Sleep Sound track a day blog: Rolling Sideways
Rolling Sideways is made of 100% jamming around. It’s a bit hazy but I seem to remember that it all came pretty easy in terms of the music at first – sections and parts just slotted into place and the feel of it was coloured by the frequent call for Hux to make it a bit more Graceland or, in this case a bit more intricate. I absolutely love his guitar part, even though he is inevitably going to develop RSI from the repeated playing of it…and Gary’s drums are great AGAIN. My respect for the one-man-band Gary Stewart knows no bounds after the writing and recording of this album.
It was an early demo which, as with Family Man, sat on the shelf for a while…possibly because in an earlier version the melody sounded like a Travis song which I really wasn’t keen on and which left me feeling a little disappointed. We discussed changing it or transposing it or giving it a different style but in the end the lyrics and the delivery dragged it away. It still ghosts in there so I’ll never by totally comfortable with it!
The writing and recording of our albums seems to be shaping into a pretty robust format – a few weeks of jamming/writing/ideas…a week of reflection…then about 3 to 4 weeks of formatting and recording…then 2 weeks of mixing. We very nearly destroyed Rolling Sideways in the second formatting period with some ill-advised end of day work…never try and squeeze in one more track after a successful day’s work on something else…”we’ve got 2 hours left, let’s just format Rolling Sideways, it’s an easy win”. Rubbish. Arguments. Bad moods. Terrible decisions. Luckily we put it back in the safety draw and came back to it much much later.
Lyrically I worked this one out during the bout of flu we all came down with, as you can probably tell. I struggled for a while with it – trying to find the right level of Nick Cave-esque sardonic humour and bitterness without it slipping into parody or feeling uncomfortable for an H&S song. I knew what I wanted it to be…what I thought we ALL wanted it to be..but everything I wrote just felt like someone else was singing it, a common problem I had in early drafts of lyrics for this album…I’ll probably find the notebooks in years to come and cringe. Anyway, the “Queenie won’t you comfort me” line unlocked it all in the end…and yes…it is THE Queen.
All live apart from overdubs of vocals, brass and a double of the organ in the choruses which you can’t hear anyway for the sheer amount of brass. The piano on 2 songs on the album (Swaddled and Road Never Lies) was recorded in a traditional way i.e. with a pair of condensor microphones. The piano on everything else was recorded live with the band with tiny stick on pickups/contact mics that you stick to the back of the piano (a gift courtesy of our good friend Ellen Schauer from the states) Except this song where we gaffa tapped a single EV 635a dynamic microphone to the back of the piano. It adds a certain honkytonk “edge” to the sound… [cough] All tracked live again and if you solo the piano it sounds awful, like the ghost of a piano being attacked by drums and bass guitar in a Zoob Tube. Sounds great in the track tho.
Again drums miced very ‘normally’… I was a lot less careful about making sure overheads were evenly spaced from the snare etc on this album and I think stuff sounds better for it in the main. (Trust your instincts, use the force etc etc) We did the double of Rich’s guitar from different takes again, so they’re panned hard left and right, me on keys down the middle in the verses and then up the sides in the choruses. Backing vocals recorded all together, no headphones. There was a continuing confusion over a line of harmony being missing I seem to remember… Undoubtedly some distortion on the vocals, spring reverbs and Lexicon delays all over the shop etc etc…
The after the lead vocal was down…
… it was all sounding great and it was just all about keeping that sense of propulsion to the mix. Bringing out the way that the drums and that great country shuffle just keep moving and the way the energy of the song almost trips over itself… When James sent us through the sax parts he’d recorded in his bedroom with Katy though, that’s when the song proper came alive for me. Awesome stuff… Again, oodles of Lexicon delay and I’m not sure how I could legitimately get it any louder… It dwarves the lead vocal when it doubles for the solo over the last chorus! James came into the crypt a couple of days later and we doubled the long notes in the chorus with trumpet so there’s 2 trumpets, 2 saxs, 2 “hammond” organs, piano, 2 guitars, bass drums and maybe 5 vocals all blasting in those bits. (We made a chorus double of Si’s lead vocal as well, you can clearly hear it at the start of one of the choruses.) Everythings kinda in the same register as well so I quite happily let it all slide into a big exciting mush. Fuck it! It’s not about hearing every part in the recording, it’s about hearing the song better…
Again this is great fun to play live and I’d like to record my part again please! Much better at it now thankyou.
PS I can’t remember which Travis song it was but we kept trying to get on Si’s nerves by singing it at him during playback…. [racks brain]
PPS This video has already been made for the track by the marvelous MrFurrball…go Animal…