In a freezing cold industrial estate in Greenock, Leaving Bordeaux are recording their second single.
The studio is small, with carpets stapled to the walls for soundproofing but fairy lights hang from the furniture and guitars decorate the walls, giving the room a strangely welcoming atmosphere.
It’s a place familiar to Leaving Bordeaux – they recorded their first single, Caught Out Cold in the same studio and now they’re back for more.
In preparation for their first ever headline show on March 28 at Broadcast on Sauchiehall Street, Leaving Bordeaux invited Brig to the recording studio to see the process behind recording their second single, Adrenaline, set to be released April 8.
So on a cold Sunday afternoon, I found myself perching on a couch in a tiny room, surrounded by speakers, instruments, and excited band members.
“It’s going to be loud,” they warned.
“Before we actually start, we do a quick playthrough of the song; it’s called a scratch track,” explained bassist Caleb Blackwood. “And that’s so we actually know what we’re fucking doing with the song.
“What usually happens is we go the drums first, then the bass, then usually keyboards, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, vocals, and then any other mad shit.”
The drums, bass and keyboard parts of the song had already been recorded the day before, so they moved on to the guitar.
“In every band, one guitarist will always have a white Stratocaster,” quipped guitarist Darren Houston. The song began to play as Darren plucked his way through the riff.
Any skepticism I might have had disappeared when the music started playing. He played the same parts over and over, until the notes became second nature.
Frontman Jamie McAulay kept a watchful eye on the guitar, occasionally providing encouragement in the form of “fucking brilliant!”
Every few minutes, they would stop the music to discuss how they could make it better.
“You play better when you’re grooving,” noted Jamie.
As more and more elements were added to the song, the excitement grew – drummer Louis Kane mimed playing his part as the song played.
This tiny room had transformed from a cold studio to an environment filled with music, creativity and a lone pack of Jammie Dodgers passed around by bassist Alex Curran.
“In the studio, we add onto the roots of what we already have, what we can’t hear when we’re rehearsing,” Alex said.
“I think if any band tells you that that doesn’t happen, they’re lying,” agreed Caleb. “Usually the changes aren’t very drastic, nothing huge has been changed in our songs. We discuss everything too.”
I only witnessed one major disagreement during my time in the studio – the lyrics.
During the recording of the vocals, a debate broke out over the order of the lyrics in the chorus.
Recording stopped temporarily while everyone threw their opinion into the spotlight, with producer James often acting as a mediator.
“It was 15 minutes of trying to choose what fucking order the words would go in,” said Darren.
“I was ready for a fistfight over that,” laughed Caleb.
They would try every idea that was put forward, trying to find the perfect fit for the song.
When they eventually agreed, it was time to start recording the vocals again. However it took Jamie longer than expected to adjust to the changes, resulting in some frustrated yells.
“Vocally, it’s annoying!” said Jamie. “It does get tedious at times when you’re hearing the same bar and a half over and over and you just think ‘I don’t want to hear this bit anymore’.”
It was clear that the frontman of Leaving Bordeaux was the perfectionist of the group.
“Jamie’s a bit over the top,” Caleb said. “He’s never satisfied, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He needs to be exactly the way he is, or we wouldn’t get any further.
He’s always pushing us to be better than before, and it’s annoying, but it’s necessary.”
As they discussed the need to change parts of songs during the recording process, Jamie laughed and admitted, “I’m a nightmare for it!
“But when we hear the full thing at the end, we just think ‘that’s why we spent so long trying to make this perfect, it needs to be good.”
Once the band were well and truly satisfied with the vocals, they relaxed. It was time to add the finishing touches – one of which involved a shaker shaped like a banana which Louis seemed thrilled to have found.
After a brief break to record some Instagram stories, they sat down to hear the final recording of the song.
The excitement was apparent; everyone had their phones out, eager to record as much as they could of it.
It sounded nothing like what I had heard when I walked into the studio earlier that day.
In the space of one day, they had turned a basic instrumental track into a fully fledged, radio worthy rock song.
They thanked producer James McKenzie once more and set off to the pub to discuss the day’s events, and more importantly, their plans for the near future.
“We have our first ever headline coming up, on March 28 in Broadcast in Glasgow. Our focus now, because the studio session is done, will just be on that show,” Jamie said. “It’ll be continuously just trying to strive towards it and see what we can get.”
“I’m practicing a lot more,” noted Caleb. “As a band, I think we’re preparing for it by writing more songs. We’re dusting off a lot of things, making sure all the songs are good enough, and tweaking things that we’ve been working on for ages.
“We want to make sure that every song’s a good one, every song should be there, and every song has its place. We’re planning on playing these gigs and getting more popularity so we can grow and write more and better tunes.”
It hasn’t been easy for Leaving Bordeaux, however. Exposure as a small band can be difficult to achieve. Caleb explained how they got to the point of being able to headline a show.
“We got gigs quite fast, through continuously selling our ticket allocation or going beyond that. We’ve then got increasingly harder-to-sell-out gigs and better gigs.”
A question that every band needs to answer in an industry that is becoming more and more saturated is, ‘what makes you different?’ Leaving Bordeaux had a range of answers.
“We don’t like sticking to a trend,” Jamie explained. “We don’t do the stereotypical things that you would expect.
“We’d rather do things our own way. In some sense, that’s a selfish attitude, but we’re happy with it. We have our own style.”
“At the moment, there’s a specific kind of scene in Glasgow, and I think we’re slightly different to it,” agreed Alex. “It’s a lot of our combined music tastes coming together.”
“Except for Caleb’s!” interjected Louis. “Which is good, because we have someone who can come in and do his bassline, and it’s not a standard bassline.”
Caleb thought for a minute and added, “What makes us different is our ability for the five of us to be heavy contributors.
“We have a certain image we’re going for; we decide what we’re doing – we don’t fuck about.”
Leaving Bordeaux have a distinct aura of a band that love what they do.
Throughout the entire recording process, each one of them had an input.
Each member had a remarkable ability to pick out the tiniest details in the song that they wanted to change, and each one of them supported each other throughout the process. Any conflict was handled reasonably and lightheartedly.
The excitement they all feel towards their upcoming gig was very apparent.
“We know we enjoy what we do,” said Jamie emphatically. “We really enjoy the music that we’re writing.” The other four nodded in agreement.
Glasgow will be seeing a lot more of Leaving Bordeaux in the coming months – and their next single will surely be one to watch.