In Search of...: The (not so) Secret Diary of a Band

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Week 4!

On Monday we started the final week of recording. Having wrapped up week 3 by finishing the tracking for at least half the album in 4 days we felt pretty good! However we knew that we still had a load of songs to record plus all the overdubs for them and most of the overdubs for the previous weeks work, the pressure was on.

Steve's approach as a producer is all about the vibe and there could be many takes before he felt he had the best one. As a band we like to feel that we are all about the vibe too so this was great news for us. However, take after take can be an exhausting affair not just physically but emotionally. It's really hard to create an amazing energy when playing the same song, over and over again, in a studio environment. Also the studio can be an unforgiving place for a musician as everything is under the microscope and it can be a very revealing experience as things that you have been playing for ages suddenly don't sound so great when you look at them in detail. Steve kept all our spirits up and was an incredibly positive person to work with, never once letting the energy die. He was forever spurring us on and generally created a wonderfully positive atmosphere for us to create in; the man never stops moving and grooving to the tunes! This inspired everybody to give it their all and dig into their energy reserves and we managed to get all the tracking done by late wednesday night (about 1 am!)

This left us with 2 days to do all the extra bits and pieces that the songs needed. These ranged from backing vocals to more cello lines and a few other surprises that you will have to wait and hear. It was great to have those 2 days at the end as it was a chance to experiment with sounds, layers and any other strange things we wanted to have a go at. It also gave us time for Steve to make some suggestions of things to try and adapt for the songs. By Friday night (just!), everything on the whiteboard had been cleared by about midnight. It was decided that we could have our first real drink in 4 weeks and we headed into Bath to celebrate what can only be described as a truly epic 4 weeks.The celebrating led to some sore heads on Saturday but hey, we had been very good boys for 4 weeks solid!

So all the potential songs for the Album are done and now its up to producer Steve to mix them and see what we all feel makes it onto the actual record. We have had an incredible time and would like to thank everybody at Realworld who made it such a memorable few weeks. They really are a lovely bunch of people and it's a very special place. We all feel incredibly privileged to have had this experience and feel that it has really improved us as a band, both musically and as people. Plus we didn't kill each other; always a bonus !!

We now excitedly look to 2011 and what it may bring. Needless to say we will be gigging and promoting the Album and just trying to raise the profile of the band as much as possible. Thanks for all your support over 2010, it makes doing this worthwhile. There'll be another blog up over Christmas reviewing the year, plus some more photos and hopefully some videos from our time in the studio. But for now have a lovely christmas and a great New Year, and we'll hopefully see you all next year.

Lots of Love,

Pete, Ben, Nick , Jay and Kieran 

Monday, 13 December 2010

Week 3: Recording!

Monday saw us move in to the Wood Room at Real World to begin the recording progress. Pete had been struck down with a cold over the weekend so was left at home to try and get over it whilst Nick finished off some of his parts and Ben, Jay and Kieran came in with all of the equipment for a day of setting up. This initially consisted mainly of building dens (officially 'booths') within the studio for each of us. The Wood Room is a beautiful and intimate space, and certainly a lot cosier than the rehearsal studio we've been cooped up in for the last 2 weeks.

Set up days in studios are always relatively drawn out affairs, and with the mix of instruments we are using on the album, it meant there were a lot to do, from housing the drum kit to microphone placement, building boxes to put amps in and finding somewhere for Nick to sit! The end of the day saw us run through some stuff as a band to get all the levels sorted for Tuesday - when the red light would get turned on for the 1st time.

We knew from the outset that we would have to be working hard over long days to get everything done in the time we had. This means we had to hit the ground running on Tuesday and make the most of every day. With Pete still not at 100% this meant starting without him singing and working on stuff that Ben sings lead on and songs we were planning on doing the vocals for afterwards. As mentioned in previous blogs, Steve's approach to getting the best out of the band is all about getting the vibe right within the band and with each song. This has so far meant everything to dancing sessions in the studio, football analogies and watching belly dancing videos whilst playing; all a bit mad but it seems to get results!

