Wednesday, December 11, 2002

On Monday we did a song I've been working on for the last couple of weeks. It often works that way. At one point or other in the evening there's usually a stage when one or two people aren't ready to play; when Ali is sorting out his drums up or P is tuning his guitar. Tonight I started churning out the slightly sickly, grungy chords of my new song while we were setting up. Within minutes we were all playing along, trying to get to grips with it's odd-ish timing. By the time Andy has turned up (not long after; "Hi Andy, cold isn't it? The gig's off") we've added a chorus and it sounds great.

Having first started quietly and built the song up to a weighty squall, we decide to turn the formua around and start at our loudest. This means the song starts suddenly and agressively, before the calm sets over and Pete's guitar notes begin to break through the noise. Given we only played it for 45 minutes, this could be one of our best songs I think; I'll demo it and perhaps Anne-So, whose new, long, keyboard lead means she can join us in the centre of the room having previously been confined to the edges, can sing it. For the sake of reference, I'll call the song Sleepwalk, though that'll probably change. Most likely, having played it seething with the bitter frustration of losing the gig it'll never sound so taut or malevolent again. Well.

Meeting once a week with friends who happen to play in a band tends to mean the temptation is always there to put down your guitar and go and talk. While Pete, Ali and Andy worked on an old song of Pete's (yet a new one to us) which, frankly, was a little beyond my ken, me and Anne-So mucked around, settin up a second keyboard and musing on the possibilities of a six handed piano solo. Over our chatter Pete picked his way through a beautiful piece of melancholy guitar which we'll have to return to. From that we came to another of his songs, one which I think I heard him play at the Sussex Arts Club night the evening I met him. Played on Monday - at first - I couldn't quite see how such a naked song could be approached by the band, but once we got going with it and it picked up a fraction of pace it started sounding really promising - Anne So's keyboard throwing up some zig-zaggy notes which had me thinking of the clarinet lines on early Mercury Rev records. This could be a really good song for us, I think. It's when we stab at songs like this and run out of time that the passage of time between rehearsals seems to stretch on forever. I can't wait 'til Monday.

Looking back there's nothing to suggest that the rehearsal went badly; three new songs to work on, several bottles of Grolsch (sorry Anne-Sophie, I'd forgotten the KKK) and nice to see everyone. But I think we all felt so disappointed about the news that everything seemed discoloured. Never mind; we'll make up for the lost gig and when we do maybe we'll play the new songs....

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

ah, the words bitterly and disappointed have been (and will be) bandied about a great deal in the last 24 hours. Our gig is cancelled. We found out shortly before our rehearsal last night, and all feel pretty dismal and upset about it. It means we'll be hard pushed to play before Christmas (although we're looking into renting out The Sanctuary Cafe for the night to make up for it, though I don't think they'll have a night free in the near future). Sorry to anyone hoping the diary would spring belatedly to life with the arrival of live action. Ho Hum.

Far too dismayed to write a comprehensive report of last night's play, I'll do that later.

Friday, December 06, 2002

A rare midweek entry given that, it being a rather grey and uninspiring Friday morning here at work, my thoughts are less on this afternoon’s transmittal meeting and more on the gig, to whit (a) why am I putting myself through this appalling ordeal, (b) will the A & R men of Europe converge upon us (somewhat unlikely, yes) and (c) would we benefit from some kind of hilarious / arch costume, to project us into the NME's 50 great bands who look exactly like The White Stripes list? And how shall I perfect my Detroit twang? Ah well, never mind. That said, I can't decide what to wear. Is this the ultimate evidence of the shallow nature of pop; that it somehow matters more that I consider my clothing than get round to buying that set of new strings I need? No, it has more to do (I think) with the fact that i find the idea of myself on stage, playing guitar and singing, utterly unlikely and I'm trying to make it more plausible. Positioning myself outside myself, thinking "what would he wear if he was on stage". Ah.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

One week to go now; last nights rehearsal was great - bashing out the set and picking holes in our selection; deciding to finish with a combination of Andy's newest song (a lilting, tom-rich drumbeat and a cheeky bassline) and our smoking song (which basically consists of forty seconds of discordance and shouting) and thinking that sounds great, thanks. The latter song is there because it's too much fun not to play; we fleshed it out a bit, me and Anne-Sophie taking it in turns to belt out the words, but the whole thing still comes in under a minute; better to end the set with a yelp than a whimper.

