Last Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.The Sick-Leaves.
“It’s an album that breathes and undulates like a ship on the open sea. It deals with fantasies, real life experiences, mountaineering and social commentary. It is much more rhythmic than the first two albums….” – Eksteen Jacobsz
Twice SAMA nominated artist The Sick-Leaves independently release highly anticipated third album Last Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy on 8th March 2010.
Renowned Grammy Award winning producer, Darryl Torr produced this album from The Sick-Leaves that was recorded in November 2009 at SABC’s M5 studio. The album follows from the critically acclaimed SAMA nominated first & second albums Tunnel Vision & Stone the Crow (2007 & 2009 respectively), with Stone the Crow also having been released independently.
The Sick-Leaves is singer/songwriter/guitarist Eksteen Jacobsz. He wrote the songs for Last Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy “soon after Stone the Crow was released in 2008.” He adds “most of the songs were written in that 6 month period after the release, but a few sneaked in just before we started to record Last Dance…
As for the direction he wanted to take with the Sick-Leaves with the new album, he explains “I did the epic thing on Stone the Crow so in a way I wanted to go more in the opposite direction– shorter songs, more to the point, minimalist. I also wanted to pull the sound a bit more together by shedding a few layers of guitar and bringing the vocals to the fore.”
The song writing process “was a bit different from the first two albums. For the first time I started to write all the music and arrangements before I even contemplated writing lyrics. That’s how a song like Tell It Like It Is came to be an instrumental. I listened to it and it already had everything it needed, which meant that vocals were unnecessary it anyway didn’t fit with the song.”
He says is inspiration for the album “is hard to put my finger on it but a source of inspiration might have come from REM’s “Accelerate” album. The sound and concept of a short rock/punk album appealed to me at that stage.
He feels “in a sense” the sound has matured since the last album, he explains “we had put a lot of thought into this one with regards to it being more accessible. So where there was before feedback and millions of guitar noises we pulled back on that. This meant of course that a lot of space was created, which was quite a scary thing for me at first. The biggest thing I probably learned on this album was that “space to breathe” is an integral part of music and that if you don’t create it it’s easy for the listener to be overwhelmed.”
He chose “Last Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” as the name of the album as he had “read the title in a book by Stephen Venables, “Higher than the Eagle Soars”, which described his adventures in the Himalayas and in particular scaling Everest from the most difficult east side without supplemental oxygen. It stuck with me and I really liked the ring to it. To me it means that we all have something or someone that can be taken away at any moment and that we must cherish and appreciate them while they’re here.”
Working with acclaimed producer, Darryl Torr “was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot of new things from him. The fact that he has overseas experience was a big consideration. He’s a perfectionist and in the studio that is the perfect person to have behind the desk. “
Eksteen tracked all the instruments on the album bar the drums and found it “time consuming.” He elaborates “every album is the same story so by now I’m quite used to it. It’s a case of assuming the specific instrument’s mentality when you record it. When you do the bass, you have to think like a bassist and play like a bassist. A bit of role and personality reversal. The toughest part of recording was undoubtedly the vocals”
Photographer Sean Brand designed all the album artwork using infrared photographs taken in Namibia to fit with the concept of the album and working with him “was a privilege and a pleasure. He adds “I didn’t really have an idea until I saw some of Sean’s infra red photographs. It made an immediate visual impact on me and I asked him if he’d be interested in doing the cover artwork. The brief basically was a “sense of vastness’’. When he said that he was off to Namibia for a holiday I knew that he would come back with something amazing….He knew what I was looking for, without me giving him a very detailed brief. He is very dedicated to his craft and it’s an inspiration to see someone have so much passion for photography and music.”
There weren’t any off the wall antics whilst in studio he says “apart from studio skateboarding, not really. If you have time to fool around in the studio you either have too much money or too few ideas.”
His favourite track off the album would be Run Away “for the reason that it was the easiest song to write and that everything was basically in place when I wrote it. Lyrically, it sums life up for me.”
He works as “one man band” in studio and then translates that to a band when performing live, he thinks “the positive thing about it is that the music comes alive when you play it live and there is definitely much more energy. Live is a different beast from the studio so it brings its own challenges to the party.”
He admits he thinks it’s rather clichéd but it’s “all about getting the music out there, to whoever is interested.”
You can catch Eksteen in action tonight on MK’s Studio 1 at 7:30 pm. I suggest you tune in!