Lost Souls (Doves Album) - Background and Recording

Background and Recording

In the early 1990s, Jimi Goodwin and twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams were producing dance music as Sub Sub. The trio, along with guest vocalist Melanie Williams, had a club and chart hit single with "Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)" in 1993, reaching #3 on the UK Singles Chart and becoming one of many dance singles to cross over into mainstream popularity in the UK. The song would remain Sub Sub's only hit single; the release of the sole studio album Full Fathom Five in September 1994 and a handful of singles thereafter struggled to match the single's success. In February 1996, on the Williams twins' birthday, the band's recording studio located in Ancoats, Manchester caught fire and burned down, destroying virtually all of the band's equipment and recorded material. In an interview with Excellent Online, Jimi Goodwin said of the fire, "Yeah, we lost tapes, we lost equipment. But we were insured. If we weren't insured, we might not be here now. When forty grand goes up, where would we be to get that back at 22 years old? So, yeah, we were lucky. It was a blessing in a way. I was laughing. After the initial shock, I started giggling, y'know? It was like, 'What else you gonna throw at me, man? C'mon then, fucking bring it on! Me bird just left me, what else you got?'" The only surviving recorded material recovered from the ashes was released as Delta Tapes in February 1998, featuring early versions of later Doves tracks "Firesuite" and "Blue Water", as well as B-side tracks "Crunch" and "Lost in Watts". Before the fire, however, the band were looking towards a new musical direction. In a 2009 interview with QTheMusic.com, Andy Williams stated that, "As Sub Sub we never made the album we thought we were all capable of. We'd always been in love with the idea of albums as opposed to just singles – which are cool in their way and suit dance music perfectly but we wanted to stretch ourselves and make a statement with a set of songs. So around 1996 we started writing and recording the songs which would finally become Lost Souls. We were for all intent and purposes still Sub Sub (we only called ourselves Doves a week or two before The Cedar Room was released, because we wanted a fresh start and a break from the past)."

Sub Sub had been signed to Rob's Records, a label owned by Manchester-based manager Rob Gretton. After the studio fire, Gretton suggested that the band rent the studio owned by New Order in Cheetham Hill for recording. The bulk of what would become Lost Souls was recorded there; said Andy Williams, "We really did lock ourselves away for three to four years until we discovered how we wanted to sound, it was a pretty oppressive place with no windows and thieves trying to break in! But it was also an inspiring place to be as it belonged to New Order and we were fans... The garage there was full of their old gear; it was full of vintage keyboards, sequencers, drum machines and was like some weird techno graveyard in there. I also remember finding Stephen Morris' Rogers drum kit that he used in Joy Division stuffed behind some knackered flight case." The trio – with Gretton's assistance – started their own record label, Casino Records. The first release on the label was Cedar EP, a limited edition 10" vinyl single featuring "The Cedar Room" and "Rise", two songs that would feature prominently on the album, and the instrumental track "Zither". The EP was released in November 1998 and was limited to 1,000 copies. During the album recording sessions, the band were facing the prospect of finding a lead singer, but found themselves more than satisfied with bassist Jimi Goodwin's vocals: "I think the key songs for us on Lost Souls were "The Cedar Room" and "Break Me Gently", because they were the first songs Jimi sang properly and we realised we needn't go looking outside the band for this 'mythical singer', something our friend and label boss Rob Gretton had been telling us for years," said Andy Williams.

"It would be hindsight to wonder what the reaction would have been if we'd have released Lost Souls in 1996. I'm glad it wasn't ready. I wasn't even singing in 1996. I was conveying ideas, but it wasn't a unified decision, like, "Jimi, you should do it, because we're getting nowhere auditioning singers." That was a bit later, that was around 1997, maybe even 1998. We were frustrated, though, we wanted it out. ...It's totally different to your Blur and your Oasis, y'know what I mean? It seems to have been the right time for it."
—Jimi Goodwin summarising the recording and post-Britpop timing of Lost Souls

In late 1998, Doves joined Manchester-based musician Badly Drawn Boy as his backing band; their first release together was the single "Road Movie" in January 1999, recorded live in the studio. Doves also performed on several songs on Badly Drawn Boy's debut album The Hour of Bewilderbeast, as well as accompanying him on tour dates. Doves' second release was the Sea EP in May 1999. A little more than a week before the EP's release, the band's mentor and friend Rob Gretton died of a heart attack. In response, the band dedicated the music video for "Sea Song" to Rob's memory. In August 1999, Doves' third EP Here It Comes was released, with the title track charting at number 73 on the UK Singles Chart.

Doves signed with London-based independent record label Heavenly Records, and a reissue of the band's debut single "The Cedar Room" was released as the forthcoming album's first single in March 2000. Andy Williams concluded of Lost Souls that, "The best thing was that after all the years of hard work and very testing times we knew we were finally creating the sort of music we had always wanted to..." The band also dedicated Lost Souls to their late friend and mentor Rob Gretton.

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