Dream Of Apollo – Recording, 11/11/12

Band photos included in this posting were taken on 10/11/12 by Marc McGarraghy, who is on a year long project to generate donations for MacMillan Cancer Support from his live music photography. More details can be found on his fundraising community Facebook Page.

Dream of Apollo, one of York’s best kept musical secrets, are currently recording an album – their first but, hopefully, not their last – and they invited me to go along to Melrose Yard Studios to sit in on one of the recording sessions. Debbie and Elizabeth were interested as well (the latter so much so that she took a book with her…) so the three of us, with a grand total of little or no idea of what to expect, went along.
Before today, I had only seen snippets of recording sessions on documentaries. Generally, they seemed to be in large rooms, with mixing desks that looked like something that could run a space shuttle. So, it was a bit of a surprise when we arrived at Melrose Yard and were ushered into a room which, while not exactly cramped when containing the three of us, two members of the band (drummer Jamie and singer/guitarist Vicki) and Iain the sound engineer, didn’t really want too many more people in it. The tools of Iain’s trade, for this afternoon at least, included a comfy chair with quality speakers pointed directly at it, a monitor that was smaller than most people’s T.V.s and a mixing desk that fitted neatly in front of it, being a fraction of the size of any I had seen before but still containing enough knobs, buttons and sliders that I would have been lost in a matter of seconds. Whether the smaller size was due to improvements in technology or just that the studios are a lot smaller than those you normally see on T.V., I don’t know but I’m certain it did as good a job as was required.

Anyway, with most of the cast introduced, where were the other two? It turns out that the rhythm section of the band had completed their allotted work the day before, getting drum and bass parts of four or five songs recorded. So, although Jamie was working hard, being on hand for moral support and witty banter, bass-player Rhys was having a bit of time off (although he did pop in later in the afternoon to see how things were going). And Winston? Well, when we arrived he was tucked away in the sound-proof room, recording his electric guitar parts over the drum and bass and some, let’s say, rough and ready vocals.
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Vicki

Vicki McIlroy (vocals and acoustic guitar)

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As a music-lover, I found the whole thing fascinating, listening to the songs being built up layer by layer. Familiar songs that I had heard many times were, in effect, being created in front of me. In some cases I heard lyrics properly for the first time, for example finally having it confirmed that Leander is based upon the Greek myth of doomed lovers Hero and Leander (a fact that I have left out of my reviews of the band’s gigs because I was never certain). Having said that, it seems that Jamie didn’t know the story either and Vicki spent time relating it to him. The process also brought home to me exactly how non-musical I am myself – I could barely hear any slight “mistakes” made and definitely didn’t pick up that Winston’s guitar was going out of tune, whenever Iain asked him to check the tuning.
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Winston

      Winston Sanders (lead guitar and backing vocals)

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When Winston had finished his sections, he and Vicki swapped places and she recorded the acoustic guitar parts of the songs. One thing that was impressive to me was the fact that, even though tracks sometimes included repeated sections, it was rare for these to be copied for consistency. A couple of sections being marked down for copying. Occasionally, two run-throughs were spliced together, or a recording was started from just before a mistake rather than going back to the beginning (it would have been harsh on Vicki to ask her to play one track again when she had got to within seconds of the end before we heard, “oh, bugger” through the speakers…) but, for the most part, the tracks were played through in full, with two or three takes being recorded in order to give Iain a chance to pick the best. Effectively, despite technology making it easy to “cheat” most of what will eventually appear on the album was actually played live. That’s nice to know, in my opinion.
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Rhys

Rhys Bevan (bass)

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With Vicki’s acoustic sections complete, a break was called for. Iain needed food and, with Winston heading off home to complete some urgent marking (he’s a primary school teacher in real life), Vicki, Jamie and I (Debbie and Elizabeth had already gone home) headed off to the pub, to be joined shortly by Rhys. This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken to the band, but previous occasions have been at the end of gigs, when they have been packing away their kit and when friends, family and other punters have been vying for their attention as well. It’s easy to say that somebody is “one of the nicest musicians you know” but, in this case, it is totally genuine. There was never any sense that I was intruding, either during the recording session or when socialising. Dream Of Apollo aren’t a band that are trying to “make it” in the music industry. Music almost seems to be a hobby to them. They are funding this album from their own money. Indeed, hearing some of their stories, you can’t help but marvel that they haven’t at least thought about throwing in the towel. There’s nothing as drastic as tour bus crashes, member fall-outs, or the like, but they have played a gig, in Holland, to exactly no people, with even another band booked at the venue leaving while they played (and it’s nothing to do with quality, I can assure you). There’s also a sense of distrust towards York biggest venues, especially after one night when, after headlining a gig, they had to pay their specially invited support bands out of their own pockets due to a misunderstanding (or miscommunication or even, perhaps, a dash of youthful naivety) with the venue. The band now choose to play smaller venues, usually pubs, which can pay a small amount and often play for charity. It’s not all hardship, though. There’s also a lighter side – whether it’s the camaraderie which comes across when they perform (and, indeed, which was also evident throughout the course of of this afternoon) or the humorous story of the song, one of my favourites, which didn’t quite go down as expected when played at a party the night before. Buy me a drink next time you see me and I’ll explain. Better still, buy one of the band a drink and let them tell you…
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Jamie

Jamie Bradley (drums and percussion)

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After a couple of pints, we headed back to the studio. My time was drawing short – the band were booked in until 9 o’clock that evening but, even though there was no sign of anybody kicking me out, I had a ticket for a gig that night. Luckily for me I was about to hear Vicki record some vocals. Before that, though, the band asked Iain to play me a track that he had already completed. I have heard Too Lost, Too Late played live many times but at the end of the recorded version, my only reaction was, “Wow!” If I’m honest, when it first started I was a little surprised as it sounds quite different to the live version – Iain’s production has given it a slight electronic dance vibe and he has added effects to Vicki’s vocals which gives them a fuller and somehow more mature sound. Eventually, though, Winston’s guitar comes through and it regains its rockier feel. Frankly, it’s amazing and if the rest of the tracks are treated with such care and creativity I have, if anything, higher hopes for the album than I had before. Even more importantly, the band themselves are happy with it.

There was just time for one more treat and one more surprise. Home is another song that I’ve heard before but, like many others played live, haven’t heard all the lyrics before. Hearing Vicki sing it clearly brought home just what a different sort of love song it is. It’s gorgeous, it’s sensual and it’s the only song I can think of that puts into words what feelings the touch of a lover can give to somebody. Even more impressive to me (non-musical, remember) was that, after recording the main vocals, Vicki recorded full harmonies, basically singing the song again but differently, while listening to the main vocals through headphones. How difficult must that be?

Shortly afterwards, I had to take my leave. It had been a fascinating, engrossing and thoroughly entertaining afternoon and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the band (and Iain) for allowing us to sit in and to wish them every success with the album.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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One Response to Dream Of Apollo – Recording, 11/11/12

  1. Great account Ian, and spot on observations on both the band and their music9 minutes ago · Like

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