As the week progressed we got into a good groove of doing the basics of two songs a day - the pace we had agreed we would need to work at in order to leave enough time at the end of the final week to do various overdubs and backing vocals etc. Each song is different though, and requires different amounts of time. Sometimes this is because we're trying to capture the live sound in a relatively artificial environment with no crowd and only headphones for company. Sometimes it has been because the recorded versions contain lots of extra parts that we want to do straight after the skeleton of the song has been laid down so that the vibe of the song is still fresh in our minds when we do them. Sometimes, it has been simply because various members of the band needed some whisky.

The week ended really well with everything on schedule and all of us very excited about the way everything was sounding. We all know that the final week is likely to be even more intense as it gets closer to the end of the session, so a weekend off certainly felt deserved, but we're all already excited about getting back in on Monday morning to carry on!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Week 2!

The week got off to a less than ideal start with Nick returning from a weekend with his family with a stinking cold. He was quickly dispatched into quarantine and the rest of us got back on with getting the 12 songs we have selected for the album into shape.

Some of the songs were pretty much ready to record from the day we walked in but other ones have taken a lot of work. Steve has been very keen to sort out 2 aspects of the sound of the album. Firstly, what was the "urusen sound", and how we wanted to get that across, and secondly to make sure that album has a flow and cohesive feel to it.

Whilst some people may argue that albums are now a thing of the past in the age of itunes etc, we still feel very strongly that we want to be able to produce something that people will want and be able to listen to as a body of work. Having been playing the songs for 2 weeks non-stop now, we are all pretty sure we are achieving this with the, as yet untitled, album.

As far as the "urusen sound" goes - we are definitely clearer on that after this process, and all very excited about how the album is shaping up, but you'll just have to wait for it to come out to find out what it is!

With Nick missing 2 days of the week recovering from man-flu / not infecting the singers with it, we were sad to have to cancel the showcase we had planned for Thursday evening. We were all quite excited about playing some of the tracks to an audience, but producer Steve took the executive decision that we needed to concentrate all our remaining time on the album. So again, an apology to those of you who were planning to come along, rest assured we will be coming back to the South West in the new year to make up for it!

Nick coming back into the studio did signal a change in focus for the week, as we started to separate to concentrate on particular things. Firstly, Nick started on an intensive writing session with Steve and his assistant Joe in order to make sure he had all his parts ready and in place for recording next week. At times, this has run to 3 and 4 parts - sounding rather "epic"!

The last couple of days have been quite stop/start as we've been required to do things like mic tests for Steve. All of a sudden, having spent the best part of a fortnight in old hanger playing music, the prospect of making an album at Real World Studios has become very real. Getting to see Steve and Joe in their "natural environment" also gave us an insight into quite how lucky we are to be working with them. Nothing is being rushed or done half-heartedly with this record and we've all agreed that we've never worked as hard as whilst we've been down here.

Another weekend of relaxation is in store - plus some updates on our online pages so check them out. Then on Monday it all beings in earnest!

Urusen x

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Hello from snowy Wiltshire!

We've been here for almost a week now so thought we'd do a little blog to let you know what we've been up to. We came down on Monday and moved into our lovely little Cottage for the month on Linleys Farm. And what a great little place, Jay's got his wood burning fire, we've all got our own bed's (Ben and Kieran are in "adult-sized bunk beds"!) and its perfectly placed to allow us to get back and forth to Real World quickly.

Monday afternoon we moved all our music equipment into the Millside where we are doing our 2 weeks of pre-production. Its quite an odd place, a converted agricultural "hanger", but suits us perfectly - especially after the heating had been on for a couple of days! As most of you will know, we have a lot of instruments so to have them all in one room is quite a horde - especially when the plan is to add MORE sounds to the band for recording!

Tuesday was a long day as we were determined to get all 22 songs we were putting forward for the album up to scratch. To break up the days, we are having lunch in the Real World Canteen, lovingly and expertly prepared by the on-site chef, Jerome - our small piece of luxury in what are long and taxing days! It's all worth it though, as we are all adamant that this album will be as special as we can make it.

Wednesday saw the arrival of Steve Osborne, who is producing the album. Having only met him once before, and knowing he had worked with some very well known artists and produced some massive records, the morning was a mixture of excitement, nerves and trepidation as we awaited his arrival.

As it turned out, we had nothing to be worried about. Steve has at times seemed as excited about making this record as we are. To explain the role he has played thus far is difficult, and also the part he plays in the creative process that we go through with every song, but in short he has what we have dubbed "ninja ears". He isn't changing our sound, or making us "un-Urusen", but bringing the best out of us, both in terms of the songs and their arrangements and instrumentation, and each of us as individuals as far as our roles in the band and in each song.

