Crimes and reasons in Sheffield

In the Nursery
In the Nursery

AT the moment, In the Nursery’s Milton Street studio resembles something of a detective’s office. Images plaster the wall, each helping piece together the story of a crime.

But while this doesn’t seem like a conventional method for making music, it makes perfect sense for ITN’s latest release, The Calling.

The album, which is released next week, is inspired by and features readings from the David Hunter series of crime fiction novels by author Simon Beckett.

And ITN’s faux crime-scene wall is a vital part in the creative process behind The Calling, as the duo’s Nigel Humberstone explains.

“Once we read Simon’s books we took the extracts from them that Simon reads on the album and pinned them on the wall. We created these ‘mood boards’ which were full of images that Klive (Humberstone) Googled after he’d created these scenarios in his head in response to the book.” This helped their songwriting, according to Humberstone, though albeit indirectly. “Having the visuals on the wall wasn’t a direct way of working but it enhanced the process.”

Simon Beckett’s readings aren’t superfluous to the music, they are embedded in the tracks themselves.

“We play the vocals within the tracks,” says Humberstone. “The readings appear on part of the album where the sounds are more minimal. There are some very textural pieces on the album.”

To achieve this musical texture, the Humberstone twins gathered a bank of sounds from everyday life, ranging from birds in the park to heating vents. The result is a collage-like soundtrack with instrumental sounds and recordings - the combination makes for an atmospheric, abstract collection of tracks.

“We used these headphones with an in-built microphone, which enables us to make what is known as ‘binaural’ field recordings, which means sounds as you hear them. Some of the sounds are from the natural environment, like the rain coming down. When you’re listening for sounds you realise that the sounds that you hear are not always the sounds that you think you hear.”

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Humberstone always has his sound-gathering antenna switched on.

“I always have an MP3 player with me to record sounds. The other day I recorded the sound of a butterfly rubbing its wings together - it sounded like leather gloves being rubbed against each other. I am very aware of the sounds around me and sometimes when you stop and listen to all the different levels of sound you can feel them through your body.”

Beckett, who is based in Sheffield, wrote his first novel in the David Hunter series - The Chemistry of Death - in 2006. Since then he’s been shortlisted for the Gold Dagger Award and had built a huge fan-base in Germany and Scandanavia.

“We think Simon’s fans will be really enthusiastic about this project as it’s a bit different and I think our followers will be interested to hear something different and that we’re branching off but retaining elements of what we have always done at the same time.”

In the Nursery are no newcomers to creating soundtracks for fiction. The band has been creating epic, cinematic music both for themselves and for films, such as the Clint Eastwood-directed Gran Torino trailer, for more than 30 years.

“It’s challenging and liberating working with a brief. We don’t follow a narrative as such but we do follow themes.”

The Calling is released on February 4 and advance copies are available on