All of our thoughts and practice were to finally be put to the test. At 2pm the crowds started turning up and filling the halls. First up was the art projections and installations, all of which were unique and fantastic. The next set was comprised of acoustic acts and bands. After that came an electronic set which included some great visuals and performances. Lastly came the band set.
Although running a little behind schedule, everyone got to perform as they had rehearsed. We were on one but last so it had been a long day of waiting around. We quickly set up our gear and got right into it. With Dog in Space projected behind us on screen, we jumped right into our first (and still untitled) song. This went down well and got us loosened up. This song came from one of our first jams and it is amazing to see how far it has come. I think it was a suitable opener as it represented the band’s beginning. Next was Footsteps in the Dark. This song brings a more laid back groove with plenty of catchy hooks and vocal melodies, ending in a double speed chaotic bang. This song came from a jam Rhys and I had and Billy built his guitar parts around it. As the project has developed, we have found that this is often a good way for us to write, which brings me to the next song where the same thing happened. Finally we played Space is Alive, which we consider our strongest song. Beginning with a Pink Floyd style verse, the song moves along smoothly into the big chorus that is built around a very distinctive drum pattern. The song then continues through to a melodic end.
All in all, I think the performance went very well. The levels seemed great so everything could be heard clearly and with the lights down and the Dog in Space display behind us, things looked professional. I think we played to the best of our abilities, with no major mistakes happening from anyone. I was personally a little bit nervous before going on because of the high standard of performances that had taken place throughout the day but as soon as I got on stage and started playing I really enjoyed it and it was a perfect way to end the course. It felt as though after three years of being on the course, everyone came together and made this happen, showing their determination and skills. It was a pleasure to share the stage with so many other amazingly talented musicians and I think we did ourselves proud.
Now that it is all done and dusted, Billy, Rhys and I have talked about the future of this band. We were all a bit unsure to start with but after the incredible response we had from our performance at the show as well as the response we have had online, it seems a waste not to continue with it. I don’t know what is going to happen exactly but I think it is safe to say we will be doing some more jamming, recording and live gigs in the future.
In the week leading up to the live show on Saturday the 23rd May, all systems were go! From Tuesday to Friday, we were in everyday practising our sets and making sure all of our requirements were met so the stage crew, light crew, sound crew and visuals team could know exactly what we needed on the day. We had a few practices in the live room and then we moved all of the equipment into the theatre where the show took place and ran through our sets in there. We all had to work together to make sure the time between acts was a short as possible and that everyone was happy with their set up. There were certain minor hiccups as there is with any live show rehearsals but on a whole, things went well. Below is the image we would have projected behind us as we played on the day.
We came in Saturday morning then to triple check everything was prepared so all that was left to do was the show itself.
So, everything has been really hectic preparing for the live show so there has been a lack of updates here. Now would be a good time to talk about some of the equipment that helps make our sound what it is.
On drums, Rhys uses a piccolo snare, which gives off that snappy, firm sound. Sometimes he uses another deep snare on the side for some differentiation but for the live show, it was just the piccolo.
I play the EB3 Epiphone SG bass which is put straight through a Behringer bass flanger pedal and for the show, plugged into an Ampeg stack. This gives a huge spacey bass sound and it was the addition of the flanger that made it so big.
Billy makes use of a loop pedal, heavy delay and distortion on the big sections and usually runs through a Fender amp. For vocals, Billy runs his voice through his laptop where has set up a function that gives the vocals plenty of delay and reverb, giving off an atmospheric vibe.
We added our friend Alex in on korg synth to fill out the sound and give it more texture in the same way we got it sounding on the recording. With this addition, it now sounded like this…
We then also had another friend Joe join us as a session musician as his project fell apart last minute. We asked him because we felt that the sound could still be bigger and another guitar would do just that.
The sound is now huge! It is much closer to the sound I think we all had in our head as this project developed. A few practices with these new additions and next up was the live show…
As mentioned at the end of the last post, we were going to try getting a gig before the live show for some practice in a real live setting in front of people we don’t know. On the 26th March we played a half hour set in Le Pub, Newport to a fairly large audience. I have played many gigs in there over the years and this night was probably the fullest it has ever been when I have been on stage, so this was good practice for us as a band. The set went well and allowed us to get an idea of how the songs sounded somewhere other than the university. We had positive feedback from members of the audience so on a whole it was a success for us.
After getting back in the studio to practice yesterday, we have decided on a three song set that should fill the 12 minutes. 2 of these are on the EP we recorded…
…and the third is one we have been playing since we began this project so with some more practice these songs should sound tight by the show.
We are also going to add some synth to the mix for textual layers and to get it sounding more like the recordings. We tried this before and it worked well so we are going to reintroduce that for the show.
Also, we are going to have some sort of visual display happening behind us as we play. I feel that for our style of music, this would make the performance much more dynamic and complete.
Firstly, I will talk about my new role as part of the promotion team. Everyone joined a team that would contribute to the show including sound crew, stage crew, light crew, visuals crew and promotion team. Being part of the promotion team means I will take part in deciding a name for the show, organising an after party, promoting the show via social media and designing posters. I am sure there will be more to do on top of this but these are the main things to focus on for my team and it will be interesting to see how this pans out.
