11 February 2011

Come on Gang! - Strike A Match: Track By Track

Normally I would save my Track By Track features for the date that an album actually gets its official release, but in this case I am more than happy to make an exception. For those of you who might not already know, tomorrow night Come on Gang! will be celebrating the release of their amazing debut album 'Strike a Match', which is also going to be the bands farewell gig. As Vinnie Jones might say, "it's going to be emotional".
Back in November myself and Jim 'Ayetunes' were lucky enough to have booked them to play their penultimate gig at the last ever AvP gig. I think it's safe to say that they won over a fair few new fans that evening and with 'Strike A Match' I am pretty sure they would have made thousands more. I will try my best not to dwell on their imminent break up and focus more on what is essentially one the finest Scottish pop albums of the past decade.
In a field which is dominated by male singers, Sarah Tanat-Jones voice is a breath of fresh air, back that with some tight ass pop numbers from Rob and Mikey and you have quite a combination. From the off, 'Coffee Shop' takes you on a journey through life in the city, through to their cracking pop singles 'Fortune Favours The Brave' and 'Wheels', the album is a joy from start to end.
As I've said before I don't do reviews (unless the BBC ask nicely), so this is probably the closest thing you'll get to one from me on this blog. I guess it should go without saying, but in case you hadn't already guessed, this is an album that I really think deserves your attention. I wouldn't have ran this feature if I didn't. Here's Sarah and Mikey from the band to talk you through how it all came to be...

1. Coffee Shop.

Sarah: I think of this song rather as an old friend. It's been around almost since the beginning, it was the first one that really had pop legs, and it's fun to play, like all good friends. It was the first time I started to express real, emotional emotions in this band I'd found myself in after moving to Edinburgh. I think we honed the way we wrote pop songs over the years but this was an early indication of what we could produce when we worked together.

Mikey: Yeah this is the second song we wrote. I love it for lots of reasons but mainly because we never ever discussed what sort of band we’d be, or music we would write, or what we’d sound like; we just thought we’d see what happened. And this was the first indication that we could really write a good song which was greater than the sum of its parts. In hindsight, I’m amazed such an approach worked; it’s not something I’d recommend any new band trying. Urgent yet melancholy, upbeat but emotional. It first defined our sound, so it’s the opener.

2. Fortune Favours The Brave

Sarah: Fortune is one of the jewels in our crown I think, in terms of instant singalongability (and yes that is a real word). I remember the exact afternoon in happened. We were hungry and tired on a Saturday afternoon in a dingy Leith studio. The only shop nearby where we could buy a sandwich was closed. Our only option was to keep on practising. This song sort of appeared as if by magic. I didn't know what to sing in the chorus so I started off just saying 'doo doo doo' and that ended up staying. In the studio I wondered what it would be like to harmonise with myself three times (during the bridge: if you listen to the song you'll know the bit I mean). It sounded pretty ostentatious, but we liked it, so it stayed.

Mikey: We knew we’d written a good song when, in practise, all we wanted to do is play it over and over again. When Fortune came along we were like kids on Christmas morning. We always had an ethos of ‘our best song is the next one we write’, but with this we knew we’d stumbled across something that was perfect for us. Like all our best songs, every instrument is individually doing something interesting - I particularly like the thundering drums and driving bass. Paul, bless him, really struggled to record this, as the original demo we had recorded was really good anyway. In the end it’s the huge drums and cavernous vocal harmonies that really set the two versions apart. Perhaps our best work.

3. Red Thread

Sarah: I love playing Red Thread. It's dramatic and it's got loads of toms in it, it gives you a good workout! And a cowbell. As everyone knows, cowbells are the instrument of the gods. So stately, refined and complex a piece of percussion.

Mikey: We loved this song when we wrote it. Loved it. However after a few months we came to realise that we seemed to be the only ones, as most people just didn’t ‘get it’. In the studio Paul was one of those people. We persisted though and, thanks to some incredible drumming and a few extra guitar tweaks, it’s become a bit of a monster. Everything leading up the first chorus is quite tense, and then it just keeps exploding. We used to open sets with it, as it warmed us all up, tested the PA and the shouting soon got rid of any nerves. I’ll miss playing Red Thread.

4. Need To Run

Sarah: I took the cowbell notion and ran with it, branching out into new and terrifying areas of battery. We were going for all-out pop in a vaguely Motown school with this one.

Mikey: Fucking cowbell. Yeah this has a nice back-and-forth over the verses. I don’t remember how we came up with this, but it snuck in from somewhere. I remember Paul largely replaced my guitar bit with distorted vibes (that’s an instrument by the way) which Sarah played like a maniac.

5. Wheels

Sarah: An oldie, one that people often greeted with pleasure at gigs, which was nice. It expresses my love of driving, and Mikey's love of simple but effective riffs. When the time came to record it properly for the album, we put in a key change. It's like a gear change, but about 80% more awesome. If you don't know how to end a song, put in a key change. Just kidding. We did know how it was supposed to end. But we still put in a key change.

