Monday 16th July 2012 sees the release of Infinite Sunday‘s self-titled debut, featuring a new collaboration between celebrated jazz vocalist Sue McCreeth, jazz/rock/funk guitarist Ian Salmon and producer/keyboard wizard Mike Varty. Described as “jazz harmonies fused with solid gold bass and drum loops, ambient keyboards and the most sensuous vocals,” Infinite Sunday produce some of the coolest sounds around.
Mike Varty shares his experience of making the new album: “Recording and producing this album was just great fun because it was a different musical direction for each of us from what we’re used to. So we literally just threw everything into a pot and waited for the music to come out with no prior expectation. We kind of had a direction to aim for – something relaxing, chillout, jazz, funky, etc. but we didn’t really stop to consider that for too long, we just dived straight in with recording. It’s the glory of modern day computers that allowed us to work like this. We mixed up the traditional arranging, recording, production, mixing processes all into one by doing everything at the same time (and quite often in the wrong order!). Sometimes just keeping tabs on everything that we were recording or arranging was really challenging, and sometimes the three of us had ideas so quickly we simply couldn’t get them down fast enough.”
Sue McCreeth: “This album with Infinite Sunday, recorded at Gargoyle Studio with Mike Varty as the producer, and Ian Salmon on all instruments except keys (and at times he played the keys too!) is my fourth recording, and the one I am most proud of. A true achievement, in terms of the quality of writing the band have achieved as a team, the depth and clarity of the recording, the way in which Mike Varty has captured my voice across my full range, and not least, the superb musicianship.
“We have been a dedicated team, meeting most months for two days since 2004. The contribution of Sam Collins needs to be acknowledged here. She made Gargoyle Studio the spiritual home of the band and tolerated our giggling, larking about, arguing, being really quite cruel to each other at times, and our general manically focused determination to produce our very best at all times. What emerged within the band, with Sam’s nurturing environment was a turbulent mix of love for each other, which grew over the years, and acute awareness of our combined strengths and often maddening weaknesses.”
Sue McCreeth reveals the inspiration behind the tracks:
Sunday (Just Naturally)
Mike, as the producer, grew in power and influence over the years of this CD. Sunday was the last track written and Mike was really clear that what he was looking for from us as a team was a positive statement about happiness. He was most clear about this, “I don’t want you to say, maybe I’ll be happy, I want you to say, ‘I am happy and this is why’.” A fairly clear brief I think.
Well, there was another song I wrote for my album 500 Miles High The Air Is Blue, and it has a chorus that I am proud of and that I think never got the mileage it deserved. So, being mine I thought it was perfectly ok to ‘nick’ it for this song. That’s where the ‘Just Naturally’ section comes from. I thought about times that I have been happiest – in bed on a Sunday morning, at the beach watching sunshine on the water, with my vocal coach Joy Mammen and feeling the power in my voice – this all came out in the song; ‘Joyful living’ is a key theme, and it is an expression of how elated life can be, and also an expression of the joy which Joy Mammen has brought into my life. Because she has trained this voice and my mind too, as a performer. Without a doubt my work with Joy is the most important thing ever to have happened to me professionally. So all of those key elements came out in Sunday.
Sometimes I would sit in the studio listening to Ian and Mike, and I would be coming up with rough sketches of ideas for lyrics, or chord sequences. Mike and Ian nurtured and encouraged every single idea I had, and within the team, these ideas became songs such as Nut Tree, probably one of the most original tracks on the album. The guitar work on Nut Tree is truly psychedelic, and my lines, ‘Silver Light Shine’ in harmony, hold conversation with this rock guitar. I love this section very much.
Firebaby has a difficult, changing time signature – with some really floaty chords – that is just how it came into my mind. In order to get the vocal down I had to firstly improvise over the chord sequence, to get anchored to it. Mike and Ian liked my improvisation and therefore I never got to develop lyrics and it remained improvised – simply a torrent of nonsensical made-up words in some dream language – when I offered to write lyrics for our stage performance in July this year the band asked if I could instead learn these nonsensical words, because they thought the song was right as it is.
