LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
THE HUMMINGBIRDS - PIECES OF YOU
Release Date: 25th March, 2016
Band Members: Jay Davies (Vocals/Guitar), Matty Brougham (Rhythm Guitar), Mic Kountis (Guitar/Backing Vocals), Richard Smith (Drums/Backing Vocals) and Ryan Lewis (Bass)
Location: Liverpool, UK
Record Label: Gladstone Recording Co./Absolute
'Pieces of You' is the wonderful debut album from one of Liverpool's favourite independent bands, the award-winning five-piece The Hummingbirds. This album was successfully funded through a Pledge Music campaign in 2014/5 and provides the perfect showcase for their music. The Hummingbirds have a great sound, it's Merseybeat, Skiffle, Americana and Indie-folk with a modern twist, heavily influenced by the excellent Liverpool bands of the past such as Gerry and The Pacemakers and the early Beatles. The band started in 2011 and got its name from lead vocalist Jay's first acoustic guitar an Epiphone 'Hummingbird'. The Hummingbirds grew up on the streets of Merseyside, capturing that unmistakable Liverpool twang that has resulted in the band winning the Liverpool Music Award “One to Watch 2013” in their first year, 'Liverpool Band of The Year', as well as being tipped for the 'Mercury Music' prize. Their songs reflect current social themes with Scouse wit, humour and a cutting edge. The band are very strong songwriters in their own right as this album certainly proves and they have excellent live performances to back it up. 'Pieces Of You' is a high energy, very infectious album with instantly memorable melodies and hooks. It builds on their highly acclaimed two EP's 'Out Of The Rain' released in October 2015 and their debut 'The Hummingbirds' released in 2013. Still in their twenties and with a rapidly growing fanbase, the band are going from strength to strength. Go and treat yourself to a copy.
Album recording first started in May 2014, when the band hired a mansion in Wales and kitted it out as a high tech recording studio. With the the help of their two engineers/producers/friends Tim Hoover and Alec Brits from Breakline Audio they then spent two weeks locked away, recording song after song until…. they came out the other side with 11 (or more songs) ready to be pressed onto a CD....the finished album.
As part of the album release build-up the band published the stories and inspiriation behind their songs on this album, which I have shared below. It provides great insight into the creative process and is much better than me writing how good each track is. Enjoy!
Track 01 - Knocking On My Door (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham)
This was a half finished idea when we entered the studio to start the album tracking, we had kicked around with a different chorus and middle 8, but it didn't sound like a complete song. It had been a rough idea for a couple of months and when we were tracking our producers wanted to hear every demo to every song we had done. This song they latched on to and asked how we felt about having another go at writing the song, we managed to finish the whole track in 1 day and one of our producers (Tim) wrote and recorded the intro guitar riff and the guitar solo (all the electric lead parts on this track are double tracked played in octaves to sound like a 12 string guitar). The songs lyrics are a basic break up story, that has happened to most of the band, when you'll split up with someone due to differences, arguments, discontent or any of the other millions of reasons, and they keep trying to text, speak or even knock on your door (ding. song title sorted)
Song was initially called 'No Time For You' & 'No Time At All' but we changed the name last minute to 'Knocking On My Door'. Inspiration for this song was a Johnny Cash, straight strummed style acoustic intro riff on Am, it ended up evolving from that into what you hear today!
Track 02 - Out Of The Rain (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis)
We wrote this song on our van on the way up to play a headline show at the KU Bar, Stockton On Tees. I remember writing this one the most out of all the songs because it was done after the 2 and a half hour van journey up. The date was 21.12.12 and it was the day the world was supposed to end (Mayan calendar finished)
We had recorded this song in numerous iterations, there was a slow version with a Cajon, a really fast version with a Cajon, then a middle speed version on a drum kit and we finally settled on the speed of this in the studio, not much else changed when we recorded this for the album, there are slight changes to the drum pattern, as well as the guitar intro riff (played over three guitars, one doing the initial riff, and then two separate guitars bending in 3rd). The lyrics haven't changed or neither has the form of the song since conception. It was also the first song we tracked whilst we were recording the album in the cottage ALSO It is only one of two songs in our entire set that is sung in complete 3 part harmony. (Rich taking the upper 3rd, Mic the root on the verse, and lower 5th on chorus, and Jay Lower 5th on verse and root on chorus)
Lyrically it's pretty much a break up song, coming out of a relationship that was hurtful and depressing, stepping into the light of day and realising that you had drifted from someone and it wasn't the same, false promises and a distance that had been ignored by both of you. Always reminiscing on the good times and ignoring the rut you were in.
