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.


[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.

Ramblings Recording

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.”



“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?


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.


New Year’s unresolved issues…

As two-faced Janus watches Father Time cut the Gordian knot and let slip the dogs of war, I reflect that my New Year’s resolution to use less pretentious metaphors may have gone out of the window already. Even now it feels like 2013 has been with us forever and whatever belly full of Olympic sunshine (see what I did there?) 2012 brought has been norovirus-propelled onto the frozen January pavements to crystallise like the crushed baubles of a discarded Christmas tree.

It’s in such times of austerity, hardship and general bleakitude that people turn to a higher power (or at least to a more expensive energy tariff if EDF have anything to do with it) when religions, myths and superheroes are born from whispers, hope and rumour*. Legend tells of a place of power, a mystic gateway hidden in the dark valleys of Stroud, where a sorcerer toils, night and day. He curses passing Minstrels (regrettably, he’s diabetic) but welcomes troubadours, balladeers and jongleurs and helps them to weave elemental magic into their songs, creating spellbinding sagas that can bind generations together in wonder and bring a tear to any mortal eye. The mighty wizard has finally found the chosen bards of destiny and is, even now, aiding them in creating a collection of songs that will bring balance to the universe, warmth to the winter and hope to the human race.

Sadly, the legend turns out to be a load of utter bollocks but fortunately, Stroud is home to DB studios, where a transformation no less magical has been taking place. Like a skilled makeover artist turning Cerberus into Atomic Kitten, Andy has been working tirelessly (except when the band are there, when ‘long-sufferingly’ would be a better term) to craft the disparate mix of cluelessness, ham-fistedness and balls-out plagiarism that is very much the Layers’ metier into something, mercifully, entirely unlike Atomic Kitten.

Here at Layers HQ, we’re familiar enough with the vicissitudes of capricious fate to know that one should never count one’s chickens whilst trying to conceal them in one’s trousers at Customs, so we’re loathe to announce a date for the announcement of the date for the release of the album. We can report, however, that several tracks are now in an advanced state of mixing and what little recording is left to do is the equivalent of a lick of paint and a few screws tightening rather than the fitting of a new damp course, head gasket and kidney. Which reminds me to question this bill from the garage if nothing else.

So we may not restore hope to mankind or balance to the universe but we are reasonably confident of brightening up an evening or two in the next couple of months as we get out gigging again and launch a new collection of songs. We’re pleased and proud of what we’ve achieved so far; we think there are some pleasant surprises in store for our loyal and long-suffering fans, too.

Watch this space!

Layers out.

*I think they’re Chris Martin’s kids.


Goats in the machine

Star date 36-24-36, if I’m lucky. Chief Science officer’s log. Captain of the USS Layers – her five year mission to boldly explore new ways to cock up perfectly good songs – is absent from the bridge and not, for a change, because he’s nipped out for a piss.

In front of us is a baffling array of knobs. No, we’re not in the viewers gallery in Parliament, we’re back at DB studios and, instead of Checkov pushing buttons at the controls, our old friend and producer Andy is back at the helm.

It’s a chilly Saturday morning in Stroud and we’re a month into the slow process of recording a second studio album. DB is a cosy little studio, the wood paneling in the control room giving the vague impression that Caleb’s currently recording a rhythm part in a sauna. The naked Swedish man thrashing him with a birch twig is entirely incidental.

Allusions to Mr Spock’s scanner are entirely appropriate; I’d forgotten since the scene of our last crimes against music quite how forensic the degree of scrutiny to which the songs are subjected. It’s a painstaking progress, listening intently to parts in isolation, then against the drums, then in other combinations, ironing out errant beats and fluffed phrasings. I can see how recording a subsequent album can be the breaking point for a lot of bands; it takes a certain amount of patient camaraderie to survive the level of criticism vital to this process. Once the novelty of initial sessions has worn off, it must be easy to start falling out during these grueling iterations. Fortunately, it’s always been friendship before musicianship in The Layers and, as usual, it’s all smiles, laughter and joking.

Vocal recording is imminent and this is the part we look forward to and dread in equal measure.  The lyrics and music come alive when our ever-richer vocal harmonies work together but it’s an area that requires more discipline than most.

It’s been five years since our last album, the same amount of time it has taken us to get our music onto iTunes, Spotify and the other plethora of online music stores. Coincidentally it’s also the same amount of time it has taken for [insert funny thing about Rupert here*]…

We urge loyal fans and regular perusers of the blog (hello Dave!) to slip their restraints, cheek their medication and get online to serve us up some rave reviews – and we know that many of you are, if nothing else, raving. Fame, fortune and glory beckon.

