The Crash

The Crash

‘The Crash’ was released last week. It’s a bit of a change of pace from the previous tracks. It soundtracks the climatic scene where the train pursing Johnnie is ordered to cross a bridge which is on fire and plummets into the river from a height. We were all excited about scoring for that part. It’s not special effects and it’s not fancy camera angles. It’s an actual steam train crashing into an actual river. It was the most expensive shot of the silent era costing $42,000 dollars (this 1926 remember) and it was done in one take.

We initially pictured something that would build into a big dramatic crescendo and the first mix of The Crash a much bigger version of the final piece. We used looping melodies, sweeping shoegazey guitar swells and a crunchy electronic beat all building up to *that bit* but nice as it was it just didn’t feel right. It would have been very easy to overstate the action in the film but I wanted to focus more on the uneasiness of some tit deciding to exert his power and order his troops into an avoidable accident (which he seemingly doesn’t give a shit about). I felt a bit stuck with it for a while but started to think about ‘Shadows’, a track Sophie wrote for ‘There Is No Elsewhere’. In ‘Shadows’ the gaps in-between the phrases are as much a part of the piece as the music itself, it makes the whole piece really tense but gentle (playing it live puts knots in my stomach, it makes me feel so stressed!) I decided to try stripping it back to just the main the guitar bit placing more emphasis on the gaps which I hope adds some suspense to the whole scene and makes you all feel as nervous as ‘Shadows’ makes me feel.  

From then the arrangement of the piece came very naturally and was lead by the sequence in the film. Overall I think its actually quite hopeful and optimistic sounding. It’s the only piece on the whole album that doesn’t have any electronics on it which makes it feel more exposed and vulnerable and each section ends with an increasing repetition of sliding chords which seem solemn and unsure of themselves.The overall sound of the guitar is my usual setup of some gentle delay and cavernous reverb. To add some warmth I used a sweeping drone though-out made by a freeze pedal.

You can listen to ‘The Crash’ now here. You can also buy the full soundtrack on CD and double LP using the link below. Thank you!

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Firewood

Firewood

The next track under inspection is ‘Firewood’ It's an electronica getaway song. It sounds like the sun creeping through a crack in curtains or the anticipation of meeting someone you love or the realisation of a great idea. It's the sound of an underdog lifting a trophy. It sounds like drawing a line under something or catching a knowing glance from a stranger or running as fast as you can just for the sake of it.

This track started out as something else entirely. We only had a two month window to write, rehearse and perform this sound track so we needed to be a little bit more militant in our writing approach. We started by watching the film and dividing it up into sections according to scenes and emotions, and then we loosely allocated parts to each other. Once we had played around with ideas separately we’d bring back recordings, and whoever hadn’t worked on a track already would elaborate on that idea.

Writing together in this way has often led us to places we might not otherwise have gone. Even if one of us has brought a full song to rehearsal there is always room for collaboration after that, a song needs to be interpreted, realised and performed before it has any sort of public outing. All three of us are shaped differently according to our feelings and experiences at the time of writing, or even simply by what music we’re enjoying at that time. One person’s response to another’s idea can often shift a piece into a different direction altogether.

I was the last person to work on ‘Firewood’ which was a lovely, twinkly and dreamy piece that flowed into strings and joy. It really was lush as it was but seeing as this was the track soundtracking a train getaway I felt there could be more of a journey about it. To suggest movement I experimented with a few beats with a high top end, I couldn’t decide which I liked best so tried introducing them one at a time using a filter which sounds like you’re emerging from the bottom of the sea. And then all the rest came out very quickly. The kick, the bass, the dancing.

You can listen to ‘Firewood’ now (link at the bottom of this blog). You can also buy the full soundtrack on CD and double LP using the link below. The album is officially out on August 2nd but we’re sending preorders out early as a thank you for being great. We really appreciate your support!

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Traction

Traction

‘Traction’ was released on Friday. It’s more upbeat than the previous outings, lots of bloops, stutters and synths. It’s also the only track on the album with accordion on it. When we were writing the soundtrack we were aware that we would need to think about how we would perform it alongside the film. In our ordinary set there’s lots of swapping instruments and moving around the stage which would be too distracting. We decided we’d need to condense everything down and compose the music on a set up of controllers and guitar. The accordion doesn’t come with us for these performances, we take the melodica instead - a weak substitute really. We were worried about missing cues and being generally panicked whilst wrestling an accordion so we had to made a compromise.

In a lot of ways restricting ourselves to piano, synth, electronics and guitar helped with the writing process. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to have everything at your disposal. You can become paralysed by the endless possibilities. Having boundaries and working within their limitations pushed us to create in different ways and make points by different means. It’s like haiku poetry, when you only have 17 syllables to make a point you find creative ways in which to say it. It’s surprising how succinct you can be.

