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.
Hello Eleventh Hour Initiative fans. I assume that if you’re reading this site, you’ve bought the album? Or why else would you be here? … frantically clicking on the site to see if there’s an update. Well… I can only apologise for the lack of content over the last few weeks. Bill and I have been recovering from creating the album! Ha ha! For whilst it was an amazing experience and I think we produced an album of real quality… it took a lot out of us as a partnership. So, we have taken time out. Not that we’ve been relaxing! Oh no. We’ve both been working on the variety show that is life. But I thought I needed to come back here and let you know that we haven’t forgotten you.
I would love to be giving you details of new product… but for now that is secret information. We have a more important cause. We have to bring ‘Escapism’ to the masses. The chosen few are not enough. You are not enough. We need to ask you a favour. Please spread the word of the Eleventh Hour Initiative. The album is available on Amazon and iTunes. If you buy the album from the Bandcamp links on this very website you can download the album sleevenotes. This digital booklet has some interesting extras and is definitely worth a browse! Okay… that was just a quick reminder of our existence! We will speak again soon!
So… the 14 posts are over. Concluded. The end is with us. Finally… and definitely.
Hmmm… what now? Here’s a snippet of a conversation Bill and I had on Skype. We are considering the idea of producing podcasts: episodic content delivered to you by means of our vocal cords and your ears rather than the written word. We figure you might be getting sick of the written word? // Cries of “Nooooo, NO!!! We love reading your richly rewarding articles!!!”. Anyway… as I was saying, this is just a test.
Let’s see how it rolls!
So I guess it’s up to me to write the last of our 14 posts.
‘When the Start Begins‘ is an apt title, because that’s how we see where we’re at as a band. I share a similar back-story with Emrys. I was also at the end of my musical rope when we began working on this album. The Eleventh Hour Initiative has also given me new life, and an island in the sun.
Emrys and I have also mentioned our struggles trying to connect to you, the listener. As he said, we’re just two guys trying to promote ourselves because we love these songs and we want them to be shared. We have no army of ‘professionals’ working for us behind the scenes.
It’s just us.
Honestly, it feels a bit like slinging rocks at Goliath sometimes.
Who cares? Right? I mean, why would you care how tall the mountain is that seems to be staring down at us?
My answer would be that you’re probably looking at a similar mountain in your own life.
Different goals – Same struggle.
Some give up, and just daydream about these things. Some people are pragmatic about their goals. Some, like us, and maybe you, are stubborn and refuse to accept good enough as good enough.
There is no right answer.
My point is not that we have an answer.
My point, our point as a band, and as people who write on this little blog site every few days is that we want to share everything that happens to us while we try.
Maybe it helps to see someone struggling with a similar goal? Maybe it helps to see things from a different, and not necessarily correct, position?
Where we mess up, and where you mess up, are probably more important to who we all are as people.
My dream is that just maybe it’s possible to be successful while trying your absolute best to be as honest about your weaknesses as you are with your strengths.
That’s really what we’re trying.
That’s the goal we’re asking for your support with.
We’re trying to be 3D without the glasses.
All in all, Emrys and I just made an album I’m more proud of than anything I’ve ever done. This is the last in a novel full of 14 posts containing bad grammar, humor, insight(maybe?), and a lot of genuine soul-searching.
So where does the start begin?
It begins with you passing me my slingshot. We’ve got a lot of work to do…
My genuine and heartfelt thanks to those of you who have been following along with us and supporting us along the way.
Nearing the finishing line now with the longest set of album liner notes ever! Ha ha! So… track 13 on “Escapism” is a song by the name of ‘From Shipwreck to Shore‘.
I’d say that the phrase “From shipwreck to shore” could probably define this album. Let me explain this. I was feeling shipwrecked. I had been in a number of bands before I formed the Eleventh Hour Initiative. I had released a couple of albums worth of material with varying degrees of success before I met Bill. I had been favourably reviewed in magazines and gigged on the same local circuit as bands which have now gone on to bigger and better things such as Muse. I played and recorded with phenomenal talents such as Seth Lakeman and Jonny Crosbie. But by 2009/10 I was feeling washed up… jaded. Normal life had not only caught up with me, but had settled me to the point of retirement. When it came to being a musician, I was shipwrecked.
“ocean waves beneath a high wire
not quite yet so light it on fire”
Bill wrote some really beautiful lyrics for this song, the last to be recorded for ‘Escapism’. The song sounds pop – which I am always drawn to. I like a good melody. The song also has a sense of urgency, and for me at least, a sense of danger. Danger and anger. The “high wire” line is one of the most astute and exciting lines on the album. Hats off to Bill for splendid lyrics throughout… but the words to this particular tune really push things forward.
