Our Daily Bread 269: The Bordellos ‘Debt Sounds’ Track By Track

April 3, 2018

Brian Bordello of the contrary and provocative lo fi rock’n’roll group The Bordellos infamy, takes us on a track by track tour through the band’s latest album Debt Sounds

Words: Dominic Valvona/ Brian Bordello





The Bordellos, the uncompromising bastions of lo fi rock’n’roll, have been chipping away at the peripherals of the music industry for years to no effect. Though this shouldn’t come as much of a suprise; provocative subjects including serial sex offenders Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris, and the languorous drip-fed accusations (whether through a wearing down of malaise or real attempts to shoehorn him out the door in the name of ‘blandifcation’) that the BBC ‘killed John Peel’ don’t exactly help their cause.

From their St Helens base the family band spew and regurgitate a continual flow of musings, lovesick plantive melancholy and cumdrudgry attacks on the state of modern culture. Knocking out releases at a weekly rate, the band could give the late Mark E Smith a run for his money in number of pontification packed rambles.

I’ve probably written more about this contrary group than any other in the last five years plus. Mostly because despite the basic, drone-y and cheap production The Bordellos bare their souls like all the most effectual and best rock’n’roll icons. In a nutshell: songs about broken hearts played on broken guitars. And yet despite this lo fi aesthetic, the band are ambitious; referencing a myriad of musical influences, and incorporating all manner of instruments and sounds into their music.

Their latest LP, Debt Sounds, is no different – a mix between Gene Vincent, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Rey Crayola – in this respect. Fueled once more by the acrimony of tattered relationships, family fall-outs, too many late nights and cynicism, The Bordellos indolently unburden themselves upon the audience.

As no review – and I’ve tried – can really do The Bordellos sound any justice, I’ve asked the band’s elder statesman and steersman Brian Bordello permission to share his inimitable penned notes. A sort of track by track narrative, these descriptions and articulations are worthy of sharing; a window in on the workings and mindset that produced them.

And so without further ado I hand you over to Brian…


The Cast

Brian Shea — vocals – guitar – bass – percussion.

Dan Shea  — vocals — keyboards – violin – percussion.

Gary Storey -bass – guitar.

Ant shea – vocals – percussion – harmonica – pitch pipe.

plus

Brendan Bannon – lead guitar on Rolf Harris, Merseybeat Memories and She in The Sun.

Jade — harmony vocals on seal head on Honeypie.

Leslie o’Brien –harmony vocals on Cloudsounds.

produced by Brian Shea


These are the rules and background:

The idea behind the LP was to get back to basics, so I set down these ground rules, all recorded on old tape 4 track, using microphones and recording equipment bought from pound shops and cash converters [under £5].

1. all tracks recorded on 4 tracks only: no overdubs
2 all vocal tracks would be first take only even if disaster struck whilst recording ,so a lot of these songs have only ever been sang once.
3 all songs recorded would have been written that week. So the rest of the band would never have heard them before recording.
4 every song started would be completed that night so no going back.
It was recorded over 10 consecutive Friday nights. During which there was two romantic break ups – the two ex girlfriends actually sang on some of the tracks to add to the spice. Just before the start a marriage had also just broken up…there was lots of alcohol consumed lots of madness, it is the sound of four people going out of their minds, looking back I wonder how Dan managed as he only turned 17 during the recording of this album, but his teenage angst mixed with our midlife crises made for a very dark work of art.

This was supposed to be our third Brutarian records release , but a label that boasted in its bumph of releasing uncommercial uncompromising music refused to release it as it was too… uncompromising!

I have very fond memories of this lp recording it was a experience that was only matched in madness when recording our Ronco revival sound LP.


The Tracks: 

 1/ Fading Honey written by B shea/G storey
     Brian – vocal. Gary – Bass. Dan – feedback. Ant- percussion

A song inspired by the frustration of being in a band that had released two fine albums that had sold bugger all and the problems that arise from dealing with the music industry and all its evil ways. This subject has reappeared many times over the years on Bordellos LPs . This was the first. “Each night I dream of rats of record contracts.”

2/ Spirograph written by Brian Shea
    Brian – vocals/guitar. Ant – Harmonica. Dan- inaudible harmony vocals.

