Memory is weird. When I think about our song ‘Animal’ the first thing that comes to mind is sitting on a broken grey settee in our writing room in London with James and Andy standing next to me, our knees almost touching. We all had guitars in our hands and were playing the verse riff of the song. Round and round and round. Andy was gritting his teeth. James had his hair over his face (as he often does) and was rocking around doll-like. It just felt fun to play. The best riffs feel fun to play.
When Tarek was recording the drums for the demo we talked about wanting the song to start with a memorable fill. Every time we play Rectifier live there’s at least one person in the crowd air drumming the first fill of the song. It’s funny to see. Before we’d even written one note of the new album me and TJ had spoken many times about what we wanted to try achieve but also what kind of musical details we wanted to include. More big weird fills was right up there for both of us. I love Tarek’s bombastic drum style.
After the drums were done I sat outside on the floor of our balcony with a guitar trying to work out a chord progression for something else. When I stepped back inside Tarek had basically freestyled the melodies and lyrics off the top of his head. It was pretty raw but a lot of the ideas stayed and made it onto the final recording.
We’d also spoken about wanting to incorporate more harmonies and gang vocals this record. It’s something we’d been doing live for a while anyway, but had never really captured on record. As a band we love the Beach Boys for their songwriting but also their vocal harmonies. Dirty Projectors as-well. And the Four Freshman! There’s so many greats that inspire. I love singing without words too. Chet Baker would often sing trumpet solos. Now I’m not saying we even get close to any of the bands or musicians, but the spirit of what they do is something that we think about when arranging backing vocals. For me music is at its purest when the singing feels honest and lucid.
The final memory of Animal that jumps out is when Tarek sent me the first mix after we’d been to a residential studio and re-recorded everything properly. It sounded so raw and exciting, beyond my expectations even. I had my headphones on and was jumping around my parents house in bliss. Its the best mix Tarek has ever done and felt like the perfect introduction to A Better Life.