JM: It’s almost here, then. I’m sitting in the shadow of Unexpected Sunshine as it’s about to be released, and thinking of everything that brought us to this point (which, in many ways, I have written about on this album).
The path to making this record was a long one, and began with me feeling lost, unsure of myself, and having a vague idea of what I wanted to do. Over a long period of time, I equipped myself with songs that were, to me, stronger than anything I had previously written, and throughout this time, made new friends and also reacquainted myself with old ones. My life tipped back whilst keeping me moving forwards.
The way we, as a band, found each other, it was as if we just fell into that rehearsal room at Artisan Studios. It only took that one session to get us joking about silly things and sellotaping our money for the room to the ceiling (in response to being told to leave the cash “anywhere in the room”).
In two short months, we decided we should start recording. The bare bones of most of the songs were there, and it wouldn’t take long to start building on the rest. We played our first ever headline show at Bad Edit in Burslem, and the following day, began our first recording sessions for Unexpected Sunshine, recording Ether Halo, The Tallest Tree, and Don’t Tell The Folks Back Home (the drums/bass for this song being a one-taker - despite Angela thinking she’d made a mistake, she waited for the cymbals to stop resonating before letting loose a frustrated swear - that’s professionalism, and also saved us having to redo the drums!)
So many recording sessions from February ‘13 to February ‘14 have specific memories attached, like the two weekends during 2013’s glorious heatwaves, when Angela & Paul went on a lolly run, only to remember that Dan (who runs Tremolo Studios) doesn’t have a freezer compartment in the studio fridge, and so we all had to speedily consume a box of Twister & Fruit Pastille lollies. Matt was in the process of arranging The World Tonight, and I don’t think I’m talking out of turn when I say that one of the reasons that you hear steel drums & tubular bells on that song is largely down to a sugar rush. But it WORKS SO WELL!
I love The World Tonight for how much it shows off Angela’s drumming (days of figuring it out over rehearsals, all worth it for the moment the song clicked with us), and she nailed the take pretty quickly.
There was the session where I found a more successful way of recording my vocals, but then the last song I sang that day was It Was You - we didn’t intend that to be the last song of the day, but we ran out of time, and so I inhabited the emotions of that song for a week before I could shrug them off properly.
There was the cello recording session where Angela made a perfect Supergirl outfit for her daughter, FROM SCRATCH; the session where we recorded a tea-break and my recorded voice boomed out of Dan’s control room, leading Paul to say “John, stop talking from the other room, it’s really off-putting!” then couldn’t stop laughing for ten minutes.
There are lots of silly little memories attached to the making of this record, but one of the main things I think when I hear it, is that this is not just my story of getting from there to here anymore, it’s the story of four people becoming friends, and finding out how we work as a band, discovering each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and learning how to support one another.
Over the course of a year and a half, and a lot of exciting & fun gigs, Paul Hancock, Angela Lazenby and Matt Tyrer have become friends that I wouldn’t want to be without, and musicians with whom I am infinitely proud to be working.
Here’s to more albums and more shows, but in the meantime, enjoy Unexpected Sunshine, and listen to the sound of us becoming the kind of band I’ve always wanted to be in, making the album I’ve always wanted to make.
(Unexpected Sunshine is available from www.thejohnmacleodband.com)