In terms of its relationship to the film ’Traction’ was arranged around the iconic scene where Buster Keaton blinks.

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We wanted to make a point of those special two seconds and figured that maybe the best way to do that within a soundtrack of 80 minutes solid music was with silence. This happens pretty early on in the track and we hoped that it would create an air of expectancy. It can be as important to know when not to fill a void, something it took us a long time to realise.

The arrangement of the track came together very quickly, the contours of the film narrated where the stutters should emphasise the tension and when the synths soar with optimism. We experimented a lot with glides on the bleeps too. I think we’ll use that technique in the future. I very much enjoyed writing this one.

We’ll be releasing a song a week until the album comes out in a month. That’ll still leave 16 unheard tracks on the record. The next one is called ‘Firewood’ which is out on Friday, it got a play on BBC Radio 6 last night. Thanks Gideon Coe!

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Obstructions

Obstructions

Obstructions was released on Friday, it’s the third piece of music taken from the album. This was the very last piece we wrote for the score when we were beginning to feel like there was nothing left to give. We had been writing pretty intensely for weeks and there was just one gap left in the timeline. I remember watching and rewatching that section of the film and thinking that nothing was ever going to come. Creating stuff is a weird process. The common feeling is that you should try not to force it out, give your brain space and inspiration will come, and ideas will fall like massive raindrops after a drought. That is something that happens, and you should be thankful when it does. Because when you’re working to a deadline you don’t have that luxury, and it can feel like you’re pushing your brain against a cheese-grater. The more anxious we were the less we liked the noises we were creating. And then seemingly out of nowhere Gemma found a synth arpeggio from the very pit of her soul and we were off again wondering what all the trouble was about. And then Obstructions was here. It’s warm and pensive, and totally at odds with the trouble it caused. A salve for the brain wounds that created it.

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Loves / Going Back

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Loves / Going Back

We’re releasing an album soon. It is sort of our fourth album, in some ways it feels very much like a haiku album (in melody and tiny noises and texture) yet in others it feels very different. More brooding and contemplative and darker in places. The record is a soundtrack album to Buster Keaton’s 1926 film ‘The General’ which we were commissioned to write and perform by Nottingham Contemporary for the BFI Comedy Genius Season. We started writing early November 2018 and the first performance of it was early January 2019 in Belfast, we wrote and rehearsed this album in two months, and listening to it again now I’m not quite sure how we managed it.

It’s the first album we’ve recorded, mixed and produced entirely ourselves in the studio we rent at the edge of the Peak District. There are windows on all sides but one of the studio and in the summer the sun floods in and bounces off the white walls . Through the windows I have seen a thousand honey bees swarm, and bats swoop over the allotments. Dreamy. Except we didn’t write ‘The General’ in summer, we wrote it in winter, and in winter frost forms on the inside of the windows and in the very marrow of your bones.

The album is eighty minutes long and comprised of 23 songs/musical pieces and is officially released on 2nd August. We’ll be releasing a series of singles in the run up to the album release, and I thought it might be nice to share a little bit of how these songs came into existence.

A couple of weeks back we released a double A side: ‘Loves’ / ‘Going Back’. Here we go…

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'Loves' is probably the most sentimental piece we wrote for the score, it soundtracks the part of the film where Johnny’s love for Annabelle is established. We wanted to write something wistful and dreamy. To achieve that Gemma put the electric guitar through a pedal which sounds like a warm and happy memory returning from a distant past. The guitar and piano interplay mimicking the tentative body language of Johnny and Annabelle until the news of the war breaks and the melodies drop away. At the very end the guitar sounds reminiscent of an old warped vinyl, sounding cautious and uncertain.

'Going Back' was one of the last pieces we wrote for the score. That section of the film is full of trains moving at speed and then reversing down the tracks. The film gave us so much to work with and it kind of just flowed out. It begins with a very austere arpeggio which bends and melts into a reverse guitar part which is one of my favourite bits on the record. I love the way that reversing audio can bring out hidden emotions and harmonies, and Gemma’s guitar part creates a feeling of nostalgia which feels sad and peaceful at the same time. The ending has a general feeling of triumph and momentum as the train speeds away. The marching snare at the finish was created by mistake - I had written another melody part and was dragging the clip from one instrument track to another, I accidentally dropped it onto a drum track and it created this really proud and hopeful marching snare pattern. The best things happen by accident.

If you’ve read this far thank you 🙏and thank you for your continued support, it really does mean a lot to us. One of the best ways to support artists is by buying merch, sharing links, and adding us to your playlists. It’s also nice to hear from people who are enjoying our music, it’s a good way to know we didn’t freeze our arses off in vain. Any questions, hit me up.

Our next single taken from the album is coming on Friday. More on that next week. Bye for now. Sophie x

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