Secondly, after months of wondering, we have finally settled on a band name – ‘Dog in Space‘. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been writing new songs and experimenting with new techniques. We had somebody else come in to add some subtle synth layers to our music, which filled out the empty areas in the songs. The idea to include synth really came from Billy (guitarist) who is largely interested in electronic music and it’s production. His vision of the band was a mix of guitar music and electronica. As I mentioned before in a previous post, examples of his influences include Bonobo and Tame Impala, who both utilise this mix of guitar music and electronic music. This extra layer gave us more room to improvise and experiment as musicians individually whilst still contributing to the band dynamics so we all agreed that it was a good idea.
We have also been working on three new songs, all of which are stylistically different but still fit into our sound world. These songs should be finished in the next couple of weeks. So, for now, the aim is to finish these songs and then think about gigging to prepare ourselves for the live show in May.
This is a short video of a new idea we are currently working on. There hasn’t been much development with this piece yet but we have spoke about possible directions to take it in.
This video shows two new songs we put together. The first one remains untitled and the second one is called ‘Hideaway’. With the first piece of material coming from this project being an 8 minute progressive jam, we wanted to write a couple of shorter, more accessible songs.
I think what is interesting now is that each of us are becoming interested in each others separate influences and styles. Where as at the beginning we all brought these styles that were somewhat unfamiliar territory to the other two, we are now becoming more fascinated in the possibilities of putting all of these styles together. For example, the echoed vocals and delayed guitars certainly cross over with my style of music and the somewhat unusual and precise drum patterns that Rhys brings cross over with Billy’s electronic influences. To further our individual understandings of each others music taste even more, we all have to listen to each others music and understand how and why it is put together.
This project is developing nicely now and the current aim is to tighten up these songs we have and continue writing. After that, we plan to record some of our material properly and think about gigging.
Here are the pieces of music we have been developing in practice before our first performance.
Here is the current state of this project. We developed three separate pieces and later realised all three of them could sit together quite nicely. So, we gave it a go. The result is this (roughly) 8 minute piece which although not perfect, captures everything this project will be about. The only other thing that may be added is vocals although the style and content of these is still undecided.
We are beginning to bring all of our separate influences together to create our own sound now. Billy (guitarist/vocalist) brings in his influences from electronic music and post-rock/indie. Artists that influence him include Tame Impala, Bonobo and the Stone Roses. Rhys (drums) brings a tight, precise drumming style that has come from years of learning jazz techniques as well as playing heavy metal music in bands. Artists that influence him include InMe, Killswitch Engage and SikTh. I am influenced by desert rock and heavy psychedelic rock. I hope to bring a certain groove through my bass lines that compliments the other two styles that are brought by Billy and Rhys. Artists that influence me include Yawning Man, Kyuss and Earthless. When we first started jamming, I got strong Yawning Man vibes through the atmospheric, instrumental jamming which is why I knew all of our opposing influences could work together if we crafted them right.
This is still in a very early development stage so the direction it will expand in is unknown at the moment but we aim to keep this sort of sound. One idea was to have short up tempo songs separated by longer spacey songs. The short songs would be the more defined vocal based songs whereas the spacey songs would be more improvised and jam styled.
It seems as though the dual drumming project may have run it’s course but it was a good experiment to be part of. It taught me a lot about how to feed off another person’s energy whilst playing music and that listening is just as important as playing when performing. A dual drumming project was something I always wanted to try so I am happy that I got to try it out even though it wouldn’t continue throughout the year.
Whilst doing this project, I have also been developing another one with two other guys from the course. This grew from the first task of the module where we realised the sound we created could be taken further. It is currently a nameless band with nameless songs, but it is beginning to develop nicely now in terms of content. Although a lot of our music taste differs, we have tapped into a certain sound here and it seems to be working.
So, here are two very rough ideas that came from the first proper jam together. The videos cut out, we are sloppy and the songs are incomplete but this footage is simply to give an idea of the sort of sounds we are making.
New footage will be coming soon so keep an eye out!
This time we experimented with a wide range of percussion as well as using the drum kits. It opened up far more possibilities and created new soundscapes.
This time we developed the idea and instead of complete free improvisation, we reacted to a scenario. So, there was more of a narrative to follow whilst still keeping it improvised. The scenario was set on a snowy mountain. The start would set the scene and create a calm, gentle snowy night on a quiet mountain. The next scene would involve two wolves crossing paths and getting into a fight. The approaching wolves would be signalled in the piece by a build up that gave off a feeling of danger and uncertainty before striking each other. It was useful to each think of ourself as the wolf and use the drums to express the impending fight. It would end then with either one of the wolves winning or both wolves going their separate ways. This would depend on how we improvised it.
This project began after I saw Hannah doing a solo improv drum piece. I asked her if she was interested in trying it with two drummers as it was something I had been wanting to try for a while. A week or two later we had our first jam…
This was the first practice we had together for this project – we basically just hit the drums in any way we wanted. Free and messy improvisation. The idea, for me at least, was to forget any drummers I am influenced by and any techniques I learnt whilst learning to play drums. The only guideline we gave ourselves was to use the cymbals only at the start and build up into a big ending using the whole kit.
This time we swapped over and gave something else a go. It was still all improv and was just us experimenting with different sounds and approaches. The electric kit gives you many options so it will interesting to see how we use that further.
This was us performing the first piece in front of an audience the next day. We chose the first piece because we agreed it was more interesting to watch than the second. The call and response section is something we definitely need to work on further. I think this is a good point to be at with the project at the moment and we now have a few options of what to do next. The idea we are running with at the moment, if possible, is to use two acoustic kits and then if necessary, add some pads to each of them for the weird sounds.