Track-by-track: The Phantom Band's Guide to The Wants

Strap yourself in as robo-folk's finest follow-up last year's inventive opus, <i>Checkmate Savage</i> this month. Track-by-track, <b>The Phantom Band</b> unveil <i>The Wants</i>...

Feature by The Phantom Band | 28 Sep 2010

A Glamour
This was the track that seemed least likely to develop from its conception as an odd little noodle into an album contender, so we worked on it near the beginning of the recording process to give it the best chance of survival. The sawing sound at the start is Duncan [Marquiss] trying to get the Bali-phone in tune – the whole intro section makes me think of some lunatic hermit on a hill, building random shit out of wood and junk. As soon as this track was nearing completion we knew it had to go at the start of the record. And we put a donk on it. Apparently a ‘Glamour’, as well as being the opening track on this album, is a 17th Century term in witchcraft to describe an illusion by which a male member could be castrated by magic. Andy [Wake] just told me that. I don’t know if it’s true and I can’t really decide if I want it to be.

This started off more laidback and it was known only as ‘the sexy one’, but it ended up sounding a little dark and creepy and, let’s be honest, that was always going to happen with us trying to be sexy. When we were writing it Andy and I would walk around the studio singing the chorus harmony; serenading each other like a wonky Righteous Brothers… told you it was creepy.

Everybody Knows it’s True
This track took the entire length of the recording session (from the start of February until around about yesterday) and it went through a lot of pushing and pulling along the way. It was the first rough idea we had and the spooky E-Bow sound on the chorus was the very last thing we recorded on the very last night we had in Chem19. So there you go… did anyone see Neighbours today?

The None of One
When we first played this it was quite spare and folky but for some reason, the more we played it, the more these other totally different sections grew out of it. We couldn't decide which ones were better so we just stuck them all in the pot. The track is like a little adventure – it definitely doesn't end in the same place that it starts and it doesn't really end where it ends either. The second-last end section makes me think of the end of a movie – the sun setting over distant blue hills; the credits beginning to roll… so obviously we had to put this fourth.

Mr. Natural
This was probably the hardest one of all to capture and there are still bits of it floating around out there somewhere. It was meant to sound more like Suicide but only ever did very briefly. OK it never did. We tried it out at some shows while we were writing the album but we always played it too fast and it just became a big flavourless emo soup. That spooked us a little and we wanted to try and totally reinvent it with a kind of Steve Reich / Glenn Branca meets Sonic Youth feel. We didn’t really manage that and just ended up recording layers and layers of guitars over it instead – we’d still be recording guitars on it now if Paul [Savage] had had his way. There are two angle-poise lamps recorded on there as well, in case you’re wondering why it’s so bright.

Come Away in the Dark
This was the only time we've ever been able to record something as a live take without feeling the need to layer on hundreds of overdubs – it's just the band in the live room. It was a real pleasure to record like that and it felt quite satisfying to get a song nailed in a day – utterly unheard of for us and something we’ll probably never manage again. The calmness of this track is a really nice shift in mood after Mr. Natural – like it’s patting the previous tracks on the head and telling them to fucking calm down.

At first this was really slow and plaintive with more of a 50s feel to the guitar but it evolved into a different beast when we changed the drums. It’s the kind of song that could work in a lot of different ways when we come to play it live – we could probably do a nice quiet stripped down version of it or maybe we could make it heavier and faster still. It’s still quite sad sounding; I guess a cow is still a cow even if you stick wings on it. In any case it'll be a novelty for us to have a track with that flexibility... did anyone see Neighbours today?

Into the Corn
We’d never heard this song in its entirety until it was recorded. Turned out we all quite like it, which was pretty lucky. There's a re-tuned Stylophone in there; some sleigh-bells; Gerry [Hart] shouting 'I'm glowing' and a high-end pop harmony on the verses that I will always hear in my head but wasn't allowed to record. The lyrics are maybe a little more coherent than on some of our other tracks as it was one where we had a solid thematic idea we wanted to explore. If you can work out what that idea is you can send your answers on a postcard to us and you’ll win a shit prize.

Goodnight Arrow
This grew and grew far beyond anything we had originally conceived – like someone baking a cake and accidentally creating a nuclear weapon. It went from being a little nod to Wayne Smith to being a wrestle with Wagner. We decided to really go for it with the vocals (because by that point we were using two studios in unison and living by Paul's 'If you're going to steal a horse…’ mantra), piling on more and more until we’d used up all the channels and broken Pro Tools. That meant there was over 130 tracks or something – we had to keep bouncing tracks down to create more – and that still didn't seem like it was enough. It probably was though… just.

The Wants is released on 18 Oct via Chemikal Underground

The Phantom Band play Òran Mór, Glasgow on 21 Nov