Ben Daniels created A Sunny Day in Glasgow; he can surely take it away. And during a dark time for the band, he almost did.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow's debut, "Scribble Mural Cosmic Journal," was based on Daniels' twin sisters' haunting, reverb-drenched vocals and his dense, sample-heavy arrangements.
After they left the group, Daniels and drummer Josh Meakim were working with a singer who wasn't fitting their vision, so she split, too, leaving the band without its signature sound " a lead female voice. At the time, the pair were in the midst of working on the group's second full-length, "Ashes Grammar." To fill the vacated role, Meakim suggested he'd do the singing.
"After that, I was like, 'We can't do that " it's not the band at that point,'" Daniels said.
"I was definitely very close to scrapping it, but it was weird," he said. "I really like the songs, and they kind of keep you in it. Even though they take forever to get done, you listen to it and you're like, 'Oh, I've got to finish this.'"
A little perseverance and a random e-mail from Ryan Newmayer, a longtime fan and neighbor in the band's West Philadelphia home base, led to them meeting Annie Frederickson. She became the new vocalist and the group finished the record, with Daniels' sister Robin adding vocals sporadically.
But Daniels wasn't done juggling yet. When the group wanted to take these songs on the road, they needed someone to fill Robin's role. Daniels put out a public call and finally settled on Jen Goma. Drummer Meakim switched to guitar, synthesizers and vocals, so Daniels had to recruit again " his friend Adam Herndon on drums; the useful Newmayer on bass.
So after three years and 13 different members, what once was Daniels recording songs alone in his bedroom is now a stable, six-piece touring band.
"I really want this to be it," he said of ending the band's ever-shifting lineup. "Everybody's on board. I've played in bands in the past [and] you get sick of it " dealing with people's egos. When I started this, it was just me and that was nice, but you get tired of that. It's nice to have a lot of people to collaborate with and work with and have fun with."
The sextet now have the task of taking ASDIG's compositions and re-creating them live " something Daniels himself said would take eight people to get exactly right.
You see, most of the songs on "Ashes Grammar" aren't quite songs at all " save for the brilliant "Close Chorus," which sounds like Panda Bear with female vocals. Instead, it's a 22-track collection of transitional and fragmented ambient pieces.
"It's kind of just what comes out, it's not really some high kind of concept," Daniels said. "I guess when I'm going along, it's like verse, chorus, verse, and then when it gets done it's not really that [anymore]. It's kind of like you get out your ideas and then you react to them and then try to follow them."
At the core are the dreamy, choral-like vocals, making the group part a subgenre dubbed "dream pop."
"I'm a huge fan of reverb, and I like to throw that on everything " things get all smeary," Daniels said. "On 'Scribble,' I remember everybody was like, 'There's so many effects,' and there was only reverb and distortion on that record. A lot of times I didn't even put anything on the vocals, but when you get the whole it sounds like that. Josh and I talked about it and were saying no reverb " vocals out front on the next record " mix it up a bit."
While the band has an EP for a remixed version of "Ashes Grammar's" "Nitetime Rainbows" due out in March, another EP's worth of unfinished songs Daniels said he may just give away for free, as well as a full slate of tour dates " he's already thinking about the group's next album.
"I feel like 'Ashes Grammar' sounds like the same band who did 'Scribble Mural Comic Journal,'" he said.
"I would like the third one to sound like some other band entirely. I don't know if that will happen, but it's an ideal to have there."
--Rudi Greenberg, Express (Dec. 2009)