Hot Chip and Scritti Politti man Rob Smoughton has a new band Black Peaches, and he is premiering their brand new single today (19 January) exclusively via Q. Along side the track, which you can hear below, he’s written us a guest column examining the song’s origins and the the eccentric command of its title: Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters.
Raise High The Roofbeams, Carpenters was one of the first songs I started to write for Black Peaches, now it closes our album Get Down You Dirty Rascals (out on 4 March).
It’s quite a schizophrenic song and draws on a whole bunch of different influences. Sometimes I think of it as a spaghetti western soundtrack, other times I think it’s the closest we have come to jazz-fusion (so far!) and in the middle it makes me think of the Bee Gees on Spirits Having Flown.
We played around with the main guitar theme for ages as an instrumental and wanted to create something that people would dance to without realising it was in an odd time signature. That’s something I love in music – Dave Brubeck gave us a toe tapper in 5/4 so why not 7/8? But, sometimes you’ve got to be careful paying too much attention to mathematics in funk music, better to separate the head from the body, so when it came to adding lyrics and the guts of the song we headed for the disco.
Lyrically, I usually write with a strong narrative and I like to sing those stories from a character’s point of view. Raise High… is schizophrenic in that regard. The song is set at a witch trial in New England in the 17th century and the two verses are from opposing sides of the courtroom, the defendant and the prosecution.
The accused girl protesting her innocence – she dances in the woods late at night, but only because she and the other girls want to dance and have fun. The puritan menfolk of the town aren’t so sure and throw all sorts of accusations against her, from drinking chicken blood to turning people to pillars of salt.
But I didn’t want to tie up all the loose ends, so I don’t know the outcome of the trial – maybe she gets off, maybe she casts a spell on the members of the court.
I love The Crucible by Arthur Miller and this song is obviously influenced by it, but the title comes from a short story by JD Salinger. In his story a young girl tries to convince the adults in her town that she can fly, but only when there’s no one else around. She tries to prove it by showing the dust collected on her fingertips from touching the lightbulbs up in the rafters. In our song, this is one of the allegations put to the accused.
Despite being one of the first songs we started, it was one of the last to be finished for the album, and went through many permutations before we settled on this particular way of telling the story and it’ll probably go through a few more adaptations the more we play it. I think of it as one of our ‘elastic songs’, it gets pushed and pulled all over the place – we never seem to play it the same way twice.
For more, including details of Black Peaches’ live dates including supporting White Denim (Manchester’s Deaf Institute on 15 February and Islington Assembly in London the next day (16) – and their own shows, head to Facebook.com/BlackPeachesBand.