I’m sitting at home on my sofa. I’m resting and reflecting on our rehearsal on Friday night. It was the first Yallas rehearsal since early spring. A lot has happened since then. We played our biggest gig to date inside a huge Opera House at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. I’ve also been busy with my solo acoustic shows. I threatened that the Rebellion show would be our last. I was thinking about ending on a high. I felt like the band was growing apart. Had we achieved what we set out to do? Could I write a better album than our previous ‘Medusa’? Am I too old? I felt like I didn’t belong. I feel like an outsider. What comes next?
Blackpool was a wave of extreme emotions. Some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows, but I guess things happen for a reason. It is what it is. The strongest emotion of all though was hope. I came away with so much hope and belief in my work that to give up would be foolish. The festival was great. I loved our crowd and I couldn’t be more grateful to Darren and everyone involved in putting us on. We played a flawless show. Probably the best we’d ever played. We proved that we can work the big stages. That our songs can fill huge rooms. It was a fantastic way to end the album cycle of Medusa. In my head it was the end. What comes next? I spent the Saturday of the festival in my hotel room with a bottle of rum hatching up my next plan. Emotionally I was willing to walk off a cliff. Let me fall.
I’ve learned over the years to rely on nobody. I’ve never played the game. It doesn’t interest me. I got close to someone in Blackpool and we talked of working together. I really liked this person. They were interested in the album that I’d just written. Previously I’d felt like the rest of my band we’re largely uninterested in my new songs. I had already considered releasing them as a solo album. I’d much rather record my songs with The Yallas but if there’s an opportunity to work with someone that I really liked then why not? I told the band about my plans. Flights got booked and I’m ready to the give away my songs. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind but sometimes you just need to flirt with the idea of something else.
A week or so later the project falls through and it is largely down to a long-standing feud that I have with another artist. It proved to be impossible for my new collaborator to work with me due to the nature of their friendship. I completely understand the reasons why and I didn’t even try and resolve the issue. I am just disappointed that I was never offered an opportunity to explain myself before a judgement had been made of me. I felt betrayed in that respect. That was my only disappointment … that I’d lost a friend. Disappointed musically? No. Not at all, in fact I was highly delighted. It give me and The Yallas the clarity we needed. I get to keep my songs. There is a sense of relief, joy even. There had been so many scenarios and factors entering my head. Was I even doing the right thing? Would have I been trading who I am? How would it impact The Yallas? I would have been silly to turn down such a project, but the fact the decision was made for me meant that I could avoid being in a scenario that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I managed to remember a few things about myself. I don’t want to do music for money or for a career. I do music because it wakes me up at night. It’s in my blood. It’s in my every thought and heartbeat. I don’t give a fuck about fame. I wholeheartedly give a fuck about a great Rock n Roll guitar solo or a poetic lyric. That shit can stop me in my tracks.
So I dealt with all this the only way I know how. Get back to work and write more songs. The Yallas continued with the idea of taking a break after Rebellion and decide to not play any shows for the remainder of 2018. We all needed that break, some more than others. Will went to France. I saw Vince at a gig in Halifax, he then went to Ireland for a bit before recording his solo album. Joel I’ve not seen since he walked off stage in Blackpool. I went into the studio with our producer Grant to record some demos with a singer called Daisy Wardle. Naturally I discussed the next album with Grant. We debated recording techniques and how we can work differently from our last album ‘Medusa’ which was essentially a live recording in the studio with overdubs. I then take our conversation away and discuss with the band.
The Yalla Yallas decided upon a major change this time around. I must say it is not initially my preferred choice but I have to respect the wishes of each band member. It is decided that Joel will not be playing drums on this album but he will remain in the band. We have other ideas for Joel. Myself and Will discuss potential drummers. I put in a strong case for my friend Sylvia. I’ve recently written a song with her and I’m highly impressed with her all round musical ability. Like Joel she can play multiple instruments. I like this in a drummer. I feel like drummers can truly hear the song as a whole if they also play other instruments. Vince has also worked with her in the past and gives high praise. Grant throws his hat into the ring but everyone agrees that he would be of more value behind the desk. Lewis Pugh from Pleasant Boys is also considered as both Will and myself love his recent solo album. That’s some talent pool to choose from.
We arranged our first rehearsal with Sylvia for Friday 12th September. Will, Vince, and I are all in attendance. I’d sent everybody the demo CD about a week earlier. I’m pleased to see Will had written out notes for all the songs. Vince already had it memorised. This being Sylvia’s first bit of drumming in twelve months I was expecting to maybe work on three new songs. We worked on eight of the eleven tracks. They all came so easily and felt so natural. The only real hindrance was that I kept breaking strings on my Gretsch, I haven’t changed the strings in a while. I was highly impressed with everyone in the room. Especially Sylvia, for such a small frame she has plenty of power and energy in her playing. She also managed to make a real effort at playing some of the more complicated beats, even though we encouraged her to keep it simple if she desired. Our two-hour rehearsal was extended to a third hour. We even managed to work on some new sections and parts, which were formed from ideas in the room. Will recommends that maybe some of the songs would suit Hammond organ, I’m thinking about Gospel Choirs and Saxophones. We’re getting a good feeling from these songs.
Like any sensible band in rehearsals or gigs we film as much as we can. Especially when were working on new songs. The following day I upload the best takes of the previous nights rehearsal to our group chat and we’re delighted when Joel says that we’re sounding good. We’re pleased when he also suggests using a Hammond on the songs. I can’t wait to hear him playing it. I walk to work listening to Exile on the Main Street. I got a feeling that this album will be used as a point of reference a fair bit over the next few months.