Now that we've uploaded the title track No Way In, No Way Out from our upcoming studio album we've settled on the six that will be available for preview through Reverbnation. Our disc's title song, plus Open Season on Love, I'm Right Here, That's Not The Reason, Radiance and I Can't Reach You seem representative of different flavours of sounds across the album. For example, there's a bit of pastoral folk in a tune like Radiance, a driving rocker with Open Season on Love and a more epic prog. rock piece in No Way In, No Way Out. However, picking six of the fifteen songs to showcase here was extremely tough because we think that every song is quite remarkable and special. In fact, we're deliberately not releasing even a snippet of the album's first track, the rollicking, tuneful Melancholy World. That song just had to open the album. Another track that you won't hear on Reverbnation and you will only hear if you buy our album is what we consider the record's centre-piece the trippy, proggy, Would It All Be Different? Man, Jonathan has put together a beautiful arrangement for that song which makes it a real highlight of the album for me when I listen to it. Jeremy's layered vocalization in the mid-section of the song is absolutely astonishing. Amongst the other tracks on the disc, stand-outs lyrically and melodically are: Saturday, Light, These Ghosts, Clouds and Life In Miniature. Jeremy's performance on the lovely Life in Miniature is stunning and that track is wonderful with Jonathan's rich upright bass as its foundation. Jonathan also plays classical guitar on Life In Miniature, which really works beautifully. The haunting, quiet ballad, These Ghosts may be the best song I've written so far. I'll let you be the judge of that. Jeremy proves once again why he's one of the best harmony singers in the business on this track. Jonathan's acoustic guitar accompaniment -- with some tasteful slide guitar -- would melt butter. And, It Doesn't Matter is another personal favourite on the album. Jonathan has given that song a pretty jaunty arrangement -- a real sing-a-long -- which will mess with the listener quite nicely when you pay attention to the bleak lyrics. Then, of course, there is Pain. There is always Pain :) That tune rocks so damn hard in spots it will take the paint off walls in your home, so be careful when you play it. But it also includes a gorgeous, ethereal vocal from Jeremy in the bridge parts as the tempo surprisingly slows, right, down. As I was listening to mixes at Jonathan's studio yesterday we were talking about how difficult it is to sequence this album because we believe the songs are all so strong. We have chosen to give our musical friends on Reverbnation a rather generous taste of what we've been up to in the studio over the last few months. Hope you like what you hear on our site. If you want to hear the full album, you will be able to buy it very soon. Cheers, Frank
As we drove to Corvidae Music for the final recording session for No Way In, No Way Out, we listened to the latest mixes of the album's tracks in my car. Open Season on Love seemed stuck on repeat. Holy shit this one sounds great with some mighty cool electric riffing! The song has a massive, tuneful chorus and Jonathan has given the rhythm section real snap, crackle and pop. We continue to marvel at how rich and thick the bass sounds on this album. Amazing work Jonathan. Open Season On Love, Saturday, These Ghosts and Light were the four songs that Jeremy had to do some vocal work on today. I would be assigned to Co-producer duty on the couch in Jonathan's control room. When we arrived at the studio we got down to business fairly smartly. I took up my position of responsibility as far away from vital equipment as possible and Jeremy went into the booth to sing his heart out. His vocals were required on Open Season on Love, Saturday and Light as originally he sang while playing guitar to the click track. There are often instances of guitar bleed into the vocal mic and the click being heard in the mix etc. Also, Jonathan had slightly re-arranged the chorus of Light, which made for smoother transitions and better use of the melody. We had not heard the arrangements for Saturday, These Ghosts and Light before this visit to the studio. These Ghosts is the only tune that Jonathan and I sang together without Jeremy in the room. And I think it's quite a beautiful tune about a brother and sister visiting the family home one last time, after their parents have passed away. The subject matter is sad, but the melody is a memorable one. Jonathan contributes some lovely acoustic guitar -- all filigree splendour -- to These Ghosts and Jeremy's harmonies on the chorus really are sweet. These songs have been given marvelous treatments. Lots of upright bass -- still to be added on some tracks -- will close out No Way In, No Way Out. Jeremy was asked to sing higher harmony parts on a couple of the choruses so his voice could be layered in the final mix with mine. Jonathan is singing a fair amount on the album too to add colour. So, our work is done. Now, the rest is up to Jonathan. I expect he'll need a couple of weeks or so to contribute a few instrumental bits here and there and fine tune the mixes, before mastering the album. No point in rushing a great thing. But suffice it to say, the three of us are very pleased and proud of ourselves. I'll be back to pay Jonathan a visit to listen to mixes next week and check on his progress, but the album release day is approaching. I'll keep you posted. Cheers. Frank
