What day is it?
Tucker and Jeff and I are all done recording our contributions. Now we wait while Allen takes a couple days to add his delicate touch to our work. For Jeff, who, as I’ve mentioned is not only our drummer, but also the recording engineer and producer of this record, the work doesn’t break. He is in the studio until the bitter end, and long after we pack the van and drive back to home. He works hard all day, with only intermittent smoke breaks. Sometimes he’ll sit and visit for awhile when he’s getting really tired.
Tucker and I, on the other hand, are comparatively home free. We frequently check in on the process, offer suggestions, and give thumbs up, but it’s essentially out of our hands. We lay around, read a lot. Yesterday we got into the in-house video game collections and tore up MarioKart for a while.
It’s becoming a being of its own – the record. No longer an idea, a collection of songs performed alone in a room to one day be recorded. The Record. The record of these particular songs. The record an entity beyond any of the songs and any of us. A creature that we will have to get to know. Something separate. Something that we made, but even more so, something that, over time, will make us.
I am full of pizza. It’s only 11pm and I could call it a night.
We are starting to relax and this is a sign that the recording process is going well. For the last five days, we have pushed ourselves hard. From 10am to 2 or 3am we worked. Few breaks, and when there were breaks, they were brief, or full of the tension of needing to get back to work. We’ve been sleeping in the studio, and we start to review the previous day’s work before the coffee’s even done brewing.
Last night, after Tucker laid his last guitar track, we turned the lights out and went to Jeff’s house to spend the night, where we could enjoy a beer in the cool breeze on his backyard patio, and where we could wake up to real sunlight through real windows. This seems to have inaugurated a new ease and calm into the process. Everything we have so far sounds beautiful, we are on schedule, and we’ve in fact been given a few extra days in the studio to add detailed touches and work on mixing.
Tucker finished two days of grueling guitar work, now he can relax. I am in the middle of doing my vocals, and pleased with what I have so far.
So big thanks to my friend of twelve years, John Blue, for hosting us in his beautiful home on Friday, May 22. Many people (especially Minneapolis band Tough Tough Skin – www.myspace.com/radfordbishop) worked hard trying to find us a show in Minneapolis for this date. Alas, we or the date or the city seemed to be cursed. Nothing came up in this city that I love more than almost any other.
John offered his living room in Robbinsdale, slightly north of Minneapolis, for us to make our noise in. We gratefully accepted.
After two long days on the road from Missoula, it was a relief to arrive at John’s quiet, comfortable home. Shower, drink some whisky, relax in the early summer midwest warmth. Visit with John, a sweetheart, and set up.
Our audience was the four members of my immediate family, two old friends, John, and a friend of John’s. We all played well, and got to hear a set by John Blue. (www.johblue.me) An extra special experience for me. Many of my own musical tastes were forged in the kilns of our teenage troublemaking. And after my punk-rock aunt, he was the first dedicated musician I encountered in my own life.
This was the first time I played my own music for my family. I was simultaneously more nervous and more calm than usual, and was able to tailor my solo set with them in mind. They were a gracious audience. Mom video-ed the whole thing – maybe it will end up on youtube one day?
After playing and visiting, and wishing my sister a happy 21st, John built a bonfire in his backyard and we spent a carefree night sipping on his fine whisky scotch and bourbon collection, and telling stories about ourselves.
A too-short night of sleep, I awoke with a hangover. We all moved our heavy equipment into the van in a semi-pained daze, and fell asleep on our bench seats while Allen guided our 8-cylinder engine in the direction of Chicago…
I take my bourbon straight, but there’s ice in my glass now. Or, there was five minutes ago. It melted.
It’s effing hot in this studio. Hot and humid. There are three windows in this building. Two of them look from a control room into a tracking room. The third, for a reason I can’t discern, and won’t ask about, looks from our control room into a closet.
I wake up in the middle of the night (we are sleeping in the studio) and realize it is, in fact, not the middle of the night, but eleven in the morning. We stay awake until three in the morning doing our work. Working our magic.
When I get home I will be pale, withered, and confused from lack of sun. Outside the studio a whole world takes place. Rainstorms and stars shining and street-top drama. Inside the studio we are oblivious to everything but the world we are creating. Painstaking; with love and with whiskey, with frustration and ribbing and breakdowns, with laughing and all seriousness. We are creating our record, and in the end, when I return home squinting against the sunlight and re-fascinated with the trees and people and storefronts, I believe we will all be proud of what we’ve built.
We are on schedule. The rhythm tracks are done. Drums and piano. Tucker is at bat. He is chainsmoking in the tracking room while Jeff intonates his guitar. I can’t wait to hear him at work.
P.S. Here are some pictures from the past few days in the studio.
I suppose I can’t get over how cute people are in general. That said, I can’t get over the cuteness of the people I get to travel with. I wish you could all be in the van with us, just to know how cute this situation is. But then, we’d all be bursting from the cuteness. I’m sure something dangerous would happen.
Day two. We are safe and in good moods. The moving world outside our windows is beautiful. A bright crescent moon, daybreak, animals attending their animal business, mountains, hills, trees, trains, and gravel.
The fine folks at The Laboratory go above and beyond. When we arrived, Steven instructed us to make ourselves at home. I felt instantly at ease to do so. The house is brimming with projects. We cooed over baby chicks and drank local brew in the yard while the people of the house watered gardens, fed chickens, and cooked a huge dinner of moosemeat lasagna and fresh salad from the garden. They shared the food with us and the two other touring bands that were on the bill that night.
Impure Jazz of somewhere in Indiana, and Burger Thirst of Minneapolis. Both groups of kind people crossing paths with us as they head west.
Several local bands played, making it a long night of eclectic styles. From hardcore to brainy instrumental to sad crooning. It was as much a bonfire party as it was a show, and the partiers were kind, lovely to chat with, and full of positive feedback.
We played our sets on a covered deck strung with hammocks and a cargo net. Adrenaline kept our fingers warm as we played our songs in the cold dark. Sounds of revelers at the fire were both distracting and enhancing, while listeners were attentive on the deck and curled in the nets.
These shows are an opportunity for us to practice and learn. Every show presents its unforeseen challenges, and this was no exception. I won’t play again with my amp right next to me and directed the same way I am facing. For some reason, this makes it impossible for me to hear the exact key and I spent the whole set unsure of whether or not I was singing in tune. Tucker and Allen assured me I was, but the uncertainty I felt as I played meant I was holding back, not lashing the audience with everything I could muster.
Tucker’s performance was beautiful. I admire his ability to tailor his performances to the atmostphere and audience, while consistently impressing the heartbeat of each song upon his listeners.
Together, Allen, Tucker and I played our parts to the best of our abilites under a sound setup that was not ideal. Performing live together is a brand new work in progress, and we’re excited for every opportunity to tweak our setup.
Sarah is awesome. She helps us unload and load and set up. She documents with her camera and gives thoughtful feedback on our performances and is all around a good friend to travel with.
Special thanks to Sarah’s mom and Tucker’s dad for being our top blog readers