After taking bass lessons for about a year it became apparent that I had grasped the basics but needed to play with other musicians to grow. A chance conversation with a work colleague identified his father-in-law who jammed guitar with a drummer and would be open to meeting. A jam at the drummers’ house followed which went very well and I mentioned my son who could play guitar for us and his mate who might be open to singing. So the band was formed. Many weeks and rehearsals later we played at our first public gig which was the singers mums birthday and we were off and running.
Since the start of the band in 2013 we have done a variety of gigs (paid and unpaid) and played in some fantastic spaces. We also released our first EP that contained 5 original songs written by me with 1 having lyrics from the singer. The experience level of the members of the band was at the same level when we started (low) and we have all grown as musicians together. We have had to learn everything from working out how best to produce our arrangements; setting up gig stages so that we produce the best sound we can; recording and producing material for the EP; band and media management.
In 2015 the singer left for University and we went on the hunt for a replacement. After trying a few out we decided that it would be easier to stick with what we had and that I should step up from backing to lead vocals. To do this I have had to start singing lessons as I felt that my vocal was detracting from the quality of our playing, I am still on that journey but am getting there…….slowly.
The song writing process has also changed in the band.
We occasionally write as a result of a jam, a riff will catch that we work on and develop for a few minutes (doesn’t usually take more than 15). If this spawns a tune that we want to develop into a song then I will take away the recording (our guitarist records all our band rehearsals!) and work up some lyrics and a melody. A song sheet with then be produced and we try it all out at the next rehearsal. One thing we have always done is to work on material in our own time so that our practice sessions as a band are as efficient as possible. Some times things come together quickly, sometimes it takes longer and sometimes we just drop things as they are too much work (life’s too short to struggle over something when there are so many ideas waiting for us to work on).
Most other songs come from 1 member of the band writing a complete song and bringing it to the band. A lyric sheet with chords and a recording of a scratch track is enough to get us started and then individual parts evolve as each band member puts their spin on their bit. My early songs had whole guitar parts tabbed out (this was needed as they included harmony guitar parts) although this resulted in some great tunes it was time consuming to learn and get right. The latest tracks present just lyric and chords and then it’s down to the talent (Pip) to add the solos in later. Steve has been writing some epic tracks involving additional sounds and samples that need to be worked into a live version (think 15min+ pink floydesque style). These are complex tracks and take time to pull together and we will be doing some in 2017.
We have more than enough material for our first album (probably enough for album 2 as well) and we are currently tracking the various parts (more on this in a later blog). One thing we have discovered is that the original material always goes down well at the gigs but pubs often don’t want more than a couple in each set. Which is fine but it means that we don’t get to play our own stuff as much as we would like. In 2016 we took the approach that if we were doing a freebie (at a festival for instance) then we would work many more originals into the set. We might try and seek out more venues wanting original bands in the future but we are conscious (and have heard from other bands ie: The Blue Pig Orchestra) that it can be confusing for punters when they don’t know if they are going to get covers or originals when they turn up for a gig. So we will have to keep an eye on this.
Next time: tales of folk and fiddles ‘Kittyhawk’