November 20, 2014

Gemma Hayes- "Jets" to "There's Only Love" to "Laughter"

Nov. 23, 2014 Update: This post has been edited to add a Facebook entry from Gemma Hayes the day after I wrote this. See bottom of post.

Nov. 25, 2015 Update: This post has been edited to add a portion of a Gemma Hayes interview from September 15, 2015.

My first blog post about Gemma Hayes was in January of 2013, about her 2011 album, Let it Break, which I (stupidly) bought very late. My next post about her coincides with the release of her new album, Bones + Longing, which just came out last week. I was one of the first people to hear it, as one of 890 people who supported her through PledgeMusic to record it. I pledged the money over a year ago, and it was fun to track the progress of the album over the months, and thrilling to finally be able to download it this week. I have been listening to it non-stop since.


Gemma Hayes
This post though is going to be about one song from the album, which I discovered has three names: "Jets", "There's Only Love", and now "Laughter." On first listen of Bones + Longing, I instantly noticed that the first track, "Laughter" sounded very familiar. I quickly realized it was a different version of the song "There's Only Love", which is track 2 on Let it Break. I began doing research on the song, which led to two album reviews. Both however make false assumptions about the song:

From The Arts Desk:
"Bones and Longing kicks off with “Laughter”, a reworking of 2011’s “There’s Only Love” with a more shoe-gazy feel. Its minimal production sets the tone for much of the record. There are whispering vocals, acres of reverb and scratchy guitars that evoke feelings of distant youth." 

From Drowned in Sound:
"Gemma Hayes fans will do a double take as Bones + Longing whirs into life, and may check the correct file/CD/slab of wax is playing. Opener ‘Laughter’ sounds uncannily familiar... then click - it’s literally ‘There’s Only Love’ from 2011’s Let It Break. Recycling’s always shaky musical ground, especially around this time of the year as the market floods with errant balladry designed to keep Cowell’s pet blue whale in krill. Still, disposable dreck is one thing; it’s a bit odd when a serious singer-songwriter opens a fifth record with a cover of themselves. Maybe the creative flame has puttered out?

Not so: Hayes is making amends. She deftly recasts the original's sub-Snow Patrol slog via thoughtful, considered layering - drifting shoegaze guitars, insistent ride cymbal, flecks of synth and a buried, suggestive vocal wheeling beautifully out of the gorse. Voila; the pedestrian becomes the tantalising, lyrics glimpsed through the autumnal furze. It’s a perfect, and somewhat surprising, opening gambit for a record of brave self-assessment.

‘Laughter’ remains a shade tentative, feet carefully placed among slick leaves, but reinvention’s an aim without an obvious path. It’s the collision that discrepancy provides that ultimately gives the record its impetus as Hayes takes stock. 'Sometimes the magic is deadened by trying to record a perfect version of a song,' she said of the process. 'My aim was to make sure each song had a spark.'"

Both are wrong assessments, but the second (from Drowned in Sound) is especially misinformed and false, and takes Gemma Hayes' interview quotes completely out of context. In fact, Drowned in Sound appears to be attacking the original version (?) of the song, by calling it "sub-Snow Patrol slog". What does that even mean? It is a humorous description that I disagree with considering "There's Only Love" is perhaps my all-time favorite Gemma Hayes song.

But the main point here is that "Laughter" is not a re-working or a new version of an old song. "Laughter" is the EXACT same song as "Jets", which was released on the Velvet Ears Two compilation in Sept. 2011. This was a bizarre discovery! You can listen to it here:



As the original, Irish version of of Let it Break was released in May of 2011 (The North American version, which I have, was released in 2012 with a different track order), the question now is which song came first, "Jets" or "There's Only Love"? In Gemma's Wikipedia entry, it describes "Jets" as a demo. I find that hard believe due to the excellent quality and production of the song.

Based on everything I have read up until this point, I am going to guess that both versions of this song were recording during sessions for "Let it Break". Then I assume she picked one version of the song, named "There's Only Love" to put on that album. Considering the other version is equally outstanding yet very different, she picked it to be released that same year as "Jets" on the Velvet Ears comp.



Fast forward to 2014, for some reason, she re-named and re-released "Jets" as the opening track on her new album. While it is now called "Laughter", is is the exact same recording as "Jets" from three years ago. I only heard this song last week, so it is crazy to me it has existed for at least three years.

I admit I am a relatively new Gemma Hayes fan with limited knowledge of her songs (discovered her in 2008, and it wasn't until 2013 that I had more than one album of hers) . Perhaps she records different versions of songs often? Her catalog is so immense, and I am missing one LP and all of the EPs and singles from my collection.

I will continue my research on this song, and attempt to reach out to Gemma herself. I would love her insight on the different versions of this song, and if you are reading this, and have any information, please comment! In summary: 1 song, 2 recordings, 3 titles.


Update, from Gemma Hayes Facebook page on Nov. 21:
I can see on social media that some of you are curious to know my reason for putting an alternative version of 'There’s Only Love' as the opener on the album. I’m talking about 'Laughter'. The album was always a ten track album, I decided to add a bonus track during the mastering phase. Laughter was that bonus track and was set to be placed at the very end of the album as a secret track. The song has a lot of energy and good life to it. The more I lived with it the more I loved the idea of opening the album with this bonus track! It connects both albums or where I have been but more so it clearly establishes a loud and bold change. It's the same person but changed. So a ten track album became an 11. It's been only four days since it's release and the support and good will towards Bones + Longing is staggering. Thank you x G

While she didn't respond directly to me, I assume she did see my tweets and follow-up responses. This is interesting insight on the song, but still doesn't answer my primary question: when was "Laughter" recorded, and did it precede or follow "There's Only Love"?

Update from a Sept. 15, 2015 interview with The 405:
'Laughter' has a history in that it was on your album, Let It Break, but in a different form under the title 'There's Only Love'. What brought you back to that song on this album?

Well 'Laughter' is actually the original version. I wrote it years ago but it never fitted the mood of Let It Break so I took the bones of it and wrote 'There's Only Love' which is the same song lyrically and melodically. For Bones + Longing, 'Laughter' was intended to be a bonus track hidden at the end. For a giggle during the mastering process I suggested starting the album it. I know it's not the done thing to reuse a song on another album but I just loved the energy of the original recording.

Do the two versions have different meanings for you?

When I re-recorded it, the song became more poppier and synth-driven on Let It Break. The original version on this album is a much more cynical. Lyrically I'm singing the same thing but I'm singing it in a way that means the laughter that I hear is not real and that's all we ever hear.

Reactions: