WEEK ONE :: PHOTO GALLERY
WEEK TWO :: STUDIO DIARY
Week two of August's On The Cover with Via Audio takes us back to their time back in June at producer (and drummer for Spoon) Jim Eno's studio. Written by vocalist/guitarist Jessica Martins, she gives us a day-by-day account of the progress of recording their new album, Say Something, from start to finish.
Adios, NYC and down to Austin we go. The country music playing in the Austin airport immediately reminded us that we were in Texas. After some requisite Mexican food and mini golf, we headed to Jim's studio, Public Hi-Fi. The brand new studio is absolutely gorgeous as you can see in the photos. With only two weeks to nail down a year and a half of pent up ideas, we were all ready to make some magic happen. We started by listening to the demos and discussing what we wanted to do with each song. We decided to tackle something older off the bat and rework "Developing Active People," a song off our first EP. With Jim at the helm, the song is starting to sound fresher and tighter than ever. All David could think about during his bass takes were the cookies that Britt Daniels' mom had made for us. How professional.
Jim has a day job doing computer stuff. The time that Jim spends at his day job gives us the chance to explore everything that is Austin. We spent the morning swimming at Barton Springs. Aside from Tom's unhealthy levels of algae consumption and the jocks with the tribal tattoos, it was one of the coolest places we had ever been to.
Things are moving smoothly in the studio. Tom laid down guitars on the revamped "Developing Active People" and on a new song called "Harder On Me" using an AC30 and a Silvertone amp. They sound beautiful. The new DAP has a lot of style, unique and rocking sounds. Being that Danny and Jim are engineers and drummers, the two have been hitting it off extremely well. We all get a kick out of the fact that Jim can play all of Danny's drum parts. I wonder if Jim is looking to join a new band?
Yesterday's fourteen hour recording session was a solid indication that while productive, the next two weeks will be long to say the least. David spent the early part of today being Jim's intern. Jim had a clavinet that we wanted to use on the record, but it was broken so David was nominated by Jim to take it to the instrument shop and get it repaired.
Tom nailed the slide guitars on another new song called "Hazmat." He was pretty proud of himself. We caught him looking in the mirror giving himself one of those "God I'm so freaking amazing" looks. The drums on "Numb" sound like they were played through a telephone.
FYI, Pineapple pizza in Austin is amazing.
It has only been four days, but we can't say enough good things about the recording experience. Working with Jim in his studio makes it impossible to ever feel unproductive. It was a rather routine day, but that isn't such a bad thing when you are on a roll.
In many ways, the relationship with a producer can really make or break a recording session. We are absurdly lucky that things have been working out so well with Jim. We feel very close to Jim, perhaps a little too close. David asked him to read us a bedtime story at the end of the day. He graciously obliged.
Jim has been working 24/7 since we rolled into Austin so we decided to give Jim a few days to hang out with his family. We took matters into our own hands and went to David's parents' house in Houston with some of Jim's equipment. It pays to have an engineer in your band. Now if we could only nail down a mechanic.
We turned David's living room into a mini recording studio. We focused on nailing down the electronic overdubs because they didn't require Jim's studio. Loops ensued for "Developing Active People," "From Clouds," "Numb" and "Surgery." We tried to go outside and get some sun but one would be thwarted by the vicious mosquitoes. All was not lost though. The bugs inspired us to create the sound of bugs eating flesh. We achieved this by scraping a fork across a 7' long sheet of cardboard.
We broke of the monotony of constant recording by taking walks around the neighborhood and discussing philosophical quandaries like 'Can tigers find inner peace?' Mmhmm what do you think? Oh and we went out and swung on swing sets. The End: for Houston that is. Now back to Austin and Jim's studio.
The sleeping situation was a bit silly because David's little sister decided to have three of her friends sleep over in addition to the five of us. Between accommodating the sleeping situation and cooking us a smorgasbord of hummus, lebni, white bass, molawach, schnitzel and meat pies, David's parents have been very hospitable.
