The legendary Charley Stone (guitarist in Salad, Gay Dad, Frantic Spiders, Desperate Journalist, Sleeper, Joanne Joanne, MX Tyrants ... and the list goes on!) just released a digital double-sided single – 'Don't Walk Away' backed with 'Accidie' – just in time for today's Bandcamp Friday. We asked the artist herself to talk us through the tracks ...
During June/July 2020, the first lockdown, I wrote dozens of new “songs” – although many were fragments of songs, just chords strummed on a guitar and vocal sounds with lots of reverb and the odd word coming through. Each day I’d go for a solitary walk through empty streets and listen to these gentle, spacious sounds I’d created, and try to see which images emerged in my head, and then shape the sounds into lyrics to match the images.
Don’t Walk Away was originally called Dye Your Hair, as the opening lines came straight away. It was a sort of “wake up! one day you’ll have to interact with people again, don’t just melt into the walls” rallying cry to my self. And then it sort of evolved into a more general anticipation of a time when we’d soon be able to gather with friends again, outside, all those gatherings in parks and tentative re-connections.
I found a lot of books on walls during those walks, and one of them was A Book Of Silence by Sara Maitland. I walked past it at first but it sort of called me back. It’s about her journey into a life of silence, like a hermit, and it was exactly the right book to read very slowly over that mostly-solitary summer. One of the things she explored in it was the idea of “accidie”, i.e. a particular kind of lethargy that develops when you are silent – something religious orders had to guard against, and which led to “sloth” being named one of the seven deadly sins. I’d never heard this word before, but then on another walk I was listening to a random Radio 4 podcast and someone started talking about it there. And immediately after that, I was listening to the music for this song, which thus far only had the words “woe betide you for slowing down before your time” – and suddenly I knew what it was about. And then thunder crashed and rain started cascading down and I ran home soak to the skin and utterly elated, as though something had been revealed.
Anyway – these songs remained as acoustic guitar and scratch vocals in GarageBand for a very long time – but eventually I got around to moving them into Logic Pro X (just cos there are more options there) and fiddling around with them. I’m really not very methodical about recording, I get a bit overwhelmed by options, and what tends to happen is I come across an instrument or effect and make something happen by accident, and then go in whatever direction it leads me, but then have no idea how to ever do it again. So e.g. on Don’t Walk Away, I got one of the “drummers” in Logic Pro go play along but hated it, so I deleted most of that and somehow converted the rest to midi and gave it some very thin/artificial sounds, nudged beats here and there until it struck the right balance between “in time” and “natural” for my ears. Basically I just try loads of stuff but delete most of it, and then just push things around until it sounds like something I want to keep listening to.
Similarly with artwork: my technical ability is poor, and I can’t be bothered to faff around with sketching and trying to get things to come out a particular way – instead, I tend to just follow the line and see what I can make of it. I’m especially bad at drawing people, but I knew I wanted a person in this image. In my head I could see people in a park, in the summer, so I went looking for photos of that and found one of my friend in her garden in a flowery dress. I knew I’d have not a chance of drawing something that looked anything like her, but using that picture as a reference I just took the line for a walk and ended up with this very zen-like person who looks peaceful and sort of heart-shaped, and that felt exactly right.