This is a big day folks. You finally get a taste of what's been cookin' in the sonic kitchens of Corvidae Music. We think when you hear the full album "No Way In, No Way Out" in March that you will find it a rich, robust, fragrant, musical stew. In the meanwhile, we have decided to offer you four tasty morsels as an appetizer prior to the main course. So today we present to you -- on a silver platter -- four newly minted tracks: I'm Right Here, That's Not The Reason, Radiance and I Can't Reach You. Hope you like these tunes. They are served with a generous array of intoxicating beverages and Jumbo Shrimp cocktails for the seafood lovers in the crowd. We think the songs are perfectly seasoned, as they are. However, we also have several flaming hot sauces on offer, for those who'd like to spice the tunes up a tad. But keep the jalapeños and particularly the Trinidad Moruga Scorpions away from the ballads, thanks very much. And you older folks go easy on the spice. It's hard on the gastro-intestinal system. Anyway, we hope you enjoy listening to this new music as much as we have enjoyed making it. Jeremy, Jonathan and I can certainly see the light at the end of this tunnel. We only have three more of the 15 album tracks that require work by Jonathan in terms of the arrangements. Today, Jeremy and I focused on three songs: the pastoral folk piece, Life In Miniature, the blistering grunge rocker (with an ethereal bridge from Jeremy) Pain and the prog. rock album title track: No Way In, No Way Out. Jeremy was singing like a bird today. He gave us a glorious vocalization on No Way In, No Way Out. Wait until you hear this song. It will really send the album out with quite an impact, I think.Jeremy also re-did his vocals on Life In Miniature, as there was a click track to be heard in the guide vocal version. Lovely song indeed. I'm quite pleased with my work on Pain as I needed re-do some vocal parts as well in the verse and pre-chorus. Man, the bass sounds thick and beefy on Pain thanks to Jonathan's skills as a bass player and producer. Jonathan is right, Pain is the hardest we've ever rocked and yet when the time signature changes in the repeated bridge parts, with Jeremy's pleading, ethereal vocals the tune takes on a totally different dimension. I also sang the first verse of No-Way In, No Way Out again and I think that track is sounding just great now. It seems like centuries ago that we released the first album Uncertain Vista, but that was only the end of August. We've really never stopped writing and rehearsing music since and ventured back into the studio in December to start work on this disc. It's been an adrenaline rush and a considerable source of pride and joy to see the album coming together. More to report from the trenches in a few days, as we'll be back in the studio again near the end of the week. Until then. Cheers, Frank
We're still a few days away from going back into the studio to put the finishing touches on our second album, No Way In, No Way Out. That disc will be released in March. In the meantime, this week we were thrilled to find out that A Writer's Retreat from the Uncertain Vista album, is now featured on the third King Minion Music Podcast. We are so excited that the King chose our song to be showcased with tracks by such stellar bands/artists including: Georgina Taylor, Bingham Willougby, AJ Prowler, The Ostinato Brothers, Pink Side Of The Moon, The Likeness, Tym Deal and Susan Raines. Check it out and listen to amazing tunes and a very professional production: http://kingminionmusicpodcast.blogspot.com/p/episode-3.html And if you really like what you hear support the artists -- most especially us of course -- by purchasing the music. You will notice a direct link on the King Minion page to Sills and Smith, Uncertain Vista on iTunes. Our song Angry Geezer is available on the first King Minion Podcast and the lovely High Tide, also on the Uncertain Vista album, has been selected for a future edition by the King. Keep listening to the King Minion Podcast and show your support on Facebook for this initiative that presents opportunities for independent artists to be heard. The King Minion