****There’s a lot to cover for the past 6 months. Part 2 will cover the singles Christmas Time in China, No Prey No Pay….and the soft release of the Absent friends demo****
Christmas Time in China
I’ve covered the writing process of this song previously (here) so I won’t go too deep here. Basically it’s a nice Celtic Punk Christmas sing-a-long complete with sleigh bells and a short guitar solo. I wrote the song to reflect what Christmas time in China really is like for us foreigners who live here.
Christmas can be a very lonely time in China for foreigners as it’s not widely celebrated. Essentially all Christmas is in China is, is a marketing opportunity for businesses. You will see lots of tacky decorations (many stay up, all year round), and lots of shops/restaurants will play a very short Christmas playlist over and over, often it’s not even a playlist it’s just the same song.
One tradition that’s sprung up here is to give people you care about an apple, which always reminds me of the horror I felt when my mum and dad would tell me about getting a fresh orange and a shiny penny in their stocking (they may have been lying). The tradition arose due to the translation of Silent Night being Ping An Ye and the Chinese word for Apple is Ping Guo (different characters for each Ping, but same pronunciation, not sure on tone).
I reflected on all of this in the song and added a little bit to remind everyone about the people here in China (often children), slaving away in factories to fill our Wal-marts and Asdas with Christmas tat.
The song wasn’t a particulairly big success, but it was discussed in a few different blogs and I learned a lot from the process of releasing this first single that I have applied since.
No Prey No Pay
Once again I have previously covered the writing process for No Prey No Pay previously so I won’t drag all that up again.
We released this single on February 22nd and I used a lot of what I learned from Christmas time in China. First of all I began the process three weeks before the release date (I learned that this wasn’t even long enough in advance). For this release we where able to cash in on some of the interest we’d received from blogs etc with our Christmas singles (but had missed their deadlines).
Also when this song came out China was front page centre around the world as the virus was spreading out of control and foreigners where being evacuated, I think the idea that we where here isolated and experiencing something out of a horror movie caught peoples attention and that added to our traction.
The two biggest turn ups was an offer to exclusively launch our new video from London Celtic Punks Blog and the inclusion on a major Celtic Punk Spotify playlist with over 80,000 followers.
The offer from London Celtic Punks was one we could not turn down, but there was one major issue. I was in Inner Mongolia, Will was in Hebei and Rocco had gone back to Scotland and to boot I had no video equipment other than my laptop, and cellphone. We had made a plan for the video for No Prey No Pay, but all of that was scuppered as China had gone into maximum lockdown.
None the less I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity, so I donned my flat cap and Celtic Scarf and used my cellphone to film myself lip-syncing to the single while my 1 year old daughter slept about 4 feet away and that’s the video you see posted above!
This would be the start of me embracing the DIY spirit of Punk Rock whilst locked down in Inner Mongolia with nothing to do.
This single has amassed over 10,000 streams since it’s launch at the end of February and most of that was thanks to being added to a major Spotify Celtic Punk playlist which caters to over 80.000 fans of the genre mostly based in German speaking countries (Celtic punk is enormous in this market).
Absent Friends (Demo)
I had been really caught up with all the work going in to the release of No Prey No Pray, which was made MUCH more difficult as around that time China started strangling internet connections and waged war on VPNs to try to control the countries access to western media reports on the virus etc. So I’d not really thought too much about song-writing for a few months, all though I had scribbled down a few ideas and notes here and there in me lyric journal.
Absent Friends was developed from a chord progression I wrote in the key of A, which is not a typical key for me. The progression starts with the I chord, so I wrote a second progression to act as a pre-chorus/bridge type thing that started on the IV step and I recorded them both together on my iPad. I then composed the melody on my Mandolin (a catalyst for songwriting that has become very common for me now) and used an idea in my notebook for lyrics.
What I had in my notebook was a couple lines for a song based on a weekly meeting between Dad and his mates, how they tell jokes, talk about the past and absent friends. I then used these notes as a starting point to write the full lyrics.
The structure of the song was influenced by how the Pogues typically structure their songs . For instance Absent Friends has a couple long instrumental passages, which is quite typical of the Pogues. This goes against pop writing, but that’s not the market a song like this is intended for anyway.
I recorded a very raw demo of the song on my ipad with me playing guitar and singing simultaneously on Music Memos App (which programs bass and drums over the top). After some adjustments to the bass and drums (the app gets chords wrong a lot). I then exported this to garageband on my iPad and I layered the mandolin part on top. I did a quick mix adding some reverb and delay and I got something I thought sounded really nice.
Musically all I had at my disposal in Inner Mongolia was a cheap classical guitar, mandolin, a few tin whistles, a small controller, my lap top and a Zoom 8 track porta-studio. None the less I set out to record a more professional demo of Absent Friends using what I had.
Basically the demo consisted of classical guitar, two vocal parts, virtual bass, the mandolin part, and percussion by beating on the back of the classical guitar. I did my own best mix I could and what I ended up with really pleased me and I wanted to share it.
I made a quick lyric video and uploaded it. The video that I uploaded to facebook got thousands of views, and the one on youtube hundreds (our youtube numbers needs work), but most importantly the video was seen by some important people in the scene such as members of some big bands and I got some amazing comments and feedback from people I really respect.
Ok thanks for reading, in part 3 of my long up date I’ll discuss the Quarantine Sessions EP and the release of our third single The Hill I chose to Die on.