We don't want to give too much away, but the process has thus far yielded electric guitars, a cappella vocal sessions, plus some potential string quartet action! More importantly we're very excited with the way things are beginning to shape up, and we're relishing the fact that we have another full week before we start recording.

On the subject of next week, we're going to be doing a special showcase gig inside the rehearsal studio on Thursday night. The event details are on our facebook page, so let us know if you're local and fancy popping along for a sneak preview of what you might hear on the album!

That's it for now, the weekend promises a bit of relaxation, and so far the odd snowball fight with our neighbours, but we have some homework for Steve due in on Monday so not all rest! Keep in touch through all the usual channels, we're going to try and put some videos up soon so keep an eye out for them!

Urusen x

Monday, 25 October 2010

We're making an album!

For anyone who doesn't know already - this was the rather cool news we revealed at our gig at the Slaughtered Lamb earlier on this month. In November we will be de-camping to the Wiltshire Countryside for a month at the glorious Real World Studios. Naturally we're all quite excited.
Looks ghastly, I'm sure you agree...
We have been down to the studios a few times in the last year or two, so we feel quite at ease there already which is good. We've had a really good relationship with the place since they started looking after our publishing a couple of years ago. The surroundings are truly idyllic (anyone from around that area can vouch for that) so we think it will be the perfect place for us to get completely immersed in the recording process and hopefully produce something a bit special.

To help us along the way with this, we have enlisted the services of a producer by the name of Steve Osborne. We've been in talks with him for a little while and had a session with him a few months ago to see how we got on in a music environment. It all seemed to go well, and now we can't wait to get in a room with him again. You can check out who he's worked with via the link, but without over-egging it, his track record and reputation precede him somewhat, and we are thrilled he wants to work with us. Hopefully the results of it all will be something you all (and lots of other people) approve of!

This isn't our Cottage.
In addition, we can confirm today that we have booked a lovely cottage for the duration of our stay in the Wiltshire countryside. More details will follow shortly (along with lots of pictures and so on) but for no apparent reason the 5 of us seem about as excited about this as the recording itself. Jay was adamant we had some form of open-fire, which we have secured, whilst there was also a hard line taken by the non-snorers in the band to secure sufficient sleeping quarters to separate them from the snorers! Sure you'll enjoy the photos/videos that emerge; probably more than we do making them!

So for now, we're sad to say that does mean we have no more gigs booked for 2010 - but what a year it has been. Thanks to everyone who's made this a truly special year for us - we look forward to seeing you next year.
Fret not tho, if you are worried about not getting your urusen "fix". We plan on trying to stay in touch online as much as possible during the recording process. Through the blog, facebook, myspace, the newsletter as well as potentially some video diaries - we hope to keep you all in the loop. Likewise, please keep in touch as we miss you when we don't see you often!! We should have some other exciting stuff happening on line in the next month or so - so keep your eyes pealed and fingers cross we'll tide you over until we're back on the road again in 2011!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Lots of folk about...

Relatively quiet week for us, but still a lot going on. Keen to keep the live shows fresh going into festival season, we had two 2 writing sessions this week to work on some new material that will hopefully start to creep into a set soon. Naturally, we find the newest of our songs the most exciting, so needless to say we're looking forward to getting some reaction to the new songs. With the album recording process set to start in the forthcoming months - its great having brand new material to work with as we head towards that.

We all take an active roll when it comes to writing now, so there is a real feel of collective accomplishment when we see songs come into their own. One song in particular has been kicking around for over a year now in various guises but has never been finished properly. Its working title has always been '3four', and it wouldn't be surpising if that changes, but we have finaly had a breakthrough with it so look out for it at a show soon!

On the subject of shows, we have confirmed a few more dates this week for over the summer, so check out the listings and see if you can come along. In June we have some very exciting gigs to look out for. On the 4th, we're playing with an exciting new band / project called Mt Desolation at The Luminaire in Kilburn. The brainchild of Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin, the contributors read like a who's who of the British indie-folk scene (with the odd US mega-star thrown in for good measure). One of them, who will be playing in his own right on the 4th is Pete Roe. Pete has been on tour recently with Laura Marling (both as her opener and as a member of her band) and seems to be garnering glowing responses wherever he goes. We really like him and are looking forward to the whole night - which should be quite an event. We're informed that the night is very close to selling out, so grab yourself a ticket here.

