Meet Me In St Louis: the best British band you’ve not heard yet? Depends on your experiences to date – if you’ve been bowled over, recently or absolutely otherwise, by albums by ¡Forward, Russia!, Bear Vs Shark, Owls and At The Drive-In, then the five-piece are absolutely right for your refreshingly open-minded tastes.
Of course, if you’ve already seen the band in the flesh, then the above paragraph is merely preaching to the converted.
The Surrey/London-based band have recently been locked away in an east London studio working on their debut album, Variations On Swing, with acclaimed producer Alex Newport. Newport’s past credits include The Locust, The Icarus Line, At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Ikara Colt… the list really does go on and on. Seems a marriage made in heaven on paper, and what DiS has heard of the presently un-mastered long-player backs up those initial positives: this could be one of the best debuts of recent rock history.
DiS invited MMISL to keep a diary of their time in the studio, and they graciously obliged. It’s below. Cast of characters is as follows:
Toby, MMISL vocalist
Oli, MMISL guitarist
Paul, MMISL drummer
Benny, MMISL guitarist
Lewis, MMISL bassist
Deano, studio assistant
Angela, who is Angela?
Neville Bartos, BSM dude
Kevin from The Wonder Years, a great kid
The two days leading up to the recording were spent going through the songs with a fine tooth comb… well, Alex's fine tooth comb. We don't own one. I don't think any of us even brush our hair… actually, maybe Lewis does. But we wouldn't want to use his comb to edit our songs.
On the way to the studio we stopped at a garage. Benny ordered a coffee with no milk, only to suffer a freak spasm which coated Paul in hot coffee. I asked Alex how his night was at Paul's house... he only really spoke about Paul's dog: “I met Bailey, the loveable twat.”
After arriving at The Square in Hoxton I went shopping for a load of supplies while the others set up. ¡Forward, Russia! came in to say hello after a meeting they had with Alex.
Heard some Mars Volta that no one else has heard. Tried coffee for the first time.
Really quite nervous about all this… I mean, we are paying so much, and it all depends on us being able to perform well in these coming weeks.
Alex (or 'Newport' as we call him) showed us some 'classic ‘orrible british punk'.
I burnt my tongue on coffee while I watched the trailer for the new Transformers movie on YouTube. Stupidly excited about that film.
Did some drum takes. Paul hits so hard while he is playing, it totally knackers him out, so we are having regular breaks so his muscles don't seize up. We are recording the drums with the band set up around the kit, the amps in separate rooms, but Oli, Lewis and Benny are all stood around the kit… trying to get it to sound as live as possible.
I stayed on Oli's sofa last night. Some people came back to party after I had gone to sleep. They thought I was someone else and in a prank effort, covered me in Haze air freshener spray. It was suffocating. Then they attempted to cover me in mayonnaise.
We are all getting ill.
Benny said he wants to quit music and become a hit-man.
Saw the lunar eclipse. It was beautiful.
Paul's body is exhausted from playing over the last few weeks of preparation. I'm getting worried about time.
Newport (or Newplop, New Forest or New Labour) asked me to get some zinc lozenges. He can feel the ill creeping up on him, too…
Paul got a lot done today, but he is real tired... but it is sounding good. It feels good to be finally committing these ideas to recording... at last we can hear them how they are meant to sound.
Giving drums a break. Paul needs rest. We are onto the bass and guitars now.
Heard about a great band called 'Nail Bum'.
Mike Diver has a new phone. Please update your contacts.
Benny is getting cabin fever.
Turns out we didn't take VAT into account when calculating costs (der…) so we need to get some MORE dollars from somewhere.
Alex is getting used to us all, and has started reacting to the name calling. I have been named 'T-bone' and Benny is now 'Bennet'… oh dear.
Watched the final fight scenes from The Karate Kid one, II and III on YouTube.
Lewis is real quick with getting the bass down, although they are being real picky about small sections. I think they wont be able to do this for the whole record… we will run out of time.
I find myself singing along with the songs, almost warming up as if I have to start my vocals... but that won’t be for a while yet. I think I’m nervous.
My throat hates me and my bank card just got declined at a cash point. Oli has got a lot of his parts down today, and Benny is about to start. It’s starting to sound real good. Newport is cool to work with. Some of the guitar parts we haven't actually been able to hear before... it’s always been so loud that you couldn't hear the intricacies. It is real exciting hearing parts of the songs that were always there, but sound new.
Watched some Thundercats on YouTube.
Everyone overslept… we're all so tired. The assistant at the studio is a good friend of ours, called Deano, and he kindly let me stay at his house… so I came in late after having a lay-in… spent the morning watching The Wonder Years in his living room. Kevin was a great kid.
My throat feels like a rattlesnake.
Got a lot of guitars done today. I like watching Oli play when he is really concentrating. His lips get really tense and his starts to sound really urgent...which is cool by me.
We had a visit from The Gossip today. Classic. They were on the cover of NME that we were reading at the time. Some crossed wires… they thought they were mixing at the studio we were in. “We're here t' mix The Gossip Rekerd” is a sentence I heard many times today from various members doing impressions...
Had a visit from Neville Bartos from Big Scary Monsters. He wanted to hear how it was all coming along… I think/hope he liked it. We're starting to get excited as it is slowly coming together… Paul is back on the drums, finishing off the remaining tracks and beats. Tomorrow we need to get the last of the guitars done really quickly so I can start the vocals. We only have one day after that, and my throat wouldn't cope with doing the whole thing in one day.
