Behind The Lines
Premise: Love, separation, war and death
Recording Process: This was very nearly not a song at all, and very much an experiment in writing about something - war - that I know nothing about. Usually I have a fairly settled idea about a song pretty quickly but my uncertainty over Behind The Lines meant it was hard to pin down - I’ve never had so many combinations of possible lyrics and parts of verses for a song before or since! It reminded me of writing poetry in school almost. In the end I related it back to something I do know something about: writing .The central idea of giving someone a book where you’ve written down all the things you’ve felt about them, for them to read and draw strength from when you’re far away – well that’s just the sort of thing I would do.
Musically, I knew I wanted to do something unaccompanied or at least with no guitar, something that would foreground the vocal (don’t get me wrong, I love to play, but singing is the bit I live for) that could maybe be the album opener. I had unfinished fragments of Behind The Lines floating about quite late into the Beacon process – there’s no Half-Light version because it didn’t exist as a song at that point, and anyway it would have been just the vocal… might work, might not. On the day we went in to record Vicky’s bodhrán session she kindly played the rhythm along to a quickly cobbled-together guide track of mis-ordered lyrics and humming – almost as an experiment, but it was enough to give me hope that the song might eventually come together. We kept discussing it during the sessions that followed and Gareth talked about asking Russ to come in and drum, which he did, bringing an authentic WWII-era snare with him. I really feel like I owe Gareth a lot for getting taken up with this song and encouraging me to keep trying ideas lyrically and on the production – not sure I would have persevered with it on my own. I think the vocals went down next, and then we put the viola drones in, recording all the notes of the scale and bringing them in and out on the faders to make chords, until it ended up being the perfect atmospheric start to the album.
And summoned he no angels there
In the dark, laid his wounds to shadows bare
Listen out for:
The augmented 4th in the drone at 3:13
Forever-reverb on the last note of the vocal at 3:47 onwards.
Live: works well with just the bodhrán and harmonies, and Vicky’s been known to throw in the harmonies as well. At the launch night we had Maggie Smith put the drone in on her shruti box – it was the first song of the show and a brilliant feature to kick off with.
There’s now a video of the hand-written lyrics here.