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September Tour With Aidan

Hello, lovely people!

With September well behind us and winter on the horizon, I’m still buzzing from the tour I did with Aidan & The Italian Weather Ladies around Belgium, France and Luxembourg.

The tour started with a date in Louvain La Neuve — home of my good friends and master luthiers, De Musica — at a smart little organic café cum venue called Alterez-Vouz. After the show, I got proper pissed on Belgian beer and ended up back at Francois Massau’s house, demonstrating what I believed Sid Vicious would look like playing a six year old’s violin.

We had a proper romp at Why Not? in Dudelange (Luxembourg, for the uninitiated) and even went to an Indian restaurant where the staff lined up to shake our hands on the way in, and on the way out. We made lots of great friends and stayed up until morning playing songs in their flat. I also learned the importance of saying bise instead of baise. (Look it up if you want to know why.)

Some highlights of the tour included my first Boulets Liègeois, which looked to me like a ginger Gonzo from the Muppets…

Encountering French vintners’ puns (analogous to the British real ale tradition — but is he drinking a can of lager?)…

And most delightfully of all, visiting my friends Jeanne & Deni at their vineyard, Le Dessous du Cep at Le Vivier, in Fleurie…

Deni is a poet and wine-magician. He cooked some delicious food, showed us their sensuous and eminently quaffable natural wine called Rock And Roll (so named because it went into the cuve smelling like piss and came out like nectar of the gods), and informed us of the untold horrors of the French wine industry. Jeanne showed us her gorgeously bold and dynamic paintings, and talked about the challenges, frustrations and thrills of raising up a vineyard (and a family) from its bootstraps. We played a very fun gig and I DJd afterwards. I must have done a good job because most of the men in the room had their shirts off before midnight. I also polished off a methuselah of wine in the process.

The next day, Jeanne and Deni were kind enough to treat us to some wine for the road. The bottles were labeled with Jeanne’s designs, and stuck on by hand:

At Le Blogg in Lyon, I found myself apologising on stage for not speaking French, until someone asked me to tell a French joke. I jumped at the opportunity.

“Why does a Frenchman only have one egg for breakfast?”

Silence.

“Because un oeuf is un oeuf.”

The audience grumbled. Someone heigh-ho’d half-heartedly. Another person said something in French; it was probably, “Don’t give up your day job”.

The next morning, I gave myself concussion lying in bed. I turned over too fast and cracked my head against a table leg. The drive from Lyon to Brussels was fun with concussion — I’ve never seen the French countryside reel and rock like a sea before.

Our last date was a house gig in Gent, courtesy of the lovely An and Steven. They joined forces with a collective of musicians from Flanders to perform Bob Dylan’s album Time Out Of Mind. It was amazing! Especially An’s ukulele and vocal cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” — it beat the pants off Adele’s saccharine-glazed version.

Aidan and I spent the days off at the end of the tour working on vocals for the next Herons! record, Some Things Run Wild. We got really pissed (again) and did a vocal take at 2am in his apartment. I let out a blood-curdling scream at the end of one of the takes, which seemed like a good idea. I’m sure Aidan’s neighbours felt the same way.

I look forward to returning to all these places and seeing all these awesome people again. But now it’s back to work here in Stroud — we’ve got a record to finish! Speaking of which, we’ve done a little live video of the band peforming our song “Cain”, which is first song on the upcoming record. You can expect to see it here very soon!

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Some Things Run Wild* – Phase one

Phase one of our album recording is complete! We have the bulk of 13 songs recorded, and now have the chance to relax and decide which tracks are shoddy enough to be re-recorded.

The process has begun like a bit of a fairytale, and we hope the magic hasn’t yet run out. After our Buskathon fundraiser, we started the hunt for a place to record. We’re not fans of traditional studios, and wanted to find some kind of secluded house or cottage (an upgrade from the stable we recorded our first album in) which we could fill with microphones, duvets, instruments, home cooking, decent tea, and a backgammon set, and record the album in our own time and with our own stuff. We were busy trawling the internet and local contacts for a musician-friendly cottage, when a medieval manor house fell into our laps. And who can say no to a medieval manor house?

In fact, it’s a medieval and Tudor manor house with notable nineteenth-century additions, full of art and surrounded by sculptures, only a 5 minute drive from our home in Gloucestershire. Legend has it, it was the house in which the gunpowder plot was conceived. Not only convenient, but brilliant beyond our wildest dreams. The owner – a new friend of ours – was going to be away with his family during the time we’d booked Aidan (our engineer/clarinetist) to come over to help, so we wouldn’t be bothering anyone, except Ivanka, the lovely housekeeper and Reggie, the dog (and they were both very accommodating).

Over 7 days we recorded the bulk of 13 songs, working an average of 12 hours a day. Aidan was a powerhouse of an engineer, and I doubt he actually slept at all, working late into the night, comping, stomping, bouncing down, bouncing around, and all the mysterious things that engineers get up to with their mixing desks.

We had some brilliant guest musicians to help out during the week. Marianne from Hot Feet (one of the greatest local bands and best buddies of ours) recorded some gorgeous backing vocals on our new song Tell Me Girls, as did our old collaborator and part-time lover Wallis Bird, who also recorded some kick-ass guitar solos. Aidan barely got a look in on the performance side, but will be adding some clarinets and other bits and bobs over the next few months, if he can fit it in to his tight schedule promoting his own long-awaited studio album. You can see some more photographic evidence of our recording adventure here on the aul’ facebook if you fancy it.

Over the next few months, the incomparable Jo Silverston is going to arrange some strings for certain songs, and we’ll be overdubbing a bunch more arrangement ideas, from trumpets to gangs of children shouting. We hope to release a single in April/May, along with a video. The album should be out by the end of the year LATEST, but hopefully quite a bit sooner than that.

Meanwhile, we’re still trying not to lose steam promoting our first album, which is still pretty new to the world. You can read our first review at wewritelists.com and hopefully more press will follow soon…

Thanks again to everyone who has helped out so far, we can’t wait to be able to put the finished product in your hands… and then charge you a a very reasonable price for it 😉

Yours affectionately,

Herons!

* ‘Some Things Run Wild’ is the title of the new album.

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