There was a lot of inspiration for this one, I think the initial inspiration was from a Mumford and Sons song called 'Where Have You Gone', we took harmony inspiration from bands like America and The Eagles and tried to give it a driving drum beat similar to the one in 'Take It Easy'
Track 03 - Emma (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham/Richie Smith)
We wrote this song about 4 years ago, at the time we had tried to write this song about 3 times, but had no luck. Originally there was no whistle, and we had finished it without the whistle and demoed it but the riff we had didn't sound very good by it's self, we always argue over who wrote the riff, I can guarantee it's not me (Mic) or Matty. Jay is currently saying it was him... but we can't confirm that.
The lyrics are a narrative about cheating on a girl, and not being man enough to tell her, so you write a letter to her and leave it. Not so much from personal experience, but it's just a different take on a break up song (seeing as every one of our songs is about a failed relationship). The album version hasn't changed much from the original demo, just the addition of the whistle, and a different bass & drum pattern over the verses (less busy) also the middle 8 chords (well the two chords Gm - G7) were written by ours and everyones favourite drummer. Richie Smith.
This was the first song that was a full 100% co write, and I think it's the only song on the album that is all 5 of us on the credits. I came in with the chords to this one and we ended up mixing a song that Matty and Jay had written into it. The initial inspiration for the palm muted intro was 'Little Lion Man' by Mumford & Sons
Track 04 - Break Your Heart (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham/Richie Smith)
This song was around the same time as Emma, this tune didn't change much from demo to final album mix, the only change being the stabs in the middle 8 section that were added by our producers when we were tracking bass and drums for the album. The song was heavily influenced by 60's beat music, with the verse chord progression following a Hollies/Beatles style, then the chorus, with the 3 part harmony following the G to G7 chord change!
Lyrically the song takes on a first person narrative from the point of view that you're holding a girl back from traveling the world (the line - 'you wan't to live a life that's green, and travel distance in between' directly references that) and then you're also sure that you'd break her heart, and this is a kind of pre relationship thought process before you finally take that leap into being with them. The end thought is that they would be better finding somebody more suited for them instead of wasting time with you. The song was a co write from Jay, Mic, Matty & Rich!
The original guitar riff was inspired by the She & Him cover of NRBQ's 'Ridin In My Car'
Track 05 - Seen It All (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis)
I remember writing this one with Jay on the bus to Blåfrost festival, Norway, Feb 2014. We had the idea kicking around for a while, a 6/8 tune starting with Em, G, C but we hadn't settled on a verse or chorus. We ended up finishing the song on the trip to Norway and shelving it because we didn't know what to do with it at the time. We didn't played this song live before we recorded it for the record and even when we recorded it, it was just Acoustic guitar, Bass and Drums. So when it came to putting this in our live set we had to really sit down, learn the whole song as a band and sing the harmonies together, as we had layered the vocals one after the other in the studio instead of singing it all at once, It felt like we were playing a cover of our own song at first until it had been gigged a few times and we had really got into the dynamics of the song, it's one of the songs I look forward to in the set all the time.
Lyrically its about one of the worst breakups we've experienced. The song is written as if it was spoken to the girl in question, in an argument or on the phone. It's one of the more literal songs we've written with lines like 'It's cold in your eyes when you gave me your smile, it's hiding the truth, I can see' meaning that the love has gone and you can tell it's all fake and false, also the line 'I gave you my heart and you gave me your hand' meaning that you put in more than you got back, she never really got her heart involved. It ended up that she was doing the same thing with a few other lads, and we knew it but couldn't admit it, the chorus lines 'It's breaking my heart as you lie next to me' also 'What may seem like an art, is breaking my heart' referencing that she knows what she's doing and has turned juggling these lads into an art for her, but it was much more serious to us. This was a co write between Jay and Mic
The duel electric guitars on the intro and outro were recorded by me and our producer Tim simultaneously, this was the first time we did it on the record and ended up using the same technique on 'Pieces of You', 'Out Of The Rain' and 'Love Just Ain't For Me'. The main inspiration for this song is the tune 'Born & Raised' by John Mayer, It heavily influenced the outro harmonies and just the dynamics that we put into the track.