When this song was being recorded there was a huge Summer thunderstorm and rain started to pour through the roof and down the walls of Ants living room. Due to the bad state of his brickwork. So as I was trying to get my best brokenhearted vocal performance, whilst Ant was running around the house with buckets. Muttering the immortal line “Life is too short for guttering”. This was another no show night from Gary so he is not on it ,and Dan recorded harmony vocals but because of the only one vocal take rule the mic did not pick them up very well ,if you have the hearing of a dog you may hear them. “I look in the mirror and my curse has been reversed.”

3/ You Better Run written by Brian Shea/Dan Shea
     Brian– vocals/guitar.  Dan– vocals/keyboards/percussion. Ant — vocals/percussion.

There was originally 4 verses written for this song as each verse was meant to be sung by a different band member but this was another Gary no show night so we just replaced his verse with Dans fine garage punk influenced keyboard solo. The Seeds where a huge influence on this track. “I felt so alive I feel dead now.”

 4/ Rolf Harris written by Brian Shea
    Brian -vocals/guitar. Brendan Bannon– lead guitar.  Gary- bass. Dan – percussion/violin.

This song was written many years before Rolf Harris became a known sex pest ,but I always thought there was something slightly sleazy about the man. My irish cousin who was over visiting Brendan plays the lead guitar on this track and it is he you can hear laughing in the background when I sing the line Rolf Harris is my sexual hero. This was a very drunken night; Gary turned up already pissed as a newt and proceeded to lay down the bass even though he had never heard the song and we were drunk enough to let him, so it was recorded in one take. Dan was the only sober member and told me the story of Gary insisting in cleaning up Ants house after I left and before Ant got home from a gig which consisted of him just extending all the mic stands fully pointing at the ceiling, after doing that he proceeded to record a 20 minute bass instrumental, which sadly has been lost in the mists of time. “I cum before two little boys comes on so I can sing a long.”

 

5/ Sealhead written by Brian Shea
Brian – vocals/ guitar. Gary – electric guitar. Ant- pitch pipe.  Dan percussion/harmony. Jade- harmony vocal.
This was a strange evening for Dan. He had spent the previous hour walking around a supermarket with british comedy actor Ted Robbins who was his then girlfriends uncle, Dan and Jde then turns up at the session to find us recording a psych folk song about a sexual predator who can only reach climax if his partner wears a seal mask. Dan and his girlfriend Jade then add there harmony vocals. Jade is the second cousin to Beatle Paul, so this is the first occasion a member of the Beatle bloodline appears on a Bordellos release. “Dry your eyes with a tissue of lies.”

 

 

6/ She’s An Artform written by Brian Shea
Brian -vocals/guitar. Gary- bass. Ant – percussion.
Written whilst walking up to Ants house to record. Influenced by Billy Childish I was listening to the twenty years of being childish CD a hell of a lot at the time. The slightly recorded underwater feel on this track was down to my total ineptitude at working the four track. This is the only LP I have ever produced for a reason. “Never too old to rock n roll.”

 

7/ Homeless Bound written by Brian Shea
 Brian – vocals/guitar. Gary- bass. Ant – percussion.

Another song written on the subject of being in a unsuccessful struggling band trying to make ends meet, at this time I was wrapped up with dealing with business with our then record label Brutarian and their distribution worries and the lack of success in getting reviews, radio play and such [nothing changes]. “I suffer for my art though they won’t stock it at Walmart.

 

8/ I May be Reborn written by Brian Shea
  Brian – vocals/guitar. Gary- guitar. Dan – keyboards.

Probably my fave Bordellos song and many other people’s. A song of tender reflection. I remember recording the vocals as Gary and his young son Tom came crashing through the front door. The look I gave them must of been daggers like as they stopped in their tracks – for obvious reasons it cannot be heard on the recording. This song is made by Dans excellent keyboards. We have tried this song many times and never recaptured the magic on this first version. There was magic in the room that night. “Every smoking chimney my statue of liberty.”

 

9/ Dead Friend Don’t Leave Me Hanging written by Brian Shea/ Gary Storey 
 Dan — vocals. Gary – lead guitar/bass. Brian – guitar.

Yet another song about the music business and predicting its decline and the sorry state it is in today. One of my favorite lyrics, I remember being astounded at Dans vocal, his first ever lead vocal and being so impressed with his delivery: he was only sixteen at this point. I remember Ant sulking because there was no room for a bongo track, us deciding a lead guitar track would be more effective, there only being 4 tracks. “The stroke of my quill just ain’t paying the bills.”

