Today we are delighted to welcome a special guest columnist, Tim McIver, who’s just put out his debut solo record under the name Honesty Box. Some of you may know Tim’s work already, either as the band leader of Tim and Sam’s Tim and Sam Band with Tim and Sam, or as the male vocalist and co-songwriter in Golden Fable.
Earlier this year we talked about Golden Fable’s upcoming second album as one our picks of the most exciting things that might happen this year, and whilst that release still remains highly anticipated, the release of Saturday’s Child, the first solo outing by Tim, has come as a complete surprise.
Golden Fable, the work of both Tim and co-frontwoman Rebecca Palin, deal in soaring choral vocals fronting electronic dream-pop, a sort of warmer, hazier Empire Of The Sun or perhaps a sun-drenched Beach House. If they represent the hook-laden pop side of Tim’s work, Honesty Box is far more reminiscent of his previous band Tim & Sam’s Tim and Sam Band with Tim and Sam, and not just for the obvious reason that both acts are largely instrumental.
As Tim will explain far better than we could ever hope to, writing instrumental music that people can to connect to is an all together different challenge to writing traditional songs. It was a challenge that Tim & Sam took on, over the course of their two major releases, the Put Your Slippers On EP and their debut album proper Life Stream. On both these fascinating recordings, the band attempted to merge a myriad of influences, and succeeded in creating a beautifully complex, tapestry of sounds. The only way we can think to describe the music Tim & Sam made is instrumental-folk pop, the ultimate musical oxymoron if you will. However these rich tracks which were, in some ways structured almost like pop-songs, had the same pastoral qualities of many classically British folk-musicians, yet were instrumental and borrowed influences from post-rock, avant-garde compositions and even the more ambient side of Techno.
Honesty Box is perhaps the natural progression from that work. A deeply ambitious piece – a single 32 minutes movement – it flows beautifully through sections and styles, and is a constantly challenging and highly rewarding recording. The influence of post-rock acts is clear; the intricate repeated guitar lines sing from the same hymn sheets as Explosions In The Sky, the scatter-beat drums of Four Tet permeate through and, in places, the tension-laden gloom of Mogwai looms menacingly. It’s far darker than any of Tim’s previous work, if they were characterised by an upbeat positivity and sounded like they belonged on a sunlit summers evenings, at times this record wouldn’t sound out of place in a dank club in Berlin.
An exciting new chapter, and one that continues to suggest Tim is one of the most ambitious, flexible and intriguing musicians currently on the scene, and all that before he’s even got round to releasing the album he’d finished before he started this one!
About Saturday’s Child:
I’ve always loved writing instrumental music. It’s something I always relished during my time in Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam, but haven’t been as involved in since working on Golden Fable. It’s a very different creative approach; vocals allow an instant, personal connection with the listener, and lyrics offer the chance to portray very specific feelings or emotions.
Without that, you have to utilise different tools in order to convey the message you want. So you turn to structures, different instrumentation and dynamics (which are a large part of this record). It is a slightly different skill, so it took me a while to get back in to writing music in this way again. It was a great experience though, and something that I will look to do more of in the future.
For years I’d had this idea of creating one long piece of music. I’m sure inevitable comparisons to the likes of Mike Oldfield or Godspeed You! Back Emperor will be made, but for me it was about trying to write a long piece but with distinct sections, each relating directly to the one before it, using similar chords but changing the feel each time. It was also a bit of a reaction to the growing theory that people have short attention spans and can’t digest anything other than a 3 minute pop song. I find this extremely patronising to the listener, and totally false, so I wanted to go against that with this project.
I started work on the album in January this year. We’d just finished recording the forthcoming Golden Fable record, and whilst the rest of Golden Fable had other commitments I wanted to keep going creatively. Writing and recording in my studio is always a hugely enjoyable experience for me, so I didn’t want to stop!
The first section was originally written as a classical guitar piece, which I took apart and built up, using keyboards, effects pedals and a Leslie speaker to create the ambient introduction, before adding the classical guitar melody on synths and guitars. I really enjoyed layering the different instruments and electronics to create the sound in the first crescendo, something inspired in part by Errors, who I played with as Golden Fable and really enjoyed.
I absolutely love my Xylophone, so it was the first thing I turned to when starting section two. I went to Festival Number 6 last year, and saw a brilliant performance of a Steve Reich piece on two Xylophones in the beautiful town hall in Portmeirion. The introduction to the second section was inspired by that – there are two xylophone parts playing simultaneously. They start off in unison, but one has an extra note at the end, so they drift in and out of sync throughout this piece. I then added the bassline and built the piece up before closing it with disjointed, distorted synth parts.
Section three is actually a piece that I wrote when I was 16, making music in my first band. It used to have vocals, but I re-worked it, adding a few more guitars and some electronics. Aside from that, it’s actually very true to the original piece, and it was great to finally be able to use the music that I’d remained attached to for so long.
Section four is another piece that started life on classical guitar, but this time it didn’t change too much from its original incarnation. Most of my music starts life on classical guitar, as that is really my first instrument and the one I play the most – though for some reason I nearly always end up moving it to a different guitar (in this case an acoustic), or changing it to something very different. I wanted to include a piece that was influenced by the quieter music I love – things like Nick Drake, Burt Jansch, but also adding some field music recorded at some of the places I walk my dog every day. It’s also mixed with some heavy rain that was coming down on the studio roof as I was recording the guitar.
Section five was great fun to make. I wanted to experiment with writing a piece around a single bass note, using octaves on different synths to add variation in dynamic and pace. It was inspired by the likes of Jon Hopkins and Nils Frahm – I love the way both musicians are so patient in the way that they build up music, which was a technique I really enjoyed trying out for myself.
The final section was another classical guitar piece, and goes back to some of the things that really shaped my music taste when I was first discovering music under my own steam as a teenager. The huge, slow building post-rock-esque crescendos that always sound so good live, or when you really turn the volume up on your stereo.
I learned so much from doing this album. I love the democratic writing process of being in a band, but it was really refreshing to be able to write, play, record and release all of Saturday’s Child on my own. Keep your eyes peeled for more material, both from Golden Fable and Honesty Box in the not too distant future!
Saturday’s Child is out now on Full Of Joy Records. Golden Fable play Greenman Festival on the Settlement Stage this Wednesday