The management consultants**have been busy producing Gant charts, Excel spreadsheets, key performance indicators and one pie chart, which Caleb ate. We have no idea what any of it means but we’re aiming to get a beautiful, vintage style CD mixed, mastered and ready for Christmas stockings with a simultaneous release (oo-er, missus) via the aforementioned colossi of e-commerce. Watch this space for news of a star-studded launch event.

For now, we should probably get our noses back to the grindstone.

Layers out

*Let’s have an online poll. Vote for: a) Roo to admit he wrote for Jim to Fix it for him; b) Roo to master the drum parts from ‘Belly full of Sunshine’; c) Random penis enlarger based joke; d) For us to get Roo to sleep through the night.

**We have no idea who they are; presumably, what with the state of the economy, there’s a surplus of useless middle management nob-heads looking for work…


(Fanfare, please…)

Yes, with many a hooray, pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-paaaahs and airborne millinery, we are delighted to fulfil the promise that we made in our last post and announce the lavish gala that is the album launch.

All over the UK, renters of Armani tuxedos, stretch limos and ear defenders are greasing the mechanisms of their tills in anticipation of the fevered rush of glitterati, glamour army and grandes fromages as they batter down doors in the rush to be seen at Cirencester’s renowned music venue, the Vaults on the 4th of December.

It’s been a long, strange road, filled with signs that we don’t recognise and needlessly self-referential lyrical allusions but it’s brought us to a place that we’re happy to be. The title ‘Belly Full of Sunshine’ is a fine title for an album that’s been built on a foundation of good times and shared laughter. For all the anger and despair evident here and there (ahem) in the lyrics, it’s not a work of bile and vituperation. If anything, the railing and gnashing of teeth is levelled at the ignorance and injustice that is all that keeps so many people from being able to have what we do.

Here’s a perfect vignette: just towards the beginning of the recording process, as we were rehearsing songs and thinking about arrangements, Roo threw a barbecue. It’s an annual family bash and by family, that meant including a circle of friends, neighbours and disreputable musicians. There was fine food, smiles and sunshine enough to justify being barefoot in the grass. A friendly, semi-competent game of softball was punctuated with laughter and good-natured humour. If the Layers stand for anything, it’s for the good-natured throwing around of a frisbee in the sunshine and those who would prevent that through denying people parks, freedom of choice, health, the money to afford a frisbee or by subtly forcing on them a life of sedentary vegetation… well, they’re going to have to get used to our staunch opposition and shouty lyrics. So there. It’s actually a grass-roots social justice and mobility movement but done with such craft and subtlety that it could easily be mistaken for four middle aged men dossing around. Don’t be fooled.

So there it is. We’ve worked hard on this. Our last recording was a demo – purely to showcase what we could achieve live. We’d like to think that we’ve progressed from there, as songwriters, musicians and as people and we hope that our listeners will hear that in these tracks.

We had to take the hard decision not to record some old favourites on this project; in particular ‘Surf Trip’ and ‘Eriphany’ are songs that we would have liked to give the lavish studio treatment. Instead, we’ve opted for a dozen previously unrecorded tracks, including one that’s only been gigged as a trial run. This time there are extra tracks added, we’ve done more than we could manage live without recruiting a little help. We’ve tried to provide depth and texture to the songs and we’ve been delighted with the job that Andy’s done of translating our intentions into music.

So we look forward to the 4th and hope that as many of you will join us as you can. If you aren’t able to come and partake of a belly full of sunshine with us, fear not. We’ll be posting CDs to anyone who would like one and making tracks available through the miracle of the Internet soon.


Layers out.


The myriad joys of recording (redux)

