This is a series of posts on how we created our latest record ‘TMI’. Please don’t forget to listen and enjoy on all streaming platforms!
It’s late-June in the middle of the long, long, hot summer of 2018. England were doing uncharacteristically well in the World Cup. I’m walking down a dusty trail in the furthest reaches of south England towards a quaint summer cottage nestled between rolling hills and well-kept hedgerows. Gav and Will arrive moments later, climbing out of Gav’s cream Mini Cooper drenched in sweat from a 9-hour drive to the middle of nowhere. This is how we get ourselves away from civilisation to focus on music-making; disappearing into the wilderness to remove modern distractions from the creative process. With that in mind, it’s probably no coincidence that days later we’d write a song that questions the influx of information that bombards us at every turn.
We began work on TMI on the night of the second day. In it’s original form, TMI was more akin to a ballad than the upbeat funk that it would later become. The song started from the lyrics; Gav sung it to us and it originally took the form of something lilting, gentle and almost dream-like. The lyrical inspiration for the track is probably pretty clear - living in London, we all experience a constant influx of information, so getting away from this is a pretty appealing subject matter!
The first decision was to punch it up a little bit, adding a little more energy. Our approach to doing this was actually really simple; we simply doubled the speed on chord changes in the chorus, moving on the half-bar rather than changing on the bar. This is a really simple trick to create momentum. It’s at this point that Will switches into his characteristic clipped funk guitar sound. The bass part was written on a very old, weathered acoustic guitar that was lying around in the cottage… the most important thing was to make sure that it had a ton of movement in the chorus to keep the energy high at this point in the song.
Once we’d sketched out a few of the main parts on guitar, we started to flesh out the rest of the composition on ‘the machines’ AKA my array of drum machines, bass and synth stuff that’s all sequenced for performing live. It’s really important to get the core vibe of the song right before moving on to the rest of the composition; you can turn a mediocre song into a great finished track with clever instrumentation, but if anyone ever asks you to sit down at a piano and play the song for them, it’ll quickly become apparent how mediocre it actually is! So we want to make sure everything we do has a really good song at the heart of it.
A lot of the additional instrumentation (i.e. everything that’s not vocals or guitar) is built on a simple escalation; the verse is spacious and roomy, especially to begin with, using a sparse bass part and chilled synth pads. The pre-chorus adds quarter-note bass and synth stabs to start ramping up the pressure, and the chorus is where the bass starts to really move and the 16th note arp gets to work. Dynamics are a hard thing to get right when working with electronic instruments, but considerate songwriting can make the job an awful lot easier.
We agreed to keep the structure of the track minimal; we wanted something immediate and brief, as it didn’t feel right for it to become a sprawling epic! The song doesn’t even have a middle 8 section; it moves straight from the second chorus into the synth-led outdo part. For a track like this, we’d rather people want to hit rewind and listen again and again than have it outstay it’s welcome!
Some songs come together very quickly; others you have to grind out a little bit. TMI is a song that came together pretty fast once we’d decided what the vibe would be; we knew we wanted a track that was simple, strong and, above all, really fun to play and listen to, and I think that’s what we ended up with.
Making a piece of music is like making a tower of stones. It takes perseverance and determination, but eventually you get the result you’re looking for…