The Suddenly Kate Show
A review of our debut album, Escapism, on “The Suddenly Kate Show“. We particularly like the love dished out to the opening and closing tracks of the album. Often neglected, we’ve always had a soft spot for Try and Get Some Sleep and When the Start Begins.
7/14 ESCAPISM: ‘Toupee Or Not Toupee?’
‘Mean Machines‘ was a surprise. An experiment gone wrong and yet so well. When Bill and I decided to make our collaboration a ‘band proper’, ‘Mean Machines‘ became the second song we recorded. We had to follow the majesty of ‘Where We Go Next’. Not easy to top a song that had so much slavish effort put into it. So I sat in my studio, exactly as I am now, and stared at the blank screen. I do a lot of staring at blank screens. Don’t get me wrong, I do fill my days with other things too! It’s just that staring at a blank screen is an activity which the modern musician cannot avoid. In the old days I suppose the equivalent would have been staring at blank studio walls – or watching paint dry in a rehearsal room. But now we have computer monitors to take some of the burden – to take the weight off our shoulders. Staring at a computer screen can feel more fulfilling. Ha ha!
I remember the day. Some guys were in the house changing my old boiler. I’m not referring to the girlfriend… I genuinely mean my old boiler (joke Dani xxx). And I was in my studio staring at the blank screen. Then I layed down the first beat. And then the first bass roar. In a couple of hours I pretty much had the song complete… in its most basic form. One of the men changing the boiler expressed a bit of interest and would chip in with words of advice! Ha ha! But like I say… I had the bare bones of the song completed very quickly. I’m actually quite proud of the music of ‘Mean Machines‘. It is quite heavy and persistent. I also really like some of the orchestral flourishes.
I sent the music to Bill with the title “Mean Machine”. Yes, I did indeed name it after watching a Burt Reynolds film, but I always assumed the name would end up being changed. Changed like an old boiler. But Bill took the spirit of the music along with the temporary title and sold the concept to the world. He owned that title. And so with the addition of an ‘s’ that is how it stayed and will always stay. The song is a grower. In fact the song has become an entity bigger than Bill or I could ever have imagined. In hindsight ‘Mean Machines‘ was actually the perfect song for us to work on after ‘Where We Go Next’. It was a blast and proved that we had something in us to be able to pull off a song really quickly. The song confirmed that the match of my music and Bill’s lyrics was not a one-off fluke. And most of all it made us determined to produce a whole album of work. Along the way we would often look back at ‘Mean Machines’ as being a defining moment and yet not a defining song. Perhaps as people listen to the album they will decide for themselves the significance of the song. Now… come on everyone… grow moustaches and stick your toupees on… we’re gonna have a party!!!
3/14 ESCAPISM: ‘In the Harsh Light of the Noon Sun’
When I was younger I used to believe that everyone, deep down, saw the world exactly the way I did. I mean how could you not? Just look around!
I was also a talker. If I was a car salesman in the 1950s people might just refer to me as having ‘the gift of gab’. It was my theory that all I had to do was talk to a person enough and I could get down to the heart of the matter. I just had to peel away all those social layers and then deep down, we’d be the same.
I mostly made this mistake on girls. A pretty girl would walk into the room and I’d already be projecting all kinds of wondrous and mysterious things onto her personality. Sure, she may seem shallow, but deep down I could get to the real her! I would just hit that rock with words, like Henry Plainview in ‘There Will Be Blood’ and eventually I’d strike it rich!
Imagine my surprise to find out this wasn’t the case.
You set up the diving board, jump off full of excitement. you do your best trick, and you find the water is only 2 feet deep. You end up with a concussion, and a lot to talk about.
How dare she not see the world exactly as I do!
How dare she not love everything I love!
Depending on how stubborn you are, you may have had to jump off of many diving boards till you figured things out. You grow, you adapt, you learn to appreciate the different perspectives different people have on the world.
How often does something like this happen in a person’s life? How often do thoughts you have that seem so natural turn out to be utter, embarrassing nonsense in the light of reality?
In my recent post on ‘Try and Get Some Sleep’ I talked about the magic that is 3 o’clock in the morning. How many ideas do you have at 3 in the morning that just seem foolish once the next day rolls around?
