Welcome to 2022! Another year has flown by. At this point I can’t say whether that is good or bad. Some things I wished would last forever (think vacation hiking, making music, friends and photography). The rest of the year? Meh. I was hoping the general tone of our world would improve and it sort of did, but just a smidge. We should certainly be able to do better. So we’re going to start 2022 on the blog by looking back. As we were searching through our files at the end of the year, we came across music that has never really seen the light of day. We decided to start releasing some of it online and began the ‘From The Vault’ series towards the end of last year.
For this edition of From The Vault we have a song recorded at the crossroads of Conduit changing in to Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs. We had a number of songs we were working on and decided the best idea would be to record live versions of them and work on production versions of them later. But for anyone who writes songs, you’ll recognize how you’re constantly coming up with new ideas and sometimes the older ones end up disappearing under the layers of dust. So ‘From The Vault’ is blowing the dust off and tossing the songs in to the light. This song is titled ‘No Class Lines’. When we recorded this live version the band was a three piece. The bass part was overdubbed later. Another thing I find happens when you’re recording live is your beats per minute starts to have the zoomies. The production versions often slow down a bit because you’re working with a click track. But not always. So this could have ended up slower, but……it could have been faster. We’ll see if we ever decide to do a production version. For now, I hope you enjoy the tune.
If you’ve followed our blog for a while you know we have a series we call ‘Messin With The Music’ where we take songs we like and do cover versions of them. We didn’t want to do mirror image covers of the songs. The fun is in taking the song and trying to do something a bit different with them. So far we’ve done that by playing the songs in a more stripped down acoustic fashion. At times that makes the songs have less instrumentation and other times the songs will have more instrumentation than the original. It all depends on where we want to take the song to add some of our own personality to it.
We’ve reviewed music by The Dead South before. They’ve taken the instrumentation and feel of Bluegrass and Americana and added their own twist to it. So you’ll usually see them using guitar, banjo, mandolin and cello to perform their songs. I especially enjoy watching the videos where they use the cello as the bass part and carry it like you would wear and play an electric bass. Again, a nice little change up that makes what they’re doing a bit more unique. Even with their instrumentation, they’ve always said that they’re not really a ‘bluegrass band’ since they don’t do the songs in a typical bluegrass style of playing.
I came across a couple of cover songs they’ve done videos for. I’m going to put a video of the original song along with it so you can hear the differences.
‘People Are Strange’ by The Doors
Originally recorded by The Doors for their album ‘Strange Days’ in 1967. The original is spooky with an almost carnival like feel especially with the way the keyboard sounds. The Dead South definitely kept the same feel going even with the difference in instrumentation. The percussive nature of bluegrass instrumentation keeps a beat going even without a drum kit. I also like the funny ‘flying banjo UFO’ video they came up with that really shows their off beat humor.
‘Money’ by The Beaches
The Beaches are a Canadian rock band that formed in 2013. Their original version is guitar driven pop punk. I like that The Dead South took a song that is not as well known to work in to a cover version. Their version adds a much more Americana based feel and beat to the song, especially the banjo parts. The video is a live version of the cover, so you get to hear it without any studio mixing and polish. By the way, The Dead South are also a Canadian based band. Good things from up north.
‘House Of The Rising Sun’ – traditional song, this version by The Animals
House Of The Rising Sun is a traditional folk song covered by a wide variety of artists. The version that is probably the best known was recorded by The Animals in 1964. That’s the version we’ll be looking at here along with the version by The Dead South. In this case we’re looking at two cover versions and the way two different bands decided to interpret a song. I like the comparison between these two versions as The Animals take on the song is heavy on electric guitar and keyboard so you can hear really hear some differences. In some ways The Dead South’s version is probably closer to the song’s origins as a folk tune. The Dead South version in the video sticks to the slower traditional feel until they speed it up and go full blast at around the 1:20 mark. Great stuff!