Music Podcast is being operated out of Victoria, British Columbia -- so it's proudly Canadian -- and is connected with a boutique label called V1 Music. Jeremy and I spent the week listening to the current mixes of 12 nearly completed tracks for No Way In, No Way Out. It all sounds amazing to our ears. At this stage, the album clocks in at just over 44 minutes, but the full 15 song disc will be around 55 minutes of music. In the last two weeks of this month, we will return to Jonathan's studio, Corvidae Music to complete our work on the vocals. Jonathan has to finish up the arrangements for three songs, but we are on schedule for a March release. With any luck, and providing Jonathan is OK with it, we may post a couple of tunes on the Reverb. page to give you a taste for No Way In, No Way Out before the end of February. Keep checking out our site. Jeremy and I were back at it this week rehearsing brand new material. It seems there is music always percolating and bubbling to the surface. This week we tried out One With the Season and The Arsonist. The first tune is a celebration of the beauty in nature and being one with it all and is very sweet and pretty. The Arsonist rocks really hard and is about a deeply disturbed individual who sets fires at night all around his home-town. It's got an interesting melody in the verse, bridge and chorus parts, with the latter two repeating for added effect. Jeremy played some pretty wild, trippy electric guitar as we were practicing The Arsonist. These two new songs, plus Advice Best Taken, Is It Love? and Alcohol, Swallow It Down that we introduced to the Sills and Smith repertoire just last week, will be definite keepers for that third album -- whenever we get around to recording it. Until next time...Cheers, Frank
It was a real thrill to read Jonathan's insightful contribution in our last blog. He has done an outstanding job on our second album, bringing his considerable talents as an instrumentalist and producer to bear on the material. What I love about Jonathan's work is his incredibly creative, broad palette approach to the musical arrangements. I think the songs on Uncertain Vista and especially on No Way In, No Way Out show that we can't be placed inside any kind of a musical box. There is an awful lot of genre bending and blending going on, which reflects our eclectic musical tastes. It is also indicative of our ever changing moods and sense of artistic adventure. This week Jonathan shared completed early mixes of three more songs, bringing the total number of album tracks that are nearly finished to 12. Pain, Life In Miniature and Light, the three finished this week, make my point about variety in the tunes. Life In Miniature and Light are quiet, almost pastoral folk songs -- the softer side of the new album. Pain, on the other hand, at its heaviest is a brutal, driving rocker with pounding bass and shredding electric lead guitar. It's actually the hardest we've ever pushed ourselves on a song and the closest we've come to punk/grunge rock so far. But even that tune has surprising tempo switches in the chorus, with an ethereal, pleading vocal from Jeremy. Pain and the atmospheric title track No Way In, No Way Out, seem to articulate a thread that runs through the songs on this album. Up until now, it's been hard to measure it all, but as the album is finally starting to gel from just a bunch of songs, there is a message that is pretty loud and clear. This album feels like a desperate cry from the wilderness for a kinder, gentler world. Enough said on that, I guess. It all sounds pretty cool to our ears and as Jonathan puts it so well, it seems like a natural progression from Uncertain Vista. I think the songs are uniformly strong and extremely melodic and we've really stretched the bounds this time around with longer pieces, explorations into prog/rock territory and, of course, greater use of Jeremy's magnificent voice. I do hope you folks like the album when you hear it. Anyway, we're going to be sitting with the mixes for a couple of weeks and we'll be back in the studio with Jonathan in the last two weeks of the month to finish up this recording. In the meantime, we were back at it rehearsing three brand, spanking new songs this week at Jeremy's place: Alchohol, Swallow It Down; Is It Love? and Advice Best Taken. Too bad we'll have to leave these three off the new disc, because they sound great. We tried two different versions of Alchohol, Swallow It Down, with Jeremy on electric guitar. The first was a rousing, St. Patrick's Day pub style version, which -- despite the grim lyrics -- had a celebratory tone. The second -- which I think we'll settle on eventually -- is a rootsy, weepy, dirge, on the evils of drink. Is It Love? has a kind of a Robyn Hitchcock/Soft Boys flavour to it, in terms of it's sarcasm and psycedelic tones, but it doesn't