Sunday 17 May 2015

Ella Brown, our new three-track single

We were watching a documentary the other night about Brian Eno and he talked about the idea of releasing a song being akin to setting something free. Well, Ella Brown, our three-track single, has been free to roam for a week today. We thought we'd tell you all about it!

Ella Brown
The title track is a love song of sorts. It's about being young, and feeling that you're falling in love with someone who happily lets you admire, adore and even worship them, but doesn't give you much by way of return. Many of us have been there, and it's about learning from that, and moving on.

Ruth wrote the song and we arranged it together for our voices, and ukulele, violin, mandolin and melodica (the latter was a wedding present from one of Marc's musician friends; we married late in 2014). The middle eight, as some of you have worked out, is loosely based on Thomas Tallis' choral work, Why Fum'th in Fight (also famously magpied by Ralph Vaughan-Williams).

We recorded the song at Catalyst Studios, St. Helens. Andy Bowes is a fantastic producer and as we hadn't spent much time in a studio before, he helped us through the whole process. We actually paid for our time in the studio with vouchers we'd received as wedding gifts!

The cover art
Ruth's colleague and friend Michelle Quinn is a fine artist whose quirky, semi post-impressionist style first caught our eye when she painted us a TARDIS-themed card for our wedding. We asked how she'd feel about painting a picture for our single cover and she agreed! We were chuffed when she came up with three designs for us to choose from. Initially, we preferred one of her other designs, however, when it came time to put out the single, we unanimously changed our mind; how could Ella Brown be represented by anything other than this painting?

The violin
The violin Ruth plays on Ella Brown was hired from Mike Phoenix Violins in Liverpool. Ruth does have her own violin but the tone isn't particularly mellifluous, and it's more for playing at home. In fact, it was while we were in the Bluecoat in Liverpool looking for an engagement ring that we chanced upon Mike Phoenix; he offered to let Ruth play one of his violins, and she remembered how much she loved to play the instrument. However, she put it out of her mind until a few months later. Noted St. Helens indie band, The Loungs, were looking for someone to play violin on one of the tracks on their new album, and Ruth said she would do it if they couldn't find anyone else, but pointed out she was hardly Vanessa Mae, and her violin was far from a Strad. They kindly offered to hire a violin for her; she contacted Mike Phoenix to see if he could advise on where to hire a violin... he said he could loan her one, but for a minimum of three months... and that's how we ended up with this gorgeous sound on our track!

The b-sides
Reynardine is a well-known folk ballad (Roud 397); depending on who you believe it's either a spooky tale of a charming werefox, or a song about a brigand who tricks a girl into doing his bidding. We've kept our arrangement simple, partly because we think it's the latter!

When researching the song, we wondered what the lyric '"oh no, no rake am I!" he cried, "brought up on Venus' train..."' meant, so we looked into it; apparently, it means that Reynardine exclaims that he cannot be a rake - a conman, a seducer - because he was brought up in the company of women. (Certainly some of us have heard something similar to that line before; it's as if he is protesting that he's not a misogynist; how can he be? He has a mother and sisters!)

Both of our b-sides were recorded by our friend Kerry Foster. Kerry has known Ruth since their children were babies, but recently, Kerry started doing a music degree at St. Helens College, and was looking for a band to record as part of her degree. We were delighted when she asked us, and these two tracks were the result. We think she's done an amazing job!

Molly is a jig based on Molly/Polly put the Kettle on, or Jennie's Baubie, which we play on violin and melodica. It's a simple tune but we love it partly because it starts cheerfully and breezily but as it progresses, it finds some depth. Plus, there's never a moment in our house when we don't have a brew in our hands. We played straight through this live in the studio while Kerry recorded it.

So far, we've had one amazing review of our single which called it "engaging and very listenable," and said lovely things about our voices and musicianship. We've also had some fantastic comments about it on twitter and Facebook:
... all your tracks are a "declaration d'amour"...
... brightens my day, causes me to hum along, and tap my toes!
... cracking job on the tracks...
love these folky vibes! Beautiful vocal harmonies too :)
AWESOME! It's awesome! 
Lovely! I love the melodica on Ella Brown!
... haven't stopped chanting it for days...
Beautiful people need to hear beautiful things
Lovely couple pouring their hearts into some ... folk music
I just love this track...

and our favourite:

I've just listened to Ella Brown and whilst I'm not into folk music at all... I have to say I absolutely LOVE it.

So, what do YOU think? 

Pricing and licensing
We've decided to make this track Pay What You Like. This means that you enter whatever you'd like to pay - even nothing at all - into the Name Your Price box when you click Buy Now. Obviously, when our EP, Amateur Astronomy, comes out, we will have to charge for it (though nothing exorbitant), otherwise we'd be running at a loss and be unable to afford to make any more music. But for the single, we're happy for people to pay anything or nothing at all. We've also licensed it under Creative Commons; without going into too much detail, this means that the tracks aren't copyright; so for example, if you want to make a video and you're looking for a background track, you can use any of ours from the single without having to pay a penny, providing you credit us. It's another way we're saying thank you to people for supporting our music.

