What a week. I think I’d like to talk further about some these things, but being as how I’m also pretty busy this week, it will need to wait a little bit longer. Seemed right to do a brief summary though.

  • First off, on Saturday 21st we were recording dog Tired, which I believe I mentioned. Hoping for release early next week.
  • Next, Wednesday evening was a strangeday practice. The previous practice saw all of us feeling a little tired and kind of lack lustre, but this one was way better. The practice was in preparation for NAGfest. More of which later.
  • Thursday was the last NAG Open Mic. I’ve been running this open mic with Jack for 10 years. It was a really nice evening to end on, and I’m hoping to talk a bit more about that in a post dedicated to the subject.
  • Friday was a Roo’s Radio practice, again for NAGfest. It went on pretty late as we were trying to get the set ready and it had been a long time since we’d played together.
  • Saturday was the first day of NAGfest, a local music festival in its second year. Roo’s Radio were on at 6pm. Our set went really well. Paul, who had also done a lot of the organisation for NAGfest, joined us on drums, and it all felt very comfortable. Despite having not played for a while I think the songs are with us now.
  • Sunday was the second day of the festival, and strangeday were playing at 8pm. This set also went well, although I was struggling a little voice-wise due to a lot of late nights and lots of singing. We played a new song, Long defeat, which possibly went down better than all the other songs.

It was also great to catch a lot of great bands and friends at NAGfest. Jack, Ant, Steve, 3dBs Down, Ab and the Underclass, No Limit Street Band, Sam, Aaron, Hog Roast, One Day Elliott and Beer Pressure were all very cool.


About a song – Zack Plank

My initial demo of this song came up on random this morning, so I thought I’d take a little time to give you some insight into this little beaut. Ha. Insight.

I know you’re interested, so I’ll let you have a listen to the initial garageband demo I put together. Pay attention in particular to the laughable programmed drums – especially the intro that is almost stolen from Lead Me On 2012. It’s quite easy to see how much the other members of strangeday bring to my song ideas looking at the contrast between this and the final song.

I’d decided I wanted to do something like the ending of Goodnight by easyworld, getting faster and faster and then coming out at a slower speed. The band came up with something different, and I like it! We ended up dropping instruments out one by one until just Aaron was left, doing something otherworldly with the electric guitar. Then we’re all back in for a normal chorus, followed by a chorus where we swap the first and last sections around as far as the chords were concerned. This allowed for a switch up of the melody and for us to bring in the coda. Nice.

I had the idea for Zack Plank whilst reading a book. I think it was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. The book casually mentioned two of the craters on the moon at one point. There’s one named Zach and the another called Planck. For some reason, in my mind, the two names became one: the name of a little boy who lives on the moon.

The song was originally called The life and times of Zack Plank (I changed the spellings of both craters – who knows why). The story I had imagined was that Zack ran away from everything and ended up on the moon. He wanted space and he got it. And he is kind of ambivalent about the success of his plan.

It’s all an attempt at a metaphor for pushing people away, only to find how well you can manage to isolate yourself completely by doing so. We added the coda at the end whilst recording and I love how it sums up the creeping dread of the situation: “What if I never come home? I never meant to come this far“. Incidentally, the last half chorus into this coda, with Paul’s snare fill linking the two is one of my favourite things we’ve recorded. If I ever listen to the song, I have to play this section at least once more.

As a character and story, I feel like I’d like to come back to Zack eventually. Whether I will or not is another matter. I didn’t really go too far into the actual story with Zack Plank, just the feelings involved. I could explore it more I think. As far as I’m aware he’s still up there.

When it came to the artwork, we’d been using photos for our single covers, so I thought it would be fun to get some public domain photos of the craters themselves and overlay them. Luckily the images existed and I created my very own new lunar crater based on Zach and Planck.

Zach + Planck = Zack Plank

And here, for posterity and your enjoyment are the actual lyrics. See if you can spot the line I changed in the first verse.

Zack Plank
I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes
Follow your feet into the emptiness
Desolate in the skies
You’re on your own oh no
But do the stars shine that much brighter for you?
And it’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
If you choose to think about it

Hey, I just wanted to be far away
Don’t bring me down
Hey, just like me to wind up lost again
I came in last again
Looking down
I can’t see the end

Well it’s the boy without an atmosphere
Faking fear and an attitude
Finding you’ve got space to spare
Star of the whole show oh no
With the real world that much smaller to you
And are you coming down?
You’re not coming down
Is it easier to stay?

What if I never come home?
I never meant to go this far

About a song – Punchbowl

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into a few of the songs I’ve written and explaining… um… well.. I guess explaining myself a little, and maybe disclosing some of the inspirations and so on. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain a lyric I’ve written fully.

I’m still a bit cagey about the idea to be honest. It feels enormously bigheaded to imagine that anyone would care, and I’m not entirely sure I won’t come across as a bit of a nob. The other problem is that I’m generally of the school that what a listener takes away from a song is usually probably more important than what the writer puts in. Although I love reading what writers have to say about their songs. Hypocrite much?

