The Making Of The Universal Want

In what’s obviously been a very difficult year, one of the highlights of the year in the world of music has been Tim’s Twitter listening parties. Doves took part early on with a Saturday night lockdown party for Lost Souls. They followed this up with a Bluedot festival listening party for The Last Broadcast. The last Doves listening party of the year was of course for their brand new album, The Universal Want. I’ve put together this ‘The making of The Universal Want’ by using material from the listening party, also the band have kindly expanded upon some of the tweets to offer a fascinating insight into how they created the album.

Carousels

Andy: The lyrics are about the fairgrounds of our youth in North West England and North Wales where we used to go every summer holiday. We’d go out to visit fairgrounds and arcades, off the leash so to speak.

As kids we kind of liked the excitement and danger of these places and hearing music blaring out of speakers loud. I guess it’s a nostalgic look back, but we wanted the music to be contemporary.

Originally we struggled to get further with the song until Jez found the Tony Allen drum break that just bought the song back to life.

Jez: I originally wrote this in Porto City (Portugal) but in a different guise, a different key and totally different sound. I slowed it down to fit the Tony Allen drum sample. I put in some moody synth bass, from then it all seemed to click into place.

I Will Not Hide

Andy: One of Jimi’s, we loved the big acoustic chords that evolve in the intro. That sped up the vocal sample and that ragga style beat. A weird mix of influences that shouldn’t work together but do for me.

I also really liked the barbed lyrics. We jammed it out, me and jez added the middle 8 drop down section and had the idea of it kicking back in with the lush guitar solo on the outro.

Tech nerd bit: We recorded the drum and bass on this album through our blue neve EQs which Jez insisted we bought for the Kingdom Of Rust album (they’re not cheap!) but in my opinion they’re the best bit of studio gear we have ever bought as the drums and bass sound amazing through them.

Jez: We simplified the chords as they were too complex to construct. Tightened it up, wrote a new chorus for it. Pulled it together with the band jamming it live in the studio.


Broken Eyes

Andy: Probably the oldest song on the album (12-15 years) we never managed to finish it before this. When we got together early 2017 we found it again on a hard drive again and loved it. We were able to finish it finally with the clarity and distance of time.

We’re all big fans of The Kinks, so I guess this is our attempt at a Davies brothers vibe! It was called ‘Cocaine Eyes’ right up to the 11th hour. We changed it to ‘Broken Eyes’ very late on, as I guess in the end it just didn’t sit right for any of us.

Hairs on the back of the neck moment in the studio when Jimi sang the last chorus where the note changes.

Jez: We decided to go to town with the string arrangement on this one. Dan Austin then had to score them into notation for the quartet. I guess this is our most straight forward song on the album.

For Tomorrow

Andy: We all love that era of music where psychedelia meets soul music. Bands like Rotary Connection, Shuggie Otis, late era Curtis Mayfield etc. So this is our attempt at that.

We wanted the middle 8 to be like a harsh edit and drop deep down to that heart beat bass drum, like a trip! The string sample is from Jez’s old 70’s b-movie films cassettes.

Lyrically it’s a real collaboration between the three of us. Good memories of recording this one with Dan Austin at Eve studios, there was a tangible buzz in the studio.

Jez: This was all about capturing the band live in a room take after take until we caught that one-off moment where something just clicks. All live, we did this at the same time as we did Mother Silverlake. Afterwards we dubbed lots of filmic noises and atmospheres to create a sort of unsettling sound if you listen to mid section.

Cathedrals Of The Mind

Andy: One of the first songs we played to Jimi early doors and he immediately liked. The track ended up going through the Doves filter machine, as in all 3 of us! So it ended up sounding quite different in the end.

In January 2016 me and Jez were due to set off to Anglesey in Wales late morning for a writing trip. At 6am my wife Sara woke me up with the news that David Bowie had just passed. Like everyone else we were really shocked and sad at his passing. He was such a towering cultural figure, we never met him (although apparently he did attend one of our gigs in NYC years before) so I guess you feel a sense of your own mortality when you hear news like that.

We didn’t set out to write a song about Bowie’s passing but looking back I think unconsciously it seeped into the lyrics especially in verse two and the bridge lyrics. King Tubby/Augustus Pablo vibes on the drums.

Jez: Only has 3 chords until the middle 8 then goes properly off-piste! We wanted to throw in a very strange chord shape to throw off the listener but at the same time it had to work in a naturalistic way. It took a long time to get that right. Also to bring it back round into the outro was some doing but I think we got there. I played the bass on the demo, we decided to keep that in as it fitted the vibe.

Prisoners

Andy: This was the last song to be written/recorded for the album. Recorded in December 2019 at our studio Frank Bough III

Up-tempo Northern soul inspired but going for a classic UK pop with frustrated lyrics. A speaker shredding guitar solo from Jez! The song for me has a new meaning now with the current health crisis.

Jez: I call this future northern soul.

Cycle Of Hurt

Andy: Jez had these sweeping chords on the strings and the ‘robot ‘sample. It brings a dystopian vibe to the song, in contrast to the strings. Recorded at Vada studios with Dan Austin, this one was good fun to record.

Jez: Song was written off the cuff /spontaneous and quick – 10 minutes. One of those tracks that seemed to come together all at once including the lyric hook.

Mother Silverlake

Andy: This started out at a cottage in the Peak District. We were going for an afrobeat/William Onyeabor vibe. Lots of action on Jez’s Russian military synth! It felt out of our comfort zone but in a good way and was really enjoyable to play in the studio. A great piano uplift from the Rebelski! I’ve good memories of us all jamming it out live at Eve studios near Stockport.
 
Jez: This was all about capturing the band in a room again. We wanted the lyrics to have an otherworldly /existential feel. I felt this one had the Rotary Connection influence mixed with the cold kraut synths /filmic intro and outro, giving it a spooky quality! Well it did in my head.



Universal Want

Andy: I had some piano lessons to try to improve my playing around 2016 and I got these chords together after a lesson. The vocal melody and lyrics then came together really quickly. I have a piece of paper on my studio wall with various titles I like the sound of. (I think this one was one of Jez’s titles) and I just wrote the words around the title. It was originally just a 2 minute ballad, I played the song to Jimi and Jez in 2017 and they both liked it. Jez took it away to his studio and took the track in a totally unexpected direction.  

Jez: I wanted to morph the song into a celebratory ending rather than have a somber ending. Something that aspires to a hopeful ending of sorts.  
We also worked hard on the middle section as we wanted it to sound apocalyptic. This song has its own timeline if you listen to all the sections, they take you down an unpredictable road. The ending originally sounded more like The Beatles, same chords but was not happy, so we took it down the club route which felt much more at home.

Forest House

Andy: Another track that has been around for many years. Again we always liked it, but never managed to finish it. After we re-recorded the acoustic guitars with lovely valve mics, we ended up going back to using the original acoustics which were recorded on a very old iPhone back in the day, as we preferred the vibe.

The lyrics as the song title suggests are about a simple walk through a forest to a house and are deliberately left open to interpretation. We thought this was a nice and intimate way to end the album.  

Jez: The acoustic guitars were originally recorded on an iPhone 3 Mono! We then stripped the verses to a minimalist sound scape (bass and vox mostly) this sounded more strange in a good way, leaving it to break out into a more musical section which made a nice counterbalance. This must have been the 10th version of this song since its inception. 

Replay The Universal Want Listening Party in real time at the listening party website, where you can also replay the parties for Lost Souls and The Last Broadcast.