What can you do?
Well, if you've made your way through this blog post, you've already done something lovely for us! But if you'd like to help even more, we would love for people to share our song on Facebook. It's a very mysterious business, getting people to "share" content over there; there are myriad blog posts about it and a tonne of research but still no one seems to completely understand what makes people click the "share" button rather than the "like" button! So we're just going to ask; it would help us greatly if you could share our posts on Facebook. On twitter, mini reviews help us an awful lot. Even just a quick tweet to say "love the new single @mossandjones" or something similar will go a long way in persuading other people to have a listen.

At the end of the day, we aren't doing this to make money (if we wanted to make money from music we'd stick with cover songs and do wedding after wedding) but at the same time, we do want people to listen to our songs, otherwise we might as well just stay at home and play them to each other and to Ruth's eight year old child. (Obviously, we do that anyway!) So if you like our music, and want us to keep making it, it's as simple as this... download it, and tell your friends about it!

Thanks for reading!
Ruth & Marc xx
(Moss & Jones)

Sunday 10 May 2015

Ruth on: releasing a single the weekend after a General Election

I'm going to try not to be too political here (I've already done all that on Facebook, and twitter) but I think most people who know me know I could hardly be described as "over the moon" about the thought of five years of majority Tory government. I think many - possibly not all, but most - of our lovely macramist fans feel similarly.

The trouble is, that for various reasons, our single was ready to release just days after the UK's general election result, and in the end, we decided to go ahead with it.

Ella Brown, the a-side (if you can say a digital download has an a-side) of our single, was in the pipeline for a very long time. In fact, the tune came to me about three years ago, before Moss & Jones even existed! I was singing traditional folk songs unaccompanied at open mic events around Liverpool, but had decided I wanted to try my hand at writing my own songs, and this was the tune I had. The new lyrics are totally different to what I had in mind at the time, and the bridge (heavily based upon Thomas Tallis' Why Fum'th in Fight?) is new, and of course, it's no longer unaccompanied. Obviously, three years is a long genesis for a song, and it's one of those songs that I've put aside and then returned to, fiddled with, arranged (with Marc) for various different instruments to see which worked best (on our recording there is melodica, ukulele and violin). We've agonised over the harmonies (was Marc's harmony too low to be loud?) and worked out which instrument to ditch when we play it live.

Not all our songs have been three years in the making, of course, but given that this one was, there was no way we were going to delay it once we had our b-sides ready.

However, we're also very aware that at the moment, the mood in many people's homes doesn't really suit a sweet but melancholy song, and more something angrily upset; a protest. Now, Ella Brown isn't a protest song at all; it's a sweet, melodic, wistful air about youthful love, and astronomy (sort of). However, Ella Brown is the song we've worked on and recorded, and to drop it at the last minute in favour of trying to quickly pen some kind of angry response to recent events would at best be a shame, at worst, seen as a cynical attempt to cash in on the recent election result in order to get new fans.

One thing we have done in the wake of the election is think about our pricing for this single. We've decided that we are going to stick with Pay What You Like, and license it under creative commons, so it can be shared around without the need for money to change hands. We're very conscious that people are skint already, and most are scared they'll be even more skint, so for the single release, we chose to make it possible for people to download it free of charge, should they so wish. Unfortunately, for the EP, we simply can't afford to do this (or we'd end up never being able to make music again) but we're still going to price it as cheaply as possible, and make streaming unlimited on Bandcamp rather than limit it to three plays before a fan has to pay.

In an odd way, releasing our single now, as planned, feels like a very small act of defiance. I'm not going to say "it's a protest in its own way" because it's not, and that's a bit insulting to those people who are protesting right now, but it certainly feels like we aren't going to let the current situation change our plans and change our music (though it may change anyway, organically, over time).

However, it's hard, because I don't think many macramists are in the mood to be particularly ebullient about music at the moment, which means fewer downloads, retweets, shares and so on. It's completely understandable too, and I'm not sure there's any way around it; we have to just accept that this isn't really a happy time in many people's lives, and people are obviously more interested in discussing politics right now than music. That said, I'm still glad we released it now, rather than waiting. Because if we'd waited, we could be waiting for five years, or even more.

And we're not going to stop making music just because of the Tories. ;)

If you'd like to listen to/download our single, it's on Bandcamp.

It's here! Ella Brown, a folk-inspired song of love, loss, and learning (with two b-sides!)

We're really happy to announce that our studio-recorded single, Ella Brown, is now available to download!

Ella Brown is an original song, written by Ruth and arranged, played and sung by both of us. It is about love, loss, and learning from both those things. It's played on the violin, the ukulele and the melodica, and there are lots of vocal harmonies! It was recorded and produced by Andy Bowes at Catalyst Studios, St. Helens, and will also appear on our forthcoming EP, Amateur Astronomy, out this summer.

On the b-side we have two tracks! Both were recorded by a talented student friend of ours, Kerry Foster, at St. Helens College. Reynardine is a classic folk song (which we play on the mandolin and accordion) about a trickster brigand (who may or may not also be a fox) and Molly, or Jennie's Baubie, is a jig, played on the violin and melodica, which most of you will recognise.

The single, with its a-side and b-sides, is totally free to download, though if you wish and are able, you can pay more to help support us in making future recordings.

You can download from

The cover art for the single was drawn by another talented friend of ours, an artist called Michelle Quinn.

We hope you enjoy the music and would love to hear from you about what you think!

Ruth & Marc xx