In the end I came to the conclusion that I’m actually personally pretty interested in what’s going to come out here, given that my ability to plan a post in advance is fairly non-existent. And also you don’t actually have to read this. I’m not making you. So let’s go…

It seems fairly apt at the moment to take a look at Punchbowl from the strangeday album, Please Intervene. I’ll let you guess as to why once you’ve read on.

It’s not particularly a favourite song of mine actually, but it always seems to go down well when we play it live and I’ve actually had it requested a few times. I just don’t think I pulled out all of the stops when it came to writing the lyrics. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I think I just threw them out one afternoon in the run up to recording the album because I had a chorus and a riff and not much else.

Punchbowl is the name of a ski run in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. See if you can find it on this interactive map. I’d been skiing in the region for a few years, but for some reason had never made it to this particular run. When I finally did, I quickly decided it was by far my favourite. The top section is kind of like a bowl and it’s fantastic fun to ski/board down.

I apparently loved the run so much that I decided to write a song about it; the chorus is very much derived from the aforementioned experience, although I’d hope people can relate it to more things than just that. “I’ve never been here before but I could get used to this” is presumably the sort of thing I could see myself thinking that first time I went down the run. “It never gets old” is also a direct reference to the run. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking with “came knocking at your door looking for some kind of bliss”. I think it just sounded kind of cool. (Seems I have the wrong words up on bandcamp for that line. Not sure where that crept in.)

I had started to build the song and chorus around my attempt at a Star Chamber type riff. You might not have heard of Star Chamber, but they were a kickass band that we played with back in the day. We’re still in touch with some of the band to this day in fact. I don’t think I really got close to their magic, but it’s not a bad riff. We were looking at maximising the number of songs we got recorded, so as recording approached I decided to flesh it out into a proper song. Kind of.

When it came down to it, it didn’t seem particularly possible to write a whole song dedicated to a ski run that most people won’t have even heard of. So I went down the vague and wooly path where I threw a bunch of lines together that I liked the sound of. You can see a few references to my experience of faith at the time (“squinting to get focus”, “can’t find the shift to cruise control”, “hedge your bets and climb the fence”) and I think “buckle up and pass right through” was both a nod to skiing and to moving forwards in life.

All in all then, not the most profound attempt at a lyric. I think I was trying to tie things up with the middle eight but I’m not sure I made anything clearer. The spin on the classic “gain the world but lose your soul” is by no means a particularly clever or original thing to do. In my defence, I was referring to getting into the mountains (or wherever really) and feeling whole again. A bit subtle I guess, but there we go.

Most of what now interests me in this song comes from bringing it to the table with the rest of the band. Everyone tears the riff up and the stops and starts really add to the feel, as does the weird breakdown in verse two, which I think was Aaron’s idea. I’m also pretty keen on the atmospheric guitar in the middle eight. Almost feels like whale song.

Interestingly (or maybe not) this was one of only two songs on the album that was bestowed with a guitar solo. I don’t know why strangeday go for so few guitar solos in general. Too busy farting about with stops and starts I guess.

So now you know. Enjoy!

Taken down for a spell
Something doesn’t quite make sense
Squinting to get focus
Hedge your bets and climb the fence

I’ve never been here before but I could get used to this
Came knocking at your door looking for some kind of bliss
It never gets old
It never gets old

Putting up with myself
Something to get used to
Do not rest here
Buckle up and pass right through

Can’t find the shift to cruise control
Can’t get off, can’t turn it round
Lose the world and gain my soul

Back at play

Ordinarily a band practice probably wouldn’t be particularly blog-worthy. But at the moment strangeday practices are so few and far between that I felt it might merit a mention.
So, last night we all headed out to M5 studios to set up and practice in “a matchbox”. Luckily there were five sets of ear protection in play otherwise there would almost certainly be some hearing impairment this morning. Look after your ears kids!

We kicked off with a brief run through of some old songs, each of us choosing a song. I don’t think they’ve told him, Hide, 10, Longshore drift and Sea change all got a run out, with varying degrees of success. We had a nice little jam at the end of Sea change as well. It felt good.

Then we moved on to work with a new song, Long defeat. Aaron had demoed this one up and sent it through for me to write lyrics and melody back in June 2015. In his words, “this is a bit of a frankenstein song incorporating riffs and from different writing sessions over time so you’ll no doubt recognise parts of it.”

This being me, the lyrics and melody weren’t written until December. Eek. In actual fact, once I got down to it, it was all sorted in a couple of hours, and I’m quite pleased with them as it goes. Maybe I’ll make a separate post at some point going into it a little.

It’s always great to start throwing a song around between us. Watching as sections change and evolve is quite the fun thing to do. We kind of got there in the end, and I even tried to get a recording by wrapping my phone in a coat. It didn’t work, the room was just too damn loud. It sounds like it’s been recorded on a ZX Spectrum 16K.

At our current rate, you’ll be hearing the song in around 6 or 7 years. So stay tuned for that.

We’re actually booking in an all-dayer for next month, so you may well get a report on that as well. It’s been a while since we’ve had an all day practice.