The first and most ‘steady’ track of the album was Nurture. The lyrics for this song were inspired by my work in a primary school, where I had been given care of a class of beautiful and flawed children, with one or two real little charismatic and gifted boys. I was so driven and determined in my teaching, and wanted to give each and every child the chance to shine. I believed they needed a sense of safety and security to reach their own individual and special potential. The, ‘We’ve walked the line, stood in the rain,’ is a throwback to being made to stand outside during a fire check, all in lines, teacher at front, in the rain, no coats on. We would however go back into the warm and shine together as we achieved, as another great team, progress in literacy, numeracy and confidence.
This track is definitely completely autobiographical. Emotional reasoning is a term employed by cognitive behavioural psychologists. ‘Am I perceptive or am I just reading minds here’, shows that I have been able to accept that I may not be perceptive at all, I may be just doing yet another thought error that the psychologists have identified for the good of humankind: that of ‘reading minds’, a closely related thought error being, ‘jumping to conclusions’. I would not have been able to leave this track as it is, so raw, without the feeling of safety that working within a team gives me. I think, ‘well if Ian, Mike and Sam think this song is ok as it is then that is fine, I believe them.’
Throughout the recording process of the album I was seeing the great singing teacher Joy Mammen, teacher to professional vocalists. I would always see her three days to a week before the band got together, and always benefited from the way in which my voice became so strong and agile after a lesson. On this track, this came out in a quite bizarre way – I experimented with a very low pitched vocal line and some vocal delivery that I would call perhaps ‘art house’. It works, so I am told, and it contrasts well with the higher and harmonised hook, ‘I’ll let you go, and breathe in deeper’. The sounds at the beginning and the end of the track are tape recordings of a noisy night time street from Mike Varty’s trip to Thailand.
When I wrote the lyrics to this song I was living with Ian Salmon in a flat in Stratford, East London. He would always be going out to gigs, and I had to let him go and practise my deep breathing to calm me. There were views across roads and railway lines, and I would sit at sunset and watch my face in the window as the reflection became less distinct and the lights of the East End became more vivid with the falling dark. Sometimes it seemed as though Stratford simply did not have any air, and I felt longing. Was it my own? I think it was a longing shared by all of us in that London borough, perhaps for nothing more than more oxygen. The longing stains us.
We all hit a writing block at the same time, during 2006. So Ian worked out this long, meandering chord sequence and we all did what we felt to it. This is how it came out. The name comes from me and Ian seeing seven magpies on the way to the studio. Seven for a secret never to be told – the song has no lyrics, just vocalese, and therefore the secret is still locked into the song.
When I lived in Brighton in 2000 I had a relationship with a very unusual man, who I had known since 1988 when I started my music degree at Sussex University. He was studying philosophy and he knows who he is! The words can be read literally, but actually there is some fantasy in there, and no I cannot tell you which words are which! The chords are the chords I played in my gigs in posh hotels – I really loved these chords. They are influenced by all sorts of soul and easy listening tunes. Me and this man did laze in hazy spaces drinking wine, and he did tell me tales, and his tales did twist finely – he had a very fine mind. He enjoyed dancing, and was very good at it. That is why I see the people moving through all the grooves, and they did curve and cut through silkily and smoothly. I just looked around me at what was going on, and wrote it down. Simple!
The Air Is Blue
This song was written by me way before the Infinite Sunday band (although I do now share writing royalties on this equally with the band). The chords are influenced by Jimi Hendrix. There is one particular chord that Jimi used a lot, and I really loved it. When I wrote The Air is Blue I played guitar more than piano so this song was written on the guitar. The chords are kind of a mixture of Jobim and Hendrix (yes, I know, a bit wild that!). I wrote the words on an aeroplane on the way back from a gig in Turkey, in the back of my cheque book. I looked out of the window, up and down, and the air was equally blue both directions – cool. The vocal was recorded in 1998, with Mike Varty, and it was wheeled out for this new album in 2010. I don’t know why we chose this particular track of mine from the past, but I’m pleased we did. It creates an elegant arc from my first work done at Mike’s studio to this, our cherished band project.
“The coolest sounds for those days that you wish would go on forever..”