The Box Ticked are standing in for Status Quo and opening the Alternative Fringe at Stony Live today at 1pm.
If you’re in the Stony Stratford area, then get yourself down to the back of the Bull, and come and shake your booty with us. Or you could just dance I suppose. Or clap your hands. Or shuffle uncomfortably from foot to foot. I’m sure we’ve got a song about that somewhere.
Anyway, it’s Stony Live, there’s loads of stuff going on all over the place. The line up of the alternative fringe is damn fine in itself too.
It’s finally here! The new CD by The Box Ticked – Did You Hear The One About…? is available now, today, no delay it’s really here. As you can see, it’s gone down well with Beyonce so far, and we think it’ll go down well with you too – all you’ve got to do to place your order is click here. We’re selling it online for just £6.99 which includes UK postage and packaging and we reckon that’s pretty great value for 12 tracks of the most Quirkessential Power Pop you’re ever likely to hear.
This was one of those where it all just went right. Scribal isn’t a massive event, but it’s a good one. There tends to be some talented people doing the open mic stuff, and the headline acts always have their work cut out to come across as being dead good. The feedback we had from everyone there was great, but what was really great about this one was how great it felt on stage.
We played six or seven tracks from the album and everything just felt right. There were moments where Steve and I were singing at each other, and it all felt worth it. I get a lot of satisfaction out of what we do musically, and it frustrates me that we’re not sharing our music with a wider audience, but every now and again you get that rather lovely combination of a great audience, a good set and it all just feeling wonderful on stage and this was one such moment.
We played Musical Differences, Plugging Away, Daydream, New Song, Corbijn and Muse Killer, and threw in a cover of Five Years which felt great too.
A great gig, and one that will live with me for a long time – cheers all.
This was planned to be the big album launch gig, which didn’t quite work out, as we didn’t get the CDs back from the printers in time, but it’s a great little venue. The evening was made rather interesting by what I’ll describe as a ‘slightly confused’ sound man. He took some 20 minutes to establish that the reason nothing was coming out of the speakers was that his desk wasn’t turned on, and we were relaying on feedback from the crowd to get the sound sorted out rather than him. Nice guy and all that, but made for a frustrating evening in places.
Having said that, it was a good gig. We played pretty much everything off of the album plus some oldies and a few covers and we generally had a good time. We were playing with The Phil Sky Experience, who were good and seemed like really nice guys.
Highlights of the evening for me were Musical Differences, Plugging Away, Sack and a few others – not a massive crowd by any means, but an appreciative one and a venue that we’ll look forward to playing again in the future.
This was one of those ‘conversation in the curry house’ things where Jonathan Taylor said “do you fancy playing a short set next week” and we said yes. Scribal is a great gig, and it’s one that we’ve played many times in the past, but hadn’t done for some time. It seemed like a lovely idea, and Jonathan offered us a slot to close the first half of the evening. I have a feeling that our first ever gig was at one of the earlier Scribal Gatherings, so for me, it’s always been special, and it’s always an interesting experience to see how we’ve changed.
We’d decided on acoustic and laid back, which we often do for Scribal. By that I mean that we often decide on acoustic and laid back, but we don’t often actually carry it through – usually the adrenaline kicks in and we play acoustic instruments as if they were electric and ramp up the energy. But not this time. We only played three or four songs, but we remained pretty laid back throughout. That was helped somewhat by my strap breaking just before we started, so I got to play a gig sitting down, which was quite nice and really helped with the whole ‘keeping it laid back’ vibe.
We played Musical Differences, Plugging Away, something else and a Keith Top of the Pops cover to finish with, which was Two of The Beatles are dead, which was lots of fun to play. Anyway, it felt good to be back and we’d agreed to headline the following month, and we were really looking forward to it.
To celebrate the ‘turning 40ness’ of Succettes songstress Nicky Bernard, we were invited to play the headline set at The Craufurd to finish off an evening packed with bands and DJs. It was one of those ‘we’re running late, so any idea of timings is out of the window’ and we were on last, so the odds of getting a full set done were pretty slim. In the end, we took a spur of the moment decision to make up the set as we went along, and ended up playing a set entirely of covered, which we’ve previously never done under The Box Ticked. Technically it wasn’t a Box Ticked gig for that reason, but as it wasn’t a conscious decision, and only happened on the stage while we were playing, it still counts. Probably. Anyway, what it was was a really good run-through of a mix of songs we play a lot, songs we’d played at rehearsals but that had never found their way out into the real world before, and songs that we’d never even rehearsed.
The latter is always fun, and something that requires a significant amount of confidence or a really drunk audience, and on this occasion, I think we actually had both, which really helped. There’s no setlist in existence, as we didn’t write one, and I’m not sure any of us are completely sure what songs we played. I can definitely remember Down in the tube station at midnight, and I seem to remember a medley of Girlfriend in a coma and Only You, though that may have been wishful thinking. Anyway, it was really interesting to play to a different set of people, and a good time was had by all.
The Groovestars are a rather lovely funk/soul tribute act containing a few of our rather good friends, and we’ve opened up for them on a few occasions. It’s always a really interesting experience, because it’s safe to say that as an original power-pop indie rock type band, we don’t really ‘fit’ with their audience but we usually go down rather well anyway. It’s always gigs like this when you get the opportunity to gauge how you go down with people who don’t know you – having people shuffling around to songs they’ve never heard before is always a positive sign, and having people mouthing along with the choruses of songs they’ve never heard before is a real vote of confidence, so that was really satisfying. It’s also gigs like this where you get the well-meaning but ‘not what you really want to hear’ type of feedback of the general British drinking public. A slightly drunk guy came up to me afterwards and said “I really loved your set – really great stuff”. I thanked him, and we chatted for a bit and he followed it up with “I loved that stand and deliver song – you should do more like that”. I know it was meant as a compliment, and I took it as one publicly, but inside, I wanted to assault him just a little bit 🙂 Good gig and full of the Christmas spirit.
