Port Erin are a three-piece band from the Bath area of the West Country. The band is comprised of brothers Reuben Myles Tyghe (vocals and guitar) and Jacob Myles Tyghe (bass) with Cerys Brocklehurst (drums). The trio released their new album, Ocean Grey, last month via legendary UK label Burning Shed, label home to pioneers of progressive rock such as King Crimson and Porcupine Tree. They have kindly penned a Track-by-Track guide to their album’s music and lyrics, read it below:
The Fuzz And All That They Feed
Music: Around 60% of Port Erin tracks that make the final cut have their origins in improvised jams. We first started recording improvs, intended as sketches of what would become Ocean Grey, throughout January – March 2015. ‘The Fuzz’s conception happened in one of those sessions. Once the initial idea was re-learnt and locked down we entered demo/structuring world. We played around with various section ideas, often recording different parts at different studios and dropping them into the track to see how they’d work. This particular track took about a year to craft until we had the final demo, it was the first track we demo recorded for the album. J (bassist) wrote various new chord patterns over the groove shuffle, bending the harmonies around the root – most obvious in the very last stanza/chord progression. Pete Judge’s parts (trumpet) were half written by us, half improvised during the recording session. We spliced different takes of trumpet together, taking particular dashes and placing them in the mix. Hearing that come together in the studio was an all-time session highlight for us. It was a real moment hearing Pete’s stunning sounds going down after a week or so in the studio recording the rhythm tracks.
Lyrics: Throughout the writing of Ocean Grey (and a long time before we had the album title) the migrant crisis had been on our minds. Over 10,000 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea alone during the time it took us to write and record the album; it became the strong, reoccurring theme for the album. It’s easy to become immune to the media’s incessant use of graphic images and ‘shock’ headlines, especially when it’s as frequent as it has been. It’s questioning our roles in the Western world and trying to find a place and understanding in the bigger picture.
Chaos In The Streets
Music: Another track that emerged from the January – March 2015 sessions. We knew there was great energy within the main chorus hook but couldn’t find a working verse for some months, possibly a year. We tried out various verse ideas (even live for a while) until we scrapped everything we had. At the last writing session before the final demo recording session we finally hit upon the verse groove – as soon as we wrote it, we knew it was right. If it wasn’t for that night the song would have most likely been scrapped. It was a lot of fun to record, as with all the other tracks drums, bass, guitar went down live. There’s a dense mix at points – a total of 5 (Gibson SG, Gibson Firebird, Fender Strat, Fender Telecaster, Fender Acoustic) guitars are in the chorus’ topped with long-standing collaborator Simon William’s mad, cathartic sax squeals.
Lyrics: I had no melody or lyrics (as the new verse chords had just been written) when we got to the final vocal demo session. As a new technique, we looped the verses on playback through headphones for several hours. It helped me block out any distraction and made me totally zone into the music, entering an almost trance-like state to then start writing the words. The lyrics and melody were written in that one afternoon – once the first few words (I started with the chorus) landed and after many more listens, fine tweaks and word swaps, the whole piece was complete. The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory and possibly the most direct I’ve written. Trying to condense the feelings around the world and UK into one song. These are uncertain times and we’re being ‘lead’ by some very dubious characters indeed.
Just Like TV
Music: The music for ‘Just Like TV’ wrote itself very quickly. Soon after the release of the previous album (Floating Above The City) we knew where we wanted to take the music. We aimed to move away from the industrial, claustrophobic and dense sounds of Floating and open things up with a broader, more cinematic sound – using space, dynamics and different instruments and sounds for the arrangement layers. This track landed, (again in January – March 2015 sessions), pretty much complete – it had all the elements we were looking for. Making a conscious decision to talk about what kind of tracks we wanted to come from the improvised jams definitely helped with the creation of this piece. Improvising with an intention to get something rather than find something was a new way of thinking for us at that point. It really helped to have a loose idea of what it was we going in for before plugging in and going out to lunch. We re-arranged this track within a matter of hours and were playing it live by early 2016. There are very minimal overdubs as we wanted the space to be further exaggerated and pushed to its limits within the context of a ‘pop’ song.