So that's just one more rehearsal to go until the gig. I can't tell how nervous I am / will be yet. What is nerves and what is excitement? But I am in that dazed and perpetual state of near-nausea and reckless bravado, imagining how it will be, a schoolboy hurtling towards something like his first kiss. Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

as astute followers of the Assistant webpage will know, we're now preparing for our first ever gig. This means working out a setlist and running through songs consecutively. It's tiring, We met up at Strummers last night and quickly turned our attention to which songs we'll play. There weren't any disagreements, but it was still a job whittling them down. In the end we adopted a more is better policy and crammed ten songs in. Pending changes, our set on the 11th should consist of

1. It's Alright
2. Losin' My Mind
3. Get Away
4. Bomba
5. Broken
6. Tonight
7. John Wyndham
8. Bad Vibrations
9. No-one need ever know
10. Reasoned

Running through them, it was only at the last hurdle that we fell down, the still quite new and unfamiliar Reasoned defeating us. No matter, the set sounded good although it's funny how individual errrors continue to slip in even where you dont expect them. Is there any song I've played more and know better than John Wyndham? I don't think so. But first I got the opening chords wrong and then forgot the first line. It's easy to go into auto-pilot sometimes and drift away. During one song I closed my eyes for a verse and chorus and felt quite strange when i opened them again, as if I had been somewhere else for a few minutes but the sound had carried on.

Of the songs, Broken continues to benefit from it's new chorus, Andy adapted his bassline effortlessly, Get Away seeemed almost instinctive for a change, with the guitar sound moderated and strict adherence to the rules the method at all times. No-one need ever know was bleedingly loud and taut, the keyboards crashing through the guitar, and Reasoned a tuneful and uplifting set closer, once we had it mastered.

Does the set sound coherent? Something I've been wondering ever since we started. I think it does, although where it fits in I don't quite know. I submitted our site to a couple of search engines this week and once again had trouble describing us. In the end I think I went for 'offbeat and angular indie rock', reasoning that in the abscense of an apt phrase springing naturally to mind, something which sounded journalistically desirable would do the trick. It seemed a shame to lable us 'indie' but it provides people with a better idea than my preferred 'pop group'. So there you go. I don't think the description was too lax, all things considered, and as I hinted when I began this rambling paragraph, I think an Assistant 'sound' is coming together. We don't sound particularly like anyone else, at least.

In the bookshop at lunch today I read an interview with Thurston Moore in some book or other, where he said that Sonic Youth lyrics matter as much as the music. Made me wonder why I have made such minimal effort with pulling lyrics together. Perhaps I should. Certainly you won't be finding any of my lyrics on the website for a bit :-) Unless someone else puts them up :-(

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Day one.
But we didn't rehearse today, so I'll start with the last time we did.
Monday 10th November

All down to Strummers at usual 'cept Andy who has a cold, but all is well as we're in the mood for being noisy and swapping instruments. But first Pete has a new song, or a new idea for a song. Only thing is I can't get my fingers around my guitar part. In the end we swap over and I play the chords and he plays the lead line. It sounds good. I vow to learn the guitar bit properly, and to somehow make my fingers more stretchy.

Next, having bashed out a few of the standards, I put forward an idea for a new chorus for broken, This means someone learning the backing vocals. But I'm rubbish at explaining it and, having tried to sing the lead and backing vocal simultaneously a couple of times, Anne-Sophie casually invents a much better melody and we give it a go. It sounds great; her phrasing gives its a gallic lilt which sounds amazing. Meantime Pete twists his guitar line around the new chords. Great. We're happy with that. It needs a bassine, but so does everything tonight.

Ali teaches me a cool trick involving the E string, a drumstick and a lot of reverb. Thank you Ali. This achieved, it was necessary to prove that Anne-So is a worse drummer than me. Alas, she isn't, but we 'jammed' merrily anyway with me creating absurd noises on the keyboard. Ha ha ha. Andy we need you back - you hold us together! wheeeee...