In late 2010 Robert returned to Wales from a visit to the States with two partially recorded songs that he had written during his tenure with an earlier band. His search for a quality studio in which he could finish the songs led him presently to Sonic One Studio in Llangennech. There he met Tim, studio owner, in-house session bassist and guitarist, and an engineering mega-mind. Robert recognised Tim as not only a musical kindred, but also as a person who is particularly adroit at understanding and implementing a musical vision. With promises of fame, fortune, and cookies, Robert hoodwinked Tim into forming a band for a fourteen song CD. Oh, and Robert also told a bit of a porker to Tim about already having the fourteen songs written and ready.
In late Spring of 2011 Robert and Tim began recording the basic rhythm tracks of what would eventually become “Shrink.” Inasmuch as international rehearsals, despite conference calling and Skype, are problematic at best, Tim emailed the rhythm tracks to the American members who then rehearsed together. Jack and Peter then made two trips to Wales to record their bits for “Shrink,” the first a two-week visit in November of 2011 and another two-week stint in April of 2012.
And Then…The Unthinkable Happened
After the critical success of ‘Shrink,’ the fellows welcomed the opportunity to get to work on the follow-up project. The sessions that would ultimately produce ‘And Then… The Unthinkable Happened’ commenced in May of 2013. One of the more interesting aspects of these early sessions is that no songs, music or lyrics, had yet been written at the time of the first session. Robert chose to compose in the studio. He had two or three fragments from songs he’d written previously, and he believed they could be utilised, but he had little else. The only thing that was clear to the guys at this point was that they would be recording an ‘album;’ a piece of work that hangs together as a whole. Each song would be bespoke for the place in the running order it would occupy and for the way it sat next to other songs.
These early sessions featured only Robert and Tim as Robert wrote and re-wrote the music, which would be played, chords only, on piano. Tim, the engineer extraordinaire, dutifully recorded the piano and ‘blocked out’ each song, one leading to the next. Tim then picked up the bass and Mal H. Limit picked up his sticks. At this point, Tim and Mal are playing only to chords on a piano and Robert’s less than stellar attempts to convey some sense of what the hell is going on arrangement and melody wise. Tim and Robert meticulously constructed the bass line of each song. When enough songs had been given the piano/drums/bass treatment, Jack and Peter were summoned from the States. They just LOVE this part – flying 3,700 miles to play fairly complex songs of which they have heard only piano, bass and drums. Peter has taken to calling the chair in which he and Jack sit while recording their bits as ‘Old Sparky,’ a reference to the electric chair. But once the communication begins, the creativity starts, ideas are voiced, and everyone is suddenly joined, completely immersed in the music. Each guitar line, each keyboard line, each vocal line is thought out and juxtaposed against and/or with the other instruments. At this juncture, sampled horns and strings are used to give Peter and Jack and proper understanding of what is happening around them musically. Real strings and horns replace the samples at a later date.
And so the work continued. As each new song suggested the next, the album began to take shape. Finally, after most of the instrumentation was completed, Robert was tasked with writing the lyrics to the twelve songs. While composing the music, Robert was attempting to express a very specific emotional content. Rendering that into lyrics became the goal. Robert has often said that he finds writing lyrics particularly difficult. He believes that song lyrics should (almost) stand on their own as poetry. While Robert freely admits that he misses this mark often, it is always his goal. Subject matter such as fundamentalism, psychopaths, the world of dreams, and disappearing creativity and mental acuity are tackled. But for the most part, Robert writes about the complexity of human relationships. And so ‘Unthinkable’ happened helped by a number of singers and musicians who have lent their talent to the project. The fellows are quite proud of what they have created, and hope that you find some pleasure in listening to the songs. If you can, try listening from beginning to end. Oh, and listen more than once. With every new listen you are guaranteed to hear new things.
Who Folds First
Following the huge critical success of ‘And Then…The Unthinkable Happened,’ Robert was excited and motivated to write an album that would surpass its older sibling. ‘Unthinkable’ was released in December of 2014, and in April of 2015 Robert and Tim returned to the studio to begin work on what would become ‘Who Folds First.’ As has become standard for the BRH, there were no songs written prior to the initial recording sessions. Most of the music was written in the studio.
‘Who Folds First’ was a challenging album to make in some respects. There was the inevitable challenge of making an album that lived up to ‘Unthinkable.’ Robert is keen to improve and expand his compositions with each offering. However, these efforts brought about some unexpected difficulties, as the new material seemed at first to be less guitar-friendly than previous songs. Initially, the guitar players wondered what, when, and how they would play the material. Fortunately, all was sorted and the album is as guitar laden as earlier releases. Robert explains, ‘I took a few more musical chances on this album, melodically, harmonically, and genre-wise. After their initial shock, Peter, Jack, and Christian really got what I was going for. I am sometimes less than articulate when trying to convey what I’m hearing in my head, especially at the early stages.’ Having Tim at the control board is ‘unbelievably helpful’ in making manifest the musical vision. ‘Tim is not only a masterful bassist and guitarist, his skills as a recording engineer and mixing engineer are unsurpassed,’ according to Robert. ‘Mind you, all of the people who contributed to the album are exceptionally talented and delightful to work with,’ he continued.
The BRH are thrilled to see the return of Scott Evans, who appeared on ‘Shrink,’ Joseph Tobias, Jr., who appeared on ‘Unthinkable,’ and welcomes the talents of Tom Priester, a pianist extraordinaire whom the boys have been trying to get involved for years. It took 450 studio hours to produce ‘Who Folds First,’ and ‘we thoroughly enjoyed (almost) all of them,’ quips Peter. Peter points out that he is one of five different lead singers on ‘Who Folds First.’ ‘That’s something that you don’t see every day,’ he said.
All in all, the boys are very, very proud to present ‘Who Folds First.’ So get ready to sit back and take in the experience of this magnificent work. Smiles are included.