Pete Townshend Lends A Hand To THE BOOKSHOP BAND

THE BOOKSHOP BAND are a singular entity, their concept like no other. When the little ensemble’s "Bring Me Back A Pyramid" album arrived back in 2016, yours truly wrote, “Literature’s always been a bountiful source of inspiration for musicians, but harnessing their ambition to a hushed sound of a library is a unique approach that sees this Bath duo explore a variety of worlds without leaving a room – just like any reader does. Ben Please and Beth Porter’s lovingly-packaged albums even feel like books or, given their periodic, once-a-month nature, magazines that detail secret musings of a sensual mind.” Slow-forward eight years, and the two BPs came up with what must be the darkest of their records, which is only logical given we live in the books-banishing times – and no wonder one of the tomes behind its songs was written by Margaret Atwood, one of the small collective’s fans. What doesn’t fail to surprise, though, is the name of a person who not only produced “Emerge, Return” – here’s the title of the group’s first platter to have a wider commercial release – but also plays on every track: Pete Townshend, he of THE WHO fame.

The twelve-cut album detailed below should be released digitally after Independent Bookshop Week, on June 28th, and supported at that time by a podcast series of conversations with the authors whose works it’s based on. As for the performers, the roots of this collaboration is revealed in the following conversation.

Pete Townshend: I remember there was ten CDs you had left, and I listened to them all in my car as I was travelling back and forth between places. I was blown away, completely blown away. I got into the whole BOOKSHOP BAND technique, which is just two people making this sound like a symphony orchestra. It’s quite extraordinary. Each song was special in its own way. So, I reached out. I can’t remember whether I suggested producing, you or you did. Let’s face it, it was probably your idea!

Ben: You sent us an email a month or so later saying you had listened to it and really liked it. And then you said if we ever wanted to stop by, if we needed somewhere to stay on tour, we’d always be welcome. I then cheekily emailed back and said, ‘Pete, we’d love to take you up on the offer, and would you mind if we went to your studio to record the song that we wrote while we were staying?’ And you said, ‘Absolutely, that’s fine.’ So, we fixed up a date, not expecting you to be there at all. And then about two weeks before we arrived you sent another email saying, ‘Shall we just do an album together?’

Pete Townshend: I’m so glad we did it. I’m so glad that I had a chance to work with the music raw. Although the music comes to life when the two of you play live and produce this incredibly expansive sound, when you listen to the recordings there is finessing that needs to be done. And that’s the most fun that you could ever possibly have, just by saying ‘let’s add a tambourine to that,’ and suddenly it feels like a miracle. And all you’ve done is banged a tambourine. I did play a little, a bit of guitar, a bit of bass, some of the funny organs I might have. I’ve got a lot of old legacy equipment in my studio – old organs and synthesisers, things that go back to the Seventies. We tried to have fun when we were adding stuff. I sang here and there, joined in with the choir. It’s one of the most fun times I’ve had and it’s always lovely to have the band in, among the family. And you’re very, you know, very tidy guests.

Beth: I’m not sure Ben’s mum would say that.

Emerge, Return

1. Sanctuary
2. Dirty Word
3. Eve In Your Garden
4. Room For Three
5. Faith In Weather
6. Deep Time
7. Doll
8. Waggons And Wheels
9. Why I Travel This Way
10. The Night We Came to Wigtown (Scotland’s Famous Book Town)
11. The Pull Of The Moors
12. The Vanishing Hours

May 12, 2024

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