sound like any tune he's written. It was astounding with the two of us trading verses and singing the mighty, amusing chorus. The electric guitar was really chiming nicely, with some added effects from Jeremy's bag of tricks. Advice Best Taken is probably one of the more melodically interesting songs I've written and really takes advantage of our two voices and Jeremy's brilliant harmony singing. Well, it seems we've already stock-piled enough decent songs for a third album. However, we'll need to rest on our laurels -- such as they are -- and let Uncertain Vista and No Way In, No Way Out find their audiences before we record anything else. Do you think 36 songs and close to two hours of original music, released within six months is enough? The new album will be out in March. Until next time, Cheers, Frank
Well, Frank's been on my case to make a blog entry about how the recording process is going, so I guess it's time I weighed in. So far, the new album is progressing faster in all respects than Uncertain Vista went, I think because we streamlined how we do things a little better, plus my technical skills are greatly improved from last time around through continuous experimenting in the studio as well as applying stuff I learned while in Nashville last year. All in all, the new songs are awesome and I'm having a great time contributing to the creative process! This batch of songs are the strongest stuff Frank and Jeremy have written to date, more concise and melodic. The flavour of this album is a little more in the alt rock vein with a little less of the whimsical nature of Uncertain Vista, but I think there's more drama in the songs and a greater cohesive whole. Don't worry though, there are still plenty of quiet moments and acoustic textures throughout. One thing we've been trying to capitalise on which we didn't do enough of on Uncertain Vista was to showcase Jeremy's astonishing vocal talents. What Jeremy did in the brief musical interludes in Spiraling Down and Symphony of Colours really merited further exploration, so on this album we've been trying to find more places for him to stretch out with some improv vocalisation stuff. I don't want to give too much away, but in the extended middle section (in 11/8 time, no less!) of the rather Floyd-ian Would It All Be Different showcases Jeremy in a way that gives me goosebumps. We did a bunch of takes, all of them somewhat different, and now that I'm at the mix stage of the song, I found that I didn't want to throw anything away of those performances. So, I figured out a way to edit the four performances together into a sort of choral arrangement that to my ears is absolutely astonishing to hear as Jeremy progresses through a buildup of soft tones, harmonics, and throat singing to a series of whoops and cries over a pulsating drum beat that dovetails into a screaming guitar solo. For me it's about the most magical several minutes of music I've had the pleasure to work with. There are some new flavours worked into the mix besides Jeremy's vocalising. I've been working on my keyboard skills in the time since Uncertain Vista and that's led to a greater presence of Hammond organ textures on the album, a sound I dearly love because it brings so much warmth and texture without sounding cold and mechanical like a synth. We've also worked in a few time signature related things that shake up the grooves a little bit too, that's been fun to put bass and drums down with that stuff. At the time of this writing, we've got 8 songs more or less completed, and right now I'd say they all rank right up there with the very best stuff from Uncertain Vista and exceed it in many ways. Frank has grown immensely as a writer in the last few months, and I'd have to say it's been an absolute joy to work with him and Jeremy on these songs. Can't wait to get the rest of these songs done and out there in the world for you to hear! Jonathan
The rockin' Angry Geezer, from the Uncertain Vista album, is now featured on the second King Minion Music Podcast. We are so excited that the King chose our song to be showcased with tracks by other terrific bands including: The Honey Wilders, The Likeness, The OBE Show, The Pondhawks, The Terry Gilbert Project, Anton Mink, and James Ferris Group. Check it out and listen to some amazing tunes: http://kingminionmusicpodcast.blogspot.com/p/episode-2.html Two other songs from Uncertain Vista have also been chosen by King Minion to be featured in upcoming Podcasts: A Writer's Retreat and High Tide. In that case, keep listening to the King Minion Podcast and show your support on Facebook for this initiative that presents opportunities for independent artists to be heard. The King Minion Music Podcast is being operated out of Victoria, British Columbia -- so its proudly Canadian -- and is connected with a boutique label called V1 Music.
