Dan Lyons and his new band The Tenants set up a DIY studio in an old theatre in Margate and recorded the follow up to his debut album – 2020’s SubSuburbia – in just 10 days.
Recorded live with minimal overdubs, Shuttered Dreams is a blast of uncompromising truth reminding us to stay awake when the vultures are circling. The album was mixed by Sean Genockey (Shame, Richard Ashcroft, The Who, Black Crowes).
Margate in March 2021 was a time to test your resolve. If the wind howling round the closed down shops and cafes didn’t send you spinning out of control the out of season coastal melancholy could drag you down as surely as any dead eye mermaid. Add in a murderous virus and a frozen gig scene and it was a time to stay frosty and fight off the demons. Dan had some experience to draw on. “Instead of baking banana bread or knitting, I decided to upgrade my home studio but after a couple of months of writing it was obvious that the songs needed to breathe as much as I did. They’re all about real people and raw feelings and I felt they wouldn’t get justice by being turned into zeroes and ones so early in life “.
It was decided to record the masters live with his new band featuring Dom Hall (drums), Henry Gabbott (bass) and Freya Warsi (vocals ) and engineer friend, Harry Armstrong. Armed only with a Vox Marauder, a skeleton recording studio, and a pad of lyrics he moved in with The Tenants to The Tom Thumb Theatre which like everywhere was closed for business but had just received Arts Council recovery funding and was offering residencies for artists.
“Musically I wanted to try to work within a strict palette of sound, using the same acoustic and electric guitars for every song, and Henry’s Wurlitzer and Mellotron to flesh things out a bit.” Dan says, “We played all of the songs live, sometimes up to sixty or seventy times until we were happy with a take, we might then added a bit of extra electric, percussion or backing vocals, but what you hear on the record is pretty much what was happening in the room. That makes me feel proud, as all the records I love listening to were made in that way.”
As the tracks came together Dan called in the help of friends Asha Lorenz from Sorry (vocals on “Golden Handshake”) and Vincent Curson Smith (Horns on “Sleeping On A Dream” and “Hope Springs”).
Dan Lyons on Shuttered Dreams:
“I wrote most of the songs on the album during a strange time. The corona virus hadn’t quite become the only thing people were talking about, but there was a slow and steady anxiety inducing rhetoric coming from the radio and newspapers. Johnson’s first emergency broadcast really caught me off guard. The severity of the situation really hit home. I remember not quite being able to comprehend what I was seeing, for the first time it felt like an Orwellian future might be just over the horizon. “Sleeping On A Dream” was the first one I wrote in direct response to that fear – the lyrics I penned in one sitting – it’s a stream of consciousness melting pot of everything I was angry about at the time.
“The Price Is Right” I wrote during a very low ebb, feeling guilty about making bad decisions and generally wondering what this whole human existence malarkey even means at all. It’s one of those songs that just sort of ended up writing itself (I know it’s annoying when people say that, but it’s definitely a thing) and I tried to be as honest and open as I could be – didn’t want to hide anything in irony or too much metaphor…
I just buried myself in music amongst all the chaos and initial shock of the forced quarantine. It triggered a lot of anger at first – existential dread set in and I was writing to try and get rid of it. I had also just come off a medication I’d been taking for a long time, which affected the way I saw the world. It felt like I had been living with my eyes half closed, and now that they were open I didn’t like what I saw.
As well as this anger about the injustice that I was seeing everywhere (homelessness, depression, the world’s population being more medicated than ever) I was getting huge rushes of overwhelming ecstasy from the smallest triggers and there are a few songs that I wrote as a deliberate response to these episodes. I was zooming in, rather than zooming out and I found that there is beauty in everything, if you can teach yourself to find it. “Hope Springs” is about a woman who lives across the road from us on Trinity Square in Margate. She smokes maybe 300 cigarettes a week, she sits outside on the step every day, and always says good morning. She epitomises old Margate, pre gentrification, and I wanted to immortalise her and pay homage. It’s also a tip of the hat to Tom Petty whose death from accidental fentanyl overdose really hit me hard, his Wildflowers album was on heavy repeat at the time…
I’m a fatal optimist and so despite the general discontent that runs through Shuttered Dreams (which is actually the name of a shop which sells blinds and curtains Birchington On Sea) I feel like it ends on a positive note, and offers a bit of an escape too. Lovers Retreat is a funny song about an imaginary couple who are both being unfaithful and end up bumping in to each other mid affair at their joint owned house in the country. Instead of a flaming row breaking out the group ends up getting on and having a lovely time together. The whole thing is all taking place in my head as I’m on the train out to the country feeling like death warmed up.
So yeah, an album of two halves. Dark and light. Misery and optimism. Failure and success.”