We’re back with another live in the studio performance by Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs. This time we’re playing ‘Truck Stop’ which was recorded for our last EP ‘Celebrity Prostitution’. As before we’ve stripped everything from the original recording except the bass and drum tracks. As a two person band this allows us to video a live performance. We do this as simply as possible. The vocals were recorded with a Shure SM58 mic, which is what we would usually use for vocals playing live. The mic goes in to a preamp then a compressor before hitting the mixing board in to the multi track software. For the guitar in this video I decided to use a direct in amp emulator to go in to the mixing board. The only settings used on the amp emulator were for treble, bass and mids, just like you would set up on an amplifier. I’m using a ProCo Rat distortion pedal and a digital delay pedal, the same ones I would use playing out live. To keep the live feel there are no cuts, punches or any multi takes on the video or audio. The original recording used multiple vocal tracks mixed together to keep a full sound. The studio mix guitar had multiple tracks as one guitar take would go to two amps covered by four microphones with each mic going to a separate track. Having a variety of sounds to mix gives a lot of latitude when you’re trying to get a real good guitar sound on a studio mix. The lead guitar in the studio mix is recorded separately. I did remix the drums and bass for the video to fill and match better with the live vocals and guitar as well as adding some EQ and reverb to the vocals and guitar. I like having the video show us actually turning the video recorder on and off. You really do get ‘live’ start to finish.
Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs play ‘Truck Stop’ live in ChurchHouse Studio
For the end of this month I thought we’d put up a couple more songs I came across while surveying old hard drives. These songs are from a band named Oktober Skyline. The recordings are over fifteen years old. One reason I wanted to put these up for you to listen to is to show the wide range of music you might work with if you want to run a recording studio. This band played a style that was labeled ‘math metal’ or ‘mathcore’ (at least it was when we were recording these songs). Some of the touchstone bands for this style are Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch. What really intrigued me while recording the songs was the timing, especially the timing of the drums. There’s a lot going on if you listen to the drum and guitar parts. I’ve always felt that to do a good job recording, you have to gain some familiarity with the musical style. So I spent time listening to bands that played this style, bought a few CDs, blasted them on the car stereo. There are things I really enjoy when listening to this. One is the sheer power wash that hits you when you crank it up. Multiply that times ten when you’re in the room with the drums live. Something very liberating about that. I really believe you can learn something from any type of music that you listen to. There’s always room to grow. You might not latch on to every style as something that you’re going to spend a lot of time with. But your musical life will be a lot richer if you get past labeling music as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I’ve always felt that music, or any art, is subjective.
These songs were released on a four song vinyl EP titled ‘Oktober Skyline’. I actually found a page on discogs.com that lists the EP
The songs were not named before they left the studio so the file names were just coded numbers, but I believe the first one became titled ‘My Hair Just Grew 3 Inches’ and the second is titled ‘Mandy’s Tape’. The band did put out a full CD later that you can find online and ‘My Hair Just Grew 3 Inches’ was included on that CD.
But wait! There’s more! I found some live video of the band. As usual in these older ‘home’ videos, the sound isn’t great, the recording is shaking, but you get an idea of the insanity of this type of show. I did record some tracks with just the drummer later. If you watch carefully he’s using a double bass pedal and some of the kick drum sounds are at the speed of a snare roll. Woof!
Every once in a while I go back in to the older hard drives in the studio system. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific track or photo. Sometimes I’m just trying to remember what was on that particular drive. When I returned home from traveling I took one of these jaunts down memory lane on one of the external hard drives to see what was there (in the future I’m thinking about also checking on material on the stored DATs which contain material from when we mostly recorded on ADAT tape and mixed down to DAT). When you work in a studio you find that almost every recording experience is different. Some bands (or individuals) will want to include you on the entire project, from concept through completion. They’ll let you know what they’re doing and when and how they’re releasing the music. Others will complete the recording project and move on. So there are a lot of bands that I really have no idea what happened either to the band or the recording after the studio work was completed. The particular hard drive I was checking on had some material that was recorded at least a decade ago. So when this music was completed, some in the mid 2000’s, the posting of content on the internet was not a given.
