When I was about 14, a Portsmouth-based band called Tinnitus acquired quite a few young local fans. Looking back now, it’s quite funny to imagine how ridiculous that looked – having a sizeable clique of 14-year-old kids. There was a montage of many of their faces on their EPs. I was not one of those fans. During the weekend, I stumbled across a couple of my friends (who were part of this cult) at a nearby park, and they were on their way to a big party with the band and their fans at a friend’s house. I tagged along, chatting to them, and I was kindly invited into the party.
I started chatting to someone on a bench in the garden, and didn’t notice that my friends from school had left, because I was too engrossed in conversation. I remember signing up to the Tinnitus online forum and quickly being bullied by those school “friends”, using this as an example of how nobody really liked me, and how I just found a way of fitting in to everything because I was such a loner. Even somebody I thought had been my best friend since we were only 6 was at it.
I guess they just hadn’t had the guts to say it to my face. Unsurprisingly, I was heartbroken, and I wasn’t going to converse with them anymore at school, at least to the best of my ability. However, to be honest, they were right to a degree. It was a community that I really wished I was part of whether I was a massive fan or not. While even the person whose party it quickly came to my defence, I had just been barred somewhat from even being in contact with any of them, because I would inevitably cross paths with the tools from before. No one ever believed me if I said I was into heavier music.
So, why am I telling you this story? Had it not been for that miserable occasion, then the following would not have happened.
I was the drummer in Portsmouth Youth Jazz Training Orchestra at the time, and a few weeks after the aforementioned debacle, we were joined by a new guitarist and bassist. The guitarist and I immediately recognised each other. It was Toby, the guy who I had been chatting to at that party, along with Shelley, who was one of his school-friends. Imagine how happy I was when it turned out that I was the missing link that they needed to form a band, especially considering that the closest that I ever came to forming a band was having a jam with the ‘friends’ that I had previously. I jumped at the offer.
We met up at Toby’s house and had a bit of a jam session, and I recall that we played a couple of his riffs, one named ‘Surf Song/Happy Fun Song’ (I have sadly since lost the recording of this. It had a very similar sound to ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ by The Kooks.) and another which didn’t yet have a title. Unfortunately, there was a big issue – we didn’t have a vocalist. Another of Toby’s friends was invited along to sing, but I think she only rehearsed with us twice. I can’t even remember her name. As a result, I would often write lyrics and tune, but there was nobody to sing them. Also, without a vocalist, the riffs were often written to be too prominent to sing over the top of.
Here are tinny recordings of ten of our twelve tracks, that were all recorded in Toby’s mother’s office, and later sent to me in heavily compressed MP3 form through MSN Messenger. I’ll give you a little tour through our oeuvre now.
- Xanthophobia: One of my favourites. This was the heaviest track that we had written in a while, so someone decided that we should name it after a phobia. Toby had taken a liking to this word because of its silly definition – the irrational fear of the colour yellow. Believe it or not, the use of a yellow sticky note for the album cover was a creative decision. Besides, doesn’t everything sound cooler with an ‘X’ in it? I always imagined that if we ever got noticed that this would be our breakout hit. You know how 90% of pop-punk videos feature a depressed lonely “teenage dirtbag” (bullied for the first two verses), who finally finds his dream woman in the last chorus? In our video, he was going to get home to find sticky notes with mean remarks on his back when he got home after school/college. Then there would be a big reveal that he has accumulated loads and stuck them all over the bedroom walls.
- Granted: I can’t remember precisely why this was the choice of word, but I did write some lyrics for this, one line of which was “your wish is my command”. This was the second track that we recorded, after ‘Surf Song/Happy Fun Song’ which Toby had written before we formed the band.
- Corrupt: This was our first angry track, and was the closest I think that we ever came to ever fully finishing a song, because anyone of us could have done the vocals because it was meant to be a mess. I kind of wanted to, but didn’t have the guts. It was just nonsensical angst as one would expect from a teenager. Think ‘Song 2’ by Blur, or ‘Oh Yeah’ by The Subways. The end of the chorus, and repeated at the end, the lyrics were “I’ve never, I’ve never, I’ve never felt so broken”.
