Happy People song by song 5: Even then we’re scared

After writing the behemoth Seven Bells Redeemed I joked that I needed to write a riff 25 for every album.

Turns out that wasn’t a joke after all.

Even Then We’re Scared is the voice of the people who wanted the safety an security of the authoritarian government that our protagonist is trying to escape. In the verses they are explaining why they needed big brother to look after them:

The barcodes and scans
The database is safety
And it watches over us
If you’ve nothing to hide
Then why should you be worried?
There’s a price to be free

But in the choruses their true, frightened little selves can’t help but tell the truth:

Even when we go to bed
And hide under our blankets
Safe and warm in arms of sleep
Even then we’re scared

Composition and recording

Here’s the demo:

All right, it has some twisty rhythms in it, but this song was one of the most organically composed on the album. The music was pretty much one sitting – somewhere I have an acoustic sketch of it with me humming the melody but getting the music pretty much spot on.

Recording it was interesting. I think of these kind of rhythms as additive – I count the smallest sensible unit, in this case the semi-quavers (sixteenth to any weirdos/Americans listening). it therefore seemed sensible to record to a click track of these, and not bother working out all the time signatures. What became apparent when we were recording the vocals however was that Dan and Jordan were counting the riff completely differently, to the point where we didn’t agree where the downbeats were. Which was weird. Jordan had suggested changing one of the verse vocal lines slightly and we spent what seemed like hours trying to get an alternative right, which was totally scuppered by the fact that we were hearing the rhythm wrong.

In the end I took an executive decision and we stuck with the verse as originally written, but the rhythms did throw us for a time.

We got there in the end, thanks in large part to Michael’s one take drum part. yes that’s right, Michael played the most difficult piece on the album in one take. I still can’t get over that.

Here are Jordan’s notes:

  • Love the riff! Almost Tool – esque.
  • Somehow the flow of the second verse (vocals) is ever so slightly more fluid than the first one (It’s probably a question of number of syllables, haven’t investigated closely yet). Lovely interlude after the second chorus with a nice modulation.
  • It seems to me that the transition between the verse and the chorus is a bit abrupt. Is there a way to make it more flowing? maybe a short transitional part?

As you can hear, for this song I pretty much ignored all his advice.

Serendipity and other people

There is whistling in the song. It was not planned.

I was just whistling along in the studio, as I tend to do, and Dan decided we should record it. I thought this was a barmy idea, but in creative things you don’t say no (at least not until you’ve heard the idea). He was right. I really like the middle section to this song, with the backing vocals courtesy of Dan and Suzette and the guitar counter melody.

Another thing I said yes to was trying a load of vocal ad libs. They did not make it through to the album. I’m not much of a vocal improviser anyway, I much prefer having a written part and really dislike gospel-style adlibs, but the verses of this song are a bit choral in nature. After several attempts though, that was an idea we sensibly ditched.

What is left is one of the rockier tracks on the album. The lyrics were written back in 2014/15 well before the current political climate had developed and I had no intention of writing something allegorical. Any similarity between the people in this song and the sort of scared people currently voting for authoritarian politicians in various places around the world is entirely coincidental.

Happy People Song by Song:

Part 1: Happy People
Part 2: Name in a File
Part 3: Satellites
Part 4: Flow my tears, the policeman said
Part 5: Even then we’re Scared
Part 6: Fire Flower Heart
Part 7: Tracking Signals
Part 8: Set Light To The Sky
Part 9: All Of The Dark