A character comes to mind from David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’. Her name was Dorothy and she was played by Isabella Rosellini. Throughout much of the film she is a classic femme fatale. Dorothy is beautiful, mysterious, dangerous, sensual, magical, etc. etc. A funny thing happens though, at one point in the film Dorothy ends up naked and beaten on the main character Jeffrey’s doorstep, in front of Jeffrey’s parents and girlfriend! In an instant, everything that was once sensual and mysterious about Dorothy suddenly becomes awkward and embarrassing in the light of day. It’s as if real life had stripped her, pardon the pun, of some sort of magical power and now we were viewing her as she really was.
How many ideas are like this? They are mysterious and powerful in the night of your mind and then they become instantaneously ridiculous in the light of day. Perhaps it is for this reason that many of us deem it wise to keep our inner most thoughts and dreams to ourselves.
However, reality isn’t just a harsh, unforgiving force. A funny thing happens sometimes. Sometimes an idea, a thought, or a creative work can spring out of your mind into reality. The sun eyes it up and gives it all it’s got. Then, instead of melting like the witch in The Wizard of Oz, the idea becomes purified. The sun gets rid of the dross maybe, but what’s underneath passes the test. It is deemed worthy and suddenly it exists as a real thing, clever thing that the sun is ; )
So maybe you’re sitting there tonight and you have this idea. Maybe it’s just a thought of who you’d like to be. Maybe it’s something new you’d like to try. Maybe it’s a song that you want to write, or a movie you’d like to make, or a business you’d like to start, and on and on. There is always the fear that the sun, being very strict, may mock this thing you want to bring into being. It may destroy it utterly. You may be embarrassed!!!(the crowd shrieks!) However, just maybe,
… it may be found worthy.
It may become something very, very real in your life.
Is it worth the risk?
That depends on how you feel about your life? Are you happy? Are you right where you need to be? Is there anything you truly wish to do, but are afraid to?
I say life is short, and I’ve been embarrassed enough to realize that the world doesn’t end when falling off of a limb. In fact, not too long from now, I have an ‘Escape Plan‘ that has a scheduled audition with the sun. Don’t worry about me, even if I fail, I’ll still have Isabella Rosellini
Well, you get my point!
2/14 ESCAPISM: ‘Live the Future of the Past’
When I was a kid I went through a couple of black and white, bleep bleep, TV bat and ball games… before meeting my first true love. Now, this is going to sound really geeky. In fact I am using a Sharpie to write “NERD” on my forehead as I type. Seriously. I may take a photo! Ha ha!
My first true love… the Atari 2600. Okay, perhaps you had to be there to understand… but I’m going to do my best to conjure up the tastes and smells of the era.
You have to picture a time when summers were sunny. I realise this very first step is perhaps a bridge too far… but nevertheless, A TIME WHEN SUMMERS WERE SUNNY!!! Morning TV was filled with Roland Rat and Wacky Races and the newsagent sold Pac-Man stickers. They came with bubble gum. “Yeah, yeah”, I hear you say? (just whisper it if you like). More nostalgia. Nostalgia, nostalgia. Let’s all reminisce about children’s TV back when we were young. How it was better and the school holidays lasted forever. A time, in fact, that the lyrics to Pulp’s ‘Acrylic Afternoons’ sum up perfectly. I know, I know… it’s all too easy to think then was good and now is bad. But you see, I’m sure there was more sense of wonder back then. I sometimes wonder if there is any sense of wonder now. And I sometimes wonder if wondering about the lack of wonder is a healthy past-time to be indulging in at all!
“The kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it. A thousand channels that’ll fit into their pocket. I lived through bat and ball, flick switches, bleeps and blops, tape machines, loading screens and visiting the shops.”
A line from one of my songs that kind of paints a picture of where I’m going with this rant. For it is the lack of wonder that depresses me. Today’s youngsters have PS3s, Ipads and mobile phones. They have almost photo realistic graphics. And not only do they have all this… but they have never known anything other than this. The children of today live the future the children of the past dreamed of.
So I had my experience with the Atari 2600. This was a classic gaming machine. It had wooden panels! It had flick switches! It had an incredibly bad version of Pac-Man… Hmmmm, we’ll gloss over that last one! So there I was… little Emrys… playing ‘Yar’s Revenge’ at my next-door neighbour’s house. For you see, I didn’t own an Atari 2600. I would go next door to play it. Back in the days when there was such a thing as a neighbourhood. My next-door neighbour was a bin man and in a way he may have influenced the way I progressed through this world. This man had guitars hung up all over his walls. Now, I never actually saw/heard him play them – but they were there. Hanging like artwork. And I didn’t really understand. I mean… back in those days musical instruments were musical instruments. You would play with recorders and xylophones at school. A guitar was just a guitar. I wasn’t into music yet. I was just into being ‘into things’. So I would sit there and play the 2600… surrounded by guitars. And I loved the games. ‘Yar’s Revenge’, ‘Superman’ and ‘some kind of haunted house game where you would turn into a pair of eyes twisting and turning in the dark’. The graphics were terrible by today’s standards, but they were all we had back then. And we seemed to be always on the cusp of something.