Long time fans and regular readers who’ve managed to slip out of their straight jackets, padded cells, thorazine-induced coma etc. for long enough to get to a computer may well be wondering what’s become of The Layers’ much-vaunted, long-awaited album.
Well, we wouldn’t want to keep you in suspense for too long, so I’ll tell you in the next paragraph.
Progress has been remarkably swift and we’re now starting to listen to some preliminary mixes; the initial signs are really quite encouraging.
As ever, this has been a learning process for us. Our last recording was intended to be an impression of how we could perform the songs live, simply a demo. This is a very different animal and we’ve been examining our own songs in a different light. This time recording has been more of a creative process and we’ve been genuinely surprised at the shifts in character of some of the songs.
Rest assured, gentle reader, that the essentially ‘Layersy’ qualities are very much there. As you would expect, the songs bear no resemblance to one another – the record will be the ragtag, multiple-personality-disorder tumble of disparate styles and genres that you’ve come to expect, the lyrics will be angry and bleak and there will be the usual mix of hard rock and cheese that you only normally get with Fanny Craddock’s infamous Granite Quiche. Amongst the usual ‘…sound and fury, signifying nothing…’ though, we hope that listeners will detect a richer, more considered sound.
We feel that we’re growing as a band from recording this album (largely due to a two-for-one pizza offer near to the studio). Hopefully you will too.
With luck the next bulletin should be announcing a release date for the album and news of a launch party/gig/violation of noise protection laws and, fingers crossed, they’ll soon come up with a cure for arthritis.

For now,

Layers out.


Patience, patience…

Greetings, gentle fans.
We realise that by now, many of you will have chewed down your fingernails, torn out your hair and ground your teeth to nubs wondering: “When, oh when will the Layers relase an album.”
Or you may not give a toss, who can say?
Wherever you may happen to be on that continuum of care, I feel glad that I can simultaneously ease your tension, whilst increasing your anticipation, with news that we’re in the process of recording that album right now.
Yes, undeterred by the economic climate, we’ve managed to pry enough loose change from the backs of coffee shop sofas to fund a series of trips to DB studios where Andy is, once again, digitally dismantling our caterwaulings and reassembling them into something like music.
Even a brief outbreak of swine flu in the band isn’t going to stop us and we hope that by the end of the summer, eleven lavishly-tooled tracks (and some bonus material if we find the time) will be yours to own, cherish and use as a coaster.
Clear your social calendar (or start thinking of convincing excuses, as appropriate) for an imminent launch party and bring your bitches and hoes (we know that many of your are keen dog breeders and gardeners…) for what will surely be the musical and social event of the year.
News as it happens. Watch this space.
Layers out.


The myriad joys of recording (pt II)

Keen observers of the Layers site will have noticed (between adminstrations of powerful psychotropic drugs) that we’ve posted a new set of recordings. For those of you just waiting for Neil to royally fuck up another vocal, you’re in for a treat as I still fail to hit the right notes on the first verse of surf trip. Otherwise, though, we’ve been really impressed by the way that the recordings have turned out. A huge thanks is due to Andy at DB studios in Stroud, whose skilled ear managed to find us the big sound that we were after in double quick time.  As a result we were able to nail down no less than five recordings in one Sunday and mix them down the following evening.

Anyway, we invite comments and suggestions on the new recordings and encourage our fans to engage in a mass debating session over the direction that the Layers are taking.



The myriad joys of recording (pt I)

Those of you not currently experiencing the aftermath of a prefrontal lobotomy will have been eagerly looking forward to hearing our demos on the site. If you are post-prefrontal, you can’t look forward to anything, it must be weird. Our hearts go out to you.

Anyway, here are some preliminary mixdowns to start with and while you enjoy (we hope) the recordings, we can sit back as a band and take stock of what we’ve learned. Mostly, that recording is difficult. It takes bloody hours to get set up so that you think that things are going to sound ok, even longer to produce a session that you think is going to be fairly error-free and then, when you finally listen to it played back, you hate it.

Well, two sessions of recording drums, the purchase of some lavish digital recording equipment and many loans of equipment (Trevor, Kevin, we thank you) later, we turned one of our lounges (guess who? Which one of the band is currently a bachelor?) into a recording studio/Tardis and embarked upon recording guitar and vocal tracks. And re-recording them. Again. And again.

If you’re not good mates when you start recording, it can be the end of your band. Fortunately, we’ve mostly enjoyed the process, helped in no small part by Roo seeing fit to supply each session with a reasonable percentage of the Rioja region’s output.

We rely a lot on Roo’s energy in the band and recording has been no exception; he’s been brilliant at not letting us settle for second best and cajoling us to re-record tracks when we’ve been tired and have had enough.

Digital recording and mixing has been a learning process for us all, it’s odd trying to do things with a mouse. I’m still not at home without a bank of faders in front of me. We’ve got a way to go with that side of things and I think that there’s room for improvement with the mixes, so keep an eye on the page for new, improved versions. Converting file types has been interesting, too, some of these recordings have undergone more translation than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyhow, we’re ready to cautiously release the preliminary mix downs and we’re looking forward to hearing what you think. Enjoy.