In The Studio with MOTIVE

Using Single Tracking Techniques to Recreate a Live Sound

PRE-PRODUCTION

What was your pre-production like on this project?

Pre-production for us is one of the most important steps.  We write all our own music, so we like to craft all of the parts before we even go into the studio.  These are songs that we had been writing, tweaking, and performing for several weeks before the recording sessions. This process allows us to go into the studio with a clear goal in mind.  We usually know exactly what we want the songs to sound like, although during the recording process, the plans tend to change. 

How did you choose the studio?

We had recorded in several other studios before landing at Fireplace Studios for this recording.  Our producer, Chuck Brody, who works out of Fireplace, came highly recommended to us.  We got along really well so in reality, we chose a producer, not a studio.  Our previous recordings lacked the power we needed; we were happy with a few of them, but one session we chose to just throw away.

We’re always searching for new ways to experiment with recording processes and find that perfect sound.

PRODUCTION

What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it?

We’re trying to create honest, no-gimmick rock in the tradition of our favorite bands. We also wanted a more powerful sound than our previous recordings, one that hits as hard as our live show.  By that, we mean driving drums, a more powerful sound, edgier guitars, more affected vocals, and generally just something that would turn heads.  We experimented with doubling and tripling parts on different tracks, and running the tracks through different effects boxes.  We also like to use older guitars, amps, and effects from different time periods.

There’s a subtle character that comes from vintage gear, and an unpredictability that makes the sound unique.  Nick [Wold] also has a custom distortion pedal made by a friend – you won’t hear that kind of sound anywhere else.

How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process?

The creative process is pretty much the same, but the recording process has evolved.  Nick is the main songwriter, but everyone contributes.  We are always writing and have a lot of material to choose from, and we only pick the best to record.  Previously, we used to just set up and record live all at once, but on this recording we used the studio more as an instrument to get closer to the exact sound we wanted.  The advantage of single tracking is that we can get all the parts perfected and fine-tune all of the sounds and effects.  We have found when we record everything live, it just sounds empty and tinny, and ironically, less like the live experience.  It seems counterintuitive, but for us, single tracking allows us to blend the sounds in a way that recreates the excitement of our live show.  A lot of people swear by the live take, but we find it limiting when going for specific sound.

Did you use any special gear or recording techniques on this one?

We doubled some of the bass parts with a Moog synthesizer to get more depth.  We also experimented a lot with mic placement. For example, we used one mic on the batter head of the kick drum, one on the resonant head, and also one a few feet in front of the resonant. We also tried draping a blanket to isolate a tunnel between the mic and then kick drum to play with different sounds.  The wizardry of our producer, Chuck, had a lot to with the sound.  He provided a lot of different ideas and expertise on tracking and capturing the sounds we wanted.

What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking?

We found that we can create a sound more faithful to our live show using individual tracking. Recently, we’re finding a good deal of creative freedom with recording track-by-track.  Chris would do several takes of the whole song on drums, and we’d build up from there.  Then we add bass, guitars, and vocals last.

What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live?

Playing the songs without fucking them up – just kidding.  We always want to be able to recreate everything in the live show, but we like to use the precision of the studio to create the perfect version of the song.  Live, the songs are looser, and we live in the moment a bit more.  Recording and playing live are two different mediums, and we are still finding ways to get the same result from both.

Any funny stories from the session that you’ll be telling for a while?

Since the studio is on the top floor of a skyscraper in Manhattan, we took a [Shure] 57 onto the roof to record a hawk skree-ing.  We hid his voice somewhere in the tracks.  Bonus points to whoever can find it.

POST-PRODUCTION

How did you handle final mixing and mastering?

We mixed with Chuck in the studio. He has worked with Michael Jackson, Wu Tang Clan, Phantogram, Ra Ra Riot, Bear Hands, etc. so we knew he could get us the mix we wanted.  Some producers don’t like input from the band when mixing, but Chuck welcomed our ideas.  Everyone in the band always has different opinions about levels and things, and we usually hammer it out or try to find the common ground.  Chuck was also a good tiebreaker, because there are four band members.  Then we sent it to Joe LaPorta, who is a boss, to master it.  We like to always get our tracks mastered; it really makes a difference in delivery.

What are your release plans?

The album will be released [this month] both digitally and physically.  It will be available on iTunes, Spotify, and all other outlets internationally.

Any special packaging?

The packaging will include some sensational original art by Kymia Nawabi, Meg Lazaros, and Naomi Abel, who are Brooklyn-based artists and friends.  We gave them ideas and concepts we liked, and they went from there.

photos by Deneka Peniston

ALBUM INFO
Motive
It’s Illicit EP
Recording studio: Fireplace Studios
Record label: Self-released
Release date: January 15, 2013
Producer/engineer: Chuck Brody
Mastering: Joe LaPorta at The Lodge
Artwork: Kymia Nawabi, Naomi Abel & Meg Lazaros

KEY GEAR
– 1967 Fender Mustang
– Late ’60s Univox Hi-Flyer
– 1950s Silvertone guitar
– Fender P-bass, flat wound strings
– Schector Custom Tempest
– 1983 Vox AC30 amplifier
– 1981 Marshall JCM800 amplifier
– Moog Rogue analog synthesizer
– 4-piece Gretsch Catalina Club kit with 1982 Ludwig 20″ kick drum
– Pedals: Big Muff Pi, Verbzilla, custom distortions, Boss Reverb, Delay, and Tremolo

For more visit motivemusic.bandcamp.com.

Have a unique studio story to share? Email [email protected].

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