[Make Mine Music]
It’s a brilliant concept – in 12 hours, Wellington band The Undercuts will write and record a song in an hour on the hour every hour. And an audience gets to watch.
As someone who loves music, and reading about the nuts and bolts of the artist’s process, this was a unique opportunity to watch a song take shape.
I am basically illiterate when it comes to music, but watching the band (comprising Ben Kelly on keyboard, Ingrid Saker on guitar, Peter Scriven on bass, Pippa Drakeford-Croad on vocals and Zoe Joblin on drums) work through a song was fascinating. The added bonus of the time limit added a nice layer of tension to watching the musicians build lyrics and figure out melodies.
Taking placing in the intimate confines of the TST Studio, the set up resembles a living room that has been cleared for band practice. A few chairs and plenty of cushions spread about in a rough semi-circle.
At the start of each session, MC Liam Kelly lays out the format of the show and invites the audience to join the musos in working out a subject for a song, lyrics and a tone.
Each hour featured a different restriction: In the first session I was at (6-7pm) the band members had to wear earmuffs while singer Pippa Drakeford-Croad and MC Liam Kelly worked out the concept and lyrics with the audience. In the 7-8pm session, the band swapped instruments, with MC Liam Kelly stepping in on the second track to play bass and backing vocals.
While there was the time limit hanging over everything, it never felt frenetic. The atmosphere was warming and inviting (helped by the beverages and snacks that the band provided). Audience members were even given an opportunity to contribute to the final cover art for the album, with an assortment of paper and different coloured pens, crayons and probably other instruments I could not see.
How to Write an Album in 12 Hours never feels like a performance. There is no barrier between the audience and the participant – everyone can take part and throw in an idea for a title, or a line, or an alternate word (or – in the case of a more musically literate audience member – a different note or key). This democratisation of the creative act made watching the final recording session so much more cathartic than simply sitting silently watching musicians compose music for an hour.
Ultimately, the show is not just a celebration of making music, but a celebration of creative labour itself.
Here’s the final version of one of the songs Tim was present for, ‘This Is My Van Gogh (also I’m A Dog)’
How to Write an Album in 12 Hours played TST Studio on Friday 1 March 2019.