Recording update

Ahoy-hoy, gentlefolks. It’s a third Layers blog entry in a quarter of a year and if that isn’t a harbinger of the end of days, well we don’t know what is.

We’re doing all we can to let everyone know what’s going on with the current recording, so if you’ve missed the crowd-funding campaign, go over to Fundsurfer and take a look here: (http://fundsurfer.com/layers) and if you’ve missed the videos, somehow, then check out our spangly new YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrbSWnOEaQe0q2RhPiIOYcg)

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 contact@thelayers.me.uk

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!

Watch the skies.

Layers out.

All good things to those who wait…

You get what you pay for with session musicians. Life at DB studios.

All good things to those who wait[1]

…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[2], 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.

x


[1] 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.

[2] Approximately five regular-sized shoulders, but that seemed a weird way, although admittedly more concise, of explaining it.

Is it a bird, is it a plane…

…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 tree[ii]  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 tour history.

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


[i] Little-known fact, the H is for Hydrogen. God is a huge chemistry nerd.

[ii] And if you’ve managed all three simultaneously, congratulations, this month’s star prize is on its way.

[iii] Geologically speaking

[iv] Careful how you say that…

[v] Fair chance

All the leaves were brown

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?

Nope, not dead yet.

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[1]?

Well, life in The Layers can be, as we know, tough on drummers[2] 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[3]. 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[4] 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…

Layers out.


[1] His odds were higher but we hear he’s fallen out with Fiddy over their collaboration.

[2] Playing drums for The Layers is getting to be like musicians’ jury service…

[3] Not in that sinister, hostess-abusing way, we’d like to make absolutely clear.

[4] The title needs work, for one thing…

Anticipation is the greater part of pleasure.

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

Thane of Groans

Haha! Screw you, George R Martin, we’ve managed another Layers blog before you got your next Game of Thrones book out!1 “Regular” readers and fans of the blog2 could be forgiven for genuinely wondering which might turn up next. Sorry, it’s Paul’s fault. He was supposed to remind our accountant to pay the bloke who hires the guy to thrash Neil with a length of knotted rope to get him to write the blog. It’s definitely not Neil’s fault – why would he admit to that when he’s busy referring to himself in the third person like some kind of disturbed weirdo?

Perusal of the website3 will reveal that within mere months of him joining the band, we’ve finally managed to get a reference to Chris published and it should be noticed that even his Lego avatar manages to look twenty years younger than the rest of us. Never mind. Gigging with The Layers will add a few lines to that youthful visage – hurry along to that first gig, folks, it will probably look like a musical rendition of the last act of The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

Speaking of which – yes! We’re ready to gig. Machinations are continuing to grab a quick support slot in Stroud in February and then we’ll be looking to do a few local gigs before, hopefully, stretching our legs a little.

We’d like to thank our fans4 for their patience in bearing with us through a difficult period of adjustment5. We’re gradually getting back to what, for want of a better term, we’ll call normal. We’re getting close to an album’s worth of new songs, eyeing up some gigs and have ambitious plans for a couple of videos (we may be requiring some extras). Keep your eyes on the site – we’ll try to get at least one of those things out to you before “The Winds of Winter” hits the shelves.

Layers out.

1 Yep, we know it’s actually a “Song of Ice and Fire” book but have gone with the TV show for ease of understanding.

2 Hey! There might be one…

3 Entirely at own risk

4 We know what you’re going to ask and no, we’re not going to break you out of your ‘retreat’ to attend a gig.

5 For once, we’re not talking about Rupert’s chiropractor.

Roo

Vigilant followers of the Layers’ blog may have noticed a few months passing between instalments and feel aggrieved1, for although easily mistaken for barely coherent ramblings with a smattering of filth, a deeper study2 of said blog reveals an epic tale full of barely-averted triumph and disaster earned by the skin of our teeth3, full of heroism, life-affirming lessons, comedy and tragedy.

Never more so than last week, when we discovered that our drummer, eye-candy and official photographer, Roo, has sustained long-term nerve damage and is unable to drum for the next couple of years.

Alert readers (unlikely, given the levels of medication) will be aware that Roo is no stranger to injury striking at inappropriate times. From injuring his back in Vienna to playing through life-threatening influenza in the less salubrious environs of Swindon, he’s very much the battered warrior of the group. And no, Caleb, battered warrior is not a deep-fried snack.

