12.07.26 Report Back from the Spanish Jam
Written by Jimmy
We just returned from our Sixth Spanish Jam and this is our official report. As always, we start with the Music and then throw in Everything Else. The main difference between this Jam and others is we were joined by Helen, who took wonderful photographs. Thanks in advance Helen. Here’s a little mood settling before we begin:
2. The Music
This was our most ambitious Spanish Jam yet, where we actively managed four studios, demonstrating that if left alone we will take over a full house and garden anywhere on earth… So let’s tell the story of the music studio by studio:
- Studio 1: The main studio, a mirror image of our London studio only better basic kit; sadly less percussion, which we sorely missed. Day 1, we focused on two new SMCC Songs, Let It Rain and Mob’s Embrace. Day 2, we put down new two songs, Back on It and Walking, and laid down an alternative track for One in a Trillion,. Day 3, we put down a further three new SMCC Songs, My Best Friend Married a Porn Star, Floating Away to Never Happened, Praise the Road and Shake(The Martyn Follow up to Mah Knees). Quick overview of each:
- Let It Rain: Music/words written by Jimmy on guitar. While Jimmy started quite proud of it, the musically trained amongst the group (read Sophie!) made it quite clear from the outset it was a true abomination, switching between major/minor and time signatures with no regard for the rules of music and pronouncing it unsingable and unplayable. Besides that we think she liked it. Anyway we struggle to demonstrate you could in fact play it and sing it and had a great time with visiting drummer Graham moving from 4/4 to 12/8 and back to 4/4. This involved Ed counting to six, which Jimmy never ever understood. We then led Sophie put down wonderful cello parts under duress and protest and Milly put down vocals and strings with a somewhat puzzled look on her face.
- Mob’s Embrace: lyrics were inspired by a little article on the Syria uprising in the Independent, where the writer notes quite dryly: ‘When the people get angry they intend to embrace a duke or two.’ What a wonderful line. To be honest, the rest of Jimmy’s lyrics never quite lived up to that phrase… We used an Ed riff to drive the song which is a straight rocker from the Invading London part of the play book with Graham and Rob having a great time pounding through the rhythm while Ed gets in his guitar licks.
- Back On It: lyrics were inspired by a comment Andy made to Jimmy early on Day 2 as he watch him drink a Diet Coke at 8AM. “You back on it then?” said unkind Andy? Led to a quickly penned song about returning to vices – because Diet Coke isn’t very rock and roll we switched to Vodka, Cocaine and Women for the sins. We then spent a couple hours out in the sun getting a basic track and then recorded in the studio with some made keys from Sophie.
- Walking: Ed’s tune completely, inspired by his walk to/from work and desire to write a song about someone that needs to walk to escape, reflect and then recovered. He asked Jimmy to do the vocals because, get this please, “I need the song to be song out of time, off the beat and from the perspective of someone that is a loser, beaten by life.” Cheers Ed! Jimmy did his best off the beat vocal by trying desperately to stay on the beat. The loser perspective just came naturally.
- My Best Friend Married a Porn Star: Jimmy wrote the lyrics having overheard a Greg conversation with Milly that started with the title line. He just imagined Christmas at that house and then stepped back and said, what if that were one of a 100 stories you could no longer share with a loved one… how would a song feel with a funny chorus about one of the stories and then verses talking about the end of stories? Andy did the music for this in about 8 minutes, laying down a demo track on piano. Jimmy and Andy shared vocals for the moment – Jimmy verse, Andy Chorus.
- Praise the Road: With Breathe, Andy sings a line, “This ain’t no road song.” We need good balance here so that prompted us to write a song that was indeed a road song. Jimmy tried to evoke all his favourite road songs in Verse/Chorus and then use the Middle 8 to explain that the lovers needs some road songs to make home feel like home. Andy put down a demo track on acoustic guitar: featured in chorus: On the Road Again, Kings of the Road, Willin’, Truckin and Take It Easy. Andy then wrote the music and recorded as guitar number
- Floating all the Way to Never Happened: A sad song about a letter that arrives with bad news for the couple – impossible to take back and the couple collapses. Andy put down a demo track on piano and sings
- Shaking: Martyn’s follow up to Mah Knees. Great guitar and bass riffs and strings from Milly.
- Studio 2: This was in the bunk/cinema room, with Andy running a mobile studio similar to what we set up for Singing Wells. We referred to it alternatively as the Singing Wells Influences Room or the Strings Room, as a lot of the over-dubbing in the room was strings. Andy focused on four songs:
- Jovah Strings: Milly and Sophie add strings to Jovah’s wonderful lullaby.
- Jovah Guitar: Andy adds guitars.
- Francis: Andy turns this into a ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ moment featuring a fantastic Francis vocal
- Don’t Say You Might: Sophie and Milly put down some strings over Chris’s song from the last week before the Spanish Jam.
- Studio 3: Really this is just the live performances studio and involved all parts of the house. Greg led filming on this, gathering SMCC Members for live takes of:
- Andy’s Cover of: Boys of Summer. Building on the great success of Power of Love, Andy lays down another seasonally appropriate cover.
- The Re-worked One in a Trillion: Performed outside at about 1AM (sorry neighbors), this is a new version involving Ed on the loop and the latest on strings. Andy reprises on guitar.
