Sleep Sound track a day blog: Them Rolling Boys

This track was written so quickly at first. Literally banged out in an afternoon all from the opening riff which Rich plucked out of the air. In every writing session we always seem to write quite a lot of big guitar stuff – most of which doesn’t get used, mainly because it’s rubbish…I think it’s just that it’s incredibly good fun to play in the room together so we keep coming back to borderline-stupid riff songs. We’ve never been terribly good at great riffage (as Jason would point out!) but this one is passable I reckon…not quite Foo Fighters but on its way!

I think it’s the pedant in me but whenever we write a song which I feel is overly indie I immediately try to think of a way of pulling it away from that…make it more Motown, fill it with brass, adapt it for just strings etc etc…I have a built in fear of making a Coldplay or Feeder album. With Them Rolling Boys it felt from the off that it was heading in a boys-with-guitars direction and I think that’s where the Nick Cave-esque chorus spoken-vocal came in. It just felt like it needed something bold and direct…”the Truth” as Ed labelled it on the mix…but with enough of a nod to something more ironic, something more fun, to allow it’s seriousness to pass without making your teeth go on edge.

Again I struggled long and hard on the lyrics on this…I could feel it, I knew the territory…I just couldn’t nail it or specify exactly what it was I was saying. Sometimes words just flow and sometime you have to chisel them out of a large rock…this was a chisel job. It’s buried in the minutia but the unlocking of it came from the switch of “I saw it…” to “I saw you…” in the choruses. The song generally is about fighting the inbuilt tendancy towards pessimism and acknowledging the many many things which stop me on a daily basis and make me say , “now you’re a lucky boy aren’t you”…but I wanted it to be about an individual as well (without it being a love song). More complex than it needed to be maybe. It’s also long so it felt daunting but once I got flowing on it I wished there were more choruses because there was a load of imagery I didn’t get in….typical.

The success of the song is all about the backing vocals…again! If you take out those oooohs in the chorus it’s just nothing. Eno was right, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with backing vocals and oyster sauce. Oh, and Rich wrote a riff that was simple enough for me to join in on…that’s always helpful!

And the title…one of the few demo titles that stuck.

[Ed] Apart from vocals this is all from the live takes… no other overdubs. I remember that we were really tired doing the tracking but managed to pull out a reserve of energy for the last takes – Si was jumping off amps, shouting out encouragement (you can hear one just at the end of the drum break). From the moment of the very first demo it had loads of energy because we loved playing the riff and we really tried to capture that. In fact the start of the song is actually taken from that demo… The little plingy bits of guitar, the start of the keyboard part are all from that first recording. Sometimes Personally, I think the part which makes the song is my keyboard part [grin – I know it’s the vocals and everybody playing the riff and the ace drums ok? Indulge me…]. It’s a bit of a pulsing Who/How Soon is Now tribute and essentially I’m just hammering out the same chord with both hands for the whole song (I make 2 chord changes in the chorus) Lots of distortion and synced delay and trem/vibrato. It’s kind of simple but also really hard to play, to get the swells and energy of the song just by varying how hard I hit the Rhodes and keep it time with the pulses of the effects and the band. It became known as the “wanking dog” as I’d be sat stiff upright, eyes glazed with both hands rhythmically pounding away… towards the end I’m really hammering out high notes as well and those are the almost sung lines you can hear floating above the backing vocals.

The vocal from Si was great again. I had to wear earplugs when we recording the lead vocal because the monitors were so loud! (Vibe and performance beat everything else… always…) Backing vocals I think we may have done individually which makes it rare on this record but it was purely because of peoples availability.

It was a hard song to for me to mix. Trying to keep the excitement up and the mix powerful… trying to keep everything present and the mix in your face from the first drum hit but at the same time it still having room to get bigger and bigger bigger. There is so much compression and distortion across individual channels and the mix and I rapidly painted myself into a corner where I was trying to make everything louder which in turn makes everything small. Size requires contrast. Things only look big next to something small but but but…. everything needs to feel big! Grrrrr…. MAKING RECORDS IS HARD! [sulks]

To be honest a little more time spent recording would have helped as well but as with all of this record everythign was just so fast… Getting the guitar sound to really bite was hard too. I ended up creating 3 different layers from the 2 guitar parts, one for the verses, an additional one that comes in on the “I saw it on the mountains…” for the dragged spangly chords which is more distortion and delay from the AudioDamage Ratshack plugin and there’s then a third after that comes in as well which has even more body and distortion. All the way through the mix I was just trying to squeeze more and more energy out of every part by any means possible. I think I used seven separate instances of the Ratshack on this track! I think I just about won in the end but part of me would love to have another go at it. Still, it pretty much bites your face off if you play it loud and I LOVE the fact that it is pretty much live.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

May 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I frickin’ LOVE this song!!! Really hope to see you play it live some time. :)

Amy (makes biscuits)
May 25, 2011 at 7:00 pm

When I first heard Sleep Sound I thought it was going to be Fast Train that I’d keep coming back to but it’s this song. I love the uplifting nature of it, life’s not all hugs and puppies but it is bloody marvelous. Thank you.

Jim Beach
May 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

It’s a great tune,plenty of riffage,a real ‘Yeah,come on you ******* I’m not down yet!’ track.Yet another H&S song that has me (in my minds eye) stood on the moors or on the cliffs at Boulby,arms oustretched singing out for the sheer hell/joy of it ..Marvellous stuff.

And as Oli the Bass said in his superb review, shades of the Waterboys.As soon as I heard it I was thinking about ‘Whole of the Moon’ and particularly ‘Medicine Bow’ which is just a rollockingly uplifting track…No offence to Mike Scott but H&S are better maaaan.