Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

All the leaves were brown

Friday, October 5th, 2018

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?

Anticipation is the greater part of pleasure.

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

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

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

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.

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

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

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.

If you build it, they will come…apparently.(1)

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Yes, who knew that Wayne’s world would have such an insight into the growing world of construction site fetishists?* That isn’t, however, the kind of erection that we’re here to discuss.

If you’re wondering why Layers gigs have been coming along with the regularity of solar eclipses, planetary alignments and mountain-biking messiahs, one reason** is that our attention has been somewhat diverted by the gradual construction of a physical base. The old Layers HQ had two main problems: one being that the rent and upkeep on a labyrinthine, subterranean complex accessible only by means of an extinct volcano is enormous and the other being that it was entirely imaginary. This latter issue, in particular, made it difficult to practise in.

Realising after only seven short years that something had to be done, The Layers held a series of high-level meetings and soon drawings were being shown to an illustrious assortment of investors. In retrospect, the meetings probably should have been held without the presence of alcohol and the drawings not produced by four idiots with chubby wax crayons.  It seemed clear from the contemptuous laughter and restraining orders that investment was not going to be easily secured and so plan B was put into action.

The first element of this plan was horticultural reserve translocation, which was a bit of a mouthful and so was shortened to HRT on the briefing sheet. This lead to a bit of a misunderstanding but Roo’s feeling much better now and his voice is almost back to normal. Then, having forced Neil to simplify the briefing sheet, the band set about moving the shed, wisely waiting until near the end of the wettest period in history since the great flood. Slipping scaffolding poles beneath the structure, the boys bent their backs, lifted with all their might and, with grace and power, sank themselves knee deep into the mud. Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed, stop for a sandwich. At least that was Caleb’s suggestion. Thus refreshed, with no more effort that would be required to raise the Titanic and language befitting Malcolm Tucker getting his scrotum trapped in a mangle, the shed was moved a breathtaking fifteen feet from one side of Roo’s garden to the other.

This small endeavour having almost finished off the men known to music fans as the “fat four”, the prospect of digging out a foundation seemed on a par with starting one end of a transatlantic tunnel however, it turned out that Paul “Golden Bollard” Deacon was more than a little accomplished on the mini JCB that Roo had hired to play on while the hard work was being done. Before you could say “trench foot” the requisite patch was as flat and level as an oversized billiard table. Made from Mud. With no pockets. Look, Paul did a better job of the foundation that I did of that simile, OK?

This being an express project, a contractor was immediately taken on to lay a slab and construct a geometrically perfect frame and, in a matter of mere months, said contractor was making excuses as to why he hadn’t turned up and started the job. A few arguments later and the job was done. Well, half-done. And thoroughly cocked up.

Plan C therefore swung into action and a competent joiner was engaged to correct the creaking, timber folly. Now all that remained was external cladding, insulation, internal walls, insulating the floor and ceiling, waterproofing the roof, wiring, soundproofing, plastering, flooring, lighting, doors, windows and decoration. All simple enough jobs for appropriately qualified professionals. Unfortunately, Bodie and Doyle being unavailable, it was down to Neil and Roo - two men so ham fisted that they’ve been banned from Jewish boxing clubs***.

How would the dyspraxic duo cope with this challenge to their ingenuity? Assuming you’ve made it this far without jamming a spoon into your own eye, you’ll have to wait for part two of this blog to find out. As an added incentive, we’ll include some pictures.

Layers out (on their feet…)


* If you’ve gone off Googling this and are about to complain that there’s no such thing, then shame on you! Anyway, there probably is, you just don’t know the word for it…

**The other reasons, predictably enough, are the usual ones: laziness, incompetence, lack of ambition…

*** If you would like to complain about this or any of the jokes in Layers blogs, we wouldn’t be remotely surprised. Please address all grievances to Mr J Tarbuck c/o Chat Show, Early Eighties, Dreadful, Wilts.

Gig karma

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

In the words of the great Kinky Friedman, tonight was ‘another show in my hip pocket’. Or our collective hip pocket, in this case, which suggests that we’re sharing one giant, vaguely octopoid pair of trousers - if you count Roo’s cycling shorts, the second most disturbing trousers of the evening. (Out of sheer curiosity, that phrase garners no exact Google matches)

Like any gig, though, dig a little below the surface and there’s more to be had. Tonight was probably our least-rehearsed gig ever. Whilst we’ve been scrutinising the songs that we’ve been writing down to a level of detail that would embarrass the writers of ‘CSI’*, crucially, what we haven’t been doing is practising them for the last six months. It was great to perform again, great to banter with the crowd and great to discover that we can pull a worthwhile performance out of the bag and still be relaxed enough to enjoy the experience; for while the technical execution might not have been there this evening, we were still able to communicate what the songs were about, still able to get a crowd interested in songs they’d not heard before and we were still relaxed enough on stage to enjoy the experience and laugh at the mistakes.

The compliments that we received this evening were doubly flattering because we know that we were rusty - so the kind words were not for the performance but for the songs that we’ve written; laboured over and loved. That’s brilliant to hear. The thing to hang on to, then, is how lucky we are. We’re lucky to have met and clicked at the right time in our musical careers, lucky to have been inspired as we have, lucky to have supportive loved ones and fans who have kept us going, lucky to have a home venue like The Vaults.

When you hear strangers tell you how great you think the songs are, it’s easy to get cocky. It’s easy to start thinking that somehow you deserve success and global recognition, money and legions of fans, world tours and a golden trilby. The thing is, the instant you start thinking you deserve success, whether you have it or not, then you have to face the probability that you don’t. That you’re just fucking lucky. That there’s probably a guy sitting in his living room a hundred yards from where you’re playing that’s considerably better than you. Or would have been a hundred times better but never took it up.

On the other hand, if you’re too humble, you just wouldn’t play. You’d simply make way for the next guy, the better musician, the better looking singer, the younger, more charismatic band who might just make it. A certain amount of faith in your own songs is needed.

So we’re doubly lucky: not only for the reasons listed above but also to be in the sweet spot of getting just enough kind words about the songs to keep us believing that we’re doing something musically worthwhile but being able to remember just how lucky we are. Some kids grow up and never see a guitar. Some bands form and never get the breaks. Some bands get the early break and can’t resist the temptation to feel entitled and become insufferable pricks.

Some bands get the privilege of having time and resources to write songs, to play them in friendly venues to lovely people and to receive praise and encouragement at every step. If we ever get complacent or ungrateful about that, then feel free to put us in our places. Tonight may have been a low-key support slot but it was also a powerful reminder of just how good life can be. Thanks to everyone who made it possible. Unlimited love.

Layers out.

*Coming soon: CSI Tetbury: “Someone’s stolen this antique fountain pen.” - “Let’s get fingerprints, hair samples, DNA.” - “No need. It was bound to be Dave. He was in earlier and he’s always a bit light fingered when he’s back on the skag…”