My friend’s brother had a ZX81. I remember watching him playing ‘3D Monster Maze’ and thinking “WOW!”. The ZX81 had 1k of ram. 1k!!! Even if you’re not into computers and don’t really understand what I’m talking about I bet you still appreciate that 1k of ram is not very much!!! It is actually impossibly, inconceivably small! Then my friend’s brother bought a rubber keyed Spectrum. The Spectrum had 48k and was pretty much the coolest looking computer of all time. At that point I owned an Electron. I had owned a Commodore 64 but it broke and I now owned an Electron. Actually, speaking about the Commodore reminds me of the first game I ever played on it. ‘Forbidden Forest’. This game is important as I can still remember the theme tune to this day. Perhaps the most memorable theme tune to any game, ever! I grew up with these legendary 8 bit chip music songs. I think the emphasis on melody that these gaming tunes nailed home inspired the young Emrys. But… I now had an Electron. A more educationally orientated computer – (although in hindsight still a class act in its own right). However, the grass is always greener and I would envy the Spectrum owners. Their games seemed so much more fun! ‘Jet Set Willy’ and ‘Fairlight’. I eventually bought a Spectrum and was extremely happy with it for many a year. In retrospect I realise that my friend’s brother was playing the Spectrum on a black and white TV. Doh!!! Nevermind! Ha ha. (Google “colour clash” if you don’t get the reference!).
I kind of digress… but in any case… as a boy growing up in a time when ET was a new film – videogames mattered! We would play a single game endlessly. One day, the next-door neighbour gave me something he had ‘rescued’ from a bin. He did an awful lot of ‘rescuing from bins’ when I think about it. Perhaps some of those guitars were rescued from bins. Anyway… he gave me a vinyl LP. (Youth of today … google it!). Fragile by Yes. Gate-fold Sleeve. Beautiful artwork – and when I finally played it some time later… the most weird sound. A sound that seemed SO dated. It would take me years to appreciate the brilliance of that album. But for a long time it was just ‘the album from the bin’. I still have that album. And it is an important album to me.
Guitars, Yes and ‘Combat’. (Combat … Google it!) Those summers were hot and those summers were long. We would play outside in our dens in the trees. We would ride our bikes. And we would play videogames when they were known as videogames. The word video was necessary in front of the word game just to stress they were different from board games. Board games kids. NOT BORED GAMES! Ha ha!
We would play our consoles and computers and escape this world. We would go to alien planets and mow down pedestrians on city streets. We would escape our everyday lives. The lack of graphics meant that we used our imaginations in conjunction with the game itself. We would disappear. We were the generation that disappeared. And we still do. We disappear even today. It may still be through a videogame… or more likely via flights of fantasy at 3am. But we can vanish. We can rise above the bad in society. We can rise above the injustice we see around us. We can step back inside ourselves. For we are the nerds and the heroes. And many of us are not even really nerds. It’s just that we are so strong we can admit to indulging in hobbies that the ‘general public’ frown upon. I played ‘Pitfall‘ and swung across a 1000 crocodile infested rivers. Could a rioter jump a scorpion? Maybe? A human sized scorpion? I think not. I rest my case.
1/14 ESCAPISM: ‘The Secret To Stopping Time When Everyone Else is Asleep’
When I think about Try and Get Some Sleep I think about the early morning hours. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to stay up late. Since you’ve been nice enough to read this post I figure we can talk openly here.
I don’t stay up because I can’t sleep.
I don’t toss and turn in my bed.
Just between us, I stay up so late all of the time because I’ve discovered a secret. To put it simply, sometime in the morning, a little after 3 until just before 3:30am, …time ceases to exist.
Really, it’s true.
