Sunday, 7 September 2008

A blog on things flat.

Good evening, this is Mike from Flatlands writing the first entry in what we hope to be a regularly updated blog. Accessible to all members of the band, we will endeavor to write at least something every few days, and store photos, news and general musings on the band here.

I thought I'd write a little bit of a history of the band as a first entry, but where the hell to start? (I will not think aloud a la 'Sex and The City' but do allow me the luxury of tangents, as I'm great at them).

2005 and before.

It all started in roughly January 2005 when we decided to come together as a four-piece after Fred (drums), Adam (guitar) and me (vocals) ended our previous band Throne. We'd been together with that band around three years with bassist Marc Thomas who has since been in several bands, most notably The Legacy. Throne evolved from essentially a stoner rock band (our previous guitarist Ed was a Sabbath and Satriani fan and it showed in the music) we put out an awful CD on our own and sold loads to mates, but we really got going properly when Adam joined. Ed was not into the heavier sound we had started to explore and Adam stepped in just as his previous band Atropine were ending.
We gigged loads with Throne (mark II as we refer to it) and we recorded what we still consider to be a great CD at Birdsong Studios in 2004. It featured the songs Cash In The Attic, Whores Of Babyliss and Shovelling Hot Ham Into A Gaping Gob, recorded by Steve Bird (who recorded Napalm Death's From Enslavement To Obliteration, big thing for me at the time) we packaged it up in a DVD case (years ahead we were, years ahead) and sold quite a lot of those, if anyone wants to hear these songs, then let us know, we have no copies left but we can wang you a CD-R if you like, along with maybe the unmastered tracks we did at the time, as far as I know we recorded Landspeed Recorder and another, I'm sure one of the other members will fill in this blank for me.
Anyway, after a tour with the very new Castor Troy, Marc decided he was leaving for a break from music and to go to college etc, and Fred went to live in Spain for a short time before he came back and we almost instantly formed Flatlands.

We did actually try out one other drummer and another guitarist before we had Fred back, Sam who went on to be in the Sheffield death metal band Bring Out Your Dead and Mark who up until recently was in the excellent post-rock band Hopewood, but the practice didn't really gel as far as me and Adam were concerned, so we were pretty pleased when Fred moved back to the country.

Our bassist Si we actually asked to play with us after Throne split up, and he proved himself to be a great addition instantly, previously a vocalist with Sheffield stoner rock band Excelsum Superbum, I always wanted to explore second vocals in a band and we started right away with the early Flatlands stuff like "Captain Birdseye's Iceberg Incident" from the "Come For The Boredom" CDR, we have since developed his vocals to almost be as common as mine in songs and we're actually slowly getting Gareth (guitar) to join in too, some of the new songs have three sets of vocals working together, which I think makes us a pretty unique band.

Back to the history side of things, we rushed our first gig for sure, we'd hardly written a set when we played our first gig at Corporation, Sheffield on the big stage, first on I think, we played to a pretty empty room and had only decided that morning we were to be named Flatlands (previous and terrible moniker The Failure Archive ditched pretty sharpish). We decided to practice and write alot more before the next gig, which turned out to be one of the best first gigs we could have hoped for, in Spalding, small-town Lincolnshire, we played with Sunshine Republic, Mfkzt and a local band doing some noise stuff and it felt great to be back on stage.

I'm realising I've started an gargantuan task right now, but it will be bloody thorough I reckon, I'm not going to cover every gig, that would be silly, but heres what happened next-

We played a good few gigs and started to become more at ease with writing and performing again and one of the gigs of note around this time is the 3 Stages Of Pain album launch gig, which was free and incredibly loud, most notable for the venue running out of beer (only in Sheffield!).

After that we decided to record the first few songs that we had written and release it ourselves, what actually happened, is that we recorded for an entire weekend at the ever-wonderfully weird Steve Hawkins' house in Lincoln, a man so fruity he rivals Starburst. We've known Steve around six years now I'd guess and he is the most bizzare sound guy you will ever meet frankly, a blur of motion, insanely thorough sound checks and scary anecdotes, he runs the Bivouac venue in Lincoln at the scary locals pub The Duke Of Wellington (where me and Marc Thomas ran gigs for around 3 years until the scene died on its arse there). He has been a true friend of the band and we feel bad that we don't see him as much any more.

The songs we recorded at that fateful weekend full of Dr Who, pasties and kebabs were-

Captain Birdseye's Iceberg Incident
The Humber Bridge Is A Big White Elephant
Scunthorpe Shirt Potato
The Bikes Were Locked Together And So Were They

The first three made up the now-legendary (in very small circles) 'Come For The Boredom... Stay For The Monotony' CDR which we either gave away in great volumes or sold for a quid. We also had shirts printed with that legend on the back, people have been known to be bought up in public about these shirts, but not to any Cradle Of Filth-esque standards a la the 'Jesus is a (rud word)' craze that Kerrang! went bezerk over.

The final song listed here actually appeared on a split 12" record we released three ways with Kunal Nandi of Superfi Records and the amazingly drunk Sunshine Republic, we had 330 copies pressed and we sold our last copy a few years ago, as far as I know SR still have most of theirs, and Kunal has traded most of his, so even though you cannot get it from us, it is out there somewhere. It came on a lovely grey slab of vinyl with a brief single sheet of paper and a printed acetate see-thru, very DIY, very basic and it still sounds good to these ears.