Lyrics: There are few words! A simple reflection on death; bringing it all closer to home. Thinking about loved ones in their final moments – their thoughts, reflections, fears, memories, hopes. Imagine what the final hours must be like. It’s dealing with and accepting death for what it is, with respect and a notion of curiosity and wonder.
Music: We are fans of the irregular time signatures, just like loads of great bands out there. We wanted to do our ‘Money’ (Pink Floyd) and create a song based in 7/8 that still had a danceable quality to it. This is one of two songs on the album where the song was written on the guitar first. Prior to full band evening rehearsals, J and I would often get together in the days to prep for the evening’s work. It was during one of these sessions that we wrote the structure and sections of the song. During the final demo sessions, J and I wrote the main brass arrangements. The call and response within the sax and trumpet in the very last stanza was written with J and I sat at the same piano recording in the midi-bass lines, taking one part each. Simon Williams (sax) and Pete Judge (trumpet) improvised over the drone / atmospheric section, again, different little motifs and hooks were taken from alternative takes, splicing together all the little moments of magic.
Lyrics: In juxtaposition to the album’s running theme there needed to be some lyrical positivity in the record, I was determined to keep things light and happy with this track. It’s a song about dealing with regret, ego, fear, sadness, checking in and being real with yourself, accepting who we are as individuals and being happy with it. The lyrical concept came from seeing my daughter’s face whilst flying on a plane for the first time. It’s putting our ‘microscopic’ lives into perspective. When viewing life from outer space our first world problems become very insignificant.
Music: It was hard to re-create and re-capture the feel from the original improv version of ‘Half-cut Moon’. We had the two main sections that made the chorus’, but again a verse pattern was a lot harder to find. We felt we were ‘spoiling’ the track by attempting to make it work it too much. We left the track for some months before we again trying many different grooves before hitting on the final pattern. The saxophone harmonies in the chorus’ made the track for us. Deep and big sounding, simple progressions that have that weight with Simon’s warm, raspy tone. A want of this sound came from a love of the band (discovered early 2015) Morphine. The space and depth in their music was and is a big inspiration to us and this track captured a little of that. It wasn’t until after the album had been mastered did we realise that ‘Half-cut Moon’s main chorus hook has an uncanny resemblance to an unreleased Morphine jam around John Coltrane‘s ‘Seraphic Light’ called ‘Surrealific Light’ that was discovered on a quest to know every track put out by Morphine. Spooky.
Lyrics: All the lyrics for this song were written after the consumption of alcohol, almost as an experiment, in order to get to the crux of the song’s meaning. I wanted to become the woozy character I was playing in the song. The title and chorus came first and the verses were written around it over several months, typically late at night on trains or buses after shows or recording sessions. It’s looking at the fragility of life, how we chance and dare fate and how we get messed up along the way.
Music: This is the second song of the album that was written in the classic guitar and vocals down first way. It was fun working an arrangement around a song in that traditional format that we used to work with a lot in the early days. Going into Cerys’ drum patterns, adding/taking away subtle beats, honing the section changes, working additional melodies around the vocals etc. The sounds and swaying movement were us trying to bring the album back to the original theme, sonically. The muted trumpet aiding the continuation of underwater sounds, the long drawn out and broken guitar chords emulating the motion of waves, the slackened off snare being like a kind of mummer etc. The original version had an extended 2mins freak-out at the end of the song, lead by a discordant bass riff with crazed trumpet, sax, guitar bubbling all over.. We may release that somewhere on a future album, but it was too off-the-wall for Ocean Grey. So we made an edit giving the album it’s definitive and sudden finish.
Lyrics: These are the final words about the original theme of the migrant crisis. Trying to imagine what it must be like to be forced to gamble your family, children, friends, money, life away to make a journey that has no guarantee of survival, chancing on a wave. Thanks to seeing Anoushka Shankar perform her album Land of Gold I felt okay about using the subject as a basis for the album. She described her last album as ‘an emotional response’ to the crisis. It was something I grappled with as it’s such a vast, complicated and sad situation. Who am I, in my little world happily surviving in the UK, to sing and write about the demise and suffering of others? Though the doubt soon left after seeing Anoushka’s performance and lead me to write the lyrics for this track shortly after.