How the f*ck d’you create a DIY album in a fortnight with Covid about?!

We just did exactly that, and I guess the answer is to clear your decks, be prepared to live on coffee and gack, shut the world out, go a little bit mental and avoid the search for that mythical creature calling itself ‘Perfection’.

‘The Elegance of Mud’ should have been out in May 2020, and we were due to launch it at Bearded Theory. For obvious to anyone who hasn’t been dwelling in a shack in the woods and living off a good forage reasons, that didn’t transpire, and all we had down was the opening track.

The few occasions we have managed to meet up during this weirdest of years we’ve spent busking online, jamming and just enjoying such special company. Like all the other working musicians we know, we’ve missed it – the gigging, the buzz, the consistent bonding that there’s nothing else quite like, the travelling, the hanging out with the audience, the getting mashed up together knowing we’re all safe, even the dickheads down the front giving it ‘Show us yer tits‘ for the twentumteenth time. To spend that precious time isolated in earphones or being quiet around the condenser mics would have been a waste of good medicine.

We were due to be on a South West tour for the last week of October, so had decided to use that time to get together and focus on recording, with some fun intertwined for sanity’s sake. We’re spread all over the country, and local lockdowns soon shat all over that plan.

Fuck it. Let’s do it distantly, and try and have it all done and dusted in a fortnight!’

We hadn’t even played some of the songs together, and others fell off the tracklist in favour of new ones, but still there was a resounding

‘YES!’

So we did. We don’t tend to record in a traditional order. Usually, a rough guitar/vocal guide track goes down, then guitar/piano/banjo, main vocals, bass, cajon, followed by fiddle, backing vocals and whatever else we’re throwing in. We’re not surrounded by fancy equipment either, and are mostly using inexpensive soundcards and mics, unless Lizzie pops in to the studio at her Uni.

Despite the odds, what came through the airwaves in less than a week from the far reaches of Essex, Nottingham and Wales to land in the Forest of Dean felt like magic. I guess the internet is the closest thing to witchery and wizardry there is, and I’m pretty sure that most of us are grateful for its existence more than ever at the moment. The ability to communicate, create and relate are outweighing its darker sides, for sure.

I don’t know how it is for other songwriters, but when I’m writing the words and the tune, I have a sort of picture in my head, and the music is as much a part of that as whatever I’m gobbing off about. I don’t want to rattle on about the incredible bond you have within a band that have played together for a while, who get each other and the music they’re making, but even miles apart, and on stuff we’ve never played, this beautifully talented bunch of friends I work with paint their own parts in, and it’s like we’re all using the same brush, though their colours are inevitably more vivid. It’s fucking wonderful!

Next came the putting it all together and fucking about with it. This is my second go at mixing, arranging and producing an album us four have created, and I still have no idea what I’m doing in a technical sense – but I think I’ve learned a fair bit since the last one. I use the Studio One software, and to call it an experimental process is definitely putting it mildly. My ears are seeking those pictures, and trying to balance the colours. It took seven out of eight days (I took a day off to save both my laptop and my window towards the end) to get it where I was mostly happy/at the end of my abilities. I’ve always loved jigsaws, and never cared if there’s a piece or two missing. Thankfully, my bandmates share that attitude, and it is DIY after all.

‘To seek perfection is a waste of precious time.’

After approval from everyone, and sharing it with the ears of a few friends, off it went to our friend Dave Milligan for his magical mastering touch. He came back with a handful of tweak suggestions, tweaked it was, and then we had the full mastered album from him the following day.

We released it two days later!

If you’ve got this far, you can click on the album cover below to listen, and grab a copy via download or on good ode fashioned CD.

Thanks for reading, Gail xxx