On Thursday, Jeremy and I were back at Corvidae Music for more vocal work on the new album, No Way In, No Way Out. With 14 songs recorded and the arrangements and mixes for 8 tunes nearing completion, Jonathan asked us into his studio to sing on three songs: It Doesn't Matter, Would It All Be Different? and That's Not The Reason. As I was singing from the booth and Jeremy was singing while playing his guitar in the initial recordings, most of my original vocals could be used. I'd also managed an extra couple of hours one afternoon last week in the studio to do some vocal over-dubs. However, Jeremy needed to sing his verse and chorus parts owing to guitar bleed on his vocal mic and the click track occasionally making its presence felt in the mix. As usual, Jeremy was the consummate pro. With some direction from Jonathan in the control booth, he sang his parts on the chorus of It Doesn't Matter and That's Not the Reason brilliantly. It Doesn't Matter is a dark, dark song thematically, but Jonathan has countered the subject matter with this sparkly, jaunty, shuffling, kind of sea shanty arrangement that works fabulously. Wait until you hear That's Not the Reason. It's a portentous little ditty, with a flavour of reggae to it. Weird and wonderful, with a killer chorus. Would It All Be Different? -- which Jonathan has turned into an epic sounding prog/rock piece -- required Jeremy to sing the chorus over. He was also asked to add a wordless vocalization in the song's mid-section, to accompany music starting with a plucked acoustic guitar and swirling organ and then an alternating ambient and searing electric lead by Jonathan. Man, what a performance that was. Jeremy's voice just swooped and soared, gloriously over the music. It left us sitting pretty much stunned and amazed listening in the booth. That track is going to sound so dynamic and powerful on the album. I finished off the Thursday session by doing my vocal over-dubs on the chorus of Would It All Be Different?, which repeats three times. The timing is tricky, but we got it down. On Friday, technically Day 9 in the studio, it was just Jonathan and me. I had written a new song called These Ghosts, Thursday evening. As Jeremy wasn't available, I wanted Jonathan to hear the tune while it was fresh. I think it's a beautiful song, which involves a brother and sister returning to the family home after their parents have passed away, to pack up family treasures, and to sell the house. Jonathan played an acoustic guitar and sang the song with me for about fifteen minutes or so. He really loves the song too, so that made me feel great. We recorded a guitar and voice demo, with a click track within an hour. This will be the 15th song on the album and could very well end the disc. At this stage, we're thinking that Melancholy World could be the first song as it will really start things off with a bang. Anyway, the all important task of track sequencing will be addressed in the weeks ahead. Jeremy will need to add his parts to These Ghosts. But it was a very productive week. More to report next week as we work to complete No Way In, No Way Out for a March release. Cheers, Frank
A lot of folks have told us how much they like No Safety Net. We're so pleased that song has struck a chord. As Jeremy and I were heading off to the studio to record the last two album tracks, we were diggin' The Church's album Jammed in my car. Listening, to that remarkable, rather obscure disc by my favourite Aussie band reminded me of the spark that led to No Safety Net. I was test driving the entirely instrumental Jammed on headphones for the first time last spring, having ordered the album through "Church Merch." in Australia. I was listening to the disc at full throttle, as Steve, Marty, Peter, and Tim, flailed away on their instruments, making the most glorious racket. Suddenly, I thought in the midst of the first track, entitled "The Sexual Act": Holy shit, these guys are playing with No Safety Net, No Tether.. I was so excited and inspired. Grabbed a note pad and pen on the coffee table by the couch and quickly scribbled down the rest of the words -- stream of consciousness style -- as the melody started to form in my head. It's not much of a tune, really -- kind of the closest I'll ever get to a rap. No Safety Net is a rumination on the inevitability of things in