Singled Out: Wild Beasts
I've long had a fascination with rivers in songs. I think it comes from my love of Bruce Springsteen's "The River", or maybe "Suzanne's place by the river" in Leonard Cohen's beautiful old standard. The mystic "Pyramid Song" by Radiohead may have also played a part. Nearly everyone grows up with a river near by, so I guess its easy to visualize a scene when a song is set there. In songs, "the river" seems to hold this mythical status, as if it were a place of baptism and cleansing, where someone comes of age. It holds a ceremonial quality if you will.
The idea of the mythical river acted as the lynch pin to Hooting and Howling. I had the opening verse… "Carry me hooting and howling to the river to wash off my hands of the hot blood the sweat and the sand. Any rival who goes for our girls will be left thumb sucking in terror and bereft of all coffin bearers"… The river here is in a sense, holy water, purifying you of all the bad you have done. I was however, struggling to get any further than this.
I have at home, a very messy, but quite fascinating demo of the first time we started to play the song together last summer. As we played, amongst the rubble of ideas and potential parts, this twinkling glass-like riff started to develop, first through Tom on the keyboard, then through Benny on guitar. It was a sort of eureka moment, something to cling to. Not that we knew it at the time, our booked rehearsal slot quickly ran out and we had to pack up and leave. We wouldn't return to the song for six months.
It was now December, a week before Christmas day I seem to remember. We had a studio in place, ready and waiting for the New Year and the recording of Two Dancers. We were in a state of controlled panic, knowing there were a few pieces missing in the album but having little time to fill them. Laurence Bell, the head of Domino Records came up to see how we were getting on, perhaps checking we weren't about to piss his investment away. Amongst a few other ideas he heard, we played him this really rough demo of the then untitled Hooting and Howling. Immediately a light bulb went off above his head. Even though it was basically a riff with me screaming over the top, he nodded his head and said assertively "Keep going with this one." We left for the pub, festive drinks were in order.
That afternoon, though slightly wobbly legged, we started to play the idea again. Very quickly the whole thing crystallized. The title, the arrangement, the structure, the chorus, the intro and the outro all came together as if they had always been there, like fossils that we were simply uncovering. I realized I didn't need any more words or parts, this is pop man! The refrain does all the work for you.
When it came to recording Hooting and Howling we mustn't have actually played the song through together any more than five times, it didn't matter. We wanted to capture the urgency that we felt, as if trying to draw a picture from memory before it begins to fade. The only part we were unsure of was the middle eight, it just wasn't functioning as it should. We dug deep and went full circle, creating a sort of underwater sound-scape using bowed guitars and squelchy synths. So in the end the song, much like the river, returned to its source.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album - right here!
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