Guest Column – Why bands disappear and take ages to make records by Wild Palms

Guest Column – Why bands disappear and take ages to make records by Wild Palms

wildpalms-2016Wild Palms will release their second album Live Together, Eat Each Other next month (13 May), roughly five years after making their debut in 2011. So why The Stone Roses-esque delay? Singer Lou Hill explains why what kept them.

We never took a break. Some bands have time off after the first record but we didn’t. It just took this long. I’m not much of a music historian but I know much is made of SAS with many bands. Ours was testing, difficult, and took time because we were challenging ourselves but it wasn’t made under the looming spectre of destructive drug habits, financial turmoil or label pressure; there were bust-ups of course, fights, but nothing that we couldn’t fix. In truth we worked hard, we were diligent.

Time and pressure, take them out the equation. Whether you have a huge success on your debut or not those two will kill the second; The Strokes seemed to take exactly three months off after back of touring Is This It to record Room On Fire and look how that turned out.

Our plan was to do everything ourselves so we could try and get as true a representation of WP as possible. Time wasn’t a concern for us, it couldn’t be, we had no real knowledge of recording techniques and had never used any programming software so it was going to take a while (when I say ‘we’ here it’s more like the queen’s ‘we’ what I actually mean is Gareth (bassist) Gareth (bassist) took on the roles of recording engineer, producer, mixer, mediator…..he became so adept so quickly with all the technical side but also anchored the project through turbulent times.

The tail end of 2011 saw us take on a new member and start writing as a five-piece. A dozen songs got written over a six month period but it just wasn’t working so we reverted back to four. Square one. There were a lot of influences floating around, some odd bedfellows: we were listening to a lot of Mad-lib productions, DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus, jazz and a whole lot of soul, Neu, Can, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Portishead, TV on the Radio to name a few and had no real answer to how we would knit these together, we just went at it and allowed ourselves the time to try and develop something. Time was crucial. Vital. It was our abettor, our best friend. In our studio time acted as a kind of prism working in reverse: all these different refracted influences, spectral colours that we’d been working with entered and eventually came out the other side as one unified bright white light.

We would record ourselves playing a song live, take a section and chop it up, break it down, add and subtract, essentially turning it into a sample, we would then re-learn this sampled version and play it live and re-record ourselves. This would become the new version of the song. Drums would be cut from live takes from different songs and put on drummer James Parish’s triggers or used to make whole new songs. Piano loops, horns, synth melodies and other samples would be put through guitarist Darrell Hawkins’ pedal board and manipulated in an analogue manner so it was difficult to tell or remember who or what actually made the sound or played it. In this way we proceeded, songs gestating over time, growing and changing as we recorded. It was this process of digestion, regurgitation and reconstitution of the music that lead us to the record’s title Live Together, Eat Each Other.

So it took a while yeah. I read about Loveless when I was younger and was like “how the fuck does it take that long?” but actually ours followed a similar sort of time scale in terms of recording. Alan Moulder the engineer said it was like this: Drums in September 89’, guitar in December, bass April 90….a year of nothing much (in our case creating samples and the process explained previously), 1991 vocals. But MBV were busy, being productive, playing and inventing. So were we.

In terms of gaps between debuts and sophomores Stone Roses’ Second Coming was five-and-a-half-years almost bang on the same as ours but obviously they had legal problems. Not sure how hard they working though with a million quid advance? They went to a remote studio in Wales to record it and apparently spent 347 ten-hour days working on it but my mate’s older brother was a huge Roses fan, him and his mate drove from North London to the studio and when they got there apparently the engineer was just in the control room drinking tea and Mani was watching football in the kitchen smoking a spliff. That’s just what I heard…..

By the summer of 2014 we had spent six months mixing a record that contained a crazy amount of layering and detail of which we knew every single iota of. We mixed it ourselves and I think in hindsight we took the record backwards. We knew every fibre of every song’s being and we could no longer see the right path for them. We took it to Derek (OLI label boss) he quite rightly deduced that we had done everything by committee and consensus and therefore had lost the focus of each song. He was right. Through the mixing stage we had covered the songs in dirt and debris and wasn’t sure if we could recover them by ourselves. It was an incredible experience when we started working with Liam Howe (producer), he could hear what it should be and with shovel, pick, and dusting brush Liam un-earthed the album that we had first set out to make. Lou Hill @wearewildpalms

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