Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September 3rd - Recording LP2



So, we're going to be filming our record making process from start to finish, Joel will be editing the videos, and then we'll post it all here with additional thoughts and details in text form. You can ask questions in the comments if you would like, and one of us will probably respond to you.

I'm going to be somewhat verbose in the description of our day to day activities, so if you just want to get a sampling, you probably ignore everything below. But if you want the detailed play by play account, then read on:

Prologue-


So our friends from the band Corto Maltese introduced us to a wonderful fellow named Jeff Byrd earlier this year, whom they had been working with on their next album. So we met Jeff and he seemed like a nice enough guy, and offered to maybe take a stab at helping us record our next record. We met with him a couple of times, and finally got our schedules together so that we could go in and record for 3 days and try and get the basic tracks for 3 songs recorded.

We talked about various studios and what not, and decided (after visiting) to give a place called Public Hi-Fi a try. It's owned by Jim Eno of Spoon fame, and it's an awe inspiring set up. So many amazing microphones, a Neve Console, a 24 track Studer A827 (I believe), and more old compressors than anyone should know what to do with. (You can check out more here)

So it was kindof a no-brainer to record there, at least conceptually. It's a weird thing to be doing this all in a studio, seeing as this is the first time (for this band, at least) to ever let someone else record us besides ourselves. I've always assumed a lot of the responsibility for recording, but we decided a long time ago for the next record we wanted all of us to be able to focus on the music, and not have to worry about the technical aspects (or not worry as MUCH, at least, mewhahahaghasdgkljhasg). This is also the first time we'll be recording to 2" tape, and not straight into a computer. So that's a big deal.

ANYWAY. FLASH FORWARD to Thursday morning...

September 3rd - Day 1 of Tracking

We all met up at Tim and Joel's place to caravan over to the studio. It's only a couple of miles from all of us, which is nice. We brought more stuff than we could ever need. A short description:

2 Guitar Amps
1 Bass Amp
5 Electric Guitars
2 Bass Guitars
2 Full Drum Sets
6 various keyboards
and later an Accordion

We met Jeff at the studio at noon, and were introduced to the house engineer at PHF, Brad Bell, who would be assisting and being awesome for the duration for the session. He's a cool cat.

Most of the afternoon was taken up by loading our stuff in, getting everyone situated, and setting up drums and microphones. ONE of the great things about the studio is that there's mic inputs throughout the entire place. Everywhere. Literally.

So for basic tracking, the number one goal is getting a good drum take. If the other stuff is good enough to keep, that's great: but we're most concerned with drums. It was decided we would try out a drum kit that Jeff owns, which is almost exactly similiar to Joel's main drumset (both made by C&C), but the edges of the shells we used were sharp, whereas Joel's set has more rounded edges. So anyway, while they set up drums and got drum sounds, Tim, Greg, and I went to the store to stock up on some refreshments, and stuff. Shopping list:

2 cases of bottled water
2 cases of Orange Gatorade
2 cases of Red Gatorade
1 BIG box of Goldfish (crackers)
1 box of Wheat Thins (which come to think of it, I never had any)
1 box of Ritz crackers
1 block Colby Jack cheese
12 pack of Shiner Bock

So drums were set up while we were gone, we got back and they sounded great, little random microphone adjustments were made, blah blah blah.

Greg was isolated in a hallway of sorts, so he could sing and not piss anybody off (JUST KIDDING OH MY GOD SERIOUSLY). I stood next to Joel, playing bass. Tim played in the main tracking room as well, but his amp was located in the bathroom upstairs (...I said everywhere).

The goal for this whole session was to get basics done for 1 song each day, for a total of 3 songs. We decided to start with "You Were Right" as that's the song we've played the most so far, and are the most comfortable with.

I don't know about anybody else, but I was super nervous. I don't know why. I know how to play the bass. It's just "red-light-itus" or whatever. We probably started our first take around 5 or 5:30, and I'm not totally sure how many times we did it. 5? Maybe? 5 or 6. So anyway, we picked a take we all liked, and that Joel was most happy with.

It so happens that my bass playing on the take we decided to keep was definitely not my best performance, so Jeff suggested I take it again. Seeing as this was my first time going to tape, I was a little apprehensive about it all. I mean, after you record over something with tape...it's gone. Forever. There's no "undo" button. So after a little coaxing, I relented on the condition I could record to a new track, in case I really couldn't do any better. Much to my surprise, you could immediately tell the difference, and I had nothing to worry about. Silly me. I went through the song one time through, and then we went back and punched in little bits here and there. But I don't think the whole process took longer than 45 minutes.

