals. Although that’s not to say there hasn’t been thought…my goodness there’s been some thought…I wrote LOADS of lyrics for this track. At one point the refrain section had a list of some of my favourite songs in it – like a roll call of the last tracks you’d listen to come the end of days…there was a verse about Mr Cameron and his big ideas that went something like, “They’re calling me to save our society / They’re calling me to give up my time for free / How can i refuse? / Being a fan of servitude …and lots more…all rejected because of being too flippant / long / rubbish!)

So Sleep Sound…we ran head long into it all. Gary had a vocal mic through all of the writing sessions so started adding some great 3rd part vocal harmony which soon became a feature and something we concentrated on. The original demo sounds very much like the finished thing apart from the inclusion of the Voices of the Day choir. We’ve listened to Road to Nowhere whilst writing for a number of years now – it’s just a work of genius in my eyes – and that bold gospel-esque opening seemed to lend itself to the sound and the feel of this. We’d known Cleve who runs Voices of the Day for a while and so we went down to the church they rehearse in in Seacroft and spent a hectic hour with them getting this down. It says a lot about the whole process that I couldn’t sing because I was just coming out of a flu bug and we decided to do it after a full day down the studio recording brass for Fast Train. We need a project manager… All worth it for the finished product…and for their rendition of Something Inside So Strong that they sang for us at the end of the session. Spine tingling.

Over to Ed for recording stuff…

[Ed] I’d forgotten about “This is a party…”… We had this idea that it feels more and more like our government is working against us, that they are making decisions that make things worse for ‘us’ and better for ‘them’ and that it would be cool to make an album that reacted against that by being a party album as a bit of a “fuck you” I guess…. “You don’t scare us, you can’t beat us, we have the strength of numbers and the strength of will, we’re all smiling as we plot your downfall” kind of thing. The specific idea to start the album that way got lost but I think there’s lots of that attitude in the album. We wanted to make something that was generally up because it’s so easy to make art that’s melancholy and I feel like there’s so much hope and positivity, even in the songs that seem to be very inward and maybe a little dark.

I guess it’s kind of afrobeaty and actually very similar to the demo recording…. on this and Back to the Green we were kind of imaging that we’re playing in some exotic beach bar, sun beating down, people dancing… On this song drums and bass, Rich’s guitar and James trumpet were all tracked live. I can’t remember if I played keys live but the vibe of the track was so much easier for me to see after we tracked that I redid the keys as an overdub and worked really hard on the playing and the edit to give that lightness and bounce. I also played them through a Realistic Electronic Reverb unit which was sold as a reverb unit but is actually a incredibly lofi distortion and delay unit. Here it just adds a little bit of slap back and this real tranistory overdrive that I really like… Love everyone’s part on this actually… Gary’s drums are ace and the way the bass grooves with them is wicked, Rich’s part is super cool and James played a blinder on the trumpet. Such a simple part in terms of notes but adds so much…

We did something to Rich’s guitar that occurs a lot throughout the album in that even though he tracked live with everyone else he built a main part and then built a complimentary double out of the 7 or 8 takes that we recorded (panned hard left and right)… We’d generally out the second part through a cabsim in the computer to make it sit a little differently and sound more like a played double. I remember that we were so pushed for time that we had record the band on a day when Si couldn’t make it so he had to overdub his guitar a couple of days later. He’s in the middle for the verses and then in the pre-chorus/bridge (“singing songs of love”) I sent it to another bus that had this weird free distortion and Trem plugin from Audio Damage  on and also a delayed one side of it slightly so you get this big old width and size but you’re not sure why. And it’s out of the way of all the drums and vocal in the centre.

When Rich and Si and Gary are all singing together we recorded all three vocals together in front of the studio monitors (as we did all the vocals on this album). Si did his lead vocal the same way, handholding an SM7 with the lights down and the track blasting out of the monitors… We’d decided that we wanted to use headphones as little as possible on this album and I think it feels all the better for it. So much more fun and easier for whoever’s singing…

The choir sound ace but it was a REALLY hectic hour and a half… we had to setup  in the church they rehearse in, teach them the parts and record the parts in this little amount of time. I put up about 6 mics but most of the sound is from a pair of CAD M179’s just in front of them…  There’s about 40 of them on this and Swaddled and I’m so glad that we did it. Really makes the track.

There’s various 80’s style reverbs and things going on across the track, little bit of AMS style reverse verb on the drums, some Lexicon kind of stuff and delay on the vocals… mainly as a bit of a nod to Graceland which was very much in our heads when we made the album…

Total time to record… probably about 10 hours. First 2 hours of that were finishing the writing and refining parts, 3 hours on band, 1 hour on keys, 1 hour on si’s guitar, 2 hours on vocal s and just 1 on choir. We really wanted to surprise people a little and make a statement that this album was a bit different and I think we did a little. It’s ace fun to play live as well. Which is good cos just like the rest of this album that’s pretty much how we recorded it…

“We’ll dance and we’ll sing through the night…” Oh yes we will.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

May 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Loving the insight. Brings a whole new dimension to listening to the track when you can appreciate the thought process and amount of effort that went into it. Fair play to you boys.

May 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Absolutely loving the new album, and very much enjoyed reading about the background to ‘Sleep Sound’ and the recording processes. You guys are astonishing both live and on record and deserve to be adored, admired, acclaimed much much more.