Katie here, we thought that to celebrate the anniversary (!) of our recent album “The Space Between” (and to say thank you to you for all your support), we’d share some of the ins and outs of some of the tracks with you.
So, first up is one of the first tunes I ever wrote for the band (that I ever wrote at all in fact) and can be found on both our first and second albums: “Coffee Countdown!” (video and links to recorded tracks at the bottom).It has always been a favourite of ours to play live; I think because it gives everyone a moment to unleash some frenetic bonfire energy! I wrote the tune after one of my first trips to Bulgaria and heard the unfamiliar time signatures that characterise the music over there. Unlike traditional Bulgarian tunes which usually stay in one time signature, Coffee Countdown jumps between time signatures, it is a melody that has its own agenda! It was one of those tunes that just arrived in my mind – I don’t remember having to craft it too much, I just accepted that it was there and I wanted to play it with other people!
It got its name because I used to work in a wonderful French patisserie in Birmingham. During that time, my then boyfriend (the owner and baker) would wake up unfathomably early to make the bread and croissants at the bakery unit. I would go with him sometimes and enjoy the early morning time spent alone with my clarinet (while he bashed whole blocks of butter into croissant pastry – now that is why they taste so good!)
The tune came to me while I was sat surrounded by big sacks of coffee beans shipped over from France so I figured it must have been caffeine inspired. The ‘Countdown’ of the title came from our outro where the riff loses a beat at each iteration!
(Pete takes up the narrative)…But Coffee Countdown’s story doesn’t end with appearing on our first album or finding a place in its regular gig repertoire. It went on to feature on our 2nd album “The Space Between” in a very different guise.
Though I play bass in the band, the instrument I have had most training on is the pipe organ. We decided Coffee Countdown would be an excellent candidate for a re-interpretation played on ‘The King of Instruments’ (as the pipe organ is sometimes rather self-importantly referred to). I enjoyed reworking it for the organ, bringing out the bass part on the pedal board and highlighting the different melodic strands on one manual (keyboard) whilst accompanying on another. There was also a lot of scope for the sound to grow from section to section by the use of the registration (stop changes) on the organ. Within the space of a 2 minute piece we have crescendoed from a quiet flutey beginning to a full thundering finale. In case you didn’t know, it’s from the world of organ playing where we get the expression ‘pulling out all the stops’!
Interestingly, our first attempt to record this version of Coffee Countdown was on the pipe organ at St Mary’s Church, Moseley, Birmingham. However, there was so much background noise – both from the hiss of the heating system and the sound of the electric motor that pumps the air for the organ, – that we abandoned that and I recorded it on a digital organ at home. Luckily for organists the sound of a digital organ these days is so close to a tradional pipe organ that nobody would know. Except that now I’ve told you all….
As a final aside – both the composer (Katie) and transcriber (myself) of Coffee Countdown are now vegans, so we can only enjoy those butter filled croissants in our imagination!
Here’s a little live video we’ve put together of some unseen footage of Pete playing this at home. Watch to the end to see Michelle work VERY hard to try and remember to pull out and push in all the right things at the right (or wrong!!) time – and run around the organ in the process.