I remember the session for the recordings I’m posting today. The band wanted to play as a collective in one room which always has more technical pitfalls to work through. We do have the large room space to accomplish this. You need to mic everything very carefully and use the right mics to keep bleed through to a minimum so you have some separation to work with when you’re mixing. The other issue is if one individual makes an error, the whole band has to play the song through again. It’s live music – no overdubs or punch ins. It’s especially challenging if the singer wants to remain in the same room. For the vocals on these songs I decided to try something new. The vocalist had to be facing the band using a very narrow band directional mic. I then set up a large sheet of plexiglass between the mic and the band to cut down on sound hitting the mic. Worked out pretty well.
The name of the band was Eastern Accordion Ensemble. The two songs below are ‘C P Martini’ and ‘Action’. I guess you would put them stylistically in to the ‘punk rock’ category – although at this point that moniker is about as specific as saying ‘rock music’. The sessions were a lot of fun and I thought the music deserved to get a little space in the vast internet universe. If anyone has info on the band or the songs, please fire off an email or comment to us, it would be interesting to know where this went. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
Eastern Accordion Ensemble – ‘C P Martini’
Eastern Accordion Ensemble – ‘Action’
On Saturday, August 14, I had the pleasure of attending The Wood Brothers concert at the Bethlehem, PA festival Musikfest. Since live music is still just making it’s comeback in fits and starts, it’s a real joy to be able to go to a live show. And I have to say that this show was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. The band was amazing. Their music spans genres from Americana to bluesy rock with a funky jazz feel. It’s a three person band with the majority of songs being played with electric guitar, stand up bass and drums. They would switch up to acoustic guitar, electric bass and the drummer playing an interesting hand percussion instrument tricked out guitar (the drummer, Jano Rix, would also sometimes play keyboard with one hand while still playing kit drum – a pretty nifty trick). The band puts on the type of show I really enjoy, loose flowing fun, nor overproduced. For me it had more of a 70’s concert feel. Throughout the show the band had people on their feet dancing along, a real connect with the audience. Chris Wood is jazz school trained and you could really see this in some of the lines he was playing on double bass – really amazing. Oliver Wood played some smoking slide guitar parts and had a perfect rough vocal for the type of music they do. They do wonderful harmonies on the songs. It was a well put together set with driving songs to build peaks then a ballad style song to change the pace.
I found an amazingly cool video that really gives a feel for the music The Wood Brothers play. In 2013 they released an album titled ‘The Muse’. In 2020 they recorded a full live version of the album. They recorded outdoors, a perfect backdrop for their music. This was not a live show with an audience, so they were able to make sonically crisp and clear versions of the songs. It’s a long video since it’s all the songs on the album, but you can, of course, browse through the video. It certainly gives a great representation of all the styles they play and is well worth a full view if you have the time.
Before we went to the show I hadn’t checked to see who the opening bands were. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the opening band was Parsonfield. I reviewed one of their songs for a Grapevine post last year (see September 2020 Grapevine). They played this show as a two piece with some backing percussion tracks. It’s a challenge for a band to do a two person set on a live stage, but they pulled it off in fine style. They changed instruments several times moving between guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin. a very upbeat and energetic set. (Excuse the blur on the second image – I’m not great with phone photos).
Here’s a live clip of Parsonfield playing as a two piece.
I wanted to finish with saying what a wonderful venue the South Bethlehem stage at Musikfest is. The color lit backdrop of the old steel factory provides an amazing setting, the sound was top notch and the audience was really in to the show. Couldn’t ask for a better night.