Time is like a stopwatch that is wound sometime after 3:30 in the morning. After it is wound it continues to gather speed and power until it reaches its pinnacle at 3:00pm. That is when people are at their fastest. That is when the world is at it’s loudest. That is when you walk outside and the sun is so bright it imposes itself on you, forcefully. The brightness, speed, and power of 3 in the afternoon can leave many good people bowing their heads in submission, dumbfounded, and squinting. Thoughts zip around your head like so many bees in a crowded hive, all determined to go somewhere, but not entirely sure of why, and why is it so important again? You can’t answer these types of questions at 3 o’clock in the afternoon because you have somewhere you need to be…and fast!!! People spout out a lot of nonsense around this time because the words come and go so quickly that they are forgotten before they’re even spoken out loud. 3 in the afternoon is the best time to quickly shout out all of your nonsensical, boring, meaningless, and surface value ideas…and……phewwwwwwwmmmmmm….see, they’re already gone! This is why TV is at it’s most vile at this time. Shows this bad need to be over fast, and as I said, there is no faster time than 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Then, sometime after 3:30pm time starts to wind down again. You may not notice this at first, but at around 4pm you may have found that you can catch a stray thought here, a stray thought there. The rest of your mind is still supercharged, but it is weakening slowly. By 5pm you may find that you’re eating dinner and you have actually been able to catch enough of your thoughts to ruminate on what the hell just happened to you. However, it is still not quite there and that is why when people you love ask you how your day was at 5pm, you say short, succinct things like, ‘fine’. You see, your thoughts at 5pm are like a fish you have caught, but it’s still flopping around the boat too much to actually get a hold of enough to express out loud. You may find that the sun is really screwing with you now, aiming straight for the eyes, but it’s only because it knows that 3pm is over so it’s giving you all it’s got before the end. Don’t worry, it’s all bravado.
Another mistake people make is thinking that time stops at midnight. Surely the clock is winding down, but midnight just sounds better in a poetical sense. People like a good beginning and end, and you know, with the twelve being there at the top of the clock it tends to suit most peoples love for symmetry I guess. Plus, lets face it, most people are either in bed, drunk, or high by the time 3am rolls around so twelve is as close as they get to infinity while still clear headed.
However, if you happen to be sitting at, let’s say a computer, or thinking, or working on some creative work at 3 in the morning you’ll know what I’m talking about. Time slows, slows, slooowwwssss, and then……you find yourself outside yourself. It’s uncanny. You make all kinds of rational and wise decisions on things you need to change in your life. The world seems to become somehow malleable so that you just reach out and shape it into ‘something’ that only makes sense to you between 3am and 3:30 in the morning. You live your entire life in your head, then you create another world to live another life in, and then you smile and reminisce about those lives that you’ve made and you grin again, slowly taking long, satisfied sips of coffee. Finally, you realize that you are needed back inside of time because that is the natural order of things so you sigh, rub your eyes, and look at the clock, which will always be waiting for you at 3:30am. You then nod, and allow the minute to pass…
The next morning you may arrive at work and someone will ask you how you’re doing. You’ll want to tell them about the worlds you made and the experiences you had and how you found a way to cheat time and death. However it will be impossible because scientifically it is impossible to truly express infinity within finite time, especially at say, 9 o’clock in the morning. So you give up and you say, ‘fine’ and leave it at that.
They may then tell you that you look tired and that you should ‘Try and Get Some Sleep‘…
Vi Vi Introduces…
We had a great mention on Vi Vi’s “introduces” slot. Always nice to have a “big-up” no matter now small. Does that make any sense??? Ha ha!
When the start begins?
When the Start Begins is the final track on our album Escapism. Here’s a different take on it – the mandatory acoustic version!
Producing the Eleventh Hour Initiative
It’s late again. And very hot. It has been like a tropical heat here. Like stepping off the plane in Cyprus or something. That sheer wall of heat! It’s late. I’m sitting here in my studio. Sweating. And so I begin to type… we could be here for some time! Ha ha!
I think I’ve been ‘producing’ music now for about 20 years. I mean ‘producing’ in the loosest sense. I, like many other musicians, started out with tape. First ‘tape to tape’ recordings on a double cassette player. There are some of you out there who will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And I’m not about to explain myself. Let’s just say it was an extremely rudimentary form of getting more than one ‘layer’ of sound recorded in some form.
Then came the ‘4 -track’ recorder. I had a battered old Tascam. In fact I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere. This was a machine that let you record 4 tracks (no shit Sherlock!) on a normal cassette tape. It did it if I remember rightly, by using both sides of the tape at the same time. This meant that if you played the cassette in a ‘normal’ player, 2 of the tracks would play backwards. This in itself, if manipulated correctly, could give magical results for certain songs. I trace my constant experimentalism back to those archaic days! And the technique, used by mistake, never did Led Zeppelin any harm!