We started the day off with a bang. We missed the Austin exit on the freeway and David got a speeding ticket. When we finally got to the studio we entered the black vortex of vocal tracking. We spent a grueling 8 or 9 hours getting vocals for "Numb" down. We tripled one vocal and doubled another vocal, so that's five perfect performances for only two melodies!
Jim's two year old daughter Drew dropped by the studio to entertain us with her delightful antics. Did you know that instrument cables are actually called "music ropes?"
We had some time to kill so we checked the famous Waterloo record shop. David picked up the new T Bone Burnett record, Jess grabbed the new Crystal Skulls, Tom got the Peeping Tom record and Danny scored the best of Les Paul and Martha Ford.
When Jim got back from his day job we started in on more vocals. We realized that time was starting to become a factor, so we switched from analog to digital for vocals. We are willing to comp vocals (Taking the best lines from 3 takes), but we still refuse to use Autotune!
A fifteen hour day for us... we're starting to shrink from the lack of sunlight. At least we've got our boxed wine to keep us company. Jim finally got to use his $15 can of oatmeal as a shaker! He also played some crazy toms at the end of "Developing Active People." Watch out Danny.
Jim's daughter Drew was back at the studio today. She is smarter than all of us. She is teaching us how to speak Spanish and how to be a moose.
Smoothie King is where it is at.
Today was the day from Harmony Hell: "Ahh ..." "Dahh ..." No real words allowed! Is there any way to make a record without listening to it a million times? A word of advice to anyone in a studio: there is always a secret microphone somewhere. If you say something stupid the engineer will make sure it starts off a song, guaranteed.
The lack of running water in the apartment has left the boys a bit stinky. Their arm pits smell of risotto and their breath of boxed wine and sushi. We are laying down the final touches on the tracks while Jim is at his day job. Halfway through the day David volunteered to get some 1/2 inch tape so we could start mixing the songs. Simple, right? Wrong! Lets just say that he came back 3 1/2 hours after he left mumbling profanities at Mapquest.
We are running low on energy but hopefully Danny's homemade cheesecake will put us back to speed. We are approaching the last couple days of our time in Austin. We are going to miss laying on Jim's front lawn.
Today was all about wrapping up tracking and adding a few final touches. We laid down some wind chimes, crickets and vocals for "Hazmat." David added some last minute percussion on "The Enunciation," which is turning out to be one of the coolest and strangest songs on the record. The best part of the day came when we were all huddled around a mic singing the end vocals for "I Can't Focus."
We also have one song totally in the bag now. Jim's version of "Developing Active People" is a definite improvement from the version on our EP. Jim is a master!! Lynn, Jim's wife, had her friend cook us an amazing dinner, and Danny made a blueberry cheesecake from scratch. How are we supposed to work under these conditions?!
Our time in Austin has finally come to an end. Danny flew back to NYC around 2AM to and Tom left at 1PM to get back to work in Boston. So it's down to just David, Jess, and Jim - time to get crazy! The stragglers among us started the day by swimming and catching some rays. We eventually decided to get some work done and headed over to Aaron's (the assistant engineer) to work on some vocals and return his wind chimes. After that, we headed to the studio to find Lynn staining some wood to put up in the drum/vocal booth to help absorb sound. Jim was knee deep in a mix of "Harder On Me."
We are at the point with Jim where he is always one step ahead of us in terms of levels, sounds and ideas. Jim is the shit! We love this man the way David loves chocolate puddin', and whoa he loves him some puddin'. Sally Crewe from the Sudden Moves stopped by to show her mom the studio and see how the mixes were going. As we wrap up the last two amazing weeks with Jim, we are almost done with our record. A few more mixes, mastering, and then we'll have something pretty great to put in everyone's hands. We've worked hard, but it's been worth it!
Check back next week for The Tripwire's review of Say Something, along with a free MP3 download.