On James’ first U.S. tour in two years, the English pop band plans to feature a different setlist each night.
“Expect the unexpected,” singer Tim Booth told SoundSpike via telephone from California, where he also has a home. “We’ll have some old stuff, but we’ll have a lot of new stuff as well. We change out the set every night. We like to keep things fresh and unpredictable. We have a massive pool of songs from which we can choose every night.”
The “new stuff” to which he is referring is songs from the two-CD collection “The Morning After the Night Before.” The set started as separate mini-albums: “The Night Before” was released in the U.K. in April and “The Morning After” is set for stores there this September. “The Night Before” features James’ strangely uplifting songs about dealing with insecurity, disaffection and mental illness, while “The Morning After” is a low-key affair with sad, dark lyrics.
“We recorded it as two mini-albums and released it as such in England,” Booth said. “They’ve been put together in America as one. Certainly, the album that’s the more mellow album is ‘The Morning After.’ Those were songs that we haven’t been able to release for awhile. We wanted to release up-tempo songs to do on stage. ‘The Morning After’ allows ourselves to do some darker pieces that won’t necessarily work live. But when we got in the studio, they changed character anyway. Quite a few of them will work live now.”
The two mini-albums not only have different feels, but they were recorded dissimilarly as well.
“‘The Night Before’ was recorded using the Internet,” said Booth, whose band is best known for its hits “Laid” and “Sit Down.” “We improvised the songs — me, Jim [Glennie, bass] and Larry [Gott, guitars] — and put them on the Internet on an FTP website. The band members downloaded them, messed around with them, chopped them up, put their parts on, put them back on the website, and then another band member would do the same thing.
“Eventually, Lee Baker, our producer, would take and pull them together and see if we had a song. That album was done without us playing in a room together.”
Coming together directly after their U.K. tour in early 2010, James recorded “The Morning After” in five days in a big room with no overdubs and with a view to capturing “something spontaneous.”
“The second album, ‘The Morning After,’ was done in a studio with everyone together, with a tight deadline of about five days to make a record,” Booth said. “We’re very fast. They were done in very different styles on purpose, just to see what they brought out of us.”
The band — which also includes Saul Davies (guitar, violin), Mark Hunter (keyboards), David Baynton-Power (drums) and Andy Diagram (trumpet) — came up with more than 120 ideas for the mini-albums.
“Then we whittled it down to the ones that we wanted to be worked on at this time,” Booth said. “If we don’t want the songs, we give them back to the universe. Most of them, we’ll let them go and we’ll write another 100 for the next album.
“We don’t write them fully though. We improvise them. It’s very easy. It’s something we’ve always done and love doing. Certain songs jump out and want to be worked on, and certain songs stay back. It’s quite surprising how, if you pick them at random, they always work out quite well. I think potentially they’re good songs. I think at a certain given time, you have to make a decision about which ones you want to work with.”
The band figures out each night’s setlist during soundcheck.
“We do long soundchecks where we work on new songs or old songs that everyone’s forgotten, then we throw them in the set that evening,” Booth said. “We’ve got a great new record coming out and quite a few of the songs work really well live. A few of those will get used. We’ll be mixing it up each night.”