Unthanks Day2/3

I neglected to post a blog entry on Tuesday due to my jazz-promoting duties at Sandbar. I’d planned to sneak out early and record my thoughts, but I got side-tracked watching guitarist Dan Brew be better and younger than me…

So, Day 2 was the first full day.  We spent the morning singing a cappella sea shanties and old English folk tunes (which was filmed as well, a clip turning up on BBC Breakfast Wednesday morning).  I’m not a singer by any stretch, but there’s something quite special about hitting harmonies in a group like that, and a few people commented that everyone should start the day with a sing-song.

The afternoon was challenging for me, we split up into groups to work on songs for the show on Friday.  It’s a very different way of working for me, everything else I do there’s usually a leader (sometimes me) who sets out quite defined roles for the musicians, or else it’s totally improvised in the moment, with everyone on an equal platform.  I found it difficult to find much to add to what was already presented, testament to how good the songs already sound, so I’m on the more subtle tip and I think it’s coming together ok.  Adrian (Mr. Unthanks) has been a great help and very encouraging, so I’m gratefully taking on board what he’s been saying.

Day 3 started much the same (sans BBC cameras this time) with a group singalong to blast the cobwebs/hangovers away.  A couple of the tunes are sounding really good, with some simple arrangements, and some improvised harmonies (not just when I make mistakes by the way, some of the real singers are improvising…).  Hopefully these will feature on Friday night, it’s obviously an important part of Becky and Rachel’s music/life.

The rest of the day was spent working on two tunes from the Unthanks repertoire that we’re all playing together.  Lucky Gilchrist is taking on a Steve Reich feel to it, with some nice 7/8 patterns, and The Romantic Tees pitches a 5/8 looped melody over 3/4 chord movements.  All very effective at creating a slightly unsettling modd, a quality which I think drew me in to the band when I first heard them.

Still feels like a lot to do, but it’s coming together nicely and I think Friday’s going to be a really nice gig.

Paul Liddel leading a performance of one of his tunes.

Unthanks Day 1

All this week I’m taking part in a residency at Band On The Wall lead by The Unthanks.  Today we all met each other (good fun) and played something for each other (terrifying).  It was particularly nerve-racking playing a) to a room full of musicians and b) by myself.  I was caught in two minds between whether to play something composed or something totally improvised, so went for a bit of a halfway house and wasn’t totally happy with the results, next time I’ll get the drum-sticks and comb out and go to town!  Everyone else sounds really good, I’m particularly jealous of the acoustic fingerpicking technique going on and there’s some great voices too.  Reassuringly, everyone else I spoke to was nervous too, so there’s some common ground there…

We got a briefing from Garth from Pied Piper about how we’re documenting the week.  All of us are encouraged to upload text/pictures/videos to the dedicated website they’ve created, so during the week you’ll be able to see exactly what’s been going on.  Speaking of which, we’re still to really find out how the week is going to work, it looks like it’s up to us to a certain extent.  Jeremy the producer was saying we’ll be working in small groups and deciding how things run ourselves.  Afterwards in the pub everyone seemed quite excited about collaborating, and wanting to try completely new things rather than just present existing work.  And Rachel Unthank said there’s one or two things they hope to get everyone playing together on, which should sound pretty epic I reckons!

Looking forward to getting stuck in tomorrow, will keep you posted as best I can, make sure you check out the website mentioned above, there’s nothing on it right now, but that’ll change tomorrow too.