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

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hold did you record in the 5th best recording studio in the world WITHOUT a record deal?

In the Woodroom at Real World
As I mentioned in the previous entry, we recorded 11 songs last year at Real World Studios. The focus of the band at the moment, and this blog, is finding the best way to release these recordings, as an album, hopefully in the spring of 2012. What I didn't explain is how we got there in the 1st place.

Traditionally, a band would have been "signed" by a record contract, under which the label would have put up the money (possibly in the form of an advance) for the artist to record, produce and ultimately release an album. This album is then the property of the label, who can decide it needs changing or discarding altogether, as well as making most of the decisions regarding the strategy for putting it out.

We currently own pretty much all of our record. Instead of the above model, we funded the project through a mixture of a form of sponsorship and good faith and belief in the band. Oh, and we spent pretty much all the money the band had saved over the previous couple of years!

The sponsorship came from Bowers and Wilkins (the speaker company). They have a long relationship with Real World and Peter Gabriel in particular, and every year they support all sorts of artists in different ways, in return for limited exclusive use of their music for their "Society of Sound" subscribers. For us, this support manifested itself in the form as a generous donation towards our studio costs.

The good faith and belief came predominantly from our producer Steve Osborne. Having been turned on to the band by Real World Publishing (who administrate our publishing), he offered us a deal whereby there was no upfront charges, but instead he would get a greater number of 'points' on the record, or % split of the income it would hopefully generate through sales, use on TV and film etc.

It also came from other, less obvious places though. Because while there were financial costs to the band, the commitment to decamping to Wiltshire for a month had to also get the approval of partners, bosses and others. The fact is that, whilst it's nice to think of a band as a gang, separate from the world, we're in fact 5 guys with lives and dependants and people that rely on us. What was perhaps most affirming about the whole thing, was the support we did get in this department. This band has meant so much to all of us that all the other strands of our lives inevitably get drawn in to it. My boss comes to gigs, Ben's Mum is regularly our hotelier and Oscar is arguably our youngest fan. To know that we had this support was invaluable, but also made us doubly determined to make the most of our time, because it wasn't just us sacrificing things like money and time, but people with nothing material to benefit from any Urusen success were moving big and small mountains to ensure we made it happen.

The next 6 months will in one, ultimately crude way, determine how worthwhile those sacrifices were. Speaking personally, it was one of the best months of my life, and more musically rewarding than anything I've ever done. The band feel pretty much the same. We are all immensely proud of what we achieved, and have a bank of shared memories that we will keep forever. But we never went in to it purely for the experience. In my next entry, I will bring you inside our current head space, getting the music we made into you, the public's, ears, heads and hearts!

As part of our arrangement with B&W, Ben put together a rather splendid short film about our time at Real World for their website, which you can watch it below.

Monday, 28 November 2011


It's probably best to start at the beginning. This is a briefer than brief history of the band. As a band, we are very keen to look forward, but it does seem relevant to tell a little of the Urusen story, if only so that if things come up in the blog about the past, you know what I'm going on about!

Urusen started, a while ago, as two cousins from the South West writing songs together. As it progressed to gigs and tentative moves into recording, they managed to find their way into their old school one summer to record some songs - recordings which ended up being the band's debut album Life Under Seat.

The record showed that this was something worth pursuing and plans were dreamt up for a follow up, but without a proper income external interests and commitments inevitably had an impact on the progress of the band. Pete did a Masters, Ben made his first few trips to Africa to make movies and the 'everyday life' stuff like jobs and relationships meant that Urusen couldn't always stay central and a top priority. Nevertheless, and perhaps as a sign of things to come, they still managed to build their own (tiny!) studio from the proceeds of the first record and set about a more ambitious project that would become their next release 'One Day In June'. More importantly, it saw Urusen become a five piece band.

The addition of extra musicians meant a broader sonic palette but also more lives to fit around. In Jay, the band had found (via gumtree) a full-time musician with real experience of the sharp end of the industry - having toured the world with a multi-platinum selling artist. Nick (via a mutual friend's introduction) came on board with his Cello and years of experience in bands and orchestras. Rob, an old friend, completed the line-up on drums. In addition, having been 'on the scene', the band had contacts within the industry now, as well as musicians and friends to help with the recording of the 2nd record. Recorded in Ben's converted childhood bedroom but mastered by a producer of The Who, the band self released the record on their own label, The Almighty Rooftop Record Company.

Between then and now, a new full-time drummer, Kieran (me) came on board and fittingly, the band got bigger and louder in lots of ways. A new found dynamism, a lot of hard work and the triumphant/serendipitous return of a version of 'folk' music to the mainstream has resulted in 3 consecutive summers of extensive gigging and festivals, our music used on TV and played on radio, as well as a growing, wonderful set of fans. Oh, and Nick became a Dad! A desire to make a 'proper' record after dipping our toes in with demos and twilight sessions in studios culminated in the Winter of 2010 with the band decamping to a cottage in Wiltshire, taking 4 weeks off from their lives, and recording 11 songs at Real World Studios with producer Steve Osborne; without doubt the best musical experience any of us ever had.

Just over a year to the day since we went down there, I sit writing this with the record still only having been heard by a select few people outside of the band. So what's next? A successful self release of a single and a music industry that is increasingly risk averse and development shy has lead to us making the decision to put the record out ourselves; with a little help from a variety of different people who you'll hear more about later in future posts.

So that's where we've been and how we got here. It's not intended as a full biography; I'll leave that to Vh-1. The reason I've started with this is to show that where we are now is undoubtedly at the beginning of an exciting and intriguing journey, but it is also the latest chapter in an already running story. I think this is worth mentioning because, for all bands, there is a huge emphasis on always portraying yourselves as "new", "fresh" and "breakthrough". While we will always be new to some people, and we feel like we are most definitely fresh and bringing something new to the industry, we will not ignore our history. Not only do we think it's interesting, but it's this past, and the memories that have brought us here, and make us so sure that we can make next year the best the band has ever had.