Track 06 - Took My Heart (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham)
This was the last track written for the record, we had finished the initial tracking of the album at the cottage and headed home, we were mixing and overdubbing the record and initially there were two other songs going on the album 'Bankrupt Blues' and a song called 'Never Thought You Would Leave My Side' but when it came to tracking some more guitars and filling the songs out these two just didn't cut the album, they didn't fit the tone or feel of the album and were right at the bottom of the rankings when we made a list of best to worst on the album!
So we had a dilemma, we needed another song to put on the album and we wanted a brand new song, so we ended up taking the intro from 'Never Leave My Side' and completely re-writing the rest of it, this was one of 2 songs from the album that was tracked in Liverpool (Way Into Your Heart the other) and this was done at Whitewood Studios upstairs from our rehearsal room in town. Alec and Tim produced and Dan Woodward who is our live engineer and had done the EP's previous recorded this one.
Lyrically the song is one of the more simply written ones, just looking back on a short relationship that we were in, we got attached too quickly and ended up smothering her into stepping back, it ended up falling apart shortly after and this song was born from it! We tried to write something a bit more grass rootsy and really focused on melody and harmony, also based heavily around harmony on the chorus' often leaving the vocals naked. It was a co write between Jay, Mic and Matty
The initial inspiration for this came from the Jake Bugg song 'Me and You' (mainly the drum beat) but it ended up evolving much more from that idea.
Track 07 - Talking Of Tomorrow (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham/Richie Smith)
This was the first song we wrote as a finished band (minus Ryan) in 2011. It was written in a day in our old rehearsal studio inside what is now the Liverpool Buyers Club! I remember all sat round a table and it just flew out of us, I'm sure Matty came in with the initial chord idea and we just rolled with it. The song has been recorded 3 times by us initially with a cajon then onto a drum kit for the demo and finally the album version production changed the chorus backing harmonies and the chords at the end of the last chorus as well, tagging a new ending on.
Lyrically it is written from two points of view, and was written about a very close friend of ours at the time who was into drugs. The first point of view is our own, all the verses, from the outside looking in. Then the chorus is from their point of view in relation to the drugs 'I want you and I need you and I'm willing to do what it takes' & 'Takes me higher and higher' nod directly to that. The verses follow us watching the downfall of this person's life, and the low points like 'Stumble in at half past three, they've took away your front door key and now you're not so proud' amongst other literal lyrics, loosing friends, family, saying they're going to stop (over and over) & denial. This was a co write between Jay, Mic, Matty & Rich
There was no initial inspiration for this, not that I recall, we just kind of wrote the song and played it as it was, we didn't really hear a song and gravitate to it production wise. It was the first song we put harmonica into. The original demo had our friend Hutchy playing an upright double bass on instead of an electric bass. This was before Ryan joined the band
Track 08 - Way Into Your Heart (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham)
This was the first song we recorded with our producers Alec Brits & Tim Hoover over at Brakeline studios. It was recorded in Feb 2013. At the time it was a small rehearsal room and they were just starting out as engineers & producers, we did this track to see if we could do the album with them and straight away we knew the deal was sealed! We tracked it over two days in the rehearsal room, recording bass, drums and acoustics live. The version we recorded that day was the album version of the track, this was also the first song we put pedal steel to, thanks to Tim who knew a guy over in Nashville called Bruce. We used him on most of the other tracks on the record in the end.
I don't remember writing this one very much, we were writing a lot of songs at the time and this was one of them, we had ideas for 'Knocking On My Door' 'Love Just Ain't For Me' 'Took My Heart' and a few other songs that didn't make the album, and this was the first one finished out of that bunch of tunes. Lyrically it's looking back on a failed relationship, not in anger but in admiration that this girl (or boy) that you were with had shown you what it was all about (without sounding cheesy) I think it comes from personal experience, just knowing there was one person that it probably didn't work out with, but that's okay because you learnt a lot from that relationship and it's helped in future relationships.
This song ended up being the catalyst for the album, after we got the final mix back, we sat and talked about doing the album because we felt like we had the songs now, the engineers, producers and also the drive to do an album because this song sounded exactly how we wanted the album to feel! It's probably one of our favourite songs to play live, I always look forward to this one in the set!