Roo having been, as well as the foundation of our rhythm section, one of the great driving forces that’s kept us going through some tough times, we were shocked and upset to hear the news. There are times to let your butler tell your agent to get his people to arrange some representation to look at the procedures for dealing with something and there are times4 to get together over a pint. If there’s one thing at which The Layers excel5 it’s talking bollocks over a pint: thus resolutions were established and a turning point in our history negotiated.

So the good news is that we’re not losing Roo; he will continue to be the beating heart of the band. He’ll be contributing to the songs, playing some backing on stage and hopefully able to make even more of his vocals. But for a while at least, we’ll be playing with a new drummer.  Look forward to meeting (yet another) new Layer in the very near future. In  the mean time, the ever-dependable Dusty Jopling is stepping in for our gig in Stroud. It’s such a pity he lives in Leeds, otherwise this would be very easy.

We never hesitate to take the piss out of our beloved drummer. We’re reasonably sure that it doesn’t upset him that much. We rarely take time out to praise him but it has to be said that this is the kind of situation that can break a band up, alienate someone or be incredibly difficult for any other number of reasons. Roo has taken what could be a crippling blow for some and not just taken it with calm dignity; he has turned it into a reason to be excited, to find new possibilities in the music, take on a new role and get more involved as a photographer, video director and to use the change to drive us forward. We’re unlucky to be losing his services behind the kit but we’re unbelievably lucky to have him in the band.

We’re playing Headstock music festival at the King’s Head in Kingscourt, Stroud on the 9th. Come and see Roo’s debut as a multi-instrumentalist6 and look out for a new-look Layers in the very near future.

Layers out.


1. As most of our followers are far from alert due to regular, heavy doses of psychotropic medication and are using the bulletins as evidence that giant, sentient prawns have taken over the US government, we feel confident of getting away with it.

2. Deep study of the Layers’ blog is undertaken entirely at the reader’s risk. No responsibility will be accepted for deep psychological scarring (quite likely), eyes gouged out to avoid further reading (not unknown) or sides split from laughing (there’s always a first time).

3. very occasionally, vice-versa…

4. Like the times when you realise you can’t afford any of those people.

5. You’d hope there was something…

6.The last three syllables, at least, are guaranteed.

The myriad joys of recording – volume 3

“When I were t’lad we ‘ad to do wi’owt bloody MIDI. In my day we ‘ad to spend three days attaching microphones to a drum kit before you could even think of recording. And by then your drummer ‘ad like as not choked on ‘is own vomit.”

“Aye, an’ the recordin’ software were dead clunky. Pro-tools one were all we ‘ad.”

“Pro-tools? Bloody Pro-tools? All we ‘ad were a minidisc recorder gaffer taped to t’ceiling.”

“Luxury. We used to dream o’ minidiscs. All we ‘ad were C-90 tapes.”

“Chrome?”

“Aye.”

“You were lucky. All we ‘ad were ferric.”

“Reel-to reel?”

“One reel and our bass player ‘ad to spool the tape onto the back wheel of ‘is Vespa.”

“Aye, them were t’days. Lovely and warm, that analogue sound. Not like yer digital rubbish.”

Eager Layers fans with an idle moment between court-mandated therapy sessions will be cheered to know that their increasingly decrepit idols have made a brave foray into preliminary recordings for album number three. Yes, like modern rural buses, you wait for years and then get an announcement via social media that one’s on the way but it’s going to be bloody ages.

Tonight we attempted to use an electronic kit to lay down MIDI drums. Step one was turning Layers HQ into something that looked like monkeys had tried to build the control room for the Large Hadron Collider. Step two was trying to get all of the pieces of electronic detritus to talk to each other. Step three, if we’d got that far, would have required us to play the tracks properly – an embarrassment that we were largely spared.

For the uninitiated, MIDI (Might Inadvertently Demonstrate Ineptitude) is a system devised to make middle aged musicians look dim. Whilst bearded twenty-something hipsters are composing concept albums on their iPhones, men who grew up recording on reel to reel Tascams are left staring blankly at web pages about audio drivers. Put simply, when you play a MIDI instrument, instead of sound, you get numbers. A computer then turns these numbers into sounds. Clearly this is far better than traditional instruments. Imagine a cheese grater that, instead of turning a block of cheese into grated cheese, turned it into a message in Morse Code. Then, instead of simply and inefficiently putting that cheese on your pasta, you would feed the Morse Code message into another machine that would turn it into cheese that you could put on your pasta.

