But actually this EP is not new at all - it's the result of my acoustic recording sessions with Matthew Langley, AKA Captain What (@thecaptainwhat), AKA the beard-wielding tabourine-wearing bassist in amazing band The Library Suits (@thelibrarysuits).
My very first session was towards the end of 2007, while F451 was still coming to a close. I went over and decided my first song was going to be "Lighten Up, No Thanks", possibly the worst song choice because it had (and still has in the Without Fear recording) no less than 6,000 time signature changes. After getting not very far, we tried some other stuff. It was all very low key, and I was still getting used to playing by myself with an acoustic guitar, both for recording and live performances. These experimental sessions went on occasionally through 2008, and while they didn't yield any fruit, they were definitely useful.
Wind forward a year: September 2009, my first visit back to the UK from New Zealand. I was already gearing up to record "Without Fear" and while I had my own experimental agenda for those tracks, I wanted to do something proper - quality recordings with good equipment and a good producer. In exchange for quality real ales and the odd Chinese takeaway, Matt had me round and we recorded "Animals", "Sunshine", "The Future" and "Lighthouses" - almost entirely acoustic, with a couple of electric parts, and the same energy I put into live sets.
I think it was early 2010 when Matt sent me a package online with a surprise present - not only had he mixed all 4 tracks, he'd salvaged 2 from our original sessions: "The Tsunami, The Tank And The Barcode" and an original version of "One Last Parting Shot" which has an extra chorus and a middle bit and comes out about 6mins (unlike the Without Fear version, which I cut down). You can tell these 2 aren't exactly polished, but it is nice to have them, and I've included them as bonus tracks.
However, for some reason I'd forgotten to record all the vocal bits for Sunshine. Fail. Wind forward to later that year, August 2010, my second visit back. I popped over again, we finished those last vocal bits, but for some reason didn't render the track - Matt would do it later. What ensued was a very long period of me badgering Matt to finish it and Matt being very busy doing other things. I say this genuinely: the last couple of years Matt has been part of The Library Suits going from strength to strength, he's started his own solo project Captain What and now turned it into a band, he's worked a demanding full time, and faced all the tribulations we all have in our lives. He's a productive lad.
Wind forward to now. Over very pleasant ciders from the Essex Cider Shop, we got "Sunshine" finished and I am very pleased to present the EP as a glimpse into a past time in my own solo music project, as well as a recording in its own right.
My highlight, in a peculiar way, is "One Last Parting Shot". I'm reminded that it's possibly the last track on "Without Fear" that I haven't blogged with a description/explanation, and that it possibly deserves one the most - maybe if I get round to it I'll do a proper one, but here's some burble about the song, this recording, and me:
"One Last Parting Shot" functioned as partly me signing off from Essex in 2008, before going to New Zealand and wherever after that, but also as a personal lament about life in general. I don't think I've told anyone that when I came back in August 2003 from travelling, just before starting university, I turned 20 and imposed a deadline on myself of 5 years to "get somewhere" (whatever the hell that meant, or still means), and if I didn't, then I'd run away or do something else grand and/or stupid. I remember it was an abstract thought at the time, and I virtually forgot about it after that. Making the decision in April 2008 to go to New Zealand for a year was far more accidental than anything, but the song was written after the slow and sad collapse of F451, and came out as an account of self-perceived failure ("This is a song, about personal failure, I don't meant to deceive you...") and frustration, mixed up with my existing less-than-glowing feelings about my home town and county.
Listening to it now, it does have some fairly clunking and ridiculous lines: "I never belonged on all those drunken nights" is self-evidently stupid, because I enjoy drinking and sometimes getting drunk and always have done. Also, the "lost" middle section where I yelp "I meant everything I said" is bizarre, because I've said a lot of things in my time - publicly, privately, sincerely, sarcastically, loudly, softly - and like everyone in the world, I certainly didn't mean every single one of them. These lines are the victims of trying to get across meanings while constrained by the tune, rhythm and time limit of song. They also represent one of only 2 songs that I would call "personal", the other one being "Lighthouses", because even doing a solo project I still believe there are too many songs in the world with people singing about themselves.
But what it does have is heart, and amongst all the self-absorbed emo lamenting there is hope, and the sound and spirit of this recording certainly carry these through - even more than my own recording on "Without Fear" I would say. So anyway, while the other tracks are most excellent (thank you once again Mr. Captain) and certainly more enjoyable, this is an oddity that stands out and a personal marker, and I thought I'd mention.
Anyway, please download and enjoy the EP, and if you do enjoy please share the link and tell other people.