Monday, June 20, 2011

SFTD Recording Journal (Part 1)

On Saturday June 18, 2011 School for the Dead began recording their third full length album.  There is no working title yet for this record.  There are currently 14 songs intended for recording.  They are:
  1. Waiting For Life
  2. Saving Your Life Is Going To Be Real Interesting
  3. I Don't Know About Anyone Else, But
  4. Somebody Elses Problem
  5. Jake and Kim Broke Up (Leave Me Out Of It)
  6. The Infinite Kitchen
  7. The Wrong Way Out Of Town
  8. I Wasn't Looking For This
  9. She Does, She Does
  10. The People You See Regularly Never Grow Old
  11. Levitation
  12. The Rumour Mill
  13. Bad Day Done
  14. Turn It Down!
Day 1 (June 18, 2011) - Paul McCartney's Birthday
Brian and I drove in one car while Max drove in another.  The destination was Brown Bag Studio, amidst the trees of New Hampshire.  The ride takes between an hour-and-a-half and two hours depending on how lost you get.  Brian and I arrived at the studio at 10:30 AM.  It was a beautiful morning in the woods as we pulled down the long driveway.  The place is quiet and secluded.  There is a ghost dog on the street.

This is the first School for the Dead album to be recorded somewhere other than Rub Wrongways Studios.  We'll be working with Frank Padellero.  I've appreciated his work for years, not only his recording and producing talents but also his songwriting and arranging skills.  It's exciting.  We're excited.

Brian and I skip up the steps and knock on the door.  A smiling Frank answers and two young birds come streaming out of a nest above the door behind him.  My first thought, as I'm ducking in fear, is that bats just came out of his mouth.  We all look up to the empty nest as the angry birds flap around our heads.  Welcome.

Inside, we get a quick tour and Brian begins to set up his drums.  Max arrives not long after and as Brian works on his kit, we sit in the control room on a curvy orange sofa and go over a few songs.  I on my acoustic guitar, Max on his unplugged bass.  Needing to decide which songs to start with, we make a list and then, using a complex formula, determine which songs are the hardest and which are the easiest.

When the drums are set up with microphones and the bass is all hooked in, we spend the next several hours recording songs.  Max and Brian, of course, play brilliantly, and it's a joy to hear their parts so clearly coming out of the studio speakers as I strum and sing the songs.  They play and play, song after song in a sealed off room, unaware of the passing thunderstorm.  Their emotive playing fills the room that I sit in with Frank as the world's quietest dog and most skittish cat wander in and out, as if appraising our progress.

At 6:30, spent, exhausted, and ravished, we stop for dinner.  Frank makes home-made pizzas as we learn from his wonderful wife that during the thunderstorm, as we recorded, a bear came into the yard and attacked a bird feeder.

The Red Sox are on the TV as we devour the delicious pizza.  Frank is good at everything he does.  I'm convinced.

After dinner, we go back into the studio and record the rest of the songs.  Except for two.  "The People You See Regularly Never Grow Old" and "Levitation" will have to wait for the next day.  Since Max needs to go home, while Brian and I can stay, we decide we'll just record the drums for those two songs the next day and Max will have to add his bass later.

We say good bye to Max, Frank gives him directions for the dark ride home, and we sit around and talk until about midnight, when we all retire.  Brian and I each have our own room in the artist guest sweet.  Comfortable digs lead to a surprising solid night of sleep for me. 

Day 2 (June 19, 2011) - Nick Drake's BirthdayI awake at a little before 8:00 and spend the next hour sitting out on the screened porch watching the birds of New Hampshire swoop and hearing the sounds of chickens and turkeys from a neighboring yard.  Dagmar, the cat, joins me for a while.  I think she was hoping I would feed her.  Sorry, cat.

Frank appears and says, "Hi Henning. You want some waffles?".

Who would say no to that?  Next thing you know, we are all sitting around the dining room table eating excellent home-made poppy-seed waffles and bacon.  I feel spoiled.

At 10:30 we head back into the studio where we record those two songs.  They go nicely and I believe the fact that we approached them after resting really helped.  My phone flashes on and I get a text from Max saying he's on his way back.  As we wait for him, Brian adds a nice cymbal wash to "I Wasn't Looking For This".  His mallets are broken so Frank quickly makes some of materials lying around in his studio.  MacGuiver.

Brian also overdubs a single high hat click on "Waiting For Life" - it's my favorite part of the song.

Max arrives not much later with his son, Miles, in tow.  Miles and I sit on the sofa and eat snacks while Max plays flawlessly on the last two songs.

How about a round of applause for Max and Brian laying down their parts to 14 songs in less than a session and a half.

Max and Miles take off in search of a swimming-hole and I record my acoustic guitar parts for "I Don't Know About Anyone Else But" and "I Wasn't Looking For This".

At around 4:00, Brian and I pack up, say goodbye, and start the journey home.

It was a very productive weekend, I have complete faith in Frank, and I have a renewed excitement about the songs and the record.  Next step?  I don't know.  Maybe guitars with Tony or keyboards with Ken or vocals with me.  We'll figure it out soon.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

Very cool -- sounds like a really nice productive weekend. Looking forward to reading more.