Simon Says #8: Getting the band back together
The memories, the fun and the Red Bull all begin to flow as Bella Union’s founder Simon Raymonde returns to the world of being in a band with Lost Horizons…
I’ve been sitting on the fence for 20 years, but I just jumped back over. I’m sure many of the bands on Bella Union will hope that I get back on the other side soon, because it must be massively annoying seeing the label guy getting the attention all of a sudden, and taking up valuable column inches. But I reckon I deserve a little moment out in the sun, after two decades of living under a rock running Bella Union. And I’ll readily admit, it hasn’t been an easy readjustment.
The usual label emails about production issues, contract negotiations, release schedules and timelines don’t go away just because I decided to get a record out this month, so I’m trying to work out how to balance the additional workload. Okay, that’s a lie – I’m not trying to work it out, I am failing miserably. I’ve barely slept for a month, my arms ache from playing the guitar so much (I’m not a guitarist by trade) and I have a nervous tic in my right eye (not like a shy parasite that lives on a dog, although I might have one of those and just not realised it).
But I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s not as if I’ve just come out of a coma after 20 years to witness a new world in front of me, but actually, it’s not far off! Being in a band with no drama is not something I have that much experience of, and it was a little unnerving to start with. Finding a band to perform this music live hasn’t been easy, but as I write, we’ve just played our first show at Liverpool Music Week – and it was a blast.
With half the singers on the recordings having their own active careers and also being American, it was never going to be possible to use all the album’s vocalists for the UK tour. But I decided that if we were going to do it, we to do it properly. So I spent a while looking within Brighton, where I live and where the music scene is so vibrant right now, and I found three singers to cover all the tracks with female vocals, and Ed Riman (Hiland Child) who I was already keen to work with, to cover all the male vocals (two of which are his, anyway).
Bethany Cannon, who sings Bones on the album, and Helen Ganya Brown (who is Dog In The Snow and also plays in Fear Of Men) are two of the main vocalists; then there’s Richie Thomas and my old pal Chris Anderson, from former Bella Union band Departure Lounge and current improvisational band from Brighton, ZOFFF. Asya Fairchild – just 21 and from a cool band called Blush – is a great young bassist and singer, and she was the final piece of the jigsaw.
As most of the music for the album was improvised last year and played in guitar tunings and even bass tunings (one!) that are not conventional, trying to remember how to play each song was rather a puzzle to start with, but once I’d fathomed them out, I made videos of what I was doing and sent them to the band, and three weeks before the first show, we began rehearsing.
Everyone has day jobs (me too!), so somehow, all seven of us squeezed into a little room in Brighton where we rehearsed a couple of nights a week for three weeks and then drove up to Liverpool and back for our first show at the end of October, leaving home at 7am on gig day and returning at 6am the following day for work.
Ah, the memories – of no sleep, motorway food and Red Bull – just keep flooding back. There was such a cool energy with everyone, and the friendships and bonds that were made on that first day of rehearsal have strengthened deeply in a very short space of time… I really feel close to all of these lovely people. It bodes well for the future and for what we may achieve as a live band.
Richie and I go back a long, long way, to the early 80s when we were both in bands on 4AD. And while the music we made back then has certainly been a privilege to be a part of, I can safely say that this is the most fun we’ve both had making music, and we do certainly deserve that.
By the time you read this, we’ll have had our debut album Ojalá released and we will have completed our first UK tour, but if you missed it, look out for us next year. We are called Lost Horizons – we will be back with more touring and a second album for sure.