Eagle-eyed viewers of our latest video probably keep having to turn their heads from side to side and chew mice whilst watching. Which must be weird. Those viewers with regular human eyes and an observant streak may have noticed an unfamiliar face behind the drums.
That would be our old friend Duke and, in case you
didn’t know, there’s a little story.
Way back in the noughties, when anyone wearing a
face mask on the street was just a mugger and a barrel of oil cost more than minus
37 dollars, The Layers were touring Europe and having a quite splendid time of
it. All was going well until Roo, our first drummer, picked up a heavy set of
drum hardware and, with a rending of vertebrae audible on Mars, did something
nasty to his back. Without European health insurance, it was either fly Roo
home or allow a back-alley Viennese surgeon to rip out his spine and turn it
into a coat rack and two sets of chessmen. Unfortunately, the surgeon was
unavailable at short notice so we stuck the drummer in a jumbo sized Jiffy bag
and took him to the airport in Bratislava where, to save money, he was faxed
back to the UK.
This looked like also being the end of our tour,
no one else in the band at the time being able to count to four. Just as
despair beckoned, one of the other musicians on the tour with us, a solo
troubadour with a blistering voice, said: “Hey, I play drums.”
That man was one Duke Bryan McDonald. This was a
wonderful and generous offer from someone who hadn’t picked up a drumstick in
years and barely knew us or, for that matter, our songs. So with a set of
recordings and a little bit of tour bus tutorial, Duke learned the whole set in
about a day and a half and played brilliantly for us a night later in front of
a fantastic Czech audience. Many drummers have, for various, Spinal Tap-esque
reasons over the years, taken a turn at keeping the wayward musicians of The
Layers in time and, as any of them would no doubt attest, our songs are rarely
straightforward. Duke did a great job and earned our enduring friendship which
is, let’s face it, something of a booby prize at best. Such is life.
Duke now lives in Finland and makes his living as
a musician. Very good at it he is too – check him out ((https://www.facebook.com/dukemcdonald/))
and we hope that we’ll be able to work with him again.
In the meantime, we’re hoping to get more
collaborations done with musicians who’ve inexplicably failed to give us fake
contact details over the years. Keep an eye on our splendid new(ish) YouTube channel
for more videos and, if you’re a musician (at least by the loose standards of
The Layers) and would like to record with us like this, please get in touch via
We hope that you enjoy these recordings and that,
if you’ve been finding lockdowns and social distancing a chore, this music
brightens your day a little.
Thanks for listening. Unlimited love from The
As Christmas Day gets closer and the pressure to spend gets greater, building like a sprout-laden fart during the Queen’s Speech, remember that life goes on after Christmas too and there may be a few things that you’d like to lay a tenner aside for in January.
A new Layers album perhaps?
Yes, it will surprise no one who knows the five people who have done for modern music what Davros did to improve the image of people with disabilities that their heroic effort to get the new album out in time for Christmas has crashed and burned.
Still, every cloud and all that. By way of an apology, for anyone who’s read this far, we offer you a free download of our Christmas single:
We hope you like it. Recording wise, we’re at the preliminary mixing stage so we very much hope to have the record out by the end of January and we have a tentative launch gig date of the 29th February. Yes, there is one next year, so stick it in your diary and hopefully we’ll see you then.
For now, from Sarah, Caleb, Dan, Neil and Paul, the Happiest of Christmases and a splendid start to 2020.
“Regular” readers of The Layers’ blog might well be forgiven for thinking they’ve Rip Van Winkled their way through an entire calendar year, given that entries are appearing at a rate not seen since Neil was a teacher and had marking to avoid. Fear not, like one of those serial killers from a grim movie, the blog will almost undoubtedly soon go dormant for a long period before popping up again in a blaze of tortured puns.