There’s a lot of good things about having your own studio to record in. You can work on anything you want, anytime you want. You can take your time recording your own music and not have to worry about how much money you’re spending, giving you the ability to experiment. We’ve been having a lot of fun working on cover songs and have been able to create them at our own pace. We’ve also been able to create videos of us playing our own music live. Since the band consists of the two of us, playing in the studio gives us the ability to record some tracks ahead of time then play the other parts live along with the recording for the video. The song in this video, ‘Countdown’ was recorded for our EP ‘Celebrity Prostitution’ (it’s available to buy as a digital download on CD Baby and other places – you can check it out on the Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds label website). Because the original recording was made in ChurchHouse Studio, we’re able to use parts of it for a live video rendition. The original EP version had multiple tracks of vocals and guitar. For this video we stripped all of that off and just kept the bass and drum tracks. So what you see in the video is literally what you would hear from us playing out live. There’s no overdubs or punch ins on the vocal and guitar tracks. Just turn on the video and let it rip. We did the video on a simple GoPro recorder which gives you that ‘fish eye’ wide view along the edges. We had a lot of fun recording this way.
Here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs playing ‘Countdown’, live in ChurchHouse Studio:
We have another Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs ‘Live In The Studio’ performance for you. This time we recorded a live version of our song ‘The Wish’. This song was originally created with our previous band Conduit for the CD ‘Superior Olive’. You can find out more about the band and the CD version by visiting the website for our record label Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. The version in this video is performed with just vocals and acoustic guitar. That’s how we write most of our songs, so this gives you an idea of how we start out with a tune before we add all the other parts for the full studio version. This version is recorded with just two room microphones. We want our blog reading friends to have the feeling of sitting with us in the room as we play, so the video is live start to finish from turning on the camera to the end, comments, silly faces and all.
And….the story of the t-shirt. For anyone who’s not from the northeast US, ‘Live Free Or Die’ is the state motto of New Hampshire – it’s also on their license plates. New Hampshire is an awesomely beautiful state, so I wanted to give a ‘shout out’ in the video like when I wear national park t-shirts (please support and cherish your national parks). I always thought it was such a cool motto to have on a license plate. If you want great hiking, head to the White Mountain National Forest. Some wonderful, rock strewn trails to challenge you. I’ve included a photo from the last trip my wife and I took below .
Anyway, here’s the video – Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs performing ‘The Wish’ live in ChurchHouse Studio.
It’s been a while since we checked in to see what’s happening with one of our favorites, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. The band has always put out stellar work whether it’s audio, video or live music. I’m including two videos that will give you an example of all three areas. We’ll start with the recent video for ‘Too Cool To Dance’. As always, the playing is great. Rev’s still finger picking the hell out of his guitar. The recording sound is a bit cleaner and smoother than some of his early work, but just as fierce. And the video maintains the great humor of his other videos. The band’s vibe remains ‘let’s have fun and not take ourselves too seriously’. They always bring the same joy to their live shows.
The next video is from a recording of the Elmore James classic ‘Shake Your Money Maker’. The band recorded this live in Sun Studios with Dom Flemons, the legendary Steve Cropper and bassist Scot Sutherland. So many cool things going on. The video was made on an iPhone and synced with the live recording. Check out the classic equipment used in the recording. We recently talked about live studio recording in a post. This video is an amazing example of nailing a take. I’m not going to over analyze. Just sit back and enjoy it!
I finally got to see a live band last Saturday night. We went with friends to see The Verve Pipe at Levitt Pavilion which is a local outdoor venue. It was the first time I’ve been to see a live band in over a year. It’s been so long I almost forgot how much fun it is and how much seeing live music adds to your life and elevates your attitude and sense of happiness. It was one of the coldest May 29ths on record around here and we were in a misty drizzle. Shows are still social distancing so it wasn’t very crowded (OK – I sorta like that part). None of the conditions affected how great it was to see a show. It felt like a return to real life.
The sound, performance and music were awesome. The band put on a great show. Kudos to the band for going all out – it’s got to be a bit more difficult playing to a smaller crowd on a cold, wet evening. They even added some cool cover songs to their set. Highly recommend seeing The Verve Pipe if you have a chance.
I’m really hoping our return to some form of normality (at least as far as live music goes) continues. You sometimes forgot how much connecting with a band and their music in a live setting adds to your life. It can lift you up and pull you through a full range of emotions. I know it does the same for a band when you play a live show. We’ve been in a period of darkness. Let’s all cross our fingers that we’re finally heading back to the light.