Usualele EP (2017)

One of my favourite musical “genres” to browse for on Bandcamp, is what is loosely-termed “ukulele pop”.

The four songs here represent my first casual venture into uke-led recordings. There are no guitars on any of these songs: with a couple of “opt-outs”, everything you hear is some kind of ukulele, or an iPhone instrument app triggered by my electric uke. (The exceptions: the drums on “Ideas” and “That Went Well”; the bass on “Ideas”—played on the iFretless Bass app via the phone touchscreen—and the “string quartet” on “It Was Enough For Us”, of which more in a moment.) All four songs were recorded on my iPhone 6S via a Line6 Sonic Port VX, using the Multitrack DAW app, as well as Soft Drummer, iFretless Bass, MIDI Guitar 2 (used to play the iFretless Bass part via the ukulele, on “That Went Well”), Thumbjam, Tonestack, BIAS Amp and Johnny Mini.

The ukes I played on this album, for the curious:

  • Risa Solid electric tenor “stick” (“Rod”—all songs except “It Was Enough For Us”);
  • Yamaha GL-1 “six-string tenor”/guitalele (“Tigger”—on “It Was Enough For Us”)
  • my daughter’s Octopus soprano (“Minty”—on “Ideas”)

One of the compositions, “That Went Well”, dates from the early autumn of 2013, when I first wrote and demoed it for the 50/90 songwriting challenge that year. (The original demo remains unreleased; however, I rather like it, so if I ever compile “Allsorts Vol 2”, I’ll be remixing the recording for inclusion for certain!) I made the new recording in the closing days of 2016, and posted an early mix of it on my Soundcloud page.

I wrote “It Was Enough For Us” in the last week of the 2017 FAWM challenge; the original rough acoustic demo can be heard on “…As It Goes”, my album of the demos from that challenge. Again, the version here is a tidier re-recording, with the addition of an improvised “string quartet”, played on the iPhone sampler/performance app Thumbjam.

The other two are new songs, both started around the Easter holidays in 2017, and finished in dribs and drabs over the following couple of months. I mixed these recordings in July 2017, and “Usualele” was released into the wilds of Bandcamp on Monday 17th.

A quick note about the cover art: it’s a “selfie” I took, which I processed through the rather wonderful Waterlogue iPhone app, to make it look like a watercolour painting. The picture shows the ukes I played on the EP, except ironically, the one on the left is not my daughter’s Octopus soprano, but “Caspar”, my clear-plastic “ghost” Makala Waterman soprano. Its playing action is pretty high, and the Octopus was easier to play on “Ideas”, so my daughter kindly loaned it to me for the recording. To avoid hurting “Caspar”‘s feelings, all concerned agreed it could appear on the EP cover…