Short story:

This is my first single as a solo artist. It covers a subject that is not only common, but more so since the covid pandemic. About the terror of trying to sleep with so many negative thoughts plaguing us as we do so.

Long story:

"I Can’t sleep” is my first single as a solo artist. Well, quite possibly my first single ever. For the longest time now I’ve considered Con Victed to be my first single, but in terms of how the music industry works it just about counts as an EP track. So in terms of being released by itself, having a music video and just the damn work I’m putting in to it to make the release as successful as I can, this is the first.

“I Can’t Sleep" started after I finished University. I had just moved back to Essex and living in a house I rented and shared. When I have free rein of a house I will visit every room several times in the night just to wander. I find I write my best lyrics while walking around. I got into a habit of walking to and around Asda a lot during University just to get some lyric ideas. But with someone else in the house I prefer to stay in my room where its peaceful. This can become less of a habit and more of a hibernation if I don’t have any reason to leave. Spending days at a time in pyjamas without seeing people and just sitting there smoking, playing card games and recording. It’s static, it’s safe, but it can be very unhealthy.

It was during one of these sessions of solitude that I started toying with ideas for “I Can’t Sleep”. I was in the midst of a Björk obsession and devouring what I could find of her catalogue. One song in particular of hers called “Cocoon” was extremely powerful for me. Reading about how she recorded the song with Thomas Knack and the methods they had used to record such a naked and revealing song just hit me enough to think “I could totally do that”. As it turns out I couldn’t, but I have managed a soft parody of it.

After leaving Turtle Circles I was hell-bent on moving away from the sound we had developed. Becoming disillusioned with performing punk music and wanting to start playing songs that I enjoyed listening to - Songs that people don’t openly admit to liking. 9 out of 10 times if your friend gives you control of the playlist on a road trip you're going to hear “This Charming Man” over “Reel around the Fountain”. I want to be that 1 out of 10.

With “Cocoon” in mind I found a soft drum loop and spent the next 6-7 hours recording different synth ideas. I think I came up with maybe two that I liked, one of which being the lead line to “I Can’t Sleep”. Whenever I come up with something that I like with synths I always make another 3 or so tracks to accompany it, so I can get a bearing on where I think the song will go and roughly structure it for 16 bars. In this particular case it was the bass synth and the guitar part.

The song stayed in this state for a good 4 or 5 months. it was only really thanks to Covid that I even had any focus again to start getting songs together to release. I did have to buy a lot of new equipment to start recording again since a lot of my stuff was (and still is at time of writing) locked away in storage. But once I was set up again I came back to the recording of “I Can’t Sleep”, that I had completely forgot about. I set about making the song longer and begun with every intention of staying on a four bar loop. I was listening to a lot of Synthwave and Dream Pop, which focuses more on an atmosphere and effects rather than over complicating structures and progressions. This has always been closer to my goals than being technically proficient. Bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre and Linea Aspera can create as many feelings in me with 4 chords repeated for 4 minutes as Rush could with the whole of “2112”.

The guitar line strongly influenced the vocal melody, which I liked as a contrast to how Kurt Cobain would write his melody before the solos. I had also recently read an article on how Damon Alburn would adlib his lyrics during the recording of Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach album. I usually prefer to use stock lyrics I’ve written on my walks to write my songs, so this seemed like a good exercise. After a couple hours of trying I had a faint sketch with the main part being the line “I Can’t sleep”.

One thing I love doing with songs I like, is reading about how and why the artist wrote the song (hence I’m writing this in the first place). I like finding out how the meaning differs from what I imagined the song to be about. I think that both the artist and the listeners interpretation is equally valid. After all its art, It's not meant to be tangible. My interpretation of the song is that it’s about how hard it is to sleep at night. I, like many other people, struggle to fall asleep due to negative feelings and memories plaguing me each night. To the point I have to occupy my head with videos and books, until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.

Birds tweeting in the morning has become my cue to know when I will fall asleep. I kind of hate them every time because they are a constant reminder of how out of sync my cycle is. But without them my body may not have a pavlovian trigger to know when enough is enough. This is the significance behind the field recording of birds mixed in behind the track at the end. The rain that plays throughout (it’s very low, but it’s there constantly) helps add to the mood that the track wants to convey. The birds are the peaceful respite at the end. Besides that last one. The last one is just really irritating. I fucking hate birds.

For final words on the track, here is a quote that has summed up my feelings on sleep:

"I detest sleep. I've got better things to do. Besides, I find it frightening - to awaken and be unsure of everything you remember about life not being just part of a dream. Waking means I've slept, and sleep dissolves what certainty I have left." Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Jhonen Vasquez 1995

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