From Here: hopeandsocial.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/april-track-1-april/
Morning all. Today we release our second full album, April and we thought we’d try and write a few words about each track over the next week or 10 days… I’ll start the ball rolling but I’m hoping the others might chip in along the way… So without further ado…
April is our second full album as Hope and Social (no doubt most people reading this know that 3 of us were in Four Day Hombre for many years) and has been something of a pleasure to write and record. I think we were all a little apprehensive entering this project as there have been some major changes to the band since Architect of this Church. Ash left before that was released and towards the end of last year Jase hung up his bass and said fairwell to the world of gigging and writing, so it was a slightly different line up starting on the record in January. Initial ideas and sketches for songs were started last June (before our Songs from the Bar of Lost Souls project) between Rich, Ed and I and I guess we had about 12 ideas – but that’s all they were. Ideas. You could certainly feel the potential in some of them but I don’t think I was alone in thinking “what the hell is this actually going to be”. So at the start of January we brought the “live” band into the studio – Gary Stewart on drums, Simon Goff on bass and James Hamilton scoring the brass. Simple rules – you’re in the room when the song is written then you’re an equal part of the writing process and will be credited as such. Why all bands don’t do that I will never know. What makes a vocal line or melody (for which “writing credits” almost always get awarded) more important to an album than a great beat or bassline (for which, more often than not sweet FA gets awarded!). And so we set off, Goff played bass and violin, scored the string quartet on April… Gary played drums, piano, gloc, sang harmonies… James scored the brass, scored and conducted the brass band on Let’s Go Out Tonight, played trumpet and piano…and Rich, Ed and I did a bit of what we usually do. It’s been a great experience, in some ways “lighter” than Architect as it was SO much quicker but I think we’ve produced a great piece of work which hangs together as a record about believing in things…whatever they are…but especially April.
Track 1, April
So, track 1, April. This was actually the last track to be written. We’re pretty old fashioned in that we still work on albums as a whole piece of work, “where is that track going to sit?”, “what does the record need here?”, “does that sound really fit with the general feel of the album?”, “do those lyrics sit comfortably with the rest of the material?”, and we knew we wanted an ‘opener’… a track to set the stall out. The album sort of grew on its own to become so preoccupied with the idea of Spring or growth and life and this track just put a full stop on that thinking. I’d been kicking it around for a week or so but actually finished the lyrics and made a demo the morning my partner and I went into hospital for the birth of our boy Fred (who was born during the recording of this album – maybe another reason why the album has a feel of Spring and new beginnings).
We eventually recorded the piano after my paternity leave and then Simon Goff put down the quartet arrangement with fellow player Lucia Capellaro whilst I was away, sort of on the fly by all account. I think the strings are just beautiful – just what the track needed. Pretty self explanatory beyond that really…”If I must die, let it be the other side of April.”
Just a little info on the recording… Simon Goff and Lucia (cello player) rocked up from Birmingham and basically wrote and arranged the strings on the fly. They’re both super talented and capable of improvising an arrangement so an idea that complemented the piano came together pretty quickly with only a “few” arguments – L to S “That’s how harmony works dickhead!” [grin] 2 tracks of cello, one playing in the same register as a viola and 4 tracks of violin and 4 hours work later we had the arrangement as you hear it. Simon is really really good at that kind of thing… Has a wealth of classical arrangement understanding and playing skill but also because he’s played in rock and roll bands all his life the ability to ‘make stuff up’ in a way that most classical players can’t. Does sound super beautiful… spent quite a long time that evening listening to it really loud in the studio and feeling all warm inside.
oooh… and for the geeks ‘close’ mics on the strings were SM7 or RE20 close up (1-2 feet) and each part had a pair of condenser mics XY on the room about 6 foot out. Both really important! It’s the room mics that give it a sense of 3D and space that makes it feel like a section. Added just a touch of fake room (one of the scoring stages) from altiverb on the high strings to make them sing out a little more. Vocal SM7 (standard for us) and piano was just the same stereo pair of condensers (CAD M179′s) bottom end of the piano pointing up across the keyboard. Came together pretty quick but actually took a little bit longer than you’d think to mix just cos the strings are so exposed and the overall feel is kind of delicate but also powerful so making sure that they felt controlled but in a natural way was the main difficulty. Did lots of little things to make the strings ‘gell’ as well (various kinds of group compression etc) Very pleasing to do though… Super lovely.