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February 2021

Hooton Tennis Club: "We wanted to sound more pop"

Hooton Tennis Club band together to explain the ins and outs of ‘Big Box Of Chocolates’.
Published: 2:00 pm, October 24, 2016
Hooton Tennis Club: "We wanted to sound more pop"

Hello Hooton Tennis Club. Who are we speaking to, and what have we interrupted?

Hello Dork. You're speaking to the collected and collated thoughts of Hooton Tennis Club. Written and edited in our Gmail drafts.

That’s a bit strange, lads. What led you to record your second album with Edwyn Collins, and how was it?

When we first started talking about the second album Jeff (Heavenly Recordings) mentioned that he thought Edwyn would be a good fit. Edwyn has released a few albums on Heavenly and he's produced for bands on the label before. His new studio is set upon a hill in a small remote village in Scotland named Helmsdale which has a population of about 200 people. Coincidentally the studio is named after the hill, 'Clashnarrow'. Behind the studio is a Strath that runs for miles and miles into the Highlands. When we had free time from recording, Edwyn's wife Grace would take us out in the car to explore these lands where we saw herds of 300+ deer! Their passion for the place is huge and made us feel very welcome. Also, we were the first band to christen the studio with an album.

Did recording in a fairly remote location have an impact on the overall sound, do you think?

The studio's live room has a huge glass wall (quadruple glazed) looking out over the blue clear waters of the Moray firth. It's really beautiful. It was so lovely to be able to let our minds wander and let our eyes drift over to the view whilst we were recording takes. Maybe if it was cold and grey then we'd have made a different record, who knows? But the weather was perfect, it rained once in three weeks. We were on holiday, we weren't at work. It's amazing what warm weather, breathtaking views and whisky do for morale!

Were there any accidental or spontaneous moments from the studio that ended up making it onto the final record?

We had most of the songs finished before we left for Scotland, but there were quite a few parts that we came up with in the studio. We'd listen back to a take, realise that it was lacking something, and then go and figure out some parts. There were lots of spontaneous moments that Edwyn encouraged us to keep on the record that perhaps if we recorded we'd have thought was us being way too self indulgent! The amount of gear that Edwyn has is unbelievable and he was more than happy for us to go and play about with whatever we wanted: vintage Moogs, Lap steel guitars, the Bum Fuzz Unit pedal from 'A Girl Like You', the Mutron pedal from 'Rip It Up'. Some moments like James' ramble on 'Bad Dream (Breakdown On St Georges Mount)' and the use of an E-bow on a few tracks stayed in because of Edwyn's passion for the takes. He even provided BVs on 'Bad Dream..' and 'O Man, Won't You Melt Me?'. We used his ancient pedal steel guitar and jammed parts out, like the outro to 'Frost Bitten In Fen Ditton'. The harmonised 'ahs' at the end of 'Sit Like Ravi' were his idea, too. There was also a lot of late nights drinking whisky with Mr Richard Flack whilst mixing the tracks where we could try lots of different things out!

Was there anything specific you set out to achieve with this record?

We collectively wanted it to sound more 'pop' and more coherent than our last record. Edwyn's Pop sensibility and mass of vintage/ analog equipment really did lend a lot to this record. He kept things relatively minimal and kept us from leaning towards sounding too sloppy. Other than that, ticking the boxes of a minimum of 10 songs, 35 minutes all together. Oh, and don't just add synths for no reason!

Have you looked to any new influences, compared to your debut?

I guess a lot of straight up no-nonsense Pop, we listened to a LOT of Beatles albums. We also really honed in on Americana Country Rock too; like The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Band, Lee Hazlewood, etc. Our manager lent James the '33 1/3' (series of books that are written about a single album) book 'Big Star - Radio City' which he was reading at the time of recording, so maybe little tricks of how they made that record seeped into ours.

Are there any songs on the release that you’re particularly proud of?

Oh man, all of them. They're like children, there's no favourites (not officially anyway).

Which do you think will go down best on your upcoming tour?

Maybe the faster ones like 'Statue Of The Greatest Woman I Know' and 'Lazers Linda'? We tend to stick mid-tempo, so perhaps injecting some raw energy will be a new thing. They're all going to go down really well because we are 'going Pro'. When you're labelled as a sloppy 'slacker' band it is too easy to not try too hard and keep things loose and lazy. So we're putting in the effort this time! We're actually practicing our instruments individually, we've bought good equipment, we're turning up on time, pedals and amps will be ready and set, drums will be tuned, throats will be warmed, we're going to make the best possible use of soundcheck, we're going to have change ready for the merch table, we're going to eat fruit and veg, we are going pro. We're coming to get you, Coldplay!

What’s the best thing about being in Hooton Tennis Club right now?

It's a great time to be in Hooton Tennis Club. It's coming up to the really exciting part. We've made another album with another music legend at his beautiful abode in Scotland and on top of that we all still love each other and are excited to tour this winter. There's also the small things like chocolate milk on tour, hunting for wifi codes in venues and the promise of a shower room that really do it for us!

Taken from the October issue of Dork, out now - order your copy here. Hooton Tennis Club’s album ‘Big Box of Chocolates’ is out now.

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