Mikey: Like Coffee Shop, to me Wheels is 100% ‘our sound’. I think it was maybe the third or fourth song we ever wrote, but it always got a great reaction. It’s gone through a few changes over the years, but it’s done a hell of a lot of good for the band and really helped kick-start things early for us. I remember meeting a guy in London who chatted away about how good this song ‘Wheels’ was. I felt like a total dick when I told him I was in the band.

6. This Familiar Road

Sarah: I wanted to see what I could do with a snare shuffle. This song came out quickly, like a baby born in the car on the way to hospital. Unlike a baby, this was created in our wee attic room at the pear tree, surrounded by amps, cables and empty crisp packets. I love this song. It's simple and warm-hearted.

Mikey: Jaunty. It‘s always sounded familiar to me. Even though it’s by no means my favourite of ours, I always feel like this is someone else’s song when we play it. It’s simple but really quite different from our other stuff; Sarah’s influence is all over it and that’s what makes it a joy to play.

7. Fan the Flame

Sarah: A dash of drama, some shouting, guitary madness... I think of this as quite a masculine song, it's great getting to focus on the bass drum.

Mikey: Love the bass drum and the bass in this. We’d been listening to Rumours a lot at the time. And I’d been listening to old Yeah Yeah Yeah’s stuff. When worlds collide.

8. To the Morning

Sarah: Another track where I let loose on the toms, if you notice they pound through quite a hefty proportion of the song. I'm all for that. It kind of solidifies what the lyrics are about. The guitar is quite stompy too, in my mind it's a mix of glam rock and 50s rock and roll styles. It's a song full of frustration mixed with resolution - the lyrics, at any rate. Despite calling to mind shitty nights at Cab Vol in Edinburgh, it's still one of my favourite songs on the album.

Mikey: This will always make me smile. Sarah really fought to make this song as good as it is, and I’m so glad she did. Her vocals get fiercely pushed towards the end and, combined with the toms, it’s like she wants to fight you. Like a lot of our songs, the Motown influence is here again: upbeat music and contemplative lyrics. Listen out for a bag of Skittle too…

9. Santa Maria

Sarah: Trev wrote the lyrics to Santa Maria, back in the day. We amped this up in the studio when we were recording it with Paul. God, I loved recording this album. It was one of the most intense, tiring, exciting times of my life so far.

Mikey: Now it was my turn to push for a track. I’ve always loved this and, along with an early song of ours called Bang, I really like the guitar work on it. Luckily Paul saw the potential in it to so it made the cut. Undoubtedly not a classic song of ours, but certainly one of my favourites. The lyrics always remind me of a fairly uncertain time in the band’s history too, the end of one era and the start of a new adventure.

10. Spinning Room

Sarah: A touch of disco for this one to encourage dancing activity. I don't think it's just a dumb dancey song though; it's got a bit more going on that just pure inebriation. I don't think we produced anything really dumb. I hope we didn't anyway.

Mikey: When I was a kid I used to prefer bands whose songs I could easily learn on the guitar, and this is one of those songs that’s so easy and simple and to the point that it could be anybody’s. I love the twisted piano notes in the middle. We’ve finished on this song hundreds of times and the response it’s got has always been fantastic - it seems to bring people out of their shell for a dance.

11. Start the Sound

Sarah: We chose to end the album with a quieter, more contemplative song. Played live, StS was always a dream, I would really enjoy it especially as I got to harmonise with the boys for pretty much the only time in our live set. It's more understated than our other tracks, hopefully it provides a wind-down after the emotional rollercoaster you've just been on with this insane, action-packed hand-grenade of a record.

Mikey: This finishes the album on a contemplative, reflective note, as if we’ve just had a big party, things got messy, and now it’s time to think through our actions. Again the lyrics are questioning and struggling to find answers, until the chorus comes along and resolves them, so it was just a case of being sympathetic to what went underneath the words. It’s changed a lot since the single version. The vocal harmonies are warm and rich and I think the theme’s pretty universal. I always wanted to make the album as timeless as possible, and this song probably achieves that accoldae more than any others. I’m so proud of this album.


As I already mentioned, tomorrow night (Saturday 12th) we say bon voyage to those lovely Come on Gang! kids. The band are planning to go out with a massive party at Pilrig St Paul's Church in Edinburgh to celebrate the launch of their debut album. As part of the celebrations they have asked a whole load of their favourite bands to come along and join them for the evening, including Over the Wall, Cancel the Astronauts, a lovely songstress by the name of Hailey Beavis, plus some very special surprise guests. In addition to this, myself and Jim 'Ayetunes' will be battling it out with DJ sets in between the bands. There is no bar so you can bring along your own bottles for the evening, grab a copy of the album and come and give Come on Gang! the send off that they deserve.

If you are quick off the mark then you can still get tickets from Avalanche Records on The Grassmarket, or you might still be able to get one here, if all of that fails then you might still be able to get one on the door. Either way I look forward to seeing you there, Peenko x

No comments:

Post a Comment