The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us was the second Daniel Land & The Modern Painters album. But it was an album of firsts, in many ways - it was the first album that we released on a proper label. It was the first album where I'd written songs specifically with the idea of a live band in mind. And it was the album where I first began the process of opening up the lyrics, singing more easily recognisable words, and trying to write things that people might relate to. As a result, I think this contains some of my best songs, for example "Echo & Narcissus", "Sleeping With The Past" and "Eyes Wide Shut".

These songs were written at a time of huge change, for me. I was coming out of a very long relationship - an engagement, actually - which had broken down,, and very quickly got involved in another relationship which also ended. I reading a lot of Milan Kundera, at the time,, and I liked the title The Space Between Us because it seemed to have a kind of Kundera-esque ring to it. This was the album where I was thinking a lot about the inevitable communication gap between any two people.. and was also the album where I reconciled myself to the fact that my last relationships had broken down.

Daniel Land & The Modern Painters was a great live band - but a lot of times, the albums were de facto solo works by me. This time around, I had a lot more help - for example Oisin Scarlett helping me finish "The Silver Medal" when I got stuck at the bridge, or Andrew Galpin's improvised bass line turning into part of the vocal melody for "Cherry Bark & Almonds". The arrangements for tracks liked "Starcrossed/Butterfly Lovers", "Lovelife" and "Eyes Wide Shut" were fine-tuned in rehearsals, so even if I ended up playing most of the instruments on the record in the end, it was a very different record than it would have been if I'd have done it entirely on my own - and all the better for it.

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The Space Between Us

Daniel Land & The Modern Painters

Daniel Land & The Modern Painters return with their second studio album, ‘The Space Between Us’, via Club AC30 Recordings, on 28th May 2012. The album follows their debut album, ‘Love Songs For The Chemical Generation’, released in 2009.

Recorded and mixed by Daniel Land at his 500 year old cottage on the outskirts of Manchester, ‘The Space Between Us’ is, in Daniel’s words, ‘more collaborative than our debut; even the songs that I wrote on my own were written with one eye on how we play as a live band; the range of things we can do. The faster songs are faster and the slower songs slower; there’s a greater dynamic range’. Another change from ‘Love Songs For The Chemical Generation’ is a more adventurous approach to instrumentation, with harpsichords, accordions and mandolins punctuating the more familiar lush guitars and roving basslines that characterised their music to date.

In a sense, the album is a more precise distillation of Daniel’s approach to music and the sounds that drew him to form the band whilst a student at Manchester University. A frequent visitor to the clubs of his adopted home city, Daniel Land & The Modern Painters were born in the somewhat incongruous settings of Manto’s Breakfast Club where Daniel met Graeme on his 21st birthday and Graeme, in Daniel’s words, ‘gave me the encouragement and support to become the singer I had always wanted to be’.

Having spent his formative years listening to the likes of Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and Cocteau Twins, Daniel’s early musical compositions were more about experiments in sound and less about conventional songs. Mixing that with the trance that grabbed him on arrival at University and then filtering it further through the sounds that others handed to him during his student years from the likes of Red House Painters, The Verve and Slowdive, Daniel Land & The Modern Painters initial influences (and continuing interests) are less defined by artists and more informed by sonic experiment and the overall feel of the music. With ‘The Space Between Us’ adopting a band focus, that fascination with musical texture has filtered through a band dynamic to create modern pop songs that demonstrate an experimental edge but deliver moments of singalong bliss and visceral climaxes.

Whilst ‘The Space Between Us’ is musically a band album, lyrically it is very much Daniel’s creation. The title refers to relationship travails that occurred throughout the writing and recording process, the break-up of one long term relationship and the failure of a second. Daniel’s take on the lyrics for the album was refreshingly brave: ‘The lyrics are more decipherable than last time, this is deliberate. I wanted to communicate honestly and openly, even if what I was singing was uncomfortably revealing for me.’

The writing process was heavily influenced by the books of Milan Kundera, so much so that Daniel jokes ‘I would have called the album Milan Kundera if I thought I would have got away with it’ but the literary influence doesn’t end there as Daniel explains: ‘”The Space Between Us” is also the name of a novel by Thrity Umrigar about love and friendship across a class divide. This has a direct thematic bearing on the second of the two relationships I was writing lyrics about.’

