CHICAGO RECORDING DAY 1: Hey friends! We decided to start a blog to document the making of our new record and share extra content. This might be the first ever photo that contains all three of us in a room together (!) Dream team.
I packed my basement full of music gear into the back of a car and drove 13 hours to IL (favorite podcasts for a long drive: Song Exploder, And The Writer Is..., and Rolling Stone Music Now). Unloaded all the gear into Carlos' house today and decided to start with the only two tracks that still need drums - "Disco Bardo" and "Blue Room." Carlos set up his hybrid kit of real and electronic drums and I have to say that being in a room with a real live drummer again completely and utterly rules. Influences for "Disco Bardo" span from Metric to the Rapture to St. Vincent, and the drums veer into some trashy cymbal chaos that I'm REAL excited about. We got most of the tracking done before it was time to pick up this cheerful dude at O'Hare (cue "Lady Stardust"):
Then we worked on drums for "Blue Room" which went in a direction unexpectedly trip-hoppy, like "Stranger Things" by way of 90s Bjork/Portishead. The rest of the day was spent editing drums, eating amazing Lebanese food, and hanging out with some sweet studio pups, duh.
And if you ever wanted to know our chosen poisons, the answer is schmancy bourbon for Carlos, wine coolers for Grant, and three bottles of Malort for me. Cheers until tomorrow! xo H
CHICAGO RECORDING DAY 2: We stayed up til 2am watching Broad City episodes and slept in reeaally late today. Had a breakfast of champions hosted by Chicago's reigning stay-at-home dog dad.
While Carlos finished editing drums, Grant and I tried out the Mellotron he brought and worked on some guitar parts for "Blue Room." The Mellotron is crazy! It's a tiny keyboard with two incredible sound banks you can blend together - the sampled choir voices are especially creepy and I think they'll find a home on "Disco Bardo" eventually.
After that we got bass parts tracked for the whole album. I love the bass line on "If You Feel It" - it's SO fun to play. When we do that song live, I usually end up jumping around like an 8 year old by the last chorus.
It's 95 degrees here and humid af but we still took a hammock break in the backyard to get some fresh air and wait for more coffee to brew. There was also a detour to CVS where Grant bought ALL the snacks. Like, he could barely carry it all up to the counter and the lady at the cash register couldn't stop giggling.
After that it was time to dive into the world of guitar tracking, which is where we've been the rest of the day. There's so much to do - multiple layers of noise plus all the chord progressions and riffs. We wrapped up the Talking Heads cover of "Born Under Punches" this afternoon and right now we're starting "If You Feel It," hoping to be done before midnight. I think we're all super happy with how things are coming together, and it's magic to have a whole week in a house together to make these songs happen. Excited!! Until tomorrow... xo H
CHICAGO RECORDING DAY 3: Thought we'd start with a close-up of Chewy because he just hasn't had enough coverage so far. Let's see... the whole first part of our day was guitar. Grant was a champ and knocked out the remaining four songs all in a row.
We're using the most gorgeous Blue brand microphones to capture guitar and vocals, thanks to our friend Scott from Milwaukee (his band is Avenues, check them out!) The sound we're getting from them is incredible. They look like a cross between a microphone, a beautiful clock, and a magic wand.
After that we were dying to try out Izotope Vocal Synth 2, a software synth for vocal effects that Carlos just got. I laid down vocals for a song called "Pearls" and we spent the afternoon sidechaining it to midi and geeking out over the results. (Carlos literally cut this window into a closet in his basement to build a vocal booth, btw.)
One thing about the synth that was a little bizarre was the short description accompanying each tone. Some were totally relevant and helpful (i.e. "use this fluttery effect to build up a pre-chorus") but others were, and I quote, "it's like having little robot buddies!"
We finally took a break to meet friends for dinner in Logan Square and now we're back for a last late-night session editing guitar. Sleepy pups signing off until tomorrow. xo H
CHICAGO RECORDING DAY 4: Oh hiiiiiii. This day was inevitable, folks, but we're too tipsy to blog so today's entry will mostly be photos. Let's just say it involved a lot of me doing vocal takes, pups, and the talented violinist Emily Spiegel (of The Tossers) adding gorgeousness to "Blue Room" and helping us drunkenly recall anecdotes from the days of Heather Perry & The Blanks. Love to all! xo H
CHICAGO RECORDING DAY 5: Had a verrry late start today due to our collective hangover, so the first order of business was breakfast.
Then we came back to dive into editing and mixing. There's a lot of sorting through vocal and guitar takes to do before we can approach final mixes; we also need to tweak synth tones and decide if certain sections need additional parts, etc. Luckily this is work I could do while under a blanket and two dogs for most of the afternoon.
We made good progress on "Disco Bardo" - the bridge really stands apart almost as a sound collage with complex layers to carve out. We used samples of breaking glass to add rhythmic elements and layered all kind of effects with names like "Drunken Ghost" (personal fav).
Took a break for dinner in Lincoln Square where I ran into old friends from the Old Town School of Folk Music, a place I taught for many years. It was a perfect summer night in Chicago - every restaurant and patio overflowing with people and dogs and flowers and beers.
Now we're rounding out the night by mixing "Born Under Punches." I might try to be a champion and stay up for another hour or two editing vocals (orrrrrrr I might pass out.) xo H
CHICAGO RECORDING DAYS 6 - 7: We've been accomplishing a lot over here! We spent Thursday and Friday getting the last of the recordings - little bits of guitar, extra synths, a few new vox. Then we entered the endless work of sorting through takes, tweaking drums, editing vocals, etc...
We made a quick trip to Wrigleyville to have lunch with my dad and uncle who were in town for the Cubs game, and Friday night I got to see a show at the Empty Bottle and visit my favorite Chicago kitty Adeline.
CHICAGO RECORDING DAY 8: ... whiiiiich brings us to Saturday, our last day in Chicago, and it was quite ambitious. I started the day with an 8am appointment with Sara Jean Stevens, an incredible hair and make-up stylist who also happens to be my former bandmate from The Ye-Ye's. After getting all dolled up, I booked it from Logan Square to Lincolnwood just in time for our 10am photo shoot with the talented Matthew Hollis. So lovely to see old friends!
We wrapped up the photos, ate some Thai food, and then launched into our next big project for the week - a music video shoot for "Blue Room." That's right folks, not only did we try to make a whole record this week and have a photo shoot, we also decided to DIY our very own music video because we're insane. Somehow it all worked out BEAUTIFULLY. Thanks to the help and generosity of our friends Peter and Rachelle, we managed to shoot an entire video and still have time for a little band practice afterward.
After that it was time to pack up all our gear and prepare for the trip back to PA, and I have to admit we were all sad for it to be over. It's so rare that the three of us get to be in a room together, and the week wasn't just crazy productive - it was also totally magical. Besides touring to SXSW in 2014, I'd have to say this was the best creative week of my life and I was totally honored to share it with Carlos and Grant and make this work we're all so, so proud of. I need to remember that this is just the beginning and so many good things are ahead!
We didn't want to end on a bummer note, so despite having to get up at 5am the next day we still went for a midnight round of mini-golf because that's what you do. Thanks for reading, loves, and we'll keep you posted on all the show and release announcements we have coming up for the fall! xoxo H