However, the flurry of recent activity is because we Layers have been remarkably busy of late. The imminence of our new album, “Fistful of Change”, has goaded us into action on a number of fronts, one being a long overdue review of our digital marketing strategy. Whilst flicking through the slides in a presentation entitled “Why showing PowerPoint slides to The Layers is likely to result in a violent assault from a bassist” that we found on a USB drive surprisingly deep in our marketing consultant’s colon, we realised that it was well past time that we started allowing the public to buy our music directly from the site, like modern people, instead of meeting with one of our representatives in a deserted car park to exchange an envelope full of used bills for a flash drive, which is more exciting but has resulted in a few misunderstandings and fans inadvertently buying CCTV footage of prominent public figures engaged in lewd acts. We should probably use different coloured envelopes.
Anyway, to streamline the process of buying for fans and to avoid paying NCP’s frankly outrageous commission on sordid car-park exchanges, we’ve taken a lump hammer and a roll of gaffer tape to the website and made a few upgrades. Pop over there at your earliest convenience and you’ll see that not only can you now purchase our previous recordings in a variety of formats but, excitingly, there’s now a selection of Layers merchandise available. From sportswear to mugs, baby clothing to owl cosies, there’s something for everyone. Except owls, because I made up the bit about owl-cosies. Please have a browse and perhaps buy the music lover in your life something to keep them warm while they wait for us to finish the album? As an added incentive, you’ll get a 15% discount until the 2nd December.
We really hope that you like what we’ve designed and if there are items that you’d like to see in future, let us know, we’ll see what we can do. Until then, happy shopping from The Layers!
…Caleb’s frankly magnificent calf muscles. But
you can’t have those for Christmas, you weirdo, you’ll have to get a Layers CD
instead. Yes, our third studio album, “Fistful of Change” is taking shape in
the studio and we’re optimistic that it should be ready to be piled onto
reindeer-driven sleds covering for striking Royal Mail operatives in time for
It’s been a brilliant week to be a Layer – firstly
our crowdfunding campaign, powered by the wonderful people at Fundsurfer,
exceeded our cautious expectations and raised almost £1800 along with some
amazing offers of practical support.
Secondly, we’ve been recording all weekend. Time
in the studio is always great fun but this weekend has been extra special as
some of the tracks near completion and we can start to hear how they’re going
to sound when finished. In addition, this weekend saw DB studios deluged with
visitors coming to sing on a very special project – more on this very soon.
It’s been humbling to receive such generous
support in terms of funding, expertise and time and we’d like to take this
opportunity to everyone who put in time and effort this weekend to come and
make a musical contribution. It was great fun having you all in the studio and
we hope that you’re as thrilled as we are with the results when you hear them.
There’s an incredible amount of work to be done
over the next month or so but we very much hope that in just a few short weeks,
we’ll be packaging up CDs, t-shirts and VIP passes for our backers. All we can
offer for now is a bottomless reserve of gratitude and a request to hang on in
there for a little while.
News of a pre-release bonus track soon – watch this
So while you’ve been doing trivial stuff like
supporting your family, curing rare diseases, cracking nuclear fusion and
bathing in the relaxing torrent of Brexit bulletins, we’ve been beavering away
over a hot mixing desk. What we’ve achieved so far is a set of what we think
are our best songs to date: more ambitious, more accomplished and as gloriously
eclectic as ever.
We’re at the solos, backing vocals and preliminary
mixing stage but there are still lots of opportunities to get involved, so if
you’d like to sing or play on the album, get in touch right away via email@example.com
Otherwise, please, please support us via our
friends at Fundsurfer if you possibly can. A Layers album makes an ideal
Christmas gift and we have a whole host of other great rewards.
In other news, after Christmas and the album
launch we’ll be expanding our digital empire with some additions to the website
and hopefully playing a few gigs near you!
…of course, while you wait, a lot of other stuff
might come your way too, like a Layers blog post but, hey, you’ve got to take
the rough with the smooth, right? The news for those of you eagerly awaiting a
new Layers album though, is rather splendidly upbeat.
