April, Track 8, A Darkness Now is Coming
So we’ve had this song kicking around for ages – but it was in a sort of sub-Aqualung piano pop style until we headed into these sessions. All that really remains from previous versions is the first melody line – “Hear me out / Sound for sound / A darkness now is coming” – it’s one of those lines that I just kept singing and sort of haunted any writing I/we would try to do. I’d been knocking it around in a slight country style and had added a few other bits and lyrics whilst we were doing the initial writing in January and then one day, as I recall after a long session working on Caught in the Wake we just started playing it standing round in a circle. Rich automatically reached for the banjo and Ed, very unusually sat down at the piano. This video is taken literally a few minutes after we started playing…
I know we take the piss out of Ed sometimes for wrong notes/smashing his equipment/alchemy/etc but I’d forgotten what a good blues/rock piano/keyboard player he is when you’re just jamming – one of the best things about this track for me is his playing on it.
When we came to record it we initially thought we’d try and do it genuine Bluegrass style with one mic but in the end we couldn’t get the sound we wanted out of this. So with a few mics littered around the room and the band all standing up facing into each other in a circle we just did take after take until we got one we liked. Everything you hear on the record bar the trumpet solo (and a doubling up of the backing vocals to ‘fill them out’) is a live take. What a great way to record if you can do it and the song and feel allows. Pretty special listening back to Gary and Rich’s vocal answering part – the voices mixing so well together and beautiful effortless harmonies – those boys are good.
The song walks a well worn H&S path – let’s batten down the hatches, gather our friends in and seek out some good times to help us through the darkness…DON’T LET THE SADNESS IN. I think it was in some way inspired by the Will Oldham track “I see a darkness” but only in so far as it started a thought process or was the last thing I’d been thinking about before I sat down at the piano.
I suppose in some way it has to be influenced by the heavy, heavy rotation of Mumford and Sons on the radio around the time of writing the album. We have to acknowledge that – but I think it has more of a genuine bluegrass/knees up feel than the Mumford stuff and that’s certainly where we were heading when we did it. It’s impossible to not take in what’s around you when you’re writing or creating something like this and I’ve started deliberately choosing a handful of relevant albums or tracks to be my staple musical diet before we go into a session so that your mind’s in a certain place and doesn’t just become filled with Biffy/Mumford/Leona or whoever is the fall-back artist on my iPod.
I must say as well – this track is so much fun to play live.