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Column - High-speed dubbing: the making of Speedy Wunderground's Bat For Lashes & Toy single

Column - High-speed dubbing: the making of Speedy Wunderground's Bat For Lashes & Toy single
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In February this year producer Dan Carey (second right) launched his own record label… with a slight difference. Guided by a ten point manifesto, singles club Speedy Wunderground has set it self the goal of releasing a track every-other-month that is recorded completely from scratch in 24 hours at Carey’s London studio. The “rules” also specify the releases must be recorded in the dark with a smoke machine and laser going at all times; there must be the shortest delay possible between session and release; only 250 copies of each will be released on vinyl and there will no lunch breaks. So far the Franz Ferdinand, Kills, Django Django and Miles Kane producer has two release, the first a collaboration between Steve Mason, Emiliana Torrini and Toy, while the second is the work of Archie Bronson Outfit (listen to both below). Next up on 1 July is Bat For LashesNatasha Khan who has teamed-up with Toy to cover Aroos Khanom – translated as The Bride – by Iranian psych artist Amir Rassaie. Carey and Khan, and Toy’s Panda gave Q an insight into the Speedy Wunderground universe.

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The Need For Speed

Dan Carey: The whole thing came from my slight frustration with release times. When I finish a track it feels really fresh and the coolest thing in the world, but because of what record companies have to do to release albums it can be six or nine months before it comes out and everyone else hears it. Maybe I’m naïve, but when I was a kid if I heard something on the radio I’d imagine they must have just made it. I understand why there is a delay, but I just thought it would be fun to do a label where getting it out quickly was the entire focus. I’m not looking to sell lots of copies or make loads of money, the only thing it to record it as quickly as possible and get it out as quickly as possible. So the first time you hear a Speedy record you know it’s only a couple of weeks old. Another thing I don’t like when I’m making records is while you’re doing it lots of people hear it and they all have a slightly different opinion. So you go back and tweak it until everyone has another idea and another tweak. There’s a danger you’ll take the life out of the music if you take out all the rough edges. I like those, I don’t think you hear enough of them on commercially released music. So it’s those two things with the label, getting it out while it’s new and having the tracks sounding spontaneous. I like those snap decisions.

Natasha Khan: I liked idea of doing something so quickly. I’ve been craving recording things much more live then the processes I’ve used before. It was a really enjoyable experience.

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Dan Carey: I do Speedy with people I’ve already worked with because it was one of the ways I figured I could do it quickly. If I had to get to know someone I hadn’t met before and find a new working method it might not be possible to do a track in such a short period of time. I try to leave everything to the last minute, only deciding a few weeks beforehand who it will be because I want it to be spontaneous. I love recording with Toy so much that they’re unofficially the house band. Natasha and I had been talking about doing some other stuff anyway because we had such a good time doing her record [The Haunted Man], so she was in my mind as someone who would be good for a Speedy session. I was a bit worried because she was on a major label, but I rang Miles Leonard the boss at her label and he was just like “That sounds amazing, yeah do it!” That was really cool and really nice of him.

Natasha Khan: It was the smoke machine in the studio that got me hooked. It came true and it was amazing! Dan is so inventive and brilliant. He’s an eccentric music wizard, so I’m always happy to hang out with him.

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Panda: We’re great friends and Dan’s a great producer. He understands what everyone wants and we like experimenting and making strange sounds. We recorded his car engine the other day and put some echo on it.

Here Comes The Bride

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Dan Carey: I went to Rough Trade and got this compilation Zendooni which is a collection of “funk, psychedelia and pop from the Iranian pre-revolutionary generation”. All the tunes on it are amazing, there’s a really strange vibe. I’d never thought about pre-revolutionary Iranian psych before! I’ve been playing it in my kitchen for ages and then one day when Toy were around doing some demos they heard it and said they should cover it and that’s where the idea to do it for Speedy Wunderground started. I hadn’t imagined doing a cover before, but I was so into this one track. It’s a novelty for me having a label of my own: “Ah this is my favourite track, this is my favourite band, I’ve got an idea…”

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Panda: Dan really liked the song and the idea popped into his head that it could be covered in a different way. We were in the studio working on stuff and finished a bit early so we’d thought it would be fun to experiment with it.