And here’s the resulting video:
- Studio 4: Video/Photos: Led by Greg and Helen, the main focus was on Day 1, pulling together Photos and Story-lines, Day 2 working on Roadside Comedy video and Day 3 working on collecting raw footage for We’re Not Working and shooting videos for Phone Conversations and One in a Trillion Live:
- Photos: Helen took responsibility for capturing some great photos from the jam. We have a total of about 8 photos from our previous 5 Spanish Jams so trying to change that.
- Roadside Comedy: Helen and Greg worked for 4 hours in the hot sun in the front drive way with chalk to map out the full lyrics of Roadside Comedy and take 980 still photographs for a montage. Concludes with young Josh, slightly ill having consumed a full size chocolate bar.
And here’s the resulting video:
- We’re Not Working: Yes, we know that ‘We’re not Working’, Chris’s latest, ‘ refers to a relationship. But Greg collected footage down in Marbella of the Spanish on Siesta. Don’t ask!
- Phone Conversations: Sophie and Milly’s bedroom was converted to a studio for the filming of Phone Conversations, a video involving Martyn and Rob walking between six I Phones… Involved Helen crawling on the floor catching house keys and throwing balloons at Rob!
- Making of Documentary: The team then worked on a Behind the Scenes documentary, including a long interview with Millie and Andy.
3. Everything Else:
- The Players: Andy (vocals, keys, guitars, drums), Ed (Guitars, Trumpet, Loop, Backing Vocals), Graham (Drums), Greg (Video Director), Helen (Photography, Video), Jimmy (Vocals), Martyn (Guitars, Harps), Milly (Violin, Backing Vocals), Rob (Bass, Drums, Percussion), Sophie (Cello, Keys). Here are the musicians:
- The Facts:
- This is our Sixth Spanish Jam and focused on the development of the fifth SMCC Album and a special Singing Wells Influences Album. We set out to complete 8 new songs, 4 influences and 3 videos. We wrote 9 new songs and 3 influences and 4 videos.
- In terms of weather, we had three glorious days and twook days. The pool was used all days but one. No night swimming, no Jacuzzi. All rooms occupied. The Boys Bunk room took the ‘Don’t Report to Mom’ prize.
- We had two horribly disgusting smokers who politely stayed outside but did ‘waft’ in their smoky musk between breaks.
- We watched Momento and Sherlock Holmes Season 1, but generally played games. Ed and Sophie watched Formula 1. Sophie fell asleep in front of the TV, drooling, while Weakest Link shouted throughout the villa.
- The most popular games in order were: The Hat Game, Perudo, and Shithead (a card game). Notwithstanding the fact that our name the Saturday Morning Canasta Club derives from endless Canasta games played at Spanish Jam 1, there was no Canasta. Ping Pong was big in the garden.
- The main meals were India Food, Martyn’s BBQ, Ed’s Chili Chicken Wraps (no chili as Milly and Sophie are so allergic they die immediately), Rob’s Fish and Spain’s Bugles. The total bags of bugles = 42, or roughly 1 bag of bugle per person per day. We washed this down with 9 bottles of Vodka, 14 bottles of wine and 271 beers. Fanta took over from Diet Coke as preferred of day drink – we had 396 cans of soda during the day (although many were used as mixers). The wine cellar key was conveniently lost.
- The Incidents: We won’t go into detail, but if you see any of the players ask about:
- Mr.Fi: This involves Greg. He went from all around good guy to an un-named Chelsea football captain with gentle words to the brother of a Man U centreback.
- 15.3: This involves Rob and a certain sugar level record we REALLY don’t want to talk about.
- The Sleepover: Martyn was very excited about his sleepover with close friends who retired in Spain. We were told we’d lose him for about 3 hours of studio time and the night. But he was so excited that we lost him for two full days and he ran around the villa getting prepared and choosing his favorite pajamas.
- My Favorite Day: Our Spanish Jams are designed to be a celebration of the community, where ever is allowed to create and everything must be new. No reworking. No editing. Just creation. Thus, the best days are when everyone is taking part. Let me describe the Wednesday, our last day.
- AM: Jimmy wakes up and writes lyrics for three songs. He spends his morning with Andy, who quickly and amazingly writes the music by lunch. We get down three guide tracks. Meanwhile, in the ‘office’ (dining room converted to 8 computer desks), we have Helen and Greg working on the photo library and the a video for Roadside Comedy respectively. Milly and Sophie are outside practicing for the video of One in A Trillion which we’ll shoot later that evening. Ed, Rob and Martyn are in the living room writing Shaking, Martyn’s follow up to My Knees. We break for lunch.
- PM: Jimmy, Martyn, Ed and Rob go into studio to put down Shaking. We invite Milly in for Strings. Ed does trumpets. Andy is in the other studio working on strings for We’re Not Working and Finishing Up Singing Wells Influences. Greg and Helen are mapping out the direction for Phone Conversations. We break for dinner.
- Evening: Jimmy and Andy retreat to studio to put down more formal tracks for our three morning songs: Praise the Road, Floating Away to Never Happened and My Best Friend Married a Porn Star. Helen and Greg lead Martyn and Rob through the production of Phone Conversations which involves Martyn and Rob playing alternative sides of a frustrated phone conversation. Milly, Ed and Sophie work on One in a Trillion Video. Very late at night, the Phone Conversations shoot is completed and all switch to shooting the One in a Trillion Video. It is now 1AM. Group breaks. Reconvenes in the kitchen for Perudo game and Bugles.