Shimura Curves

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Boy Hairdresser

Lead vocals: Kate St.Claire
Backing vocals: Lisa Payne
Analogue Synthesiser: Frances May Morgan
Everything else: Kate St.Claire

This is one of the much older songs on the album, but it's also one of my favourites - possibly my favourite song I ever recorded. But it is a revival. It wasn't that I was running out of ideas (we had so many songs that we weren't even able to fit them all in on the album.) What happened was that in December 2005, I bought a flat of mine own, and was able to unpack, properly, my entire life, for the first time since the 90s. I found a box of lyric books and 4-track tapes, dating back to as early as 1994, and decided to revive 3 of the tunes - The Boy Hairdresser, Poison Tree and Hung With Joy - and rearrange them for laptop.

The lyrics to The Boy Hairdresser (yes, the title is a Joe Orton reference) are about the improbably named Sanford Santacroce, my on-again off-again Great Lost Love Of My Life (tm) for most of the 90s. Our actual relationship was so brief it still amazes me that it actually happened, but the being in love with him thing lasted for about a decade. Being in love with the idea of him was so amazing, so powerful, so overwhelming that I wrote songs about him, wrote comics with him, even wrote a novel about him, projecting his personality and our story into a fan fiction soap opera. But it wasn't the kind of love that could withstand nights in with a VCR and arguments over whose turn it was to do the dishes. Dear god, I wish it could have been, but it wasn't.

It was the kind of love this song is about, all crush and breathlessness and your heart-rate soaring like those high, spinny synth sounds that Frances wove in and out of my guitar, and your breath catching in your throat like the bass sound I programmed, slipping and grinding like a car stuck between gears. The bit where the second set of drums kicks in, about 1:06 and the whole song shifts up a gear as the distorted guitars blast off, that's one of those few moments where a song I wrote sounded on tape exactly like it sounded in my head.

But this song is also sad to me, because for most of our life, Shimura Curves was a musical war between two halves of the band - and two conflicting aesthetics - and this song was the moment that I won. See, half the band wanted to be in Hawkwind, and the other half wanted to be in Sugababes. There was the krautrocky, shoegazey, kosmische contingent, me and Frances, who wanted to get our heads down and space-rock out. Then there was the clubbing half of the band, Anna and Marianna, who were the ones who were out dancing at Fabric or FWD>> every weekend. And then there was Miss AMP, the soul of the band, who flitted back and forth between the two sides, never quite sure if she wanted us to be the kind of indie-rock band who would impress her boyfriends, or the kind of electronic act her girlfriends could go dancing to. We should not have worked, as a group, and yet, we did.

It's funny; the girls were originally hired as a distraction. When I first started writing the songs that would become Shimura Curves on my laptop, back at the end of 2003, I went to see other "laptop acts" and was completely unimpressed. Talking with the singer of a friend's band, she suggested jokingly that I get some dancers to prance about in front of me and act out the song. Genius idea, I thought, and set about assembling the coolest girls I knew, the kind of women that when I was a kid, I'd have looked up at onstage, and thought "Damn, I want to be them!" Funnily enough, most of them turned out to be writers, rather than musicians (I met 2 of them through the magazine Careless Talk Costs Lives, and 2 of them through the messageboard I Love Music - even Lisa, the little sister who joined a bit later, was also a writer) but I wanted women who knew about, and were obsessed with music.

And though it was me who wrote all of the songs, "the girls" became absolutely crucial because they were my first - and often toughest - audience. I wrote for them, with them in mind, as I pounded the keys. The bassline had to make them move their arses. The words had to make them giggle. And the melody had to make them want to raise their sweet, sweet voices and twine them into 4-part harmony. I'm not one of those people who "writes music for themselves and if anyone else likes it, it's a plus." Not at all. I always wrote for very specific people, for my friends, for my bandmates. Their opinions mattered to me in a way that blogs and critics and record company people's just didn't. As much as I love this song, it wasn't written for my bandmates, it was written for me. And that was a mistake.

Download on SoundCloud. The track is free, but if you like it please consider donating something here.