Natasha Khan: Dan knows I’ve been obsessed with weird Iranian scales and folk music for a while, so he called me up and said “come and do this thing with Toy, we’re going to an Iranian folk song!” He sent me the original and I thought it was great and I’ve enjoyed watching Toy live in the past.

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Dan Carey: For the lyrics, Alexis Smith our engineer had a Iranian friend at school so he sent it to her, who sent it to her mum who translated it for us. When I read through the lyrics, I thought it was interesting but didn’t understand the emotion behind it. Natasha took it, jiggled it around and repeated certain bits so it’s all out of sequence compared to the original, but when she sings it I realised I hadn’t understood what the original band were trying to say emotionally.

Natasha Khan: We translated the lyrics and then I picked out a special few that I liked that spoke to me.

Dan Carey: It’s a good cover because I hadn’t felt it until the first take she did. I couldn’t believe she was doing it so passionately. I think she’d understood it. That was an amazing moment! I nearly fell over it was so powerful.

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Smoke & Lasers…

Dan Carey: It was the quickest Speedy sessions we’ve done. We did the instrumental in three hours. I insisted Natasha sat in the room with the smoke and lasers while she figured out the lyrics because I wanted her to soak-up as much of the feel of what was going on in there.

Panda: It was great working with Natasha. She’s worked with Dan before and they’re friends so it was a good atmosphere. It was all done in a few hours so for her to come in do the vocals in a few takes was impressive. It was pretty much an improvised melody as the vocal on the original is very different.

Natasha Khan: I got there at eight at night and I left at midnight so it felt very quick, but that’s because it was enjoyable, we weren’t forcing it. Toy did several takes all the way through, getting it to that really great place. I was sitting in there, working out what I was going to sing in my head. Then I think we kept the third take, it was really intuitive and off the cuff.

Dan Carey: One of the reasons I wanted to get Natasha and Toy together was I thought they’d have a really good time as people, and we did. That’s another fairly key thing in who I chose. I’m doing this largely to have fun so I’ll only chose people I know who will be a laugh in the studio and it won’t be too tense or precious. I don’t think I know any prima donnas anyway.

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Natasha Khan: It was different, but really liberating. Toy were really friendly, accepting and free with their music. I’d never met them before, but by the end of the night we’d shared something really special. They were really humble and excited and I was feeling the same way. It was a really nice communal thing to do, just to be stuck in a room together and make something good out of it. It’s a more traditional music approach. People would turn up in halfway houses or on porch steps somewhere and share their music and before with each other. It’s how you can make friends and communicate. It’s a language that can break down barriers. It’s the power of music.

Panda: It’s very liberating working quickly and capturing a moment of something special. Even if something isn’t perfect but has something about it, that can be more interesting. You rely more on feeling when you haven’t had time to plot things out.”

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The Mix-Up

Dan Carey: I know in the rules say all our tracks have to be done by midnight on the day of recording, but we only started at 8pm so we were done by about two. It was midnight somewhere, maybe in Iran.

Natasha Khan: It was really quick and fun experience and I didn’t even hear it when it was done! [laughs] It was: “Cool, great, hope it sounds good! See ya”. There was a bit of trust there!

Dan Carey: One of the most important Speedy rules states that after the recording is done no one here’s it until it’s mastered so there’s no tweaking… but we broke that rule on this last one because Toy played at Field Day the day after we did. I took the unmixed version it on my iPod and Panda played it at their after-party at the end of the night. We couldn’t resist it! I’d actually brought it to play it to Natasha but I couldn’t get in touch with her and the next day she sent me a text saying “I bumped into Toy and they’ve heard it!” It was funny.

Panda: Haha I can’t really remember [the playback]. Me, Dan and Charlie thought it was amazing. I wasn’t paying much attention to anyone else. The room was full of people dancing though so I think the reaction was good. People should play it out.

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Dan Carey: I’m planning on releasing a compilation at the end of the year with all the Speedy records on and as I seem to be breaking the rules every time I thought on that record I think we’ll reprint the manifesto with all the rules crossed out and the date when we broke each one. At the bottom in teacher’s handwriting saying: “See me!”

Paul Stokes@Stokesie

For more, and details of how to get hold of Speedy Wunderground’s releases head to Speedywunderground.com.


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