An update on recent recordings that we’ve been doing. Back in November, we went into Far Heath Studios to record five tracks that we’d been playing live for some time but hadn’t actually got the definitive version down properly.
Anyone who’s spent time in a recording studio will know that it’s a bit of a slog at times. Gone are the days when you could turn up at a studio, play your album through a couple of times and be out in time for lunch. I’m not sure why you can’t do that anymore, though I think it’s something to do with the fact that that approach only got us the first four or five Beatles albums and not the later ones.
Anyway, the standard rules for a well-prepared and rehearsed band is that you should probably allow a full day to record and mix a single track. That’s always seemed to be way too structured (not to say expensive) for us, so our standard approach is to push through five tracks in two days. That was the challenge we presented to Angus at Far Heath and with a raised eyebrow and a grimace, he agreed.
There are a weird mix of feelings involved in studio recording. It’s scary, because there’s absolutely nowhere to hide. Every secret doubt and fear you have about your songwriting and musical abilities will be laid bare and played back to you and the rest of the band, over and over again. It’s exhilarating too – when you have that little something that sounded great in your head and it turns out that it sounds even better when it’s out in the real world – there’s really nothing like that feeling. The biggest feeling I always get from studio work is that of being absolutely shattered. I know it’s not proper work, but it’s a very draining experience, though hopefully a rewarding one in the end.
We recorded those five tracks, and we’re pretty pleased with them to be honest. The tracks were Musical Differences – a song that Steve and I wrote together, Girl In which is one of mine and Daydream, New Song and Corbijn that are Steves. They’re an interesting mix of songs, and there’s some nice bits of light and shade, some piano, some daft noises and I think they’re really representative of The Box Ticked sound.
We have a standard approach to recording with Angus. We arrive early on Day 1, get set up, get warmed up and then attempt to record a tight ‘live’ version of each track. Steve and I are in the main studio area, with Stuart locked away in a drum room and the idea is to get the core music tracks down. We’re singing too, but those are just guide vocals that we’ll replace later in the day.
Once we’ve got the five basic tracks recorded, we’ll start to add in the proper vocal recordings. That’s a part of the process that I love, because it’s when you get to forget about the instruments and just focus on your voice, and getting the sound out of your head and into the PC. We tend to have a pretty good idea of how the vocal needs to sound anyway, as it won’t be a million miles away from the live sound, but we can afford to be more creative with it. Once the main vocal is down, we’ll start to add in backing vocals, which quite often involves Steve and I taking turns to add in small bits until we’re happy.
From there we’ll start to re-record guitar and bass bits where necessary, and add in additional guitar parts where the basic tracks needs building up a bit. That’ll probably take us up towards the end of the first day, and Angus will spend a short while at the end of the session putting together rough mixes for each of the tracks so we can listen to them overnight and work out what needs to happen next.
We tend to arrive bright and early the next day buzzing with ideas. Having listened to the tracks over and over throughout the evening, we’ve generally got some good ideas of what else they need, and that’s the focus of the first half of day two. I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s where we add in all the fun stuff. It’s where the keyboards, clarinets, violins, bells, whistles, sound affects and everything else that we think will fill a hole get brought out. It’s the most exhilarating bit because it’s the part where we’re able to add in all the stuff that with just three of us we’re not able to do live.
It’s usually a race against time, because Angus needs a good few hours at the end of the day to mix five tracks, during which we tend to split our time between offering advice and guidance and getting out of the way and leaving Angus to it.
Anyway, at the end of the day, we leave the studio with five tracks that tend to be better than they sounded in our heads when we went in and tracks that allow us to share what we’ve been up to with the world.
We’ll let you hear them soon – promise.