One of over 500 designs that sadly didn't make it.
Mol, Seph and I (The Lids) started practicing new songs in April 2011 and began playing them live from October that year. Around the time of our first show we recorded the single 'No Room at the Inn' at Crosstown Studios in Liverpool with Jon Lawton and all agreed he did a great job, was a top banana and we'd like to make an album with him.
It wasn't until May 2014 that we broke ground on the album and we kept booking weekends with the idea of recording two songs each time. We made good progress when we were in, but the sessions didn't happen as often as we'd like. The very last recording session was in late 2016 when Cerys came into the studio to add some violin. There was some mixing that spilled over into the following year, but 2017 was really all about...
I expected some running battles over the ordering of the tracks, but that was settled surprisingly quickly. By contrast, the arguments over the album title and cover design raged from April 2017 to January 2018 and got quite animated at times, though we can laugh about it now.
The title settled on wasn't anybody's first choice, but we all found the term 'country supper' absurdly funny after it entered the public lexicon in 2012 thanks to text messages between David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks (then Editor of The Sun). As the Financial Times put it:
"The words crystallised an imagery of the private lives of the rich and powerful. It summoned up a scene of big business and high politics tête-à-tête in one of those settings as familiar to readers of Joanna Trollope: a carefully casual meal eaten on an expensive distressed oak table just within reach of a kitchen the size of a small parish."
The artwork was also nobody's first choice, but we all thought it cool and could run with it. It's a still taken from the 'Good Dogs Never Die' video and features Ste and Mol carrying a dog rocket to it's place of incineration.
The garish yellow and purple EKIP symbol on the CD was a reminder that though this album was coming out 2 years after Cameron had resigned we were still living in the world he had mis-created.
Jon after a long morning in the studio with Le Emu Tavern.
Towards the end of recording this album, Seph announced that he had written a song that he thought could work as an opener. I was intrigued and then a bit concerned that it wasn't very fast for an opening shot, but two things won me over; lyrically it touches on a lot of ideas that are developed further in the album (almost like writing 'in this album we intend to...') and also I had been listening to Midlake"s debut album a bit and was quite into the idea of a slow-burner that gradually gets under your skin getting the show started.
I was always a bit nervous playing a new song to the lids at practice, but with this one I was only worried I wouldn't do it justice. I wanted to capture some of that toddler-angst of Nirvana's 'Sliver' and channel my own experience of losing a much loved dog as a child.
I knew we were onto a winner in the studio after the first play-through when Jon span round on his producer's chair and asked 'Is that a real song?' It was always going to be a single with a cool video, but Mol really did go above and beyond with special effects on this one.
This was an early song of Seph's and one I always really enjoyed playing live. He had a vast array of guitar pedals and it was great that we had a punchy pop song that allowed him get carried away in that department. Seph says that this is a personal tale of a friend of a friend or something, but between the lyrics, Mol's pounding beat and colliding guitars, to me it's the bombastic sound of markets crashing all around the globe.
When markets crash all around the globe right-wing politicians will look for scapegoats and that's why this is track 4. This one I wrote in a different way to anything I had done before; recording myself playing the chords and singing the song, then spent a while trying to work out a killer lead riff to go over it. Adding Trump at the end was done late in the mixing as he had just ascended to power as Scapegoater In Chief over the water.
This is just a trashy pop song with bits of Trump smeared all over it.
Of all the musical adventures Seph took the Tav on I honestly never expected disco, but here we are in the middle of the album and anything can happen! Seph's wish to have strings on this track prompted me to message my old friend Cerys to see if she could help, and opened up the idea that this was going to be a bit more than a simple plug-in-and-play album.
I can't remember who it was that said profit is the money you make in your sleep, but I took it and used it in this zany tune about the exploitation of labour and how a unionised workforce can usually achieve better pay and conditions.
The half-tempo guitar-break was tried in various songs and became known in it's own right as 'The Great Schism'. In this song it came to refer to the alienation felt by workers who spend most of their waking hours doing something they're not interested in.
For the final section we move into the major key and find that the workers have broken free of their chains and life is beautiful. This might be my actual favourite song to play live.
