Urusen's release on the Society of Sound marks the culmination of a journey that began with cousins Peter Beatty and Ben Please recording songs at their old secondary school in Somerset. Completing the line up in 2008 with cellist Nick Stryder bassist Jay Darwish and drummer Kieran Houston, their unique brand of intrinsically English indie folk, combined with their love of contemporary Americana, has seen them emerge as one of the most exciting new bands in the UK, labelled as 'British breakthrough talent' by British Music Week.
Urusen vocalist Peter Beatty
Their live shows and previous releases have since been described as 'Sweepingly memorable' (Metro) and 'Terrifically atmospheric' (The Telegraph), their music has been used on national television, and in 2010 the band were picked out by BBC Introducing as a festival highlight.
Acoustic and electric guitars, drums, cello, double bass, harmonium, banjo and charango are woven around rousing harmonies in the band's modern folk rock-tinged pop arrangements.
Urusen bassist Jay Darwish
Their musicianship, heartfelt narratives, and exhilarating performances have seen them become a festival favourite. Following performances at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and 2000 Trees, the band spent the end of 2010 recording at Real World Studios with producer Steve Osborne (Elbow, Doves,The Happy Mondays, KT Tunstall).
These sessions were as much about their development and direction as getting great recordings of their songs.
The eleven tracks released exclusively for the Society of Sound pull together the best of Urusen's work over the past two years, and they hope to release them as an album later in 2011.
How it happened
“We've had a relationship with Real World for some time and last year they sent a demo to Steve Osborne who then came to see us play live and offered to work with us. This coincided with an opportunity to do new recordings with the help of the Society of Sound and everything just fell into place. Both Steve and we felt a live approach was far and away best. We produced our own recordings in the past and knew that the dynamism, energy and magic were lost when recordings were distilled to individual parts. We'd spent two years playing across the UK and really honed our 'performance' - we knew this was one of the things people connected with, so had to try and capture it.”
The Wood Room
Urusen drummer Kieran Houston
“We felt confident the Wood Room at Real World was perfect for us. The warm acoustics, intimate surrounds and flexible nature of the room were just some of the reasons why – as well as the idyllic setting!
Before recording, we spent two weeks in pre-production, whittling down a shortlist of songs. Some were almost ready to record but others needed a lot more work, focusing on structures, arrangements and instrumentation, as well as our roles within the band and within songs.”
Urusen cellist Nick Stryder
Steve was very keen to sort out the 'Urusen sound', focusing first on the rhythm section of the band and how drums, bass and rhythm guitar tied together. Time was also spent on vocals: what key was best for lead vocal, and ensuring vocals were given their own space.
Equally making sure the 'lead' instruments, cello and guitar, added texture where necessary, but also stood out as solo instruments.
For the first time, Urusen also introduced electric guitars into the mix, which has really enhanced the warmth of their sound.
After setting up the Wood Room, Steve worked out where each instrument within the band would be best placed from a recording perspective. With largely acoustic instrumentation, and with Steve's approach being all about capturing the 'vibe', a lot of time was spent choosing the right mic for each instrument and vocal.
“There were often many takes before Steve felt we had really captured the soul of the song - though with our track Nosediving we managed to get it first time. Being able to listen back to recordings was really valuable though it also showed how unforgiving an environment the studio can be!”
After getting all the main tracks down, they had time to experiment with sounds and add extra layers, from choral vocals and harmonising cello to blues harmonica and dancing violin. All the songs were then mixed between January and March 2011.
Urusen vocalist Ben Please
"There are some textures and sounds you might know if you're familiar with Urusen, but some venture into new territories for us. We captured the 'live' performance on record and retained the dynamic of the songs and their lyrical narratives. Having the opportunity to work with Steve in an environment like the Wood Room has opened our eyes to what we are capable of as a band. In his own words, we 'Stepped up to the plate and beyond'. We hope people get as much out of these songs as we did recording them.”
Photography ©York Tillyer
Please note the 24-bit FLAC version of this album is 24-bit 44.1 khz
Find out what Bowers & Wilkins customers and audio enthusiasts are talking about on our blogs, and read in-depth articles in the Sound Lab.
Bowers & Wilkins pops up with Maserati in StuttgartDecember 18,2014
An island in a sea of sound – Chris Watson’s Nature DiscoDecember 08,2014
Subscribe to Society of Sound to download high-quality albums from Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios and the London Symphony Orchestra. All available in Apple Lossless and studio-quality FLAC. If you already have a Society of Sound membership please sign in