01: This is the SoundRecorded April 2001, Smallwood Studios, Redditch, Worcs
Performers Pete Green (lead vocal), Rob Harris (guitar, backing vocal), Paul Roach (guitar), Stu Fletcher (bass), Chris Green (drums). Group vocal by all of the above plus Richard Banner
Producer Mat Webster
Released 7" vinyl (A-side) August 2001; Effortless cd album January 2004
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In April 2001, the day before we were going into the studio to record the second Regulars single, the members of the band gathered in the Dog, the pub on Hagley Road West where we made all the important decisions. A month or two earlier we'd decided that the second single was going to be 'October We Take it Back'. We sat down with our pints and it took me about ten minutes to persuade the rest of the band that, when we got up early the next morning and drove two cars the 20-odd miles down to Redditch to record, it should be 'This is the Sound' instead. 'October', as you'll discover when it features here next week, is a much, much better song.
'This is the Sound', in fact, is a long way from being the best song we did, or even making the top five. The singing isn't great. It goes on too long (the first of the two instrumental sections, which runs from 1:54 to 2:12, time fans, shouldn't be there). To these ears at least, there's something not quite fluent about the way the verse, pre-chorus and chorus fit together; something unsatisfactory, something a bit synthetic and forced. And, though the song always went down a storm at gigs, I felt at the time that, by just making a great big noise, it was winning that applause cheaply. There were (are still are) multitudes of bands who drew loud (but short and shallow) cheers from their audiences by having loads of guitar pedals instead of decent tunes, and I wanted The Regulars to stand apart from that.
So why make it the single? First, it was sort of an act of sonic defiance in the face of the anonymous slaggings-off that the band was then receiving on the internet (the Birmingham 'scene' of the time could sometimes be as bitchy and childish as it was friendly and supportive). This was ridiculous, because I seem to have forgotten several years ago whatever little I knew about these slaggings-off in the first place, whereas 'This is Sound' is never going to stop being The Regulars' second single. A wholly disproportionate use of force, then, to shoot meself in the foot!
Second, I'd just been reading about The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine in David Cavanagh's book about Creation Records (My Magpie Eyes are Hungry For the Prize) and, for the first time since I'd heard Shadow Factory, thought: yeah, actually, maybe it's not such a bad thing to make a bloody great racket after all. So we arrived at Smallwood Studios and had a talk with the producer and I asked him to make 'This is the Sound' sound like four punk bands playing in the same room, with The Go-Betweens practising next door. I dunno why I said this: I don't even like The Go-Betweens.
Our bass player and founder member Stu had sort of left the band already when he recorded this with us. His last gig was on Good Friday, 13 April 2001, which was a riot. The audience invaded the stage wearing photocopied Stu masks (check my write-up from the time and some ace photos). So it felt kind of strange and happy/sad that he was still there in the studio with us a couple of weeks later. His replacement, Rich, came along as a sort of induction exercise (although he'd been our mate for ages already; that was how it worked in The Regulars), and ended up joining in with the group vocal that you can hear below my lead part in the chorus. I think this must be the only song recorded with six Regulars.
The recording came out pretty much how I wanted it to. The first single, 'Lie Down and Fight', sounded great but just a tad too clean, so with this one we banned the use of digital guitar effects and got Zinedine Zidane lookalike sound engineer Mat Webster to produce it, because he did our live sound really well when we played gigs at the Flapper & Firkin. I'm not crazy about the distorted Fall-ish spoken bit halfway down the mix at 2:30 – it's a little pretentious, in a way often resorted to at the time by those big-noise-big-deal bands that I hated (as the spoken bits go, I vastly prefer the accidental-but-left-in-on-purpose one at 0:32 and my brother quietly counting us in at the start). But the guitars get down and dirty in all the right places, and all in all Mat did a fine job on a limited song.
But whatever its shortcomings as a piece of songwriting – and those are all down to me, as this is one of the songs where I wrote all the chords and melody as well as the words – I was excited by 'Sound' as a single because it said something that I thought needed to be said. What was it? Um. Actually, one thing it says is "people who like indiepop are nicer than people who like horrible music". This was partly inspired by my Christmas job at Andy's Records in 1995 (after I moved back to Grimsby for six months), when all the people who came in to buy the Elastica album were really sweet and lovely, while everyone who came in to buy bang-bang-wibbly-woo dance music seemed really unpleasant and rude. It's still a massive generalisation, obviously, and I'm sure it must be grossly unfair, but fuck it – that was genuinely my experience, and in any case, it's only a pop song, and there isn't the time and space to add in a load of qualifying statements and exceptions to make yourself sound more reasonable.
Bloody hell, I'm writing loads. Please stay with me if I don't manage to update this every week!
Then there's the Offbeat thing. Offbeat, in case you don't know, is an indiepop night at the University of Sheffield; when I first saw the playlist on their website my jaw dropped, and seconds later I was cross-referencing it with the train timetable to find out how quickly I could go there. I think this was 1999: so in my mid to late twenties I became part of an indiepop community for the first time, even if it was in a city 80-odd miles from home. The music was great and the love was greater still. 'Deceptacon' or 'Who's Got the Crack' would start up and you'd suddenly find yourself entwined with a bunch of glittery-faced popkids you'd never met before, in a manic and intense half dance/half group hug, and it would be the hardest rush of happiness you'd ever felt. I couldn't figure out why the bang-bang-wibbly-woo dance music scene needed drugs to get that; our love was naturally occurring, and I wanted to commemorate it in a song. DJ Chris Stride was quite chuffed – the song still features on the front of the Offbeat website to this day.
But what I most wanted to say with this song was "indiepop is still here, despite the best efforts of the NME and what have you to stigmatise and destroy it". You know all about that, of course, and some phrases remain in my head from a particularly hate-filled and badly written grave-dancing piece that appeared when Sarah Records ended. This is what I wrote in the insert that came with the single:
There are those who would like you to believe that a certain kind of pop music doesn't exist any more, or that nobody wants to hear it.
I believe them for far too long, and formed The Regulars expecting nothing.
I wrote 'This is the Sound' when I found out they were wrong.
A few years down the line, with a vibrant community supporting a worldwide indiepop scene that is stronger than ever – and the NME in steep decline – you will have to forgive me for feeling quite vindicated and insufferably smug about the whole thing.
Lyric sheet (pdf)
Download the insert from the 7" single
An account of the recording on the Regulars website
Bearos Records news archive from 2001
An amazing review on rock-city.co.uk ("The Beatles were pop, The Ramones were pop, Nirvana were pop and now The Regulars are pop")
Another nice review on Losing Today (scroll down a bit)