Other literary references that occur throughout the album are too numerous to mention but Daniel identifies the likes of Virginia Woolf, Edmund White, Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Joseph Olshan, Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and, ‘erm, Stephen King’ as influences on the lyrical content of ‘The Space Between Us’. Yet, for a record dealing with serious matters and imbued with high culture references, at heart ‘The Space Between Us’ is a classic pop album of love songs, both requited and unrequited.
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Track by track

  • Echo & Narcissus. This track was written, recorded and mixed in a single day - March 19th 2011 - for the BFW recordings Album In A Day project. Album In a Day works like this: you have 24 hours to write, record, mix, and send a song to BFW Recordings; the following Monday it is released as free download along with everyone's else's submissions. This track was our first attempt at Album In A Day, and it was one of the most ridiculous days I've ever had. Graeme and I wrote the chords by midday, then spent most of the afternoon layering instruments, doing the drums, and a rough mix. There was no time to backtrack or second-guess; doing so would have meant missing the deadline. I started the vocals at about 9pm, and by 11pm I knew where it was going, lyrically and melodically. It was finished by about 4am. By the time I did some last minute tweaks in the morning, I knew we had done something very special. It was released officially on The Space Between Us with only minor tweaks, and is still, five years later, one of my favourite songs.
  • The Silver Medal. This started as a rough demo on a knackered old Yamaha keyboard. I had the verses and choruses, but I couldn't work out where else to take it. Oisin helped me write the bridge chords, and the rest of the song came together very quickly after that. This song features the beautiful backing vocals of Jayn Hanna, whose band The Steals I played in at the time. She recorded them at her studio in Hebden Bridge, layering harmony upon harmony. At points there's eight or nine Jayns in there, which is - of course - no bad thing.
  • Starcrossed/Butterfly Lovers. I came up with the melody for this in 2003, but couldn't get the feeling right. Years later I brought it into a rehearsal, and everyone was very enthusiastic. It was an early contender for the record - we played it live for two or three years before it was released, and the album version was recorded to try to capture some of the energy of the live band.
  • Lovelife. Another very old idea, these chords were written on the morning that the Iraq war started in 2003. I got home from a particularly glamorous one night stand and, apparently, decided the way to commemorate it was to invent a new guitar tuning. The song hung around in an unfinished state for years; we performed it live a couple of times in 2008, but it wasn't recorded for the first album as it didn't fit. This version came together with Oisin's lovely pedal-steel esque guitar work, which still gives me chills now.
  • Cherry Bark & Almonds. Graeme and I decided, spontaneously, to call in sick and make music one day. We were on the gin by about 11am I seem to remember. Loads of music came out of that day, but this was the best and most complete. It seemed to come out of nowhere - a riff, a few chords, and within thirty minutes the whole thing was there. The title comes from a pivotal scene in the series Frasier which is easily You Tube-able, if you wanted to see where our heads were at the time.
  • Sleeping With The Past. This song is a tribute to someone who was slightly more than a friend but slightly less than a boyfriend. The chorus chords came from an abandoned piece, something that never worked out. Most of the chords were good, so Graeme and I incorporated the best bits into this. We wanted something that was upbeat - throwing a bone to our live drummer Jason, who could handle much faster tempos than we usually wrote - but also slightly off-balance. And although it sounds perfectly natural now, there's some seriously weird things going on structurally in this song, like the bridge chords which go in cycles of six (rather than four), and the chorus, which has eighteen measures instead of sixteen. The lyrics and melody came later. I had no idea what to do melodically, but I'd just opened a bottle of wine, and had the backing track playing, and when I got to the chorus, the whole melody and lyrics just came tumbling out of me with no forethought. It was a miracle - thank fuck I had pressed record.
  • Eyes Wide Shut. One of my better songs without a doubt, and one of the few times I've actually sat down and written a song on acoustic guitar. Perhaps because of this it has a kind of simplicity to it that I haven't always achieved in other songs. 
  • The Hawk & The Nightingale. I think melodically this is a kind of a high point for me, I was surprised by the kinds of things I was coming out with on this song. I put a lot of work into the backing music too - putting on loads of parts, and then cutting out everything but the loveliest moments, before repeating again and again - an approach that I carried forward as the modus operandi for the next album, In Love With A Ghost. This track was the first song from the record to be mixed, and I vividly remember those lovely September days, I had the windows open and the sun shining in, looking over my laptop to the church, and being so happy with where I was living, and happy to be close to finishing the record.
  • Starfish Fucking. The longest song I've written at 13 minutes, and the most complicated structurally. This was one of the last things I wrote at the tail end of the "chemical" era that also gave rise to "Codeine", "Glitterball" and "Good Speed, Good Fun". It could have gone on the first album, the only problem being that it was practically unperformable live, and was prohibitively complex from a recording point of view - I wouldn't have been able to do justice to it at the time, although if I'd have had my druthers, it would have been the closing song on Love Songs For The Chemical Generation. By the time of The Space Between Us I felt a bit more in control of what I was doing, that I knew my equipment a bit better, and I think I came pretty close to pulling off what I was aiming for. It's never quite as perfect as you want it to be - I was aiming for something the size of "Good Vibrations", but when is that not the case? - but it'll do. 

Recording the album