In those “good ol’ days” the art of bedroom production was a tight-rope. You see you could never REALLY produce anything more than a demo of a song. It was always full of hiss, and the 4-track system meant that recording something like a full drum kit varied from “problematic” to “impossible”. Yet those ‘demo’ efforts held their own in some ways. You had your demo, and that demo then had to be ‘lived up to’. The next step for every musician at the time was the journey into “the studio”. And more often than not, after you’d spent all your hard earned pennies, you’d listen to the final product and say “Hmmm… Not as good as the demo is it?!?”. Ha ha!
Anyway… The Studio. That ever so magical place. The theatre of dreams! Or bloody nightmares! Ha ha! I remember recording one of my first studio sessions. We were recording a song that was supposed to be pretty heavy. Heavy and foreboding. It had been a live favourite. So we ventured into the studio to record this killer rock song. But… I decided on the day, (or was persuaded… I honestly can’t remember now!) that I had to sing this song with a real ‘gruff rock vocal’. Now… anyone who has heard me sing know’s that I’m not exactly a Death Metal singer! Ha ha! I’m more your Damon Albarn than your Max Cavalera.. but anyway, sing it gruff I did! With devastating results! I remember the band playing the finished recording to a fan at the time. His face dropped. He just looked so disappointed… “What have you done to it?” he asked. “You’ve just ruined your best song!!!”. Ha ha! We were gutted! And it was all my fault! (well… and the drums were shit, the guitar solo was shocking and everything else generally stank the place up!). But my point is… back then you had to be completely honed. Every member of the band HAD to know his shit inside out to save the day. For these were the times of recordings costing you “by the hour”. A concept lost today. For today is an era in which I can tinker to my heart’s content. Back then a recording studio could kick you in the teeth if you weren’t ready for it.
So, I learned from those initial mistakes. For a start I left the band! 😉 Found a better drummer. Learnt everything totally prior to recording. And I was a perfectionist. I spent hours on every single part. And remember, by this time I was playing all the instruments bar the drums. I would write everything down religiously. I would attend the studio completely prepared. Now, I’m not saying that I got things done in one take. I have never been a one take kinda guy! Understatement!!! But I was certainly prepared. And the final recordings, I think, still show that preparation. The album I’m talking about ended up being the only ‘album’ by my band/solo project Alexi in Winter. It was recorded at a time when I was very into acoustic music. And indie rock. And rock. I was diving deeper into orchestral accompaniment and epic, cinematic sounds. I was taking my first steps towards making music an ‘experience’. And I learned the production techniques every step of the way. The Alexi in Winter album was the last time anyone else produced my music. Since then it has been me all the way. I stand and I fall by what I do. I can blame no-one else. Success or failure is all down to me. The burden rests on my shoulders! Ha ha!
I’m probably wildly digressing here… but that was the caveat of my opening sentence pretty much. It’s late and it’s hot!
So I have a solid ten years of ‘professional-standard’ solo production under my belt now. I have produced a whole solo album. I have tried to remain on the cutting edge of music production. The idea of staying on the cutting edge is a minefield in itself. As I see it there are two ways to go. You can listen to every new cutting edge band and try to stay one step ahead… or you can listen to nothing and steer your own course. It’s probably not going to surprise you to learn that I steer my own course. During the Brit-pop era I was the guy who had every new single by every new band. I was the guy walking around wearing the “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet” t-shirt. I WAS THAT GUY! So I can say the following knowing that I have been there and done it: I try to avoid current trends. I avoid bandwagons. I want to do my own thing. I want to try my own sounds, my own ideas. I don’t want to be influenced by the sound of the drums on the new ‘Siberian Apes’ record. Do you understand what I mean? It’s not that I think I’m too cool for school! It’s that I feel jaded by the passing bandwagons. Their cart wheels roll over my toes and break my spirit.