life and that, since we have virtually no control anyway, we might as well dive into the fray and face the consequences. If the song sounds great, it's owing to Jeremy's and Jonathan's amazing musicianship and the super production work of Jonathan. But there you have the genesis of a song, totally inspired by the amazingly inspiring, legendary, The Church. We managed to turn The Church album down long enough to discuss the songs that needed to be recorded in today's session with Jonathan before we arrived at Corvidae Music. On tap today were the new album's title track, No Way In, No Way Out and Pain. After the usual pre-recording tune-ups and salty humour, we were down to business quickly. Pain was first up. It's a great song, but it was a mighy pain in the ass to record with a click track. The problem is there are two distinctly different time signatures within the tune. We needed to record the guide vocals by splitting the song up. The song is tricky to sing. Jeremy did a great job on the guitar and his vocals. I think I held my own, although we'll need to go back and re-work a couple of things in the chorus parts as I sounded a little shakey as I tried to sustain the note at the end. But it was certainly good enough for Jonathan to build the arrangement. On to No Way In, No Way Out. Man; this one was tough. There was a delay on Jeremy's guitar effect and my timing on the verses was out of whack. Clearly, I had over-written a car crash scene in the second half of the song as we had extra lines in the verses. Anyway, we did a work around. Jeremy played the main riff so Jonathan could loop it and we sang to the loop. I sang the first two verses and the chorus and Jeremy did a terrific job with the last two verses and the pre-chorus leading up the final chorus, which we sang twice. Easy as pie. Yeah, right! I was concentrating so hard I thought I was going to go cross-eyed by the end of the session. And, good God that click track is an awful thing to get used to. Reminds me of the metronome from my childhood piano lessons. Of course, it's all very necessary to the process. We left Corvidae Music feeling a sense of great accomplishment, knowing that we had recorded all 14 songs for No Way In, No Way Out. And, we each had in our possession an 8 track CD with the latest mixes of songs that are nearing completion. Listening to the stuff as I type this. Man, it sounds awesome. Jonathan is a brilliant fellow. Wait until you hear this music. More news from the studio Thursday as we're back doing vocal over-dubs. Until then, Cheers, Frank
Robin Youlton, who goes by Rhesus Monkey on Reverbnation. is one of my dearest friends in music and I have never even met the man. Robin lives in England, so there are several thousand miles and there's an extremely large pond separating us. But from the instant Robin heard Sills and Smith, he became a fan of our music and was so supportive -- even when I was seriously doubting myself, Robin was in our corner. I can tell you it's quite a mutual admiration society, because this guy is incredible. Robin is a modest fellow about his own accomplishments, but he is a true genius in music and with film. And, I don't use the word "genius" lightly. As Rhesus Monkey, Robin selects significant moments in history -- often using rare, archival footage from the BBC and elsewhere -- and puts them to the most amazing music that he composes and performs. Hollywood luminaries like Steven Spielberg should be busting down Robin's door -- contracts in hand -- begging him to write the music for their films. In terms of the videos, I'd suggest starting with the mind-blowing The Visitation, a shorter piece and then moving on to more involved sonic and visual experiences from that point. Anyway, do visit Robin's page; listen, watch and learn. http://www.reverbnation.com/rhesusmonkey Cheers, Frank Here's a posting from Robin about his latest project the 14 minute, epic piece. You must experience this! The story of Berlin. Part One - Zero Hour (1945 - 1948). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyqQaO4HzKg&feature=g-upl&context=G21b5703AUAAAAAAAAAA A city devastated by war becomes the centre piece in the Cold War between East and West. Video production and music soundtrack by Rhesus Monkey. "Das Ist Berlin" Music by Leo Leux & Mathias Perl, Lyrics by Hans Hannes & Bruno Balz.