There was no initial song that influenced this, I just remember finger picking with a capo on the 4th fret and had this idea for a really simple song going from Am - F - C in the chorus. The middle 8 came afterwards when we had figured the song needed something else to lift it. This was a co write from Jay, Mic & Matty
Track 09 - Pieces Of You (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis)
This was one of the oldest songs we had for the album, written just after we wrote Back In Liverpool and a few other songs. Originally it wasn't going to be on the album, and wasn't even considered at first when we wrote the song list for the album, it was going to be a faster song to keep the pace of the album up, and it turned out to be the title track of the album as well!
We were half way through recording the record, and had a tea break in the middle of the day to clear our ears and chill. Someone picked up a guitar and started to play 'Pieces Of You' and we ended up joining in and sang the whole song acoustically, I remember our producers were like 'What song is that? Is that yours? It has to be on the album!' We ended up scrapping the rest of the days tracking and worked on cutting this song down to a listenable length, also ended up re writing some of the harmonies and the middle 8 section.
The initial inspiration for the lyrics was the few days after a break up when you're still at home, finding bits and pieces of memories or clothes or anything else your ex has left behind, and everything reminds you of them. It wasn't a particularly nice breakup so they weren't good memories at all, the rest of the song talks about how they threw it all away after choosing to be with you ('sick and tired of the bed that you had made')
The inspiration for this song was mostly Beatles related with the minor 2nd to minor 5th in the song (for you music nerds) and also the chorus harmony was a nod to one of the first songs the Beatles wrote called 'In Spite Of All The Danger' (if you've never heard it, google it!) A lot of the production to this tune was inspired by the John Mayer song from his album Battle Studies called 'Edge Of Desire' (also go listen to that). Also Mic and Tim are rocking out in the middle 8 doing a duel 80's inspired guitar solo that was tracked live!
Track 10 - Back In Liverpool (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham)
This was the third track we had written together, I think it was the same month that we wrote 'Talking Of Tomorrow' & 'Awaiting Your Call'
It always gets misinterpreted as a song about Liverpool and the city but it's actually about a girl one of us was seeing at the time who was friends with the girl that 'Talking Of Tomorrow' Is about. It is the same narrative lyrics following the arc of the very short 'relationship' that we had, in the end she moved to Cambridge and that's basically what the whole song is about, especially the tag line 'There's things I'd like to say to you, when you're back in Liverpool'. There's also some lines in there about drugs in the second verse 'Spending all your money in the washed out pubs, in the toilets with your A class drugs' and pre netflix and chill lines about 'Watching movies in the dark'. I don't think we've done a gig in the past 5 years where we haven't played this song in the set, it's one that never budges.
The album recording is slightly different than the demo, we cut the guitar solo in half and moved the intro riff down an octave, on the record you can year our producer Tim Hoover playing electric guitar on the riffs and solo! The album version has the lyric 'Took a plane to Cambridge' we usually change this to 'Took a train to Cambridge' when we play the song live. This one is a co write between Jay, Mic and Matty
Track 11 - Love Just Ain't For Me (Jay Davies/Mic Kountis/Matty Brougham)
This one was fully written inside the studio, I had these chord ideas for a while but it never really became a full song before we recorded the album. I really wanted to try and finish it before we left the cottage and finished tracking so we set aside one afternoon to finish it off. First we figured out a basic melody with a group of us in the room, hummed some words and came up with the chorus melody and where the guitar solo was going to fit. Jay and Matty and Tim went off to write some lyrics to the song while Me, Rich and Ryan tracked the acoustic guitar, bass and drums. By the time we all had our good takes, they'd finished writing the lyrics and Jay came and tracked a guide vocal straight away.
Lyrically we went with the theme of the album that is breakups and heartbreak and decided to flip it on it's head for this song and look at it from the point of view that you're done trying to find someone because the breakup was that bad. I think it comes from the first week or two of a bad breakup when you can't see past the next couple of months, and how you never think you'll find someone again
The inspiration to this song came from a few places, we wanted a song with a big ending, something we could finish on live but we wanted a good album finisher as well, something delicate. We really liked the sound of John Mayer's song 'Dear Marie' and we drew on that a few times for the dynamics of the song and then also the song 'Home' by Dan Croll inspired us a lot, we were listening to it a lot at the time.
Mic and Tim play the guitar solo in unison on this one, it's not note for note as well so it really sounds great with headphones on because they're panne left to right. It's a co write between Jay, Mic and Matty. The song is one of our favourites to play live, the ending section is fun for us and it's a great way to end a show!