Writing “Escapism” has been like being born again (musically… certainly not in the Stephen Baldwin sense!!!). The album as a whole has been like a breath of fresh air. The songs are all about this moment in time and have helped me to regain my musical mojo. And yet you can never escape the past. Many of the songs had roots in old ideas, never professionally recorded, but existing solely in my head or on 4-track cassette tape. ‘From Shipwreck to Shore’ was once a song about a babysitter. Let me clarify… the musical motif was once the basis of a song about a babysitter. A song that I never recorded with a band and never released to the world. I love how the same past that can break you can also make you. I am aware that I sound as pretentious as Morrissey (and am semi-stealing his lyrics!), but this concept is what makes the world go round. The same past that can make you bitter and twisted can then bring you out from the doldrums, eyes squinting into the bright light. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that.
So “Escapism” has coincided with the re-emergence of Emrys as a willing songwriter – a songwriter that enjoys writing songs rather than simply ‘needing’ to write songs. If I had to hang my hat on an album I would happily hang it on this one. It is the kind of album that inspires me – and as I had a hand in creating it I do realise how egotistical that sounds!!! “Escapism” is an album that I would love to follow up. I would be fascinated as to what kind of album the Eleventh Hour Initiative could create next. But… to allow that to ever be a possibility we have to know that people have appreciated “Escapism”. For while we can certainly do what we want to do as artists and to hell with the consequences… it would indeed help to have some of you along for the ride. So, don’t hesitate to let us know how you feel about our songs, our album. And please spread the word, for we have no machine behind us. We have no invisible men pushing our presence on Youtube, manufacturing us behind the scenes as the next big thing. There is no rope pulling or guiding us – and certainly no safety cord. There is no svengali masterminding our world domination. There is only Bill and I. And you.
I found the shore. From Shipwreck to the shore. I now raise my head and observe the land before me. And it looks just mighty fine.
I’m sorry for the delay in posting this article. In the time since Emrys last wrote regarding ‘Where We Go Next’ we’ve released ‘Escapism’ to the wide world. You can download a digital copy of the album right here on the site by clicking on the link in the menu. You can also buy the album on Amazon or iTunes by typing ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative Escapism’ into the search bar on each respective site. You can even get a physical CD from Amazon!
We’re trying out the idea of making a podcast every now and again. Yep, a real proper podcast with guests and everything. Why? We thought it might be interesting and funny, and most importantly, fun.
For all the amount of times we shill our album and all of this stuff, it’s because we want to connect with you. Buying the album, commenting, and all of these seemingly small things tell us you’re listening. I joke about how poor I am all the time, but in truth, it’s not the money, it’s the recognition and connection that keeps us going. All of the kind and good words people have said to both Emrys and myself since we’ve released this album… that’s why we do this. It’s not about being the most popular, it’s about making meaningful connections through things we love.
You need to make many moves to position yourself properly to connect the way I’m talking about.(No I’m not referring to sex) I mentioned in my last post my struggles with the almighty band bio. Well something odd, and yet helpful has turned up to assist me in this undertaking.
What does this have to do with ‘All These Secret Things’, you ask? Well if I told what all my secret things were we’d have to call the song ‘All These Plainly Known Things’ and that kind of takes the fun out of it. Anyway, my help with the band bio is kind of secret, in a way.
I was getting ready to go to work today when I noticed a guy dressed straight out of the 1940s hanging out in a tree outside my house. He even had a really antiquated camera and he was taking pictures through my window!
He looked kind of like this:
I yelled, ‘What the hell are you doing?!!!’
He made a sound, it kind of sounded like he said ‘Gadzooks!!!’ and he fell out of the tree and ran away.
…but he dropped something.
It looked like a file of some sort. It was a manilla folder with “The Eleventh Hour Initiative’s debut album ‘Escapism’ and the Possible Threats it May Pose” written in large, black letters across it.
Leafing through it I was amazed! It seemed this guy had been spying on Emrys and I since June of 2010! All kinds of awkward pictures, jotted notes and phone transcripts?
I’ve begun trying to transcribe some of his notes down to give to the authorities, but I figured I’d share a bit of it with you guys/girls. You see, I think this guy may have written our band bio for us!!!
Have a look for yourself…
‘Submitted per Request and for Your Review: The Eleventh Hour Initiative’s debut album ‘Escapism’ and The Possible Threats It May Pose.’
