ST5 – The Cover Song

For this week’s task we had to research and decide on a cover that we would record in groups of 3 or more.

As a group we chose to cover King Harvests’s song ‘Dancing in the moonlight’ in the style of Ben Howard. The reason we chose this particular style is it’s quite opposite to the original which is very groovy and quite upbeat. The Toploader cover of ‘Dancing in the moonlight’ has been seen as an annoying throwaway pop song primarily and so we wanted to infuse it with a bit of Ben Howard-esque guitar’s, gloom and character.

We worked out that Guy & Dylan would be playing the guitar parts for the cover. Guy would be playing electric, hammering striking harmonics and embracing the effects of delay and reverb. And I suggested to Dylan that he could tune his guitar into the open tuning that Howard uses in a lot of his songs, so the sound of our cover would be quite similar.

We decided that Sarah would sing the vocals as she has quite a distinct breathy, smooth voice which we thought would suit the Ben Howard style. Ross would play bass & I would play keys.

We started by just playing through the song naturally how we would as a band. Going through the verses etc as normal. After we had done that, we wanted to start making it very distinctively different to the original and as much like Ben Howard as possible. We did this by emphasising the ‘Ben Howard features’ in the song for example, if Guy was hammering the electric a bit creating some harmonics, I would try to echo them a bit on the keys throughout the song as this is one of Ben Howard’s frequent elements to his music. We also wanted to really focus on the minor at the beginning which we did by Sarah changing the melody of the lyrics a bit – rather than following the original melody at the beginning which goes naturally into the G major note, she sang lower which emphasised the Am more creating this gloomy, more monotone sound.

We listened to some of Ben Howard’s song’s whilst creating this cover and we noticed how his verses differ from his choruses. There’s sometimes a bit more of a staccato feel to his choruses with the way the guitar is played or with a new drum rhythm or the introduction of drums for the first time in the song. We tried to incorporate this into our chorus by Matt  adding more fills into his drum rhythm and playing the snare and ride cymbal rather than the gentler closed high hat and ride that he was playing in the verse. Sarah’s vocal also sat in the groove the drums were creating rather than forcing the speed herself which made the vocals sound more Ben Howard-esque.

If we were to go back and change something, I would probably say we could really focus on the use of guitar’s more: by ramping up the reverb and swells on the electric and maybe having the bass a bit quieter as Ben Howard, although plays with a band, is primarily a solo singer/songwriter guitarist. In some of Ben Howard’s song’s also, the chorus is often quiet or has more space than the verses like in the first chorus of ‘I Forget Where We Were’. We could have gone the opposite way and created more of an atmospheric chorus leaving lots of space for just the vocals and guitar.

Vocals: Sarah Walker, Keys: Ophelia Neville, Bass: Ross Teal, Acoustic: Dylan Evans, Electric: Guy Dawes, Drums: Matt Yapp

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