Vanities frontman Rhys Bradley tells us about the sonic influences behind the band’s new self-produced album, 2001.
Entering the fray in 2001, our first forays into recording came at a time when the affordable modern technologies so widely available today were not yet here (although the KLF might dispute it). As such, our early efforts to record music to tape were carried out under the supervision of some of the best local producers in the Cardiff scene.
As The Vanities we recorded our early work with Rohan Tarry, an extraordinary producer at Warwick Hall of Sound who recorded ALL performing bands at the turn of the millennium. This was sandwiched between numerous sessions with veteran Cardiff producer and sound engineer Paul Durrant, from his early digs at Grass Roots to the excellent Stir Studios.
Note also a left-wing collaboration with the great Tony hadley behind the mixer.
Indeed, while most people would instinctively think of Tony as THE voice and a showman in the truest sense of the word, it seems little known that he is also a very accomplished producer, as comfortable as it sounds behind the scenes. the mixer as it is behind the microphone.
For our album, 2001, we decided it was time to go it alone and make the record ourselves. Here are some of the songs that influenced this particular musical odyssey.
The band is a huge fan of the Butler era Sweden and consider their opus from 1994, Star Man Dog, to be a true masterpiece. Indeed, even listening to the record today, I can hardly begin to understand how they woven this sound tapestry, such is the extent of his ambition. I love the dark and eerie atmosphere created on ‘Daddy’s speeding‘, especially the gasping effect on trippy refrains, something I wanted to emulate’Love is the news‘. This was achieved thanks to my golden retriever Sulley who, after a particularly strenuous recovery game at Caedelyn Park, was able to provide some excellent panting samples that were manipulated into the effect you can hear on the track. I must stress at this point that no animal was injured during the making of the disc (only the band itself).
Someone up there loves me
Ours, Bowie it is God. We love his work without exception, but in the pre-production phase we must have been particularly drawn to the irresistible plastic soul of Young Americans. David Sanborn’s extensive saxophone work is a marvel to see, especially on tracks like ‘Someone up there loves me‘,’Who can I be now? ‘ and, of course, the title song itself.
We became obsessed with introducing this nuance into the sound of the band. Enter Cardiff’s king of jazz and saxophone virtuoso, Jack McDougal. Jack, widely regarded as one of the most charismatic saxophonists, was brought in to bring his extraordinary musicality to the project and his sax gymnastics quickly became a focal point of the record. Jack’s parts were largely improvised and he pulled off the entire album in a short afternoon session. Recording his games in my living room was an almost religious experience. Oh, and Jack loves coffee. Many.
DON’T QUIT UNTIL YOU GET ENOUGH
Another hero of the group from childhood is the King of Pop himself, Michael jackson. Regardless of what you think of Jacko, no one can deny the trio of albums he made with Quincey Jones from the 1979s onwards. On the wall are nothing less than pop gold powder. Jones was already a legendary producer before he designed these unit-changing monsters, which cemented his status as one of the best in the game. With Jackson’s incredible voice, the production and musicality of these records is truly something. thing. I particularly like the percussion of the glass bottle in the heart of ‘Don’t stop until you’ve had enough‘. Thanks to the wonders of Fiverr.com, we were able to incorporate this sound into the title track, 2001, courtesy of American percussionist Julio Jose La Makina (a bargain for $ 30!).
ARCHIVES OF PAIN
The group is a great admirer of the Maniacal street preachers and, like many, should choose The holy bible as their greatest achievement. The record is such an intense and immersive experience and feels like a concept album in its truest form. Everything about the album is gripping, from the dark and sharp lyricism of Nicky and Richey to the incredible work of Bradfield’s vocals and guitar. The songs themselves are also fantastic, from the irregularity of ‘Faster‘to the fragility of’It’s yesterday‘. What then elevates the album to another level as a work of art are the dark vignette samples that precede many songs. We were particularly inspired by this ingredient and, thanks to YouTube, have used this device throughout the disc.
SOMETHING IN THE WAY
It’s fair to say that our biggest influence of all should be Nirvana. After all, it was Kurt who inspired us (and most of our friends) to pick up the guitar at the age of fourteen and play until our fingers bleed on our converse daps. Nevermind’s cultural impact is well documented and, like many, was an event that truly changed our lives forever. Whereas It does not matter is rightly associated with his many grunge hymns, it was the melancholy ‘Something in the way ‘ which inspired our approach to the album’s closing track, ‘War‘.
There is a great story about how the band really struggles to capture the vibe of the track. Butch Vig recalled how, during a break, Kurt lay down on his back in the control room and began to gently strum the track on an acoustic guitar, singing almost in a low voice. This immediately captured the essence of the track, with Vig quickly setting up a mic on the spot. The rest is history. We really liked the idea of stripping a track to the bone. Thus, after all the technical excesses and excess production that characterize a large part of 2001, ‘War‘was recorded in one take on an iPhone in an empty, abandoned church hall. Amen.
‘2001’ is now available through iTunes and Bandcamp on CD and digital download.