Band: The Eleventh Hour Initiative
Bill Ryan(NJ, USA)- Vocals, Music
Emrys Hughes(Plymouth, UK)- Music, Vocals, Production
Known Whereabouts: http://www.eleventhhourinitiative.com
Current Album Under Review– ‘Escapism’
Contact: email@example.com or the lamp-post by the corner store
Message sent by Agent H. Fat and decoded by Agent 070278W. B=E
I have been observing William Ryan(alias: Bill) and Emrys Hughes since they began work as ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative‘ in June of 2010. Both singers and multi-instrumentalists in their own right, they seemed to hit it off quickly despite that fact that Bill lives in the U.S.A. and Emrys resides in the U.K.. In fact, as long as I’ve been conducting surveillance on them it seems the two have never sat in the same country together, let along the same room.
A mistake I initially made, that you need to be wary of, is to discount them because their songs are written, recorded, and produced through the internet. It has certainly been observed that most music recorded on computers, even if ‘real’ instruments are primarily used, is harmless and awful, and yet something is different with these two. Despite their pretentious illusions of grandeur and their love for bands such as Radiohead, Pulp, Blur, and yes, even Coldplay; there seems to be something honest and heartfelt about their music that has so far connected to the dedicated following they have garnered on internet sites such as Soundcloud.(http://soundcloud.com/confession/sets/the-eleventh-hour/)
This is all despite the fact that the band have performed little or no promotion to this point.
Listeners have said the band reminds them of ‘Bloc Party‘, or ‘New Order’ with Foo Fighters‘ riffs‘. I try to remind some of these listeners that there is no room for heartfelt musicians making melodic indie rock that is both innovative and yet nostalgic at the same time. The listeners don’t seem to care. They say it makes them ‘feel good‘ and the band is quote, ‘class‘.
Listening in on the band’s conversations, it seems they wanted to make a true album ‘like they used to make on vinyl‘. At times, ‘Escapism‘ even seems to skate the line between a thematic collection of songs and full-blown concept album! They are obviously stupid and misguided as we live in a singles oriented low attention span environment, but we must watch for the ‘refreshing‘ label which could easily slip these two under the radar. Be warned, these are not mediocre songs lazily sung concerning nothing!
All that being said, I must also admit to the addictive quality possessed in this album. This is especially true in songs like Pitfall, Escape Plan, and Mean Machines. I find myself waking up in cold sweats humming the choruses and daydreaming about things like space and ninjas. I need to perform more tests on this album for subliminal messages. Frankly, I need more time to sit and study this album! I also need a second opinion, and this is where you come in.
I warn you, be very careful with ‘Escapism‘. This can not be emphasized enough! It will catch you when you least expect it and for the love of God it will not let go! If these songs fall into the wrong hands…well, let’s try and prevent that while we still can.
I have included my notes on the fourteen songs that make up Escapism here. Read, or destroy, at your own discretion. For more info or assistance the band can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . I can be reached at the flickering lamp-post by the corner store.(I will approach with the phrase ‘Has the mail arrived?‘ and you will reply with ‘King Felix is on the move!’)
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Agent H. Fat
Wales v England. Always a difficult one for me. Welsh blood English heart. I can’t remember the last time Wales beat England in the football. Rugby… now that’s a different matter – but for some reason Wales just can’t pull it together in the football. Ranked between Haiti and Grenada apparently… and that’s not good! So it’s always with faint embarrassment that I watch Wales play football. And although I support England at every sport it is always a tug of the heart-strings when they play Wales. Like two sides of my soul competing in battle, ripping each other apart and yet coming together as one when the whistle blows.
Those two sides… the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. The devil telling you to write simple, easy on the ear songs and the angel telling you to always write from the heart. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, they both have a point. The devil just wants you to succeed and earn a lot of money. He just wants you to write that hit song – that song that’ll earn you a million dollars. He just wants you to write simple songs that the general public can relate to . He wants you to write a “Yellow” or a “Wonderwall” and then have an Adele-like album success story. He knows you have to eat and he knows what you could do to fill that stomach. You don’t even have to sell your soul to him… you just have to stick with the melodies, stick with the McCartneyisms, write “The Bends”.
But the angel tells you that the hits aren’t important. The angel says that you have to follow your own path and write music that you can be proud of forever more. Music that is artistically satisfying and sod the money! The angel wants you to write “Kid A”.
For a songwriter this can be a tightrope. I should qualify that! There are some songwriters that will never experience this dilemma for there are many out there who couldn’t write a great song even if a friend travelled into the future, stole an almanac of classic songs then travelled back in time and placed said almanac under said songwriter’s pillow.