Anyway… ha ha! So, hmmm. Where was I? I built my own recording studio. This was an important step and has been the most creatively liberating thing I have probably ever done! I then got together with Bill last year and we decided to record an album. We worked first on a song called Where We Go Next. Now… I’m not here to talk about the content of the songs too much at the moment. I’m more interested in describing the sound I was trying to achieve. For you see, very early on I had to settle on a ‘sound’. I was producing music for the very first time that I had not provided the lead vocal for. I have pretty much sorted out what MY vocal sound is. I’ve had years to work on it. But all of a sudden I had to work out what to do with Bill’s singing. He has a style all of his own. Nothing like my vocal nuances. He has his own recording techniques and his particular way of singing. It could have been a problem. But I hit upon an idea. I would use my “basking in music’s past” and avoiding “music’s present” to produce a sound reminiscent of the ’60s, but still firmly rooted in today. For me, this concept is perfection. I hold aloft Pet Sounds, Beggars Banquet and Sgt Pepper as the pinnacle of great albums. My my, how cool would it be if I could bring that spirit into 2011? I remember writing to Bill and telling him that I’d decided I was going to give his vocals a kind of ‘Head‘-era Monkees treatment. Now, that could have frightened the poor sod off!!! But luckily he let me roll with it. So I went down the avenue of a dreamy, trebley, floaty vocal for the entire album. It is the constant. The music may veer wildly from pop rock to epic prog rock… but that vocal sound keys it all together. A strong glue!
Cool… I had the foundation of the ‘sound’ of the Eleventh Hour Initiative. This enabled me to write a collection of songs that I maintain are the most coherent and focussed of my career. I’m not going to talk about specific production techniques… coz they is a sekrit!!! (because they are a secret). But I thought it would be interesting to mention how the majority of the album was formed. I wrote most of the songs on the bass guitar. Now… to any non-musicians out there this may mean jack shit to you. But any musos will be nodding their heads that this is indeed a little out of the ordinary. I don’t have any particular explanation. It’s just the way I did it. And it’s another factor that I feel completely influences the musicality of the album. For this is a bass and drum album. Everything else is secondary. This album is all about the sound of the drums… and the interplay with the bass. This album is something a little different. You don’t even have to like it (although I have my fingers crossed that you will!), – but I believe you will get a lot out of simply listening to it. Bass, drums and Bill’s exciting vocals towering above the skyline.
Bill has spoken about the lyrical themes of Escapism. Well… in many ways the music echoes the themes. Songs such as the Calm and the Storm and Life Will Be the Death of Me embody escapism within their musical structure. Escapism has been an album where I have finally realised I don’t have to follow any rules. Rules can be good. Rules can be bad. But Escapism, at its best, unshackles itself from the straight-jacket of convention. Escapism is the continuation of the music I began with Alexi in Winter all those years ago. But I have raised the bar. A lot! I am waffling now. It is a hundred degrees in here!!! And late. Bedtime I think. Apologies for the rant. I’m not even finished. But for now… I bid you farewell! Emrys.
Art Rock Disguised as Indie Pop
It’s dangerous to call yourself a ‘pop’ band, isn’t it? All those Lady Gaga and Britney Spears implications jump on top of your first impression quicker then I can drink an ice coffee. That being said, since it’s just you and me here, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I consider The Eleventh Hour Initiative to be a pop band at its heart. No, we don’t have any songs that mention or bare any hidden references to a club. No, Emrys and I are not planning on choreographing dance routines to any of the songs on ‘Escapism‘. Yes, we play instruments and write these songs ourselves. Finally, not every song on our album is an ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ or ‘why did you leave me?’ or ‘let me sing about having sex in a metaphorically paper-thin way that is both hot, and yet wholesome fun for the whole family.’
Don’t get wrong, I’m not saying that if a band or artist does any or all of these things that they’re somehow awful. My feeling is there is a place for all things, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my own guilty pleasure songs that I like. However, I do feel like we’re too saturated by what has become of pop music. I wanted to make an album about escapism, most of these types of songs I’m referring to are just cheap escapism in and of themselves.
So you’re left with a choice, right?
1. Make songs that are catchy and about something everyone you know can relate to. Stay away from any topic that would cause friction unless it’s accepted friction (i.e. a girl singing about kissing another girl for the shock value publicity). In short, it’s like a pretty girl with no depth. You can’t get her out of your head the first week, but after a while what charmed you initially just annoys you.
2. All substance over style. Make the music terribly difficult to ‘get’ initially to weed out what my conspiracy theory friends would refer to as ‘sheeple’. Make your references so deep and obscure that no one has any clue what you are talking about and likes it that way in order to feel somehow superior. Once you get to know this girl you may just marry her, but sometimes you wonder if you don’t need something more.
Truth is, I’ve been smitten with both. However, when it came time to write my own songs I guess I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.
My aim with this album was to make the girl of my dreams. What sort of girl am I talking about, you ask? Well, let me give you an example. I once knew a girl who made me say, ‘I want my girl to be just like that!’ Her last name was ‘Revolver’ and she was perfect! Right off the bat, I couldn’t get her out of my head, and, to my surprise, the more time I spent with her the more hidden gems she revealed. In fact, I love her more now than ever!