 

10/ Cloudsounds written by Brian Shea
Brian – vocals/guitar.  Dan – percussion. Ant – harmony vocals/ plastic whistle. Leslie- harmony vocals.
Another no show night from Gary, but Ants then girlfriend [only for a few more weeks] Leslie was in attendance and she added some lovely harmony vocals to this summery ode to my fave podcast at the time Cloudsounds. Ants plastic whistle attempt at sounding like a train is a joy to behold. If all trains could sound like this the world would be a better place. “Remember kissing in the long grass sound tracked by a passing train.”

 

11/ Merseybeat Memories written by Brian Shea
  Brian- vocals/bass. Dan– percussion. Brendan Bannon — guitar.

Yet another no show night from those part timers Gary and Ant. They where not a fan of the lo/fi recording method and the slapdash one vocal take rule, they much prefered recording in the 32 track barn studio we recorded our previous two albums. I think the tension actually added to the feel of Debt Sounds. I remember Gary saying we needed a new mic and me replying just gaffer tape the fucker it will do. So for this session it was just myself Dan and cousin Brendan; a song written after having a long conversation with former member of The Big Three and Faron’s Flamingos, the man Faron himself and how never making the big time still haunted him. “Oh how the memories linger just want to be Faron’s Flamingos to be free.”

 

12/ I Dream Of Jimmy Campbell And Rocking Horse written by Brian Shea
Brian – vocals/guitar.
My tribute to the great Jimmy Campbell one of my favorite songwriters, another man who deserved much more success than he received, he recorded with a number of mersey bands in the 60s and recorded three classic solo LPs in the late 60s early 70s and also made the wonderful power pop album Yes It Is with the band Rocking Horse. Sadly he is know longer with us. “He should have been a star just like me.”

 

13/ Captain Coma written by Brian Shea
 Brian- vocals/guitar. Gary– Bass. Dan- percussion. Ant – Percussion.

This track was recorded towards the end of the ten weeks if I remember correctly, and we were at the stage of equipment falling apart, and part of the percussion on this was Dan beating Ants settee with a broken mic stand whilst I was strutting around the room with the other part of it in a Freddie Mercury type way recording the vocals. “But I kept my shirt on.”

 

14/ New York Girl written by Brian Shea/ Gary Storey
   Dan- vocals/violin. Gary- guitar/bass. Ant -percussion.

I did not play on this as Gary was a much better guitarist than me. Another case of the vocal mic not working and it kept cutting out as we recorded it, but due to me insisting we stick with the only one vocal take allowed we have this strange slightly scary take. Dan was as mad as hell by the end of it as you can tell with the last line; probably the only line that is fully audible. This is one of my fave tracks on the LP.  “As my pathetic life unfurls.”

 

15/ She In The Sun written by Brian Shea
   Brian- vocals/guitar. Dan -percussion. Brendan Bannon – Lead Guitar.

Another song with cousin Brendan on lead guitar. Recorded the same night we did merseybeat memories  – not my fave song on the LP, my vocal really is quite poor. The percussion is Dan playing a Wok with a wooden spoon: just give me some of that wok n roll music. “She walks in the summer rain and confuses my religion.”

 

16/ Fine written by Brian Shea
Brian- vocals/guitar.  Dan – Keyboards/effects.  Ant/Leslie breaking up.

This was another no show night by Gary. Ant was there with his soon to be ex girlfriend. A song about the coming to the end of a relationship was ideal for this nights recording as the atmosphere was pretty hostile around Ants that night. I recorded the vocal whilst accompanied by Ant and Leslie giving each other death stares. They had an argument in the kitchen which myself and Dan recorded on one of the tracks unknown to them and we used it very quietly running throughout the finished song. A work of true darkness. “There’s no passion anymore just friction. When did this habit turn from a addiction.”

 

17/ Honeypie written by Brian Shea
Brian/vocals/guitar/percussion. Gary – bass. Dan- percussion/screams/violin. Jade- vocals.
A track you will either love or hate Dans then girlfriend Jade shared the mic with myself and I found it quite awkward singing such a suggestive song with my sons 17 year old girlfriend, but it again added to the tension. I wanted this song to sound like an outtake from the Velvet Underground white light white heat album; something quite hard to listen to. We recorded everything live on the vocal mic and then just played it back loudly and redid the instrumental parts recoding it all over again. It worked; it gave the feeling of chaos and also fed back like fuck. After we finished recording I remember Gary coming up to me and saying “now you have that out of your system can we go back to writing and recording properly like we used to?” He left a year later. 

This was my LP really: like Brian Wilson used the Beach Boys to make Pet Sounds, I used the Bordellos to make Debt Sounds.

 

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