But for a lot of songwriters the devil and the angel are an issue. In fact, the score right now is England 1 – 0 Wales. England play in white, Wales play in red. Hmmmm… relevant? I’m serious. The devil and the angel do indeed often come out to play. The songwriter wants to be considered an artist you see. An artist – fancy that! The musician wants to be considered clever. Ha ha! He wants to write ‘clever’ music. He wants to dumbfound and even alienate his audience. For alienation can be satisfying. Alienation can even be rewarding. The devil struggles with this… but if you get it right you can alienate your audience and mesmerise them. You can seduce them with an agile twist and turn. The devil appreciates “Ok Computer” but is unsure of exactly how it happened. The devil would rather you didn’t entertain such thoughts. Forget it and listen to “Angel” by Robbie Williams a few more times. Then the devil decides that suggesting you listen to “Angel” is a bit contrary and he suggests “Highway to Hell” instead!
The switched on songwriter knows you have to strike a balance. Whether that be across the range of songs on an album – i.e. have a couple of singalong singles and a few deeper songs… or internally within the song itself. For a song can be clever and catchy – the perfect balance perhaps. And sometimes songs that sound simple and catchy are actually clever and catchy but disguised as simple and catchy. McCartney was perhaps the king of the simple and catchy (but really clever and catchy) song. There are many exponents out there including one of my favourites, Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks. Many of those songs that you think are just throwaway pop songs actually have an intricate, delicate structure hiding beneath the surface. Or you were right in the first place and they are just throwaway pop songs! Do you know which are which? Do I? Do you care? Do I?
I think that a lot of songwriters want acceptance from their peers. They need other musicians to acknowledge their talent and fulfil their want of worthiness. And this exploration for the lost chord, the sound that will cause all others to down tools and proclaim “God-like Genius”tm status, can so often be their downfall. I can think of a whole host of musicians that have at one time or another fallen into this category. It’s not important to name them… but sometimes just because you CAN play notes only a Golden Headed Langur can hear, doesn’t mean you have to!!! (Steve Vai, not naming any names… but I am pointing at you!).
So when you find a band that gets this balance right you tend to fall in love. Most of the bands I adore strike the balance. They live with the devil and the angel and survive the conflict. When one of these bands gets it right it moves you. When the Flaming Lips released “the Soft Bulletin”, I felt that power. That album was clever and simple. It was the album Goldilocks would have chosen had the house had three record players rather than three bowls of porridge. A close to perfect album. I could have picked a whole host of albums to represent examples of ‘devil and angel’ albums. I could have picked “Revolver”, “His ‘n’ Hers”, “Grace”, “Pet Sounds”, “Silent Alarm” or “Is This It?”. Albums that reach the parts other collections of songs cannot reach. And often the very same bands will start to prefer the advice coming from one shoulder over another. They veer too far away from the line of balance – with various degrees of success. They can be lucky and still produce an album which is loved… or they can be unlucky and create an album that becomes a source of amusement and derision. I think the Flaming Lips, Lennons and Radioheads of this world have all veered from the path and enjoyed the positives and the negatives of the experience.
During the writing of “Escapism” I have walked that fine line between pretentious and commercial. Every artist wants to have a commercial success… don’t let any of them tell you otherwise. However, if you can achieve that success whilst never abandoning what you believe in then all power to you. I think Bill and I have pulled off a sweet yet clever album with “Escapism” and I’m sure the song ‘A Thousand Steps’ was a contributing factor. We chose to document every second of the songs creation – from the moment I first picked up the acoustic guitar, until the moment I finalised the mix. As we worked on ‘A Thousand Steps’ I was fearful that we might be creating a song that satisfied us as writers but left the public cold. But I’m pretty sure we took the advice of the devil and the angel and in many ways Bill and I actually become the devil and the angel during the songwriting process. One of us will make a decision and the other will flag up its potential pitfalls. A battle always rages. A friendly battle… but a rewarding battle. The outcome for us has been songs such as ‘A Thousand Steps’, ‘The Calm and the Storm’ and ‘Where We Go Next’. Songs that don’t shy from being intellectual, and yet have that commercial appeal that the public crave… we hope. However, please note that I will never confuse having an element of “commercial appeal” with being a producer of “coffee table album”s. Don’t fret… I could (and probably will) wax lyrical about coffee table albums in a future post. 😉 For now my friends, I leave you with track 9 of “Escapism”… A Thousand Steps. Oh.. and Wales lost.