On Wednesday, I received the first order of Grope CDs

Grope CDs

which, as anyone involved in any artistic pursuit knows, brings a very warm feeling. There’s something about the journey of ideas, via craft and work, to physical medium that is just special. Preparing for digital streaming and download isn’t the same. Same thing happens with my books; holding them, feeling them, smelling them

[yes, that’s part of that particular experience]

just brings that “It’s done, and I did this” feeling.

If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that Grope is a collection of original songs that I wrote and played live with my band, Grope

[see what I did there]

back in the mid-90s; they’d lain dormant until my Fender Stratocaster possessed me back in December 2013.

I tracked, mixed and mastered the record in my basement studio, completely in Logic Pro X. Recording was remarkably easy – I knew these songs, we practised and played them out often enough for them to be in muscle memory, and there wasn’t too much of a need to break new creative ground.

Partly, this was helped by my setting myself some guide rails by deciding that I wouldn’t add any instrumentation beyond the vocals-guitar-bass-drums set-up Grope played. That meant no keyboards, no brass, no strings. That left me with only two areas of variability: guitars

[electric only, we didn’t do any acoustic songs in Grope]

and vocals. On our 1996 demo EP, we used multi-track guitars to fatten rhythms, and Scott and I added vocal harmonies wherever it worked.

So, it’s no surprise that Grope is guitar heavy

[and in places with heavy guitar]

and vocally harmonious in places. With both, it was an interesting feeling to be in this body of experience, wisdom and learning, yet stepping back into the body I inhabited 2o+ years ago. Standing in the studio, now me playing then me’s parts, with now me’s capabilities and soul. The same, but different.

All of the solos on the record are my memory of what I played at the time

[thanks, I think, to their being very singable]

yet they felt so much easier to play now. That’s partly down to my hands working properly, though mainly down to the fact that I’ve been playing a long time since these songs were played out. There’s one new solo on the record, in Painkiller Morning, which really does draw upon where I’m at now, though it’s still of a piece with the other tracks

[they’re still my fingers and soul, after all]

 

One of the quirkiest things of recording the guitars is that my Strat – the genesis of the project – is only on a couple of tracks. Again, I’ve evolved as a player, and the tonalities of other guitars fitted where the record was heading. Don’t worry, I checked in with my Strat along the way; she’s not too upset.

When it comes to vocals, there’s no doubt that I’m a better singer now – in breathing, energy and focus – and I’ve learned a LOT about how to treat and mix my voice.

It was interesting to hear my accent come through on certain songs – more British than I sing now – and I’ve read Michael Stipe interviews where he’s described similar with himself, his childhood Texan accent emerging on certain songs. Once again, I can only put it down to the muscle memory of these melodies and lyrics.

The harmonies on Grope are fun – some of them are new for the recording – and, as ever, I used one of my favourite writing techniques: driving in my car singing along to rough mixes

[highly, highly recommended]

Getting others to help me build the gang vocals on Sheep (One Of Those Days) really brought something special to that track – it’s one of my favorites and makes me smile every time the gang joins in.

 

Overall, my Britpop time capsule makes me very happy. As a record, it hangs together, primarily because it was a body of work at the time, and is it’s own body of work now. I’ll be posting soon about the song-writing on the record – its own subject, for sure. For now though, I’ll let you listen and be the judge of whether a quick Grope can make you as happy I am!

[all that I ask is that, if you like what you hear, please consider buying a copy – digital or physical – music doesn’t come for free, and I truly want to keep making music!]

Love – Peace – Trust

Vince Sig 131x89