Shortly after that came our first tour with Red Stars Parade and Naked Shit. This was ten of the best days we have ever done, it was so much fun and we still relive the anecdotes now, we played in a tiny basement in Lancaster, a weird nigthclub in Harrogate at the last minute, an empty nightclub that looked like an Alton Towers ride and the best gig of the tour, an absinthe-fueled debacle in Edinburgh.


For the early part of 2006 we managed to squeeze in quite a few dates, gigs that spring to mind here are the drunken and insanely fun gig in Boston with old friends Among The Missing, whiskey, heckling and the most fun set we've ever played in Lincolnshire I think, to the gig where we met the excellent Death Of Her Money, who remain one of our best friends as a band, and who we subsequently toured with in June of that year, the use of the word "tour" however is a loose term for what was a week of drinking and playing to next to nobody, feeling more like a weird holiday (we took my brother, my mate Mark and my flatmate too) it was a weird one for me personally. The excellent Art Of Burning Water joined us for most of these dates too, jaw-droppingly good every time and still amazing now.

Post tour we self-recorded our first signed release for Sound Devastation Records, who very kindly put out a CD version of 'Vermuyden', a collection of the following songs, and the debut of our guitarist Gareth, who we'd recently aquired and toured with. The recording process happened at a bungalow opposite the massive ASDA in North Hykham, Lincoln and it was ridiculously warm for the whole two weekends (I think) we recorded for. Endless trips across the road for ice creams and drinks and reading and re-reading copies of Rock Sound. The result is the following release-

1. Later Dawn
2. Prehistoric Animal Brigade
3. Sundown Park
4. This Song Is A Film
5. Slow Down For The Aslackby Bends
6. Up The Wooden Hill To Bedfordshire

We released this and it has done us the most good from all of the releases, we again produced shirts to go with the release, a choice of brown or green shirt with a solitary tree and the now official Flatlands 'two-line' logo, and had the Sound Devastation logo on the back, these are now sold out as well, but we should have new shirts soon for the release of the new album 'Black Sluice'.

Following the release of 'Vermuyden' we played a ridiculous amount of gigs all over the place, including the fantastic tour we did with the now defunct Narwhal where we played literally the whole span of the UK, taking in Scotland, Wales and the south, gigs were a mixed bag but a legendary night in Glasgow, a very ill couple of gigs in Newport and Nottingham for me were strange but great.


This year flew by in a haze of writing and gigs throughout the year, most notably our stint in Scotland with the Czech Republic's Thema Eleven and the first time we met the wonderful, but now sadly split Archives in Dundee, a fantastic bunch of chaps.
We also did what was perhaps our biggest gig to date, a massive launch for our good friends The Mirimar Disaster's first album and we played about halfway up the bill to hundreds of people at Corporation, a long shot from the first gig for sure. We have always been good friends with this band and to see them doing so well now is amazing, we even attempted a short tour with them in July and even though the gigs were mainly awful from an audience (or lack of) perspective, it was still great to spend some time out of venues with the chaps.

From October of 2007 we took a break from gigs that was only broken in February 2008 and in this time we perfected what we had and wrote the remaining tracks for our first proper album 'Black Sluice', it was great to have a break from gigs to be honest and we all felt the benefit, it can feel like a slog at times but then when you come back, its almost like you've never been away.

January of this year saw us holed up in a freezing studio in Nottingham with the excellent Boulty and Phil of Stuck On A Name Recordings, where we recorded the full-length in three long, hard weekends. Endless computer games, more reading of Rock Sound (see a theme here?) and cups of tea were the order of the day.

This was then mastered for months and we have subsequently had it mastered by non other than Nick Zampielo of New Alliance East who we picked from a long list as he produced what we see as one of the albums that has influenced us in sound and scope from the start, which is 'Christmas' by Old Man Gloom.

The album is awaiting manufacture and should be with us in January as far as we know, we apprieciate it has taken a long time to surface, but we think this is the best representation of what we do live that has been recorded and we plan to play many shows in support of it in 2009, the album is as follows-

1. The Humber
2. Recent Renovations At The White Hart
3. The Unbearable Lightness of Spalding
4. All's Well That Hemswell
5. Man At Tan Vats
6. Claxby Pluckacre
7. This County Will Destroy Us
8. Things To Do In Dunham When You're Dead
9. 1, Mill Lane
10. The Wash

March saw us tour extensively with our old mates Montana where we again took in the length and breadth of England and Scotland and had a fantastic time, one of reflection but a great tour nontheless, some epic journeys too, we took along long time mate of the band Mark Finnie, who is also a gypsy.

2008 has been a year of waiting so far for us, not only the album, which we accept as time=quality, but for shows as well, our hopes of visiting Ireland in October have been dashed but we will endeavour to get over there next year, as well as Europe if I make headway on planning.

2009 should hold alot for us, the album coming out means we are getting out on the road even more, seeing new places and hopefully getting more exposure as a band, so come and see us, have a chat, we don't bite, much.

All in all we've had four years so far of complaining, drinking cups of tea, drinking vast volumes of scrumpy and beer and we've seen more service stations than is healthy for men our age, in fact, we have a favourite, but thats for another post...

A bientot then, the next blog post here should be from Si if he wants to write one, take it away big man...

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