- Sunset: This was always my favourite of our songs, in particular the resonance of the layered guitars at the end. This actually had an extended coda that was never recorded, which could have been a song in its own right (think the final two minutes of Muse’s ‘Citizen Erased’, but with guitars rather than piano). Its name came from a grave mistake that the vocalist made by using the word “orange” in her lyrics – obviously a word that is difficult to manage. A sunset was a beautiful orange thing that suited the song well enough, especially as the layered guitars at the end reminded me of rippling calm waves. This kind of sound featured heavily in the missing bit.
- Padded Cell: I’m not sure why this was its name (even though I called it that), but I recall that this was definitely our first and biggest disagreement when it came to how we wanted it to be played. I wanted it to sound far darker, more claustrophobic and to be played at a much slower tempo, which would have sounded great after the way ‘Sunset’ ended. I would try and amend this vision with a later song called ‘Beep’. More on that in a bit.
- Accident: This was so called because of a mistake Toby made when playing the chorus riff, and I suggested that he keep it that way. It sticks out like a sore thumb which part that was, and I now have no idea what it was meant to sound like originally. The ending seems to go on forever, and I think we intended for it to fade out, but genuinely forgot, making the name all the more appropriate. You can hear us at the end just give up, and me dropping the sticks.
- Tsunami: The tragic buzzword at the time that it was written, as it wasn’t long after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
- The Beginning: The name came about because when I first burnt the tracks onto a CD, this one was… the last! It was funny at the time. Besides that, there’s nothing more to say about this one.
- Beep: Those are my inexperienced fingers on those keys at the beginning. This was the song that I tried to revive my vision for ‘Padded Cell’ with, but as you can hear, only my chord structure survives the moment that the guitar comes in. The name came from a picture that Toby had as his profile pic on MSN Messenger of a sheep with batwings and fangs, with the caption ‘Bat + Sheep = Beep’. I also take quiet pleasure in the fact that we wrote a song called ‘Beep’ before The Pussycat Dolls did.
- Mademoiselle: I have no idea why it was called this, but this was a total shambles. A fun shambles though.
Early in 2005, Shelley left the band. Her interests were undoubtedly different to Toby’s. While I was happy to play along with whatever vision Toby had for his riffs, Shelley and I spent half of our time chatting about System of a Down, and just how much we loved Mezmerize. Toby had more of a fixation on funkier music, and an obsession with Red Hot Chili Peppers.
She was later replaced with another woman – Laura. Not long after this I was called upon by my cousin (who created electronic music under the name A.W.A.L.) and said that he and his friend’s band Spurjj would be performing a concert at Portsmouth Student Union. At this point, we didn’t even have a name and were nagged to come up with one as quickly as possible. We went straight to a random name generator online, and that was the first (non-profane) answer that we got back. That’ll do.
Forsaken Bunny were invited to perform with them that night. I was absolutely ecstatic, even though we still didn’t have a vocalist. There was no way that we could pass up this chance. What could possibly go wrong?
While I bet that you are expecting me now to drop some kind of bombshell, it went brilliantly. The bassist of Spurjj joined us onstage for a cover of ‘In Your World’ by Muse. Our shared adoration of Muse also led to a cover of their version of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, which provoked a big singalong. The attendance number wasn’t too shabby either. Why was this the case, besides the fact that four bands were performing that night? The full Tinnitus entourage were there, including the dicks from school. It felt amazing to be on top of my game in front of them.
However, there was one very gutting matter that I’ll never forget. My mother said that she would film the show. She did indeed bring the camcorder. Of our thirty-five minute set, she recorded tiny snippets which added up to just three minutes, and for half of it, she forgot the take the lens cap off. I will never forgive her for that, and I still remind her of it every so often. I don’t know whether we even have that tape anymore, nor do I know how to put the footage onto a computer so sadly the only artefact from the show that remains is its setlist. I also recall that the recording featured the only recording of our final composition, what is listed on the above setlist as ‘Intro Mk II’. It’s a pity that that is lost, because even I can’t remember how it went!
Sadly, the story did not last for much longer, and that would be our one and only performance. Toby would Forsake the Bunny over the following months in favour of another band with friends closer to him. As disappointing as that was, I wasn’t salty about it. It was inevitable as our studies would inevitably tear us apart. However, those recordings did still serve a purpose – they were used eight years later as the bed audio tracks on the SMILEcast 2013 podcasts that I produced for Southampton Solent University.
It’s highly unlikely, but one day, I would love to ‘finish’ these tracks, whether with old friends or on my own. Until then, that is where the saga of Forsaken Bunny stands.