The Beatles ‘Revolver‘ represents the pinnacle of what an album should be in my eyes. The melodies are there, it’s concise, and it’s full of innovation and hidden meanings all at the same time. I’m not saying I want to make a Beatles record. I’m saying I want to make an album that’s catchy enough to get your attention, and deep enough to mean more than escapism for escapism’s sake.
Though there are always exceptions, for me, a song being catchy makes it good, but the meaning hidden within it can make it great.
You see, while good music can help you escape, great music can not only do that, it can actually help you deal with those stresses in your life as well. It can make you look inward and outward, it can inspire you to grow, and it can be a friend to you in the best and worst times.
Emrys and I are striving to make something more with our music. I’m not saying ‘we’re great and they’re not!’ I’m simply trying to point out our perspective to help you get a greater understanding of what we’re reaching for.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to be spending some time on this blog talking about all kinds of themes and ideas that I incorporated into ‘Escapism‘. I want to make it clear that I still want the songs to sound good and if you like listening to it just because the chorus is catchy then there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you want something more, it is there.
Who are we to even attempt to enrich someone else’s life, you ask? It’s less about me having some great insight into life and more about me documenting my own struggles as I try and gain some traction, some inspiration, and some direction of my own. You tend to stumble upon these mini-revelations and insights as you write and soul search and you want to share them. Sometimes, it’s just about capturing that ‘feeling’. You want to share it because it means something to you and you hope it’ll mean something to other people, as well. As self-serving as it may seem, writing ‘Escape Plan‘ inspired me and I want it to inspire you.
I’ve heard many artists say that they don’t care if people like their work. I do. Not because I’m looking for fame or money (okay, I wouldn’t be angry if I made more money), but because I want to connect with people. I have no idea what this album will sound like to you. I have no idea if you’ll connect to these songs, but they mean a great deal to me and I’m proud of them all. I struggle with the PR side of making records because I feel like a fraud trying to ‘sell myself’. I guess what I’m trying to say, without arrogance, is that I feel this album is worth your time, more so than anything else I’ve ever made.
‘Escapism‘ is about the imagination and about how we tend to live in every other world but the one we’re living and breathing in. How about we start talking about it in the next blog?
As always, any thoughts, comments, or questions are always appreciated.
‘What’s In a Name?’
Hi internet. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Bill. I write lyrics, sing, and contribute music from time to time for The Eleventh Hour Initiative. I’m also the American side of the band.
As we get ready to release our debut album I wanted to become more active on the site than I have been in the past. Emrys is great with posting his thoughts on the songs, and to be honest, I’ve kind of enjoyed hiding in the background a bit and reading his slant on things. Him and I are very similar in that we always tend to agree on what we like and what’s ‘good’, but we also seem to get there from completely different directions.
I figured a good place to start would be our band name….
hmmm actually a good place to start would be to point out that despite what Dr. Hughes says on the bio page, I have never, ever worn leather pants!!!
where was I? haha
oh yeah, ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative‘.
Initially, when we decided to form a band, I came up with the idea to call ourselves ‘The Eleventh Hour’. My thought was that both of us were at a point in our lives musically where we’d had just enough success to validate the struggle, but not enough to justify the amount of work we both put into our songs, to keep going. Our wells were running dry. Both of us had formed our own bands where we played most, if not all of the instruments, and sang. We did it cause we loved it, but it’s hard work just being the bass player for a band! …let alone the whole band! Then, you release your work and….nothing. You still have to work your day job. You still have to explain why you spend all your free time locked away, hunched over a mixing desk.
When I first met Emrys we were both making our ‘last’ solo albums separately. I put ‘last’ in quotes because song-writing is something you don’t really stop, even if you want to. It’s just in your blood. It’s just what you do. That being said, we were still trying to convince ourselves that the projects we were working on was the end of it. I was going to start collecting stamps while Emrys planned to move onto bird watching…well not really, but you get the idea.
Then came ‘Where We Go Next‘, the first song we collaborated on. We were excited by how that song came out. Their was something there I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It just worked. I didn’t care if anybody else got it or liked it. It expressed what I was feeling. It just clicked. I chose ‘Eleventh Hour’ because that’s where we were with music. We were just about to call it quits and then, as I say in the song, ‘guess so much for giving up.’
