I'd say writing a new track is probably the most challenging part of being in any band. You have to get that good blend between what sound you want to create and what you believe your fans want to hear. I know many people will say: “The music should all be about what you what and people will either like it or lump it” and “you should never sell yourself out”. But the fact is you have to think of your audience when composing a track because ultimately they are the ones that will keep you in your jobs and they are the ones that pay the money to come to see you live.
In the early days of The Wondersmiths we would find it very easy to churn out tracks; at points we were doing as many as two a week. This was very important and probably the main role in shaping us as the band we are today; it gave us a great chance to find the sound we wanted and what are fans enjoyed listening too. On reflection however, those early tracks themselves haven’t really lasted the test of time and have ultimately been brushed aside by the tracks we have created since those hectic times. Like I said, however, I don’t regret writing the songs for one second as without them we wouldn’t be here now, but these days we have a very different (and we think much more effective) way of writing our tracks.
We often start with a theme, for instance a set opener or a track for an advert. This massively helps because when creating a song to open our set, ultimately we want something upbeat, highly energetic and catchy enough to engage the audience from the off. We like to call it the ‘Kick to the gizzards’.
Once we have the theme we then decide on what we want the song to be about. This can often be the hardest and most time consuming stage of creating the song. Sometimes one of us will come up with an idea for the lyrics and share them with the rest of the band. Usually it is the first couple of lines or the initial ideas for the chorus that take the most time.
Next, the melody. The actual melody lines for the song are equally important as the lyrics; there isn't much point in having great lyrics if they are delivered in a unimaginative or unengaging way. The melody often comes at the same time as the rhythm section. Usually Dave and I will sit and work this out with a cold beer (unless it’s a school night then it’s a coke or if we are feeling like a super treat then it's a Mountain Dew).
Now onto the drum and bass section. For Oli this can be very challenging as he isn't like most drummers. Most drummers get a feel for the track then jam along until they find something cool. Not Oli though, Oli likes to write his drums in a much more structured tom by crash by snare kind of way. Which is fine if you're Oli, but as I'm sure you are all aware Alex, Dave and I are most certainly not Oli, we are us, and having to go through that painful process of breaking the song down into every beat by beat second can get rather tedious. But credit where credit's due when we come out the other side we finally see the bigger picture, that actually, what Oli has done is pretty damn good (even if he was complicit in dragging our ear drums through the process with him).
Now to the bass line. This is usually a relatively straight forward and uneventful process. Alex will generally take the root notes from the song, and then spice things up with his own blend of indie blues that we've all grown to know and love. Normally the final piece of the puzzle is that little decoration on the top which comes from that lovely little micro korg of mine.
I've now made it sound like we have a rigid structure in which we always write our tracks, but this isn't true. In fact not even close. We are always writing tracks really, in the shower, at home humming something funky, or even just sitting on the sofa having a eureka moment about a cool idea for some lyrics. It's just that in mine and our collective experience we are 99% of the time more effective at creating tracks in this atmosphere even if it means bringing ideas from home to the drawing board (which is usually the case anyway).
So if I could give any advice to new bands starting out, it would be this: you need that crazy beginning period in your career together where you churn out tracks by the dozen. Sure, you may not use or even like all of them, but ultimately you will find, in those first months, a process which you find best for writing your songs, just as we have done. Finally, no matter what you write, always keep it, never throw it out because you never know what it could turn into somewhere down the line. Perhaps one day in the future, when you've spent what feels like an eternity trying to write a song, you will look back over the early stuff and some of it will be resurrected and reshaped to become your first big hit.
Thanks for reading you guys!
#WonderLove – Chris