The weekend has been spent, once again, in the
retro-technical Aladdin’s cave that is DB Studios and we’re excited to announce
that the first phase of recording is now complete. Allow the thermostat of your
excitement to rise just above “frozen mammoth corpse” before cautiously opening
the coolant valve as we qualify that by saying that we’ve got drums and bass
guitar recorded for every track but there’s still a lot of work to do. While
Dan and Paul are now free to put their feet up and mentally prepare themselves
for the horror that is recording backing vocals, the burden of work falls on
the broad, medium and petite shoulders, respectively,
of Caleb, Neil and Sarah.
There’s always something slightly scary about the
first iteration of studio recordings. Ideas that seem to work in rehearsal,
then sound a little bit ropey recorded on a digital recorder in the practice
room are given their first real test – will they really work or were we drunk
on hope, delusion and Sarah’s bizarrely potent homemade cider?
Well again, without wishing to let optimism get
out of hand and fill a frankly terrifying world with the balm of false hope, we’re
tickled pink to report that, a few early modifications made, all of the songs
that we’ve embarked upon have passed the early test.
So: delays, excuses and nob-gags aside, what can
you expect? Well, we’ve rewritten and re-recorded a couple of old favourites
and turned them from turgid to toe-tapping. We’ve got new compositions that are
making bold forays into funk territory and we’ve somehow managed to be
simultaneously more experimental and more commercial.
It’s great fun being in the studio; lots of
laughter mixed in with the creativity and the hard work. We’re hoping that will
all come across in the recording.
We’re also hoping that some of our fans and
followers will get involved in the recording this time around. Details to
follow but we’re going to be recruiting backing singers galore, percussion
shakers and soloists so if you’ve always wanted to be on an album recording,
watch this space or, if you’re super-eager, drop us a line.
Expect a gentle increase in blog frequency as we
keep you in touch with developments as they happen. For now, Layers out.
A quote, although most remembered from Hannibal Lecter, originally attributed
to Violet Fane, nom de plume of Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie. Readers falling
into the narrow Venn diagram overlap that contains fans of The Layers and
Countdown may be tickled upon realising that Ms Currie’s pseudonym is an
anagram of “i.e a TV felon” therefore enabling them to share the quote. Is this
mere coincidence? Yes.
Approximately five regular-sized shoulders, but that seemed a weird way,
although admittedly more concise, of explaining it.
…is it our Lord and saviour, Jesus H[i]
Christ, riding a bicycle with a flying pig following along on one of those
extendible dog leashes? It’s none of those things; it’s the even rarer sight of
a new Layers album taking shape in the studio! Regular readers of the Layers
blog (or at least, those people paid to read the blog to Layers fans in an
attempt to coax them out of whatever vegetative state, psychotic rampage or
they are currently stuck in) may have formed the impression that the next album
would be concurrent with one of those future astronomical events that Brian Cox
is always banging on about and that the band were too busy doing rock star
stuff like choking on their own vomit and throwing TVs through hotel windows.
But no. As it turns out, modern TVs are both too large to fit through the
average hotel window and so light that they just bounce off the glass and land
on your toe.
So having checked out of the Chelsea Hotel and got off the crutches, the
band have wasted little time[iii]
in constructing a marvellous set of ditties[iv]
and trundling down to our old friend Andy Butler at DB studios. As ever, it
would be rash at this stage to start making predictions about release dates
although we are prepared to go out on a limb and say that it will be “in
the future”, unless time travel is invented[v]
before then in which case it will be available on vinyl for a shilling and
we’ll be supporting the Big Bopper in a frankly baffling piece of promotional
What we can say is that we’ve got some new songs, the same old wildly
eclectic mix of styles, a couple of old favourites reworked and upgraded and
we’re hoping that it’s going to be our best work yet. We’re also going to be
announcing a crowdfunding bid in the relatively near future with chances to get
involved in the recording process and all manner of other goodies. So, stay
alert, watch the skies, keep your nose to the grindstone, your finger on the
pulse, your ear to the ground and consider a better yoga teacher. We’re going
back to the studio and we’ll have our people call your people soon.
