NaSoAlMo 2014… and a new musical ‘vehicle’

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Ever since I took part in FAWM in February 2014—and decided to “sit out” the 50/90 Challenge in July—I have been aware that, with the exception of my “long-term” album endeavour (which, for now, I am nicknaming “The Prog Project”), I have a fair-sized gap in time where I have no real “target” to aim for, in terms of making myself write and record songs.

Whilst I currently have every intention of joining in for FAWM in February 2015 (and “The Prog Project”—which I estimate to be about 75% recorded at time of writing—could tide me over), I’m feeling in the mood for another songwriting/recording challenge… which is where NaSoAlMo comes in.

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, NaSoAlMo ((inter)National Solo Album Month) sounds, on the face of it, like a similar idea to FAWM: a challenge to write and record, from scratch, during the month of November, enough original compositions to fill an album of at least 29:09 minutes in duration (the length of the first Ramones LP, apparently).

Now, I know from having “done” two FAWM challenges, that if I set my mind to it, the above is entirely achievable. However, for my first “stab” at NaSoAlMo, I feel as if I’d like to try a slightly different approach from FAWM. I have been ruminating on the topic for a while, and it’s time to whip off the tarpaulin…

A good rummage through my recorded output on Bandcamp—and I feel this is particularly true of my FAWM and 50/90 material—will reveal that in terms of musical styles, I veer “all over the shop”. In my work, you’ll hear shades of everything from 60s guitar pop, through folk, psych, prog-rock to electronica and ambient, and whilst this diversity is quite representative of my own tastes, I sometimes wonder if the sheer eclecticism on offer might work against me. (Surely, I ask myself, listeners might like at least some idea of what they’re going to hear next?)

When I looked at the participants’ list for NaSoAlMo 2013, I noticed that most of them, despite being solo artists, adopted a “band pseudonym”. I’ve occasionally thought of doing the same, partly because I felt it might give me an excuse to create music which is all in a particular style (or related set of styles).

Therefore, for NaSoAlMo 2014, I’ve decided to “form” a “virtual band”, which will give me a framework to compose and record material for the challenge. Specifically, it’s going to major on one of my perennial favourite musical regions: “English”/60s-inflected guitar-pop with psych/whimsical leanings, and possible smatterings of electronica. Think: Beatles; Kinks; Kevin Ayers; Bonzo Dog Band; Tomorrow… and perhaps most of all in this context, Martin Newell and his own virtual band, the Cleaners From Venus.

As for the moniker for my “band”: I’ve thought of a suitably psych/whimsical name, for which I’ve Googled around and haven’t found another combo which beat me to it ;-) So, until such time as I hear otherwise: ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

The Pattern Store

The name carries a number of “resonances” for me; aside from the vaguely 1967-ish impression I think it conveys, it also refers to the building at the now-long-gone railway works in Swindon (the town I grew up in), which produced seat-coverings and other textile-based items for the Great Western Railway’s trains. (In a suitably-surreal twist, the Pattern Store at Swindon Works (the green-topped building in this photo) is now an Italian restaurant.)

On a related note: the name of the album I intend to produce from NaSoAlMo, is derived from one of the original Pattern Store’s main products: “Moquettes” (i.e. the patterned seat-coverings you still see on British trains).

If this first outing works for the “band”, I hope to keep The Pattern Store active for future recording projects in this specific genre. If I put out an album under my own name: basically, “all bets are off” (i.e. who knows what you’ll get :-) ), but a Pattern Store set will have a certain sound/approach, which I hope will please listeners who are pleased by that sort of thing!

NaSoAlMo 2014 kicks off on the 1st November. I’ll fill you in with updates nearer the time (and hopefully, during the challenge itself), and if all goes well, by early December I’ll be able to post the finished debut by The Pattern Store for your consumption and delectation.

I hope you can come along for the ride :-)

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