Strings, Songs and Beautiful Strangers

Recording is complete! We have just finished our last recording session for the new album Estren, and what an immense pleasure it’s been to work with all our amazing collaborators. It was touch-and-go as to whether recording could even happen in these strange times. But we kept faith (and a large box of masks) at the ready. 

One of the final sessions with Ian Stephenson and Abel Selaocoe

Over the course of three studio sessions in six months spread between Northumberland and London, we’ve pulled together musical magic from some generous friends. Altogether our time was filled with a perfect mix of material, musicians, modification and imagination. We’re thrilled to announce that the tracks are locked and loaded – ready for mixing and beyond. But first, a brief run-down of the summer’s maneuvers.

Two months ago we met for the beginning of this final phase. We spent two weeks in rehearsals – conveniently coinciding with Tommie’s two week quarantine. This intense period came after many months of lockdown apart and was just the springboard we needed back into the studio. It was wonderful and weird to make music live again – a feeling we’re sure many other performers will share.

Strings! Masked rehearsals in London

Then at the end of July we gathered in London for our string recording. Estren will feature several tracks with this larger ensemble, including Holly Harman (The Twisted Twenty), Flora Curzon (Fran & Flora), Amy Jane Hosken (The Rad Orchestra) and Nina Harries. Do check out all their individual projects, they’re a talented bunch! The pieces themselves have been in development for several years, so it was inspiring to see them finally come to life. We had the joy of workshopping the material for several days before recording live in the gorgeous Heath Street Baptist Church in Hampstead. A huge thank you to Ade at The Lamb for providing rehearsal space, John Henry at the church, Alastair Caplin for the recording and James Riley for the camerawork. 

String session at Heath Street

Finally at the beginning of August we held Estren’s last recording session back with Ian Stephenson in Northumberland. On our last visit it had been the depths of winter with short days and the odd glimpse of our surroundings. Now in high summer we got to fully soak up the gorgeous Northumbrian hills and let it seep into the music. Three further guests joined us for separate days in Ian’s converted church space, Sid Goldsmith (Jimmy & Sid), Abel Selaocoe and Ruth Corey (NYX). It was a unqiue moment when all the threads of Estren could be pulled together. 

Studio mess with Ian for scale

Of course, none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for all our glorious supporters around the globe. Thank you to everyone who pledged on Kickstarter to help make Estren a reality. We can’t wait to share it with you!

A note on current affairs. In the midst of a global pandemic, we were forced to tread the line between distancing and interaction. We deeply believe in music that is alive, in-the-moment, interactive. But we also hold immense respect for the advice of scientists and doctors. So to record this album we had two options – wait until the storm passes, or to work as carefully and collaboratively as the health advice allows. Artists and performers around the world are out of work or finding different jobs, and the wider creative industry is in crisis. We count our lucky stars that we’ve been able to continue this project in the circumstances. Wear a mask, protect the NHS, act respectfully, support those hardest hit by this economic/health disaster.

Simonside opposite the studio

What’s next!? The album is recorded but far from complete. Next we have a number of remote recordings to make (with Alastair Caplin, Tad Sargent and Hilary Coleman), then mixing, artwork, design, mastering, manufacture etc. you know the drill! Due to Covid-19 we are reviewing the release date of Estren, but will be working tirelessly over the coming months to fulfill all the juicy rewards. Updates will continue to be posted here and across the interwebs. Stay tuned and much love from the three of us. See you all when the road beckons once more.

J, D & T x

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