Story: Jack Foley
THIS album started its life a couple of years ago- I got the
regular band together and we rehearsed for a week above a pub
in Newcastle; it was the first time that we had taken the time
to hone all of the instrumental parts before going into the studio.
On previous records, I have always brought people in one at a
time, and built the parts up that way.
At this point, I had lots of songs written; I was swimming in
a whole load of new songs. Naturally, faced with this sea of my
own material, I went and recorded an album of covers [last year’s
critical favourite, Relations].
That decision actually worked out really well, as it meant that
I could release Over Fly Over on my own label, Caw Records
[the previous record had come out on Warners]. It wasn’t
premeditated that way, but I feel pretty smug about that now,
as Caw is the natural home for my music, and I’m happier
working this way.
So once promoting Relations was all over, I went into
the studio to begin work on the new album.
I recorded a load of material, and had to decide which songs
were to go on the record; I was a bit overwhelmed with the task.
I had developed a good working relationship with Darius, our
live engineer, and he said that he’d love to work on the
records as well. At this point, it’s kind of like you’ve
got a whole pile of bricks and you’re thinking 'there’s
a house in here somewhere, but I don’t know where to start'.
Darius and I have got a lot of trust between us and we set about
making these songs into an album. We finished off the final bits
of recording, and as we were doing that, I annoyingly wrote and
recorded a few more songs to add to the pile…
Track by track
Dave and Laura were jamming on one riff and I told them to keep
going while I wrote the song. It wasn’t really a song but
a journey in a line and then all these intensely bitter and melodramatic
words came out of me. Then I muted the words that were too much
in the chorus; I know that they are there. It was like taking
the time to make a painting, then putting a big black stripe through
it to obliterate the details. So there’s just music where
those words are erased, and the line ‘If only you could
hear what I think’.
Me and Dave were messing around and I was showing him my impression
of John Lennon during his Plastic Ono Band album period. And then
out of this comedy - this song sort of grew with the chorus: ‘Indifference
is everywhere but it doesn’t really matter’, which
somehow came out like a quintessential John Lennon chorus in the
original version of this song. Thanks mate!
That song came straight away. It was similar to the song Flicker
(on Little Black Numbers). Sometimes songs just appear
and play in my head like a radio, full and complete and all I
have to do is write the song down. Breath was one of them.
Old Low Light #2
I seem to write songs from the titles of my old albums. Old Low
Light was the name of my last album and on that record there was
a song called ‘Little Black Numbers’, which was the
title of the album before. There is new love which overwhelms
you, and there is love the daily and yearly kind within you that
sits like a warm electric fire glow. That’s what I call
Old Low Light.
Just Like a Birthday
I wanted something like the sound of Metal Mickey. I
can’t read music properly, so I was directing Dave, Laura,
Jonny and Alex to do mad riffs during rehearsals. Me and Darius
(co-producer) wanted the drums to be hard- I’d never used
hard drumbeats on my records before. Alex rose to the occasion-
he even used a different drum kit. We told him to play as hard
as he likes. I played with the placement of the lyrics so it sounds
like I’m saying one thing but it’s a new sentence
without a pause, like 'with a whack of a hammer I’m feeding
Alan McGee heard this and told me that I wrote a pop song. I had
no idea that I did. I just write them not thinking ‘Oh,
I’m going to write a pop song’. If that is what it
wants to be, I just let the song be and go where it wants to go.
I wrote this in my old house. To get that really sixties beat,
we had Laura stamping on my wooden floor and clapping her hands
in time. It took six tries to get the demo right. I’ve got
a picture of Dave playing the organ during that song, he looked
like a mad vicar in a red jumper.
Laura was playing piano and daydreaming, looking out over my garden.
As she was doing that she started to play this amazing riff on
the piano. I started to write the words. There was an urgency
to get it down there and then- we both felt like we were really
capturing a moment. Darius wanted to bring in a bass clarinet
for this. I didn’t even know what one sounded like but I
said yes. We found Keith and he was amazing. It was the first
time I had heard a bass clarinet or seen one played.
I wanted to write a sunny suicide song. When I wrote this I imagined
something very cinematic - like Blythe Spirit- you know an old
black and white comedy about death. I was also thinking about
the Beach Boys; how Brian Wilson wrote such sunny music like ‘Wouldn’t
It Be Nice’ and ‘In My Room’. But his life was
dark and he was being manipulated and mistreated. I enjoy the
innocence and beauty of the Beach Boys music juxtaposed with the
darkness behind the scenes.
I had this song for awhile. I gave Darius all of the songs that
I had been working on. He got stuck on this one. He came in and
said ‘I really feel this song and you should finish it!’
It’s about when people leave a town or a city. The line:
‘Starlings roost as dusk sets in’, is the answer to
someone who has left asking “have things changed?”
It’s something that happens everywhere and it’s a
romantic sight. And everyone understands how it feels to watch
birds coming in to roost as a sky darkens.
Untilt the Dark
I wanted to write something without words. It reminds me of storm
clouds on a blue sky. I think it fits really well in the album.
It’s not what people expect, this orchestral chamber pop
This has to be one of my most intense personal songs; I had to
really trust my producer and engineer when I was singing it. I
had written it two years ago but because of the subject matter
I was unsure what I thought of it. I think that songs that use
life experiences can be so personal that it’s hard to use
them, but they are the most beautiful and haunting songs. I played
this to the person who I wrote the song about and told them if
they didn’t want it on the album I wouldn’t put it
on. They said yes.
I wanted to write a quintessentially English song, like the kinks
would. But what was also important was to write without vanity
like Lou reed did on Berlin. It’s supposed to be
a kind of “this is proper England, but I’m invisible
and so are lots of people”. There is nothing unified about
a nation of people; for every crowd there is a break away. The
line ‘People like you and me, could leave this world and
go unnoticed in another’, is kind of bitter, kind of upbeat;
like “two fingers to you England!” The end of this
song is meant to sound like the feeling of a TV switching off
to a dot in the centre of the screen; you know it’s been
there, and you feel its absence.