The following week, we are playing 2 gigs with our friends The Magic Lantern. They are currently on tour in support of their debut album "Shine a Light On". A stripped down Urusen will be joining them at the Lansdown in Bristol on the 9th, then the following night  in Bath for a special evening as part of the Bath Fringe Festival. The gig will take place in the Little Theatre Cinema and will feature full sets from both bands, along with usherettes & popcorn. For more info go here - should be another special night.

Compering for us that night will be our friend Sam Brookes. Sam is not only a great singer-songwriter in his own right, he also runs a beautiful monthly night called the Unplugged Sessions at the Windmill in Mayfair. It really is one of the loveliest atmospheres you can find for an acoustic gig, and the quality of act is consistently high. We played at the 1st ever night, so are thrilled to be going back on the 14th.

Lastly, and cheekily, a request. We really want to play the Green Man festival this year. In order to do so, we need 2 mins of your time. Go here, register with the website (un-tick the newsletter subscription  and they shouldn't ever bother you) and then vote for us to open the festival...please! You can win 2 tickets by voting, along with our eternal gratitude!

So all in all, lots to look forward to - see you soon!

P, B, J, N & K x

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

And we're back!

Sorry for the radio silence, but rather than dwell on that, or try to come up with an excuse, let's just crack on!

For those of you who don't know, things have been going rather swimmingly for Urusen of late. In the last few months we have played some of our biggest gigs to date, as well as seeing some rather exciting off-stage developments occur (more of which later). I'm writing this having just come back from a meeting in a rather nice North London pub where we were attempting to map out the next 3 months of our lives (apologies in advance to girlfriends, family and everyone else for the neglect you may begin to feel!) Having already been confirmed for 9 festivals this summer (go here to check them out as & when we are able to announce them) with a few more to hear back from, we also have some potentially exciting City gigs to fit in to our schedule, as well as the small matter of recording our as yet untitled forthcoming album...and breathe.

At this stage we cannot divulge too much regarding plans for the album, but rest assured we are working our behinds off to get everything and everyone in place for it to be rather special. When we have more pieces in position we will obviously share more. What we can say (as some of you will know) is that there will be a very important and hopefully rewarding way in which all of you can get involved with the album. Details on this will be revealed shortly, so keep your ears pricked!

Other things to let you know is that a lot of our web presence is in the process of being overhauled, so make sure you keep checking the various pages over the coming months and let us know what you think. (Quick reminder that you can be a fan of ours on facebook as well as follow us on twitter).

In addition to the new album, we already have a new demo that we have recently made available at gigs. It features 4 of our songs for a very recession-friendly £4. It is a limited run, so grab one while they are there (never know how much it might be worth when we turn into U2!) we are also sorting out some other rather funky merch for the summer, so be sure to check it out (if you come see us, or on-line when its up and running) as we're quietly confident you're going to like it. What's more, its all being designed by Pete - too talented for his own good!

To finish and bring you right up to date, last weekend saw us open our festival account at the Dart Music Festival in Dartmouth. given the distance from London, we stopped halfway the day before in Box for Lunch at Real World Studios (When in Box, as they say...) and played a little gig at the lovely Queens Head. Without going into too much detail, the gig acted as a little bit of a showcase for us, and went really well. Was nice to see some friends there too (such as Sam Brookes - we like him) as well as getting some local support from Gareth Hale of The Black Swan Effect. The rest of the evening was mainly made up (for me at least) of drinking STRONG cider in the Royal Oak in Bath where we shall be playing later on this summer - think I like the place.

The next day saw us journey down to Dartmouth for what turned out to be a really great day. The festival had a lovely atmosphere and the setting could hardly have been more picturesque. We seemed to go down a storm (as well as my thunder drum seemingly bringing on a storm at one point!) and would certainly like to go back and play again. We then soaked up the atmosphere for a while, as well as lined our stomachs before making the long journey back to London.

All in all a great weekend, next gigs in June are in Bath and London and should be nothing short of spectacular so make sure you come along!

P, B, N, J & K x