We’ve done loads of gigs over the past few months. In fact, we did a bit of a tally up and realised that we’d done more than thirty gigs last year, which is quite cool for an original band who aren’t really on anyone’s radar just yet.
So let me give you a brief tour of recent activity.
MK11 – Kiln Farm – 7th December 2013
A great venue – probably the best stage in MK and run by good guys. We supported a Pistols Tribute and a Green Day tribute, which was an interesting mix. I’d like to think that we share a similar energy and passion as both bands, though we’re obviously a little more laid back at times. When you’re playing with tribute acts, you’re always going to be up against it, as people are there to hear songs that they know, but we had the full attention of the crowd throughout our set. The Green Day band were great – scarily young but full of vim and vigour, which would be a great name for an album. The Pistols were brilliant to be honest – I’d pay to see them anytime.
And it doesn’t end there (see previous post for context)
We’ve also been recording in a rather exciting new studio courtesy of Pokey Sticks in Milton Keynes – run by our very own Stuey Box. Having access to Pokey Sticks gives us the ability to record tracks when the mood takes us, rather than having to plan a couple of days in the countryside and it’s given us a great new string to our bow as it were.
Stuey has done some amazing things in the recording world already, and he’s getting better and better each time we record with him. This time round we’ve recorded two tracks – Plugging Away – a Steve and Mick composition and Muse Killer – a Steve song. We’ve had a few attempts at recording Muse Killer previously, none of which have felt right, so we’re particularly pleased to get that one sorted out.
We’ve taken a similar approach to the one we take at Angus’s, where we put down the basic track and then build around that – the big test for us was whether we’d ‘feel’ the same and whether the creativity that allows us to turn the songs into more than just a recreation of the live experience would ‘work’. And we think it did. There are added benefits too – the pressure doesn’t feel quite so intense at times, and it’s generally a more relaxing experience.
An update on recent recordings that we’ve been doing. Back in November, we went into Far Heath Studios to record five tracks that we’d been playing live for some time but hadn’t actually got the definitive version down properly.
Anyone who’s spent time in a recording studio will know that it’s a bit of a slog at times. Gone are the days when you could turn up at a studio, play your album through a couple of times and be out in time for lunch. I’m not sure why you can’t do that anymore, though I think it’s something to do with the fact that that approach only got us the first four or five Beatles albums and not the later ones.
Anyway, the standard rules for a well-prepared and rehearsed band is that you should probably allow a full day to record and mix a single track. That’s always seemed to be way too structured (not to say expensive) for us, so our standard approach is to push through five tracks in two days. That was the challenge we presented to Angus at Far Heath and with a raised eyebrow and a grimace, he agreed.
There are a weird mix of feelings involved in studio recording. It’s scary, because there’s absolutely nowhere to hide. Every secret doubt and fear you have about your songwriting and musical abilities will be laid bare and played back to you and the rest of the band, over and over again. It’s exhilarating too – when you have that little something that sounded great in your head and it turns out that it sounds even better when it’s out in the real world – there’s really nothing like that feeling. The biggest feeling I always get from studio work is that of being absolutely shattered. I know it’s not proper work, but it’s a very draining experience, though hopefully a rewarding one in the end.
We recorded those five tracks, and we’re pretty pleased with them to be honest. The tracks were Musical Differences – a song that Steve and I wrote together, Girl In which is one of mine and Daydream, New Song and Corbijn that are Steves. They’re an interesting mix of songs, and there’s some nice bits of light and shade, some piano, some daft noises and I think they’re really representative of The Box Ticked sound.
We have a standard approach to recording with Angus. We arrive early on Day 1, get set up, get warmed up and then attempt to record a tight ‘live’ version of each track. Steve and I are in the main studio area, with Stuart locked away in a drum room and the idea is to get the core music tracks down. We’re singing too, but those are just guide vocals that we’ll replace later in the day.
Once we’ve got the five basic tracks recorded, we’ll start to add in the proper vocal recordings. That’s a part of the process that I love, because it’s when you get to forget about the instruments and just focus on your voice, and getting the sound out of your head and into the PC. We tend to have a pretty good idea of how the vocal needs to sound anyway, as it won’t be a million miles away from the live sound, but we can afford to be more creative with it. Once the main vocal is down, we’ll start to add in backing vocals, which quite often involves Steve and I taking turns to add in small bits until we’re happy.
From there we’ll start to re-record guitar and bass bits where necessary, and add in additional guitar parts where the basic tracks needs building up a bit. That’ll probably take us up towards the end of the first day, and Angus will spend a short while at the end of the session putting together rough mixes for each of the tracks so we can listen to them overnight and work out what needs to happen next.
We tend to arrive bright and early the next day buzzing with ideas. Having listened to the tracks over and over throughout the evening, we’ve generally got some good ideas of what else they need, and that’s the focus of the first half of day two. I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s where we add in all the fun stuff. It’s where the keyboards, clarinets, violins, bells, whistles, sound affects and everything else that we think will fill a hole get brought out. It’s the most exhilarating bit because it’s the part where we’re able to add in all the stuff that with just three of us we’re not able to do live.
It’s usually a race against time, because Angus needs a good few hours at the end of the day to mix five tracks, during which we tend to split our time between offering advice and guidance and getting out of the way and leaving Angus to it.
Anyway, at the end of the day, we leave the studio with five tracks that tend to be better than they sounded in our heads when we went in and tracks that allow us to share what we’ve been up to with the world.