And then I think we took a dinner break, and we all headed over to Magnolia Cafe.

We came back, and we took a stab at Greg's guitar track. We started with my Tele Plus and Twin...and that wasn't working (I'm going to take my amp into the shop tomorrow). So then we switched to Greg's Jazzmaster. Then we tried an old Silvertone amp (which you can see in the video). But that didn't work either. So we finally settled on a Fender Deluxe (after doing some research, I found out it's a 1961 Fender Deluxe). And then Greg tried playing a couple different ways, and it just wasn't working. After awhile he tried playing harder, and we turned them amp up more to get more overdrive out of it, and BINGO there was the sound. Cool. Good job, Greg.

Then Tim's turn came. He thought his scratch guitar that was recorded in the bathroom was pretty rad, but I was convinced he could do better, and we could get a better sound as well. I don't remember exactly, but I think we tried placing his amp in the iso booth first. Maybe not. But then they moved the amp out into the main room, and pointed it up towards the ceiling, which is about 40 feet tall, maybe? I don't know. It's really really really tall. Placed a close mic on the cabinet, blended it with another microphone that is located on the 2nd story catwalk above the tracking room...and then we let him turn his amp up. MAYBE the loudest thing ever.

So he took a pass...and it was awesome. Way better than before. Then we listened to playback...and it wasn't coming up correctly. Turns out, the tape head had gotten dirty from the tape, and Tim's guitar was recorded extremely low (that's the take you see Tim recording in the video). SO, he did it all over again. And it was different, but equally awesome. But it probably didn't matter much, because on the first take, for some reason, Tim's strap locks on his guitar are so rusty, that they vibrate through his guitar and make it all the way out to his amp. So we would've had to redo a lot of it anyway. He took off the strap for the rest of the session. You can actually hear a little bit of the squeaky guitar strap in the video, as well...right before he starts playing.

I think we then plugged a keyboard into his amp, and he played an organ part over the song. And that about wrapped it up for the day. I think we left around 12:30am.

To be continued on Day 2...


WHEW. Sorry that was so long. But hey, read as much or as little as you want. NICE!.
Like I said, we're going to try and make this as interactive as possible, so feel free to ask questions, and we'll do our best to respond.

9 comments:

Wes said...

Wow, thanks for the update. You're right, it was a nice "play-by-play" recount of what the process was on the first day. It sounds like you guys have a lot of options to mess around with at PHF. It should be fun trying to sort through it all.

I'm really looking forward to hearing the new album when it is completed. I caught you guys when you came through Cleveland last year, and really enjoyed the show.

This may be an obvious question, but why are you only recording 3 songs during this session? When will the rest of the songs be laid down?

Thanks again!

Dapplesauce said...

Well, we're doing 3 at a time as that's how many songs we had ready to record. Also, Jeff's schedule takes him out of town for a couple weeks every once in awhile.

But it kindof works out...we'll record 3 songs/3 days...have a couple weeks off to focus on another 3...and repeat the whole process. That way we can spend more quality time figuring out each song, instead of just getting a general idea before we record them.

nick said...

I really appreciate how you guys keep your fans updated. It's really refreshing. Seeing what gear was used wasn't bad either! That song must have gotten so old after that session and touring and whatnot.

I'm curious, is there a reason your recording on tape? I've scraped some recordings of my own and to me it just seems bothersome.

gregerg said...

Hey Nick, we all agreed amongst ourselves that tape sounds better than digital, and while it does result in some extra work and stress (no aforementioned "undo" button) we decided it was worth it to achieve the quality of recording we want.

Jeremy Abel said...

What would be like super awesome would be to list stuff like effects pedals and the like, and maybe the kinds of keyboards you used, cause I'm a sucker for that kinda stuff :P

Jeremy Abel said...

Oh also, this stuff is FANTASTIC! I wish every band I loved did this kinda thing. A band's process in the studio is one of the most fascinating things to me. Totally bookmarking/subscribing to this deal.

Gabriel said...

Thanks for sharing. I love seeing professional recording environments in action. I've only really ever recorded in my basement so it's nice to see all the ways in which a large space can be used.

Who will be producing the songs? I guess you guys did most of the production on the first album? That's the scariest part for me. How do you guys feel about it?

Wally Haus said...

which camera is this? kiddin'...
and dammit, how come anything works when you really need it? my effect pedals never work on studio..

good luck, I hope we fans and you all get excited and satisfied with the record!

Wally Haus said...

and changing completly the subject... I was walking through austin, texas one day at the google maps stret view haha is your home appearing on the Street View? not that I want to see it.. just curiosity :)