Making Noises

Following on from yesterday’s post about the inspiration behind Dog, here’s some info about how we put the song together in the studio.

Dog was recorded at 2Fly Studios in Sheffield, (where I have recorded the vast majority of my output over the years) and produced by all round super bloke Dave Sanderson. It was mastered by Nick Watson at Fluid Mastering in London.

When I was recording Dog, I wanted it to be an aural adventure. I wanted to take you, the listener, on a walk in Rivelin Valley Park with me. I wanted to make you feel happy and to gently surprise you as we went. I wanted to make you want to go outside and play.

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Whilst recording another song for the album*, I’d asked Dave to help me make it sound “like a Tim Burton film”. The idea of a film director as musical director got stuck in my mind and I promptly assigned film directors to each of the songs. For Dog, we pretended to hire Wes Anderson, a director I love for his playful and colourful style and characters, and particularly his attention to detail.

It was with those special details in mind that I spent a fun afternoon in Rivelin Valley recording lots of different sounds – different birds, the river, a bumblebee’s hum, dogs barking, ice cream vans, goose honks – and took these into one of the recording sessions. At one point, Dog was quite full of these noises, but I changed my mind about using them (especially as I’d just seen a talk by Chris Watson and my recordings really didn’t stand up!).

I decided to stick to creating these details using instruments in the studio, inspired by the sounds I’d gathered, and Dave and I rifled through the tons of instruments and percussive items in the studio, trying loads of stuff out and really just having a good play. My favourite is the birdlike ‘too-wit’ sound you can hear around the chorus – I did that with the humble recorder. We rubbed sandpaper blocks together for an extra bit of rhythm that sounds like a dog snuffling around. There’s a triangle that could be a glint of sunshine on the water. I kept in a couple of found samples that were originally kind of place markers that I grew attached to – the bird in the middle was perfect to me and I also kept in the dog that arrives at the end. Here’s Dave tuning my old thumb piano (we didn’t use this either):

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As for the main instrumentation, I played Dave’s old nylon-string Spanish guitar for the main parts and my Gretsch with a tremolo effect for the solo. I added a melodica on the chorus for extra warmth. The omnichord (the fairytale piano-like noise you can hear in the middle of the song) was played by Dave, who picked it up and started playing to see how it might sound on the song – it sounded good so we hit record.

Dave did his magic and then we sent it off with the rest of the album to Nick to do his. And here we have the finished song:

When we play it live, Katherine plays the bass part on guitar and Hannah plays accordion and adds harmonies. There’s also the loop pedal version in this video I made for Couch by Couchwest shortly after I’d written it. (If you haven’t seen the official video yet, that’s here.)

*“I Can’t See You”, for future reference

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