I came up with this title years ago and struggled to match it with a good enough song. The lids would sometimes tease me by asking if I'd written it yet and I think they had given up hope until I pulled this out of the bag at the last minute. Cerys was not yet a full-time member of the band, but we did finally get her in the studio to add some violin and bring the song to life.
I love the song in it's own right, but it also works as a linking piece - musically and lyrically - between Good Dogs Never Die and the album's grand finale!
More than any other song on the album, this was Seph's baby. I had no idea what was going on musically or lyrically, but Seph had a great time working out all the pedal settings and synth sounds. I think Seph understood my feeling that while this album might be a long way from Joy Division, the centre of the city at night might be the kind of place where it hangs out.
This was the first song recorded for the album and one of the first we practiced as a band. It was loosely based on an old Holy Roman Empire tune turned into a galloping country song of sorts.
By the way, I have strict conditions under which I will allow myself to use songs I wrote for Holy Roman Empire:
1. It has to be a song HRE didn't release already.
2. I have to change it at least a bit in order to feel I've still done something creative and it was written by me now, not then.
3. I'll only do it for an album if I've already written new songs for it that are at least as good if not better.
Not long after joining the band Seph handed me a few pages of writing and charged me with the task of turning them into a song. I put together a basic idea then threw it back to him to work out twiddly guitar parts. The lyrics were roughly based on some of my Facebook posts and replies about Nick Clegg around the time of the 2010 general election. I think it was Seph's innovation, though, to draw parallels with that other famous double-crossing scoundrel Lando from Star Wars.
Three technical points:
1. The lead guitar part is so fiendishly bendy that when Sanjoy stepped in on guitar he ran this song up to the top of our Spotify most-spun list trying to play along. He nailed it in the end like a total hero and earned us 0.000000000001p
2. At the very beginning of the second verse you can hear Mol with his sole backing vocal line on the whole album.
3. In the closing part of the song in which the protagonist pleads for some understanding, Cerys played the accompaniment on the smallest violin in the world.
When we got into the swing of the album it became clear that a recurring theme was money; who has it and who hasn't under the dome of Austerity. Given that we had already invoked the perspective of a child on 'Good Dogs Never Die' I felt it would be a gross dereliction of duty to not include something from the perspective of a kid who's parents have had wages held down or benefits cut.
It was Jon who suggested getting a choir he knew to sing on this song and it took a few weeks for me to come round to the idea, but what a great idea it was. They came to the studio one Saturday afternoon, were total stars and turned our little pop song into something truly magical.
When the album was ready for release we sent a CD to each of the kids, though I'm pretty sure none of them had the faintest idea what to do with it.
This song is also noteable in that after having his backing vocals buried in the mix throughout the album, Seph really lets rip towards the end of this - like a proper grand finale where everyone comes on to take a bow. But the real (virtually unsung) hero in there is Mol - a few years earlier he'd not so much as touched a drumstick and here he was at the end of block-rocking the beats on one of the greatest albums of all time.
In 2013 Mol's Mum made three capes - one for each member of the band - that were ready just in time for a mini tour of sorts. We all wore them in Oxfordshire, Mol and I kept the faith in Sheffield, but by the time we played Liverpool I was the only one still attached. So attached that I made sure to wear it for every vocal on the album, the theory being that it would give me some tangible attachment to the energy of the live show. That and the fact that it just looked really, really cool. Thanks Mol's Mum!
In 2017 we got the album mastered by a guy in London and we all felt there was something not quite right with what he'd done. So, I looked up CJ Jacobson in Hollywood, Florida, as he had done such a good job with the first album. He said he was up for it, so I sent him the files and about a week later was wondering why I'd heard nothing. I was wondering this while watching the television news about the devestation Hurricane Irma had wreaked across the coast of Florida! Yikes! I looked on a map and there he was right in the middle of it! I sent him best wishes and told him there was no hurry, but not long after that the mastered tracks arrived. He said he'd had some property damage, but was not too badly affected. Phew!
Later that year we ordered CDs from a business in Northern Ireland only for them to be delayed by getting stuck in the snow in transit. Nature hates a vacuum and it's not a big fan of Le Emu Tavern either!