We continued to go with ‘The Eleventh Hour’ until fairly recently. You see a funny thing happens when you type ‘Eleventh Hour’ into google. You find that many bands have chosen that name, or a name similar to it. Their was a Christian movie about the rapture with it as the title. It was also a Dr Who Episode(which I kind of liked to be honest )
One day in a joke email I referred to our band as ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative’ and Emrys liked it.
…and here we are
The ‘initiative’ is to chase after our dreams. It also sounds like an over the top 1970’s spy movie doesn’t it?
‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative‘ starring Sean Connery
I like that the name has an important meaning to us, but at the same time it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
So where do we go next?
As time passes we may bask in the glow of improbable and miraculous success, or we may crash and burn into the empty dark places that only people who don’t cut it live….
either way, it’ll be interesting.
Please feel free to contact us through this site, soundcloud, or facebook. (we’re looking to get an email address set up soon as well) We want to hear from you!!! Not just to stroke our ego, but to take part in what we’re doing. We’re learning as we go here so anything, good or bad, helps.
and your support is always well appreciated.
Until Next Time Internet….
Our new home!!!
Okay… a pretty momentous occasion people! This site is the new place to be. The latest go-to address for the hipsters out there. The www that will top all wwws.
Seriously, this is the new Eleventh Hour Initiative website. Those of you who have already clicked this far may well be familiar with us but I would still like to write an introductory post for those of you who have strayed here by accident!
First things first. The music is and always will be the most important concern of the Eleventh Hour Initiative. It is therefore my proud honour to direct you straight to the content of our forthcoming debut album which you should see laid out in all its glory below. I suggest you give it a listen. These songs are shaping up to form an album that is really hitting the mark. I have a rough press of the album in the car at the moment and it is shocking me with its vitality and genuine fresh spirit. 🙂
The Eleventh Hour Initiative is a collaboration between two musicians, one on each side of the Atlantic. Based in England we have Emrys and it is Emrys about whom I shall speak first. Okay, my name’s Emrys. I am the producer of the band. I am also responsible for the visual output and therefore this website. I will be the primary voice of this website… but I shall make sure I involve Bill every step of the way and I hope to be able to publish a piece from him whenever he feels he has something to say. This is OUR website. So far we have been extremely tight when it comes to musical choices and I’m sure our combined opinion and expression will continue via this website. If anything this site will give us a stronger voice than ever before and will allow us to punch through the sea of mediocrity and smash our debut album into the mire of apathy with full force! 😉
Bill and I came together over the internet a year ago and pretty much formed the band there and then. We had so much in common that we just had to make our combined voice heard. The special factor is that despite all we have in common there are also those differences that give our music the edge. There are things that he does that I would never dream of doing and vice versa. We are not just two artists in collaboration. We are a band. We have a group spirit. We are not just two people working together. We have a collective ambition that drives us forward and inspires us to produce the very best music that we possibly can. I hope your initial listen to the forthcoming album has energised you enough to our cause to make you bookmark this site. You will have to return. We have only just begun!!!
Anyway… as I was saying… My name is Emrys and I have written the majority of the music for this album. Which leads me perfectly into my introduction of Bill. Bill is based in New Jersey and is responsible for most of the lyrics on the album. He also sings those lyrics and is therefore the main contender for the role of “lead singer”. This has been an organic process and, certainly for this debut album, it has been the case that we work best with me laying down the land of the song musically – and Bill then washing over the music with the ocean of his words. It has been, for me, the perfect process so far. The very best case scenario. I think we are accomplishing something very special – a concise, specific, rounded collection of songs. I acknowledge we live in an age where the digital download single reigns supreme. However I believe we have created the perfect album for this age. We have the spirit of ‘the album’ in our veins. We are producing music for people who appreciate Radiohead, Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips etc etc ad infinitum. I’m not saying that you can’t just download a song from us that you like. I’m simply pointing out that we are all about the whole. Our debut album has an almost ‘concept’ scope. The title will be “Escapism” and every song will paint a layer of the bigger picture. Each tune will put another brick in a wall that eventually tells the story of our lives. I would like Bill to wax lyrical regarding the themes of escapism that run through the entire album. See… you gotta keep coming back to this site!!!
In the meantime… well… I just wanted to say a personal hello. Music can be so impersonal. There really is no need for it to be that way. The Eleventh Hour Initiative is here to stay. Tell your friends! Tell anyone that you think would be up for a little ‘pushing things forward’.
And remember… our debut album has not yet been released. By reading this site now you are getting a sneak preview. I hope you stay on board for the whole journey!