SAS : We were well apart now. Neil and David in Maida Vale, Mark in Camden, I was in Catford staying in Phil Nicholls’ flat trying to find a house for our growing family. Writing trips to Monnow valley studio in Wales, but now we were recording to grids to lock in with the synthetic temporary string arrangements. The quality of ideas was there but the spontaneity was draining. We were working towards our third album.

Angel Studio in Islington is an orchestral studio that was usually rented out by the hour. We booked it for 3 weeks. We had the orchestra coming in for a session every 4 days. Things were tense, the band out of balance. With the rise of the orchestral element in the band Al, Mark, Neil and David started to feel and behave like a big rhythm section, Dickon felt that he had no melodic parts to bounce off, I was just generally disillusioned. To add to the stress Ian Caple announced he had been offered another project (that he couldn’t refuse) and that we either waited for him or carried on without him. I chose the latter. This put me at the centre of the album’s production – something I was desperate, but not ready for. August to October became a slog to get the album finished, I was learning so much but so far out of my depth, clinging on. Piles of my hair lay on the mixing desk at the end of each night.

The first time I went to master the album Tim Young sent me away and told me to come back when it was mixed properly. Shit times, lonely times. Some nice songs. It was called ‘curtains’ and it was the end of something. I just needed to figure out what.

DB: We were demoing in South Wales again. Feeling like backing tracks for Dickon’s arrangements. It didn’t feel right. But nothing quite did – This creeping feeling.
And still touring. A lot of shows. Our biggest yet in Athens, Greece. Crazy nights. Starting to lose control.

My own personal life was a mess too. I’d been in and out of a serious relationship. I’d planned to move to Germany. It collapsed. Me and Neil had already decided to leave the flat in Maida Vale that we could never really afford.

If I think about it now. It seems impossible that we managed to play five nights at the I.C.A. in London. Just as we finished recording the new album, Curtains. Each night had a different theme. A lot of work. I have some great memories of it. Meeting Belle and Sebastian, their first London show. Reminding me of us just a year or two before. Jarvis and Andy Weatherall DJ’ing. Being stood outside a late night bar with Jarvis in the pouring rain. Even his pop star credentials couldn’t get us in. The same bar I’d fallen down the stairs of a few months before that features in the Ballad of tindersticks, the song we’d just finished recording.

I remember arguing with Dave Bedford in Dublin. During the album mixing. He was talking about videos. Multiple formats. Getting into the charts. Success – We were almost there! For the first time in my life Top of the Pops was the last place I wanted to be.

Nénette et Boni O.S.T.

Directed by Claire Denis

Released 21st October 1996

Track listing:

1. Ma soeur, La passerelle, Les gâteaux, Camions, Nénette est là, Petites chiennes, Nosfératu, Petites gouttes d’eau

2. Les cannes à pêche, La mort de Félix, Nénette s’en va, Les bébés, Les fleurs, Rumba

LP was limited to 5000 copies

Released by This Way Up as a standard single album
LP: 524 300-1
CD: 524 300-2

Recording notes:

SAS: I think we had some kind Miles Davis ‘Ascenseur pour l’echafaud’ delusion. That we could watch the image and react was beyond us, but that was the feeling we were reaching for, that we were a (kind of jazz) combo in the room – watching and reacting to the film. We got somewhere around there but it sure did take a lot of prep work to get to that point. Nenette et Boni was made in a traditional way, there were no digital files, only VHS tapes to work to – its hard to imagine now.

These were good times in Eastcote. The same Hammond organ and piano still sit there, are always used.

DB: We’d never made a film score before.  We worked on the ideas, some were pretty solid. Claire had filmed scenes to songs from the second album. We re-recorded these and set about making the original themes. One of us would count along to the scene. Then we’d work out what would happen where. Guitar comes in on four. Organ on seven. Bass on eight. Probably the most archaic way of doing things. And so us.

Tiny Tears

DB: I was in Hamburg. Visiting a friend. Claire was in town for the premier of Nenette et Boni, so I went along. The first time watching our music to film on the big screen was amazing. My heart was pounding in my chest as the scene with tiny tears began. I was almost in tears myself. I was asked to do a question and answer thing with Claire after the show. Unexpected. Neither of us seemed able to share what we felt. How could you?

I burnt a hole in my new suit. Trying to conceal a cigarette to calm my nerves. A keepsake to remind me of a special night.

Nénette et Boni stills

Embleton Road, London by Phil Nicholls

Sint-Maartenskathedraal, Ypres/Ieper, Belgium 16/09/1996

ICA, London 5th-9th November 1996

Live concerts and sessions

Wesbeth Theater
New York City, NY, USA
(Date not 100%)

BBC Studios
London, United Kingdom
GLR session

Colchester Arts Centre
Colchester, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

Malmo, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Copenhagen, Denmark

Aarhus, Denmark

London, United Kingdom

Nantes, France

La Hune
Bourges, France

Stavios Bar
Athens, Greece
Secret gig for only 200 people, organized by Rodon FM

Lycabettus Theatre
Athens, Greece
Secret gig for only 200 people, organized by Rodon FM

Theatre Municipal
Tourcoing, France

Roskilde Festival
Copenhagen, Denmark
Red Stage

Paleo Festival
Nyon, Switzerlan

Oslo, Norway

BBC Studios
London, United Kingdom
3rd Mark and Lard (Mark Radcliffe) Session (broadcast date)

BBC Studios
London, United Kingdom
4th Mark and Lard (Mark Radcliffe) session (also the last Mark and Lard session on Radio One)

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
London, United Kingdom
Five-night residency

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
London, United Kingdom
Five-night residency

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
London, United Kingdom
Five-night residency

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
London, United Kingdom
Five-night residency

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
London, United Kingdom
Five-night residency

BBC Maida Vale Studio 4
London, United Kingdom
3rd John Peel session