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In The Studio with Adela & Jude
What was your pre-production like on this project?
We spent three years on our debut record, first recording in our digital studio to work out songs, then honing them in live performances while touring. Then direct to tape, recorded live to capture the essence of our live shows. After initially recording and sitting on some of the songs, we added parts and developed them more and went in and re-recorded them.
How did you choose the studios?
We looked for an environment that was geared toward old school live tracking to tape; Dirt Floor has a great track record for that kind of artist-friendly vibe. Hi-n-Dry – just an honor to record at a place that had Mark Sandman’s gear hung all over the room; Andrew Mazzone did a great job making us feel great there.
When we did a live radio show with Joel Simches at WMFO – we were blown away with his talent and ears, and knew we had found someone who totally got our vibe. After seeing the new Watch City Studios (formerly Allston’s 247 studios) – the gear and room – we were like, ‘This is IT! The perfect place to finish up our record.’
What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it?
Our music is a cross between the Handsome Family and The Carter Family, with a healthy dose of old ’60s Nashville production – big plate reverb, old tube preamps, classic mics. Ideally we would have rented a time machine and traveled back to a radio station circa 1938 and recorded through an entirely RCA signal path. But, the next best thing is to record everything live with a great engineer and quality vintage gear; we are kind of geeks about that.
I hear you two use a lot of vintage gear to record with.
Our gear is actually all very old; to get the sound we require means searching out and finding the instruments from the ’20s to the ’40s. You can’t get the sound using a digital plug-in. Specifically, Adela performs on a 1930 Estey Chaplain pump organ, which presents a real challenge to an engineer since it’s got pedals she pumps and keys that make a lot of noise when recording – literally one track (‘Sinner Girl’) sounds like someone is rattling a skeleton in the background. Jude plays a 1928 George Stone snare with his left foot, and a 1905 18′ Ludwig Jr. with original calf head kick drum with his right foot. Tracking live while playing guitar or banjo obviously gives you no real isolation between tracks.
“Ideally, we would have rented a time machine and traveled back to a radio station circa 1938 to record through an entirely RCA signal path.”
As far as guitars, Jude’s main instrument is a 1937 Epiphone archtop picked up in Nashville in 1991. ‘Miss Nashville’ has a very unique vibe, and sometimes stuff comes out of her that she just knows – it’s like she is playing herself… Jude also uses a 1960s Harmony tenor guitar on a couple tracks – she cuts beautifully through the deep rich organ sound. We used a couple autoharps from the ’40s; it’s an instrument that’s a bitch to get right, but adds such a haunting sound that fits our music perfectly. Finally a ukelin was used on a few tracks; it’s a bizarre combination of strings grouped into chords that you strum with a pick, and another group of strings that are played with a violin bow at the same time.
What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking?
We perform live always. Back in the ’30s and ’40s – until the advent of multi-track recording – there simply was no other method.
What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live?
Our approach in the studio is very much about the song, and not so much about the ‘band sound.’ So we add some instruments in the studio that we don’t normally have with us live. Because we are a duo, in our live performances we literally split a drum set while we play guitars and organ. Jude will be playing a snare/kick beat while strumming and Adela will be pounding a floor tom and hitting cymbals with one hand, while pumping the organ with her feet and playing a melody with her other hand. In the studio we tried to keep this vibe, while adding the color players on each song.
We’re also in the process of assembling a larger full band and guest artists for some of our live shows to allow us to bring the studio production to the stage.
What were the toughest challenges you faced?
Working with drums and guitars only a few feet away from each other makes for a ton of bleed from the mics, and we really ended up doing a ‘top down’ mix, where the overhead mics are the start of the sound mix, and the individual instrument mics are blended in for color of each voice.
Any funny stories from the session that you’ll be telling for a while?
At the old Dirt Floor Studios there was an old steam train that ran tourists up and down a railroad line outside the studio – so we had to time some takes between the train schedules. Although, a train whistle would have been a nice addition to an old Hank Williams song we recorded (‘Six More Miles’).
How did you handle final mixing and mastering?
We’ve basically spent a year doing remixes and living with the tunes. Jude learned a lot from his time working with Tom Scholz from Boston as his studio manager. We listen to mixes everywhere – sitting in a studio mixing has a lot of pitfalls; you are in an optimized environment – and the vast majority of listeners are in cars, or listening through earbuds. Mixing through a set of earbuds is a far different experience than through perfect studio monitors. We listen to mixes everywhere to see how different frequencies and parts come across – then settle on what we like.
What are your release plans?
Our record is due out on November 2, ‘The Day of the Dead.’ We chose that date specifically, as it relates to a lot of the music we play. We tour a fair amount and play more out of town than in Boston, and we’ll be hitting the road before and after the release. Our PR partner, Janelle [Rogers] from Green Light Go Publicity, has been more than incredible in helping us develop our plans. Building a national fan base really can’t be built without touring, and you need a strong release to get press and radio in other markets. Because we’re an all-acoustic duo, we can tour pretty cost effectively and look forward to spending more time out on the road in 2013.
Album Title: In Loving Memory
Recording Studios: Dirt Floor Studios, Hi-n-Dry, Watch City Studios
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Eric Litcher (Dirt Floor – Engineer)
Andrew Mazzone (Hi-n-Dry – Engineer & Producer)
Joel Simches (Watch City – Engineer & Producer)
JJ Rassler (Watch City – Production)