We’ve got some of our best people working on it – including Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox and Bill & Ted – but maybe indie music can help? From Cher’s theoretical work on general relativity in ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ to Cyndi Lauper’s field report on traversable wormholes (and missing her boyfriend) in ‘Time After Time’, pop music is a masterclass in grand experiments. And we’ve some very dapper mad professors right here in Sheffield.
Frazzled from an extended period of work in the studio, The Hosts have emerged with the first taste of their new LP. ‘September Song’ is a time-striding mix of Righteous Brothers and paradox-teasing lyrics (“I was waiting for you to change your mind so I could say goodbye…”) that put the band right at the heart of the new Time-Travelling-Spector-Pop scene we’ve just invented. We caught up with the five-piece for an experiment in temporal distortion…
Gentlemen! Congrats on the new single. It’s ace and sounds like Phil Spector driving a cadillac through Grenoside. Is it difficult to capture the sound in your heads?
Tom Host: We’re quite lucky in that we’ve been using a studio for writing and recording for the last few years. There are a lot of songs that have been written that have never made it to band rehearsal but allowed us to fine tune the production. We basically got it spot on with ‘September Song’ and the other material we produced in that session. All the work we’d been doing just seemed to gel…
Was that sound (‘September Song’ has an amazing echo chambered sixties sound, producer Richard Hawley no doubt helped in this regard) present from the start?
Tom: Well I’ve always been interested in Phil Spector. It’s a real challenge when you first get in the studio to try and make things sound like that though. It’s not straight forward. You can’t just chuck stuff at it – it’ll just sound like a mess. So you have to know how to build things up and turn things into a wall of sound. I’d read loads of interviews with Spector, trying to get to the bottom of how he did it.
I wondered if you had a Nicholas Lyndhurst ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ style time portal back to the sixties… [Laughter]
Jim Host: There’s a lot of percussion on it. A lot of layering. You layer it over and over so it sounds like one bit of percussion even though it isn’t.
I loved your description of ‘September Song’ as being about how melody can take you back in time. The piano chord right at the start even sounds like a clock chiming! The Wall of Sound production reminded me of The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ though and that started me thinking about how one song’s looking forward while the other’s looking back. There’s a lot of yearning in the best pop music…
[Tom is clearly uncomfortable] Ah, I try not to think about it too much. Do that and you can’t achieve your greatest stuff.
Is that cos you don’t want to spoil the romance of what you do? There’s a romance in looking forward or looking back isn’t there?
Tom: There is. It’s just writing from experience though.
Well, I’ve a bit of looking back for youse right here! Give us a number and I’ll tell you about a bit of Sheffield history from this here book (A Popular History of Sheffield by J. Edward Vickers! Zing!) and we’ll discuss how well you’d have fared.
Jamie: Okayyyy. Page 107.
Jamie! Your lucky number too, coincidentally. So ‘Sheffield had no resident doctor until thomas Morton set up practice in 1650. Prior to this date it was necessary to send to some other town for medical assistance…’ How would you have got on there?
Jim: His eye’d be a mess for a start. [Jamie fell into the pavement the night before while larking about and cut the side of his face. Stitches were required. He’s okay though!]. You’d have a bit of an infection.
Jamie: I would have struggled in the seventeenth century.
We would probably have to take the whole head off I’d imagine. Jim? Page number please.
Jim: Page 50.
Coach and Horses.
Jim: A pub?
No, an actual coach and horses. ‘Stage coaches were properly introduced to Sheffield in 1760 when Samuel Glanville, landlord of the Angel Inn, commenced a coach service to London…
Jim: I’m scared of horses. They’ve got teeth. I don’t like things with teeth.
Good to know. Glover? Page number?
Like the room! [Looks up page in book] Oh, it’s just pictures from the seventies, that page…
Glover: Hooray! Hey, I live there.
Rest of The Hosts: What – at top of Fargate?
You don’t live in a tower, man, what are you talking about?
Glover: Well, nearby [There’s approximately five years of talking while we establish that Glover doesn’t actually live in Sheffield Town Hall but around the corner].
So the seventies was a time of economic upheaval, four day weeks…
Glover: Pretty much same as now really. They were scared of an ice age back in ‘79 I think. Apparently [Glover is unsure]. I might go and check my facts. The climate was cooling.
That’s enough travelling through time through the magic of local history books. Let’s talk about your In Session. What tracks are you doing live for us?
Tom: ‘September Song’ and a couple of jazz fusion numbers! ‘Would You Be Blue’ was recorded in the same session as September Song with Hawley.
Will it remind us of another sixties girl group?
Tom: The Crystals. It’s got a bit of a ‘do-wop’ feel about it.
Adam: It’s my favourite one.
Tom: ‘Give Your Love to Her’. It was written a while ago. I don’t even remember writing it. It’s a love song. ‘Don’t Be A Shit’ is what it’s about, really.
Have you done a few songs like that? Will there be a collection of ‘Don’t Be A Shit’ classics from The Hosts sometime?
Tom: Well I do spend a lot of my time trying not to be one so it’s possible!
Exposed In Session is produced in association with O’Hara’s Spiced Rum. Follow O’Hara’s on Twitter at @OHarasParrot.