Big love, Layers out
fact, the H is for Hydrogen. God is a huge chemistry nerd.
if you’ve managed all three simultaneously, congratulations, this month’s star
prize is on its way.
Which is what happens when you leave a book out in the sunlight and, if it were a physical book rather than a disembodied electric journal, the Layers blog would be pretty much the colour of cold tea by now. Readers eager for a fresh installment have hopefully become accustomed to not holding their breath (although this is still recommended protocol for uninitiated visitors to the rehearsal studio where the regular presence of a lady (even if it is Ramage) has done little to improve the self restraint of the band regarding contributions to air quality) and should also know better than to place any credence in any promises to increase the frequency of posts. In fact, we’re not even going to make any.
The upside to biannual updates is that that at least there’s the odd chance that something has happened since the last one and indeed, that is (kind of) the case. Since our last post, we managed a long set at the Dolphins’ Hall without mishap and produced an extended set with a balance of covers that, on the whole, we thought went pretty well. We were aided and abetted by the wonderful Felyx Fox who not only provided brilliant support but also joined us on stage. This beautiful friendship was sustained throughout the summer as the guys shared the bill with us at a terrific fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis in May and then at the Tetbury Fiesta where they joined in with a few numbers again. It’s been a privilege to play with such great musicians and genuinely lovely people and we hope to do it again soon.
Fundraising has been a bit of a theme for the year and, in an unusually active few months we’ve also played charity gigs at the Thunderbolt in Bristol and the Bristol Hippodrome piano bar, where a wonderful crowd of amateur theatre enthusiasts belted out ‘Surf Trip’ with such vigour that we were half expecting ceiling tiles to fall. A brilliant night.
So with Dan and Sarah settled in and the brief interruption of covers and gig rehearsal out of the way we’ve jammed our noses back on to the grindstone of creativity and cracked on with new material. As ever, we’re trying to push ourselves musically and we’re excited about some of the new music that we’re coming out with. Sarah and Dan have been able to put their stamp on the band and we’re looking forward to sharing a few new tunes soon. Not too soon, obviously, this is The Layers we’re talking about, but we’ll get there. Look out for gig announcements and another blog post – perhaps before the next ice age. Who can say?
Like polio, Betamax or enlightened governance, one might be forgiven for thinking that The Layers were no longer alive and a threat to public health, electronically recorded entertainment and the wicked desires of the 1%, respectively. And then here’s the convoluted prelude to another blog: Freddy Krueger’s hand emerging from the soil of a grave, heralding another brief period of horror, recycled ideas and slightly outdated riffs on popular culture.
So, metaphors, tolerance and credulity astrain, here’s what’s new in the world of the band currently tied by most bookies alongside Pope Benedict to appear on stage at next year’s Grammy Awards?
Well, life in The Layers can be, as we know, tough on drummers and another tub thumper has, sadly, gone for soup. Actually, it’s not really sad at all; having made a wonderful contribution to The Layers for a couple of years, Chris Bray’s musical ambitions have matured and grown and he’s decided to concentrate on the full time pursuit of his solo musical career. A cracking technical drummer; dedicated to self-improvement, Chris’ playing and singing will be missed but we look forward to sharing a stage with him as separate acts sometime in the future. His playing has shaped the direction of our music and forced us all to up our game and we are full of gratitude for his time in the engine room of the good ship Layers.
Having made a brilliant job of filling in for an injured Chris at a recent gig, new boy Dan had already learned the set and, appearing to have a high tolerance for the heady mix of insult, innuendo and utter bollocks that passes for rehearsal conversation, seemed a logical choice to offer the job to. Somewhat illogically, but luckily for us, he said yes and is now busily making the set his own.
Dan isn’t the only addition to the band. Having endured possibly the longest audition/trial by nonsense in musical history, Sarah has finally been admitted full-time into what had previously been a bit of a boys’ club. She’s not quite keeping up with the farting but does double duty on the sexual innuendo, so overall, standards are being maintained.
