A Day in the Life: Social Distancing with Victory Kicks

In many ways, Victory Kicks has been making lockdown records for years. It’s always been primarily a home recording thing, so whilst other projects I was involved with came to a sudden halt last year, Victory Kicks was the one thing that could carry on. I’m really grateful for that; music has always been an escape. Last year that became more essential than ever. Working on a new record during lockdown also gave me something to structure my time around, as a result I can still just about remember what day it is.

The start of the first lockdown in the UK coincided with the release of the 6th Victory Kicks album, Lovers in Peacetime. The original plan had been to play a bunch of shows in support of that record, which was probably the happiest I’d been with a finished album so far. In the end none of that could go ahead. Instead, I used the time we’d have spent rehearsing to write a new record. The songs I came up with during the first couple of months of the pandemic were starting to help me make sense of what was going on; I didn’t set out wanting to write about lockdown, but I wanted the songs to evoke the mood of it, and to translate how it felt into a sound.

I did a lot of the writing for the new record late at night, staying up watching TV and playing guitar, taking lines or ideas from the stuff I was watching and the stories people were telling. A lot of the stuff I’d done previously had started with quite fully formed instrumental arrangements that I’d written words to, but this time the songs came together first - just simple stripped down solo things, playing guitar and singing along to a drum machine late at night. I tried to retain that mood when I started recording them. Many of these songs are darker and more sparsely produced than previous Victory Kicks stuff.

I recorded these songs with a very minimal setup at home. I had it in mind that I wanted the production to be really stripped back and that the equipment I was using should be paired back to the absolute essentials. I recorded everything in my flat with just a small amp, a mic, a laptop, a synth and that’s pretty much it. Rather than using a lot of effects or doing a lot in production, I tried to push those few things as far as I could to get the different sounds and textures, doing stuff like playing synths through overdriven guitar amps, playing mobile phone signals through guitar pickups, recording house sounds and looping them. The end result is a record that is both atmospheric and intimate.

I’m hoping that by the time the new album comes out later this year that there’ll be a chance to play these songs in front of people. I’m fine working on music the way I’ve been doing it during lockdown but I’d love to see how these songs work live. There are songs on the record that are absolutely made for that - the lead single, “Mookie Betts”, is one of those for sure.

While practicing social distancing, watch the music video for "Mookie Betts":