Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve were drawn together by Glasgow's labyrinthine music scene, two talents from quite different backgrounds bonding over shared influences.
Deciding to head into the studio, the two found that they were musically compatible - in fact, the songs simply poured forth.
BDY_PRTS is the result. Curious electro pop reminiscent of Kate Bush' imperial phase or even Noughties acts such as Ladytron, there's nonetheless a raw, punk edge to these recordings.
Debut album 'Fly Invisible Hero' was constructed in many different places, with the band gathering these recordings into one document.
Out now, the record will be followed by a full tour, with BDY_PRTS unpacking their ideas onstage each and every night.
Here, the duo walk Clash through their debut album in this track by track guide.
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The version on the album was produced by Miaoux Miaoux out at Chem19 in Hamilton, near Glasgow. I have a soft spot for this song because it’s the oldest from ‘Fly Invisible Hero’, even one of the first songs we wrote together. The incessant pulsing heartbeat that runs through the track was mimicking a loop sound Jenny used to make on stage when we were more stripped back and wanted a drum beat to underpin the song.
As fans of both PJ Harvey and En Vogue, that loop sort of captured our personalities, naturally worming its way into the song and marking the beginning of us playing around with poppy, R&B sounds that juxtaposed playfully with our rockier guitar roots.
This track could have also maybe been called ‘The Clapping Song’. When we first wrote it we sang it a'cappella while clapping. The whole song. As it evolved and changed we added more instruments and sounds but I think the initial inspiration for the song was maybe a subconscious attempt to capture that feeling you have when you first fall in love. Hence “the spark when you light the match, the friction and the flame.”
Clapping is such an immediate way for people to connect, often when you sing in groups everyone starts clapping. It makes sense then that a song about being in love would feature lots of clapping.
'Take It To The Top'
Like most of our songs, this started life as an acoustic iPhone demo. We recorded the vocals and rough guitars in our home studio then spent a good few weeks playing with different feels and peeling back layers. It went through a 90’s slow jam phase at one point and finally to the 'big beat' vibe it has now, we really wanted the focus to be on percussion and vocals. The drums were recorded to tape at double speed then slowed back down to fatten them up and there are about 20 layers of vocals on the harmony track. Never too much as Mr Vandross would say.
Sometimes when Jill and I write, a song will be birthed from another which sort of sacrifices itself for the newer idea. Rooftops was a bit like that - we were working around a totally different idea and chord structure and it was frustratingly just out of reach, that “thing” we were searching for that would make the whole song snap together.
Everything we wrote seemed to sound like Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel so we took a break. I went through to the kitchen to put the kettle on and then the chorus just arrived of its own accord. I started singing the first part, Jill picked it up and then the rest followed between us like that. Lyrics too. This is quite typical of how we write I guess!
‘Cold Shoulder’ was written the same weekend as ‘Warrior’, on Cumbrae, on a sunny weekend in summer a few years ago. I have such happy memories of that time, the weather was glorious and we were staying in this static caravan over-looking the ocean to Arran. We started knocking the initial idea for ‘Cold Shoulder’ around after a few large wines. Jill was playing around the chords and I started playing the basic chorus melody on the violin-just playing it tucked under one arm like a guitar.
Sometimes we like to try melody on different instruments, besides I don’t think we were really expecting to write Cold Shoulder because we’d been writing what became Warrior and felt we’d worked hard enough! So we were just relaxing really, a bit drunk and the song was born from that. It was another 10-minute brain-meld between myself and Jill that really didn't take much effort. We recorded it on our phones and just put the telly on.
This was originally done as an intro to breathe for our live set. It was basically me messing around with the vocal samples from Breathe on Maschine and mixing them with some tuned kicks. We had our live guitarist Paul Mellon put down some stuttery delayed guitars and then I played with some odd vocal delays. A bit of nerdy gear fun really...
This mostly came together really quickly with all of us in our home studio. The idea is that the verses should feel like breathing in and the chorus feel like the release of breathing out. We used lots of breath samples from the guide vocals and tried to make the synths sound like they were inhaling. Jenny and Jill played the string parts live in Chem 19 studios, then we resampled them through a Buchla modular synth to mess them up a bit.
OK, so this time we're heading to Elie, in the East Neuk of Fife and to another caravan on the beach. By this point, I think we felt that we'd written the pop tunes out of our system and wanted to get back to the darker heart of the album, or the more contemplative one. While Jill and me were there, we visited St. Andrew's Castle which has a tunnel that goes right underneath the outer wall.
I was also having some sort of personal drama, I can't recall what now but our mood wasn't its usual self. I think the combination of our collective mood, the castle and our wish to express a different side of the album influenced ‘Ghost’. We'd already written the chorus for it as part of another tune called ‘Two Coin’ which never made it to demo stage, so we wrote the verses to add weight and atmosphere to the heavier chorus.
We wrote ‘Warrior’ on the Isle of Cumbrae. We’d taken our guitars on a ferry over to a caravan on the side of the island which overlooked the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran. Stretched out before us was a beautiful and somewhat regal sight; a mountain range shaped like a resting man, or the ‘Sleeping Warrior’ as it’s known to natives.
We wanted to know more about this man, who was he? Did he have any sisters or brothers? Why was he sleeping and did he give up some kind of fight? Break a promise? Could he be roused from his slumber to raise a white flag or perhaps a sword? All these questions formed the basis of this song.
This is the last song we wrote for the album. We were still writing it when we recorded, in fact because we’d got as far as the melodies but the words hadn’t quite happened yet and it was time to start tracking. Jonny had bought this amazing microphone made by Apogee back off tour which just plugs into a laptop via USB, working instantly with GarageBand. I actually can’t remember how the verses happened other than that the choruses were the first part to come together-that part we wrote in about five minutes I think.
I remember because I was sat in a kid’s chair, at a kid’s table with the laptop and this mic trying to awkwardly record Jill’s guitar parts with my knees up around my ears-it was complicated. The rhythms etc. we recorded initially by stamping on a piece of laminated wood and clapping. Come to think of it, that’s what informed the structure of the verses because we hooked vocal loops onto the stamps and claps then put the main lead-lines over the top.
It’s no mistake that the end melody references ‘I.D.L.U’ either. We initially thought that Shame would end the album and wanted to book-end it with a melodic theme, but ‘45’ ended up taking that spot.
We went on another weekend of writing, this time to Loch Tay in the middle of winter. It was snowing and beautiful but completely Baltic. We set up studio in a little log cabin and it must’ve been near Christmas because there was this ugly fibre-optic Christmas tree in the front room. We were working on ‘Take It To The Top’ at the same time, so that and '45' have probably got some degree of commonality for that reason.
We wrote the layers of vocals which underpin the track before the top-lines happened and actually, the verse melody from ‘45’ came from an idea we’d recorded on Cumbrae but not used. Lyrically, this is probably our most “obvious” song on the album because it’s about mainstream media controlling the minds of everyday people and in turn how the media is being controlled by a powerful elite. We wanted it to play-out, like have a fade out so it’s longer than some of the other songs on the record for that reason.
Towards the end, it branches off into different melodic lines and although we ended up not fading it out, it still has that feel to it, as though we’re playing at the high school prom of some teen movie as the credits role. At least, in my head it’s like that-my shoulder pads are enormous and I have cute bangs.
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Catch BDY_PRTS at the following shows:
28 Inverness Madhatters
29 Dundee Beat Generator
1 Glasgow Stereo
2 Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's
5 London Servant Jazz Quarters
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