And where does all this leave us musically? We’re relieved to say, stronger than ever. Keyboards having now become an integral part of the Layers’ sound, our previously eclectic sound has been able to embrace a greater range of styles and influences than ever before and we’re in possession of sufficient new material to fill a much awaited second album. It’s not going to happen soon, because our ambitions are grander than ever before and we want No3 to be at least the same step up that our second album was.
In other news, whilst mulling an unusually long set for a charity bash (more of which later) we decided that we could challenge ourselves musically by attempting, for the first time, some cover versions. It’s been fun and it’s energised us musically. We’re looking forward to surprising a few people with our choices at an upcoming gig.
That will be a fund raiser for the Tetbury Fiesta. Taking place at the Dolphins Hall on 21st April. As soon as full details are available, we’ll send out the town crier but for now, put the date in your diary and start delousing your dancing trousers.
Finally, we were privileged to play a support set at The Vaults this month for Brigid Kaelin and Steve Cooley, internationally acclaimed country artists. Paul, Neil and Caleb played an acoustic set that inexplicably failed to clear the room and were then treated to a fantastic set from two world-class musicians. It was a wonderful evening and we hope that we get to play with them again one day.
Well, there you go – a jam-packed Layers update. We’ll try not to leave it quite so long next time…
 His odds were higher but we hear he’s fallen out with Fiddy over their collaboration.
 Playing drums for The Layers is getting to be like musicians’ jury service…
 Not in that sinister, hostess-abusing way, we’d like to make absolutely clear.
Particularly the case with a Layers blog, where that delightful period of anticipation in which no blog is published is usually utterly ruined by the thought of wading through another mish-mash of mangled grammar, needlessly obscure cultural allusions and crappy jokes. Still, look on the bright side, at our current rate of publication, there’s a good chance you’ll die before the next one.
“Regular” readers might be forgiven for thinking that the grim reaper had finally caught up with the undynamic foursome given our lack of contact with the outside world. No such luck, I’m afraid, if you heard the crackle of ancient bones and a dry, sepulchral cough, that was probably just Neil bending down to pick up his amp and Paul giving up smoking.
It’s odd starting an entry with a health update since Roo was sadly forced to down sticks – those of you on spinal disc prolapse alert will have to make do with an update on Paul’s lungs – having shown iron will power (as the only remaining viable alternative to an iron lung) The Layers’ bass player has quit the fags and is now a convicted vapist. Rehearsals are now bathed in a miasma of blue slushie flavoured steam instead of tar-laden exhalations, mingling delightfully with the delicate hints of “arome d’homme” and “vent de derriere” that characterise the studio as we play. I’m sure all fans will join in a hearty congratulations to Paul and wish him the best of luck in staying off the baccy. Or at least mumble something that could be thus construed at their ward attendant.
In other (and some would argue, more pertinent) news, the band have finally got off their collective arses and sorted out a few gigs. I know, I know – but before you rush to the window to seek winged swine, pelleton-swaddled messiahs and other signs of the impending apocalypse, whip out your diaries and make notes of some dates.
We play Mr Wolf’s in Bristol on Monday 27th June, a little acoustic bash at Tetbury’s open mic the following Thursday and then back to our spiritual home, The Vaults in Cirencester on Saturday 2nd July. Yes, after almost a gigless year, three in the same week. We’re treating it as a mini tour.
It will be Chris’ first full, plugged-in, max volume gig behind the skins, cause for excitement enough (and if you’d like to see what he’s capable of, check out some of his videos and his website) but we’re also tickled pink to be re-joined for the two big gigs by the lovely Sarah Ramage on keyboards, backing vocals, tambourine, flugelhorn and non-sequitur.
Later this year we’re getting back into the studio to do some test recordings of new tracks and then we’ll be launching a crowd funding campaign for a third Layers album.
See? That was worth the wait, wasn’t it?
Layers out. x