C:\Music\Impulse Purchase\Spotlight\Sweets For My Sweet
It's been about 4 months since my EP released on the internet so I thought it would be nice to spotlight each song.
I maintain that a lot of my songs sound best when I play them sitting down in a park with just a ukulele to an audience of one person (usually a girl) and this is one of the best examples I have of that.
In 2012, I got my first ukulele. I learned some covers and had a good time playing them to people at Tumblr meetups in Hyde Park. I think there were people within that group who came to know me as Ukulele Guy. That summer, I started putting my old songs, written as just lyrics with tunes in my head, to music. Eventually, I started a Soundcloud account where I would post both covers and originals every few weeks to a pretty good response.
In spring 2013, I realised that none of my songs were particularly ukulele-centric songs – they were just songs being played on a ukulele. I then set about writing what I then termed as “a song that people would expect a ukulele guy to write”.
The intro was the first part I got down and it had two 7th chords in it. I still don’t know anything about music theory or why they’re called 7ths but they sounded nice and they stayed.
The chord at the end of the second line of the chorus was tricky to work out but in the end I settled on an F#. I still don’t know if this was the right choice.
When it was time to add lyrics, I thought that holidays would be a good topic. I hadn’t been on holiday in a while so my only frame of reference was the BBC 3 show “Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents”, where parents of British teens spy on their children as they go to young person holiday resorts and engage in various forms of hedonism but mostly clubs and alcohol.
This is where we bring in a German concept called Drachenfutter – literally “dragon food”; metaphorically a gift given to a dragon (angry spouse) to placate it. The application of this I had in mind for this song was groups of lads who go on holiday, cheat on their girlfriends and then bring back presents for their girlfriends to keep their minds off of questioning what their men got up to on their trip. I’ve never taken part in this myself because in early 2013 I had neither a set of lads (lads lads) to go on tour with or a girlfriend to disappoint.
Obviously, my lack of experience in this area meant I could only get ¾ of a first verse (most of which is still in the song as the “establishing shot”) and part of a chorus:
“I can’t promise I’ll be good all the time that I’m away I’ll just bring sweets for my sweet and honey for my honey and hope it turns out ok Yeah, I am off to foreign lands, don’t know what I will find Another girl may be in my bed but you’re still in my mind”
The song began to take on a character which I was uncomfortable playing. It was at this point that I realised that not all gifts are Drachenfutter – you can bring home a souvenir so you can share an experience with someone who wasn’t with you at the time.
I shifted my songwriting focus back a few decades. For the tune, I listened to some George Formby songs and the wholesome-yet-cheeky vibe that his songs and films had became more apparent in the song, as well as parts of his playing style. With the lyrical themes, I looked to how holidays were looked at in the 1950s, with the birth of commercial air travel opening up tourism to people who had never been able to experience it before. The romanticisation of far-off destinations and cultures by the working classes as they sat in a Thomas Cook branch is something that I feel like I’ve captured in the lyrics and, as of September 2019, this song is now the only way to experience that particular feeling.
I also wanted to make the song sound timeless, like it could be a lost recording from the ‘50s, but then I realised that I mentioned Facebook and Twitter in the mid 8.
I later sort of recontextualised the lyrics when I was in my first proper relationship and I was applying for an exchange year to Japan. I eventually decided not to apply for this exchange after I realising that I would miss her too much (and because I couldn’t write 500 words justifying why I should go to Japan).
Sweets For My Sweet was the song I played at my “audition” for the artist development company and it was also the first song I worked on in the studio with the producer. My instrument of choice was an electroacoustic mandolin tuned like a ukulele, which I had been playing since early 2014 when I bought the mandolin but couldn’t play mandolin well enough so retuned it.
It took most of the first recording session to get me to be able to play in time with the click. In the second session, I tried to re-record the mandolin line with an antique banjolele, which wouldn’t hold its tuning for very long. In the third session, we added a glockenspiel line to the intro and bridges, which was later removed after everyone who listened to that mix commented “when did this become a Christmas song?”
My first proper backing vocals feature in this song. Before then, I thought that I wanted all of my songs to be representations of what I could do live but as soon as I heard the layered backing vocals, I was convinced that I wanted to use the technology available to do as much as possible. The key changed chorus took a while to get right because the producer had to train me to stop going into what he called “metal vocals” at the start of it. It’s a powerful key change, I just let the emotion flow.
The composition initially featured very little in the way of drums, just brushes on a snare and a tambourine because that’s all that me and the producer felt like it needed. The final mix had drums from a real drummer and this was a vast improvement, especially the thing with the cymbals in the chorus.
In 2018, I made a music video for Sweets For My Sweet for the sole reason that it was the shortest one on the EP and it would be much easier to film and edit 3 minutes of footage than it would be to edit 4:50. I took a weekend trip to Felixstowe with my cinematographer (girlfriend) and eventually got a shot list together before shooting only beach shots because we forgot to take the camera to anywhere else in the town.
Track 3 was the ideal place for this song on the EP. Flare and I Hope It Rains complement each other well and presented the image I wanted to convey with this EP better than this much bouncier song. Also I wanted Sphairistike to be track 4 because it’s… niche.