Sleeping at the studio tonight with Deano and Newport. Dean has fallen asleep at the computer desk (with his eyes open) and Newport and I are about to enjoy an Irish coffee.
The Irish coffee was gross – we tipped them away and went to sleep.
Spent a lot of time on guitars. Did the vocals for two songs, but it hurt… was pacing for the best part of the day, really feeling rough. I don't know how this is gonna work out. We are seriously running out of time, and we have six vocal tracks to do tomorrow.
Woke up covered in snot. Really ill.
I spent the journey to the studio trying to think of how I’m going to tell the others that I can’t sing. I’m so unwell. I arrive before the others and decide that I have no choice but to get it done. So I have three coffees and a Lemsip. Got me a bottle of lukewarm water and waited for them to get there. Newport arrived as psyched as I was: “Are you ready duck?” He gave me some chewing gum, along with a story... apparently Cedric Bixler swears by this brand of gum for clearing your throat to sing. I think he is just telling me this in an attempt to spur me on… not sure… will write more at the end of the day.
Managed to get all the vocals done for the rest of the album. Can’t tell if they are good or not but the music sounds swell to my ears. We are no longer humans. We are shells.
My wonderful folks put some money in my account so I can once again eat. Today is a day off, so I'm hanging tough in The Big Smoke with James of Palehorse.
First day in the new studio. We are now in the SSL in Islington. It’s day one of mixing. I'm heaps ill, so I’m going home. Gonna have to just trust that it’s all gonna sound good and leave it to Newport and the others. It sucked saying goodbye to Newport, I shall miss him, but hey… “it's Landan, innit”.
Oli is going to write the rest of the diary.
The day starts fabulously as we trawl through London traffic at an average
speed of 25 miles-per-hour. We're all suffering with pretty savage
hangovers, this being the morning after our only day off.
The mixing studio is a relief, though: there's a comfortable recreation room with a TV and DVDs and a kitchen with shit loads of Ribena. Amazing.
Toby's a sick little puppy so he ventures off to Wales where he can restore his powers. Poor little bugger... We start on the backing vocals, having made notes during recording as to where they should go. Lewis starts us off with 'Energon' and we take turns in trying various sections. We got all the backing done pretty quickly. It’s getting pretty late but I start my guitar feedback tracks. Whiz through all the songs with a ridiculous amount of gain which is shits and giggles all round. Finally finish up about 1.30am.
Parking in Islington is non existent. Wicked! I end up driving back to Shoreditch where we were parking the week previously. Fuckin’ Landan, innit! It’s mostly just chilling out as Alex sets up the mix for each track. I've discovered the best kebab house in the country. Quite possibly the world. There's a lot of TV shows about cops tasering people. Deano loves it. I pop into the mixing room every now and then to watch Alex pace the length of the desk touching little switches and buttons that make no sense to me whatsoever.
My left leg is beginning to cramp up from all the driving. I found a closer
place to park, though, and it means I get to ride the double-decker. Wheey!
The tracks are sounding pretty cool. With each mix we pretty much agree on what needs what, which makes things a lot easier. The atmosphere is pretty flat and we're all getting a little cranky. Play Music magazine come down for an interview which was a good break up to the day. Alex carries on with the mixes. He's a fuckin’ machine. I don't know how he does it.
We had a visit from some friends of Alex's today. They're kind enough to take us out for a drink – this is the first day that Alex has actually left the studio since we started mixing, other than going to and from home. It’s cool to be hanging out somewhere other than the studio, even for a little while. There are three more tracks to mix and ‘You're Doomed’ to record and one day left, so the break is pretty short. I've had too many microwave pasta meals today and about 20 glasses of Ribena. Yes.
The last day! Everyone seems to be a little excited/anxious. Still the mood is generally quite stale. Angela comes to visit us. Over the past few days I've discovered that I'm growing an addiction to Time Outs. I can't stop eating them. I made a final visit to the kebab house around the corner. We're all necking back mugs of black coffee. For some reason they don't kick in for ages but it’s a good thing as we don't wrap it
up ‘til just after 4am.
As we complete the final mix there's an overwhelming sense of relief and achievement until Paul and I realise that we have to load up the cars. Ha ha. It smells like morning outside and I can't wait to see my bed.
Variations On Swing is due for release through Big Scary Monsters in August; prior to that, the band will release a split, also through BSM, with Secondsmile. Meet Me In St Louis have LOTS of shows lined up, which look like this:
22 London Pleasure Unit
29 Kingston Peel with Oceansize
5 London DiScover Club with Chow Chow, Favours For Sailors - DETAILS
12 Oxford Wheatsheaf with The Paper Chase, Cutting Pink With Knives
13 Guildford Boileroom with The Paper Chase
24 Cardiff Barfly with Secondsmile
25 Sheffield Corporation with Secondsmile
26 Leeds Dry Dock with Secondsmile
27 Birmingham venue TBC
28 London Water Rats with Secondsmile, We Are Carnivores, Tatsunoko’s Bear
29 Leicester Firebug with Secondsmile
30 Bristol Croft with Secondsmile
8 London Buffalo Bar
12 London The Good Ship with Popular Workshop, Tubelord
8 Guildford The Star with Dave House, Secondsmile + loads more
Check Meet Me In St Louis out on MySpace, here; photograph by Matthew Williams