The first day is about setting up, setting up, setting up. Justin and Tim have decided they want us to play as live and as together as possible. Very much what we want but it means lots of trouble has to be taken to keep our sounds as separate as possible in the room. The light, spacious studio becomes boxed off with sound screen walls and polystyrene ceilings like some giant 3D board game. They create a completely sealed off box in one corner of the room for me. Ben is in a separate space with thick glass doors. His own private conservatory where we can see him but not really hear him.
Whilst each of us in turn gets careful attention from Tim and Katy the rest of us practise our parts or wander. The ‘Wood Room’ is very much what it says on the tin. Wood floor and walls. High ceilings with a grilled mezzanine where room mics are carefully placed to pick all the instrumental and overtoning harmonics that all that wood will set resonating. I visit Ben’s space. Sliding the thick glass door open. I have to count them a few times but, yes, in its corner of Ben’s corner his bass drum, not his kit but just the bass drum on its own, has not one, not two, not even three, but four different mics on it!!!
We all have headphones with controls for us to create individual mixes. I’m used to saying, “I need to hear more of this and less of that” and the engineer sorts it. Suddenly it’s my responsibility! It’s a very sophisticated idea that causes me deep consternation. I hear a digital approximation of a sound that is slowly tweaked closer to something acceptable. I don’t have my pedals. We’re all in the same room but everything I hear is right in my ear. So little air or space in the sound. But it’s the best compromise between playing live and making the best record we can.
After lunch we do our first take. It goes well. Two takes later and Wedding Wish is ready for overdubs. Matchless even quicker. Two down so quickly fills us with confidence.
We start in on Lila - Justin’s choice. I am slowly giving up control to him, letting go of preciousness; my songs, my sound. And it feels good actually. The second take of the second part is as good as it could possibly be. Everybody thinks so.
“Great piece” says Justin and suggests another take. And another. Ben gets a drum clinic. My headphones slip off mid song. I need water, a tuner. They are fetched. I break a string. I never break strings! Justin offers to fix it. He doesn’t realise it’s a Gretsch with a bigsby. It takes four of us to finish the job.
I begin to feel like I’ve had enough. We do another take of Lila. No-one wants to hear it. We call it the end of the first day.
- Steve Lewis