Older readers will be wondering what is the point of all this? They’re also probably wondering if Antiques Roadshow is on and what’s that funny smell? Let’s press on regardless.

The huge advantage of MIDI is that the second machine wouldn’t just be able to turn your Morse code into grated cheese. It could turn it into grated carrot, instead, or weapons-grade Plutonium or pubic hair. All of which would ruin your pasta. There’s modern music for you.

So all in all, this evening has been a learning experience and, if we appear no closer to a third album than we were at the start, at the very least it’s inspired an unamusing parody of an old Monty Python routine. And in the end, isn’t that the point?

Oh.

Well, we’re downloading new drivers, so next week either we’ll get some recording done or play virtual golf. Either way, we’ll keep you posted.

Layers out.

We didn’t get paid. Well, it’s all right for some…

Another day, another gig, another catastrophic misspelling averted in the annals of rock history. A rare Sunday night outing for The Layers and, whilst it would have been nice to see a few more of our fans show up, we recognise the difficulties in checking out of a secure institution on an evening without visitors, laundry trucks or staff fire drills. Fear not, our next CD will contain a small file and a lock pick.

In spite of the restricted fan action (and we are indebted to Joe Bull, of the splendid Apache Rose studios, and friends for supplying the whooping) we had a splendid evening – not least due to the acts that joined us for the evening, The Veneer and Jamie Jamal & This Human Condition, who supplied two sets of brilliant, thoughtful, original music.

We had a small but appreciative audience and, if you’re a musician thinking of looking to gig, we can heartily commend the sound which was great on and off stage thanks to Brian, our Perth-born engineer.

Spoiler alert: no one got paid.

The issue of pay for musicians has come up again lately, partly due to this article by Jack Conte of Pomplamoose doing the rounds on social media. It’s worth a read and, if you can face it, so are the comments. There are indeed, two sides to every story.

We Layerses are lucky chaps; we have, at least for the time being, reasonably well-paid jobs that we don’t utterly hate and supportive families, all of which enable us to put time and money into something that we love. We make original music, we’re proud of what we do, we’re fortunate enough to find enough people who will pop along to occasional gigs and tell us that they appreciate us. Off the back of that support, we’ve been able to tour and record two albums. I suppose that you could say that we’re proof that you can still make music and not have to worry about making a living from it.

On the other hand, we have friends all over the world who are far better at it than we are. The difference, apart from having more than us in the way of talent, determination, youth and beauty, is that they work at it day and night. It’s their job and they treat it that way.

What I see in the articles about musicians getting paid is an argument about whether anyone has a ‘right’ to get paid for touring and my instant response is ‘no’. It’s art. You put it out there and risk it; if people like it, they can pay for it. I’d like to see a world where payment for any art is voluntary.

But we’re a long way from such a world and, whilst I have some common ground with some of Mr Comte’s detractors, I also sympathise with the plight of the working musician. It’s more of a struggle than it should be – especially if there is an element of art in it, if you’re making original music and trying to stay true to some sort of vision.

Because you’re up against an industry that is hell-bent on picking up performers with nothing but looks and ambition, using them to pump out a banal, vacuous product and marketing it so hard that your audience will be hard pressed to know who you are, then dropping them as soon as the figures start to drop in favour of the next half-naked starlet.

You’re up against a whole raft of advertisers, marketers, image consultants and statisticians who don’t give a crap about music, just money and fleeting notoriety.

You’re up against an audience who’ve been led to believe that image is as valuable as talent, originality and, dare I mention it, something worthwhile to say.

You’re up against people who think that £4.50 for a whipped-cream caramel macchiato that lasts for ten minutes is entirely reasonable but 0.79 for a piece of music that took months of writing, rehearsing, recording and mastering, that they can own forever, is too much.

We know that we won’t all get to sell out a tour, won’t all get to crowd surf, won’t all get to be deafened by an audience roaring for us. I don’t think that paying for your downloads, supporting up and coming artists or even just turning up and offering polite applause is too much to ask, though.