No Synths Allowed! Recording Authentic, Piano-Based Rock with Hey Now, Morris Fader

PRE-PRODUCTION

What was your pre-production like on this project?

We had a direction and an idea for where we wanted the album to go.  We concentrated on writing and did quite a few demos in our rehearsal space.  This was great for ironing out changes and harmonies, but it also enabled us to listen to the songs early on and decide to add horns, strings, and accordion – basically anything we wanted.

How did you choose the studio?

We worked with Jon Taft at New Alliance on our last record, and I’ve also worked with him on miscellaneous projects over the years.  There was no question that we wanted to do drums and basic tracking there, because we loved the drum sound from our prior record.  Most of the other studios (Hi-n-Dry, Woolly Mammoth) are great studios, but we had to go there out of necessity because they’re the only places that have a grand piano.

PRODUCTION

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

We wanted a big sound – big mixes, but also big in the sense that we have a lot of instruments playing.

We achieved it by putting mics EVERYWHERE!  Especially for the drums – mics across the room, in the next room – and ultimately having a good engineer [Taft] who was able to pull all the tracks together and make it sound good as a whole.

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

This is the first point where we were more than a duo.  On our first two records we had the mindset of not wanting to record anything we couldn’t pull off live…

but for this record we really wanted to have a giant production and didn’t want to limit ourselves – if we heard horns, we’d put horns on the track.  This made the creative process a little lengthier, but also more fun.

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

No special recording techniques other than I did some of the extra filler stuff (harmonies, handclaps, tambourine) at home and then would bounce out the tracks, time stamp them and e-mail them back to Jon.  That was kind of cool.

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

Being that the piano wasn’t in the same studio where we did the drums, we knew it couldn’t be completely live.  We still set up and tracked the bass, drums, and scratch piano together, only replacing anything bad that really stood out.

Any special guests?

Why yes!  Dana Colley (Morphine) plays on ‘Cop Show.’  Troy Gonyea (Fabulous Thunderbirds, Booker T. Jones, The Howl) plays guitar on ‘Blues and Alcohol,’ ‘Cop Show,’ ‘Two Weeks Notice.’  Pete Zeigler (The Rationales) plays guitar on ‘Smart Girls,’ ‘Suits,’ ‘Asleep at the Wheel,’ ‘Silent Wayne,’ and ‘Sounds the Same.’  Our horn section, which consisted of Chris Barrett (Kingsley Flood) on trumpet, Heather Day (Tigersaw) on trombone, and Brian Kearsley (JoyCo) played on ‘Blues and Alcohol’ and ‘Two Weeks Notice.’  Ian Kennedy (Reverse) played violins on ‘Gone For Good.’

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

Mainly just the instrumentation.  We don’t actively gig with a string or horn section.  Beyond that it was just layering.  Recordings need to sound full and that’s achieved by doubling and layering different instruments.

What were the toughest challenges you faced?

Anytime you record in a pro studio, coming up with the money to pay for it is always a challenge!

The last group of songs we recorded weren’t completely written by the time we were in the studio.  The recording dates crept up on us.  I remember sitting at the piano working it out with Alex [Sacco, drums] while Jon was adjusting the mics on his drums to start rolling.  It was a bit stressful, but it was also exciting to be in the studio and be working out the kinks.  We were pleased with the way the songs came out.

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

I remember when Troy [Gonyea] came in to lay down his parts, his guitar playing (and the fact that he’s a genuinely nice guy) attracted a small crowd in the control room.  We were all looking at each other in disbelief hearing what he was effortlessly laying down.  We Googled a YouTube clip of him playing with Booker T in front of about 10,000 people and everyone looks at me as if to ask, ‘How did you get this guy to play on your record?!’ Also, I don’t think another conversation will ever occur between me and Jon Taft without one of us saying to the other, ‘As you can clearly see, the guitar sounds fucking huge!!’  Ask him for the details of that story…

POST-PRODUCTION

How did you handle final mixing and mastering?

We left mixing up to Jon.  Ultimately, we had final say if we wanted something changed, but Jon has worked with us enough that he knew what we were looking for.  We had a good system of him sending me the mixes and us giving approval or giving details of what we wanted fixed.  Mastering was with Nick and Rob at New Alliance East.  Again, they did our last record so we knew we’d like the results. The mastering was revised two or three times, but all very subtle changes.

What are your release plans?

We did a CD Release show at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester, MA on 9/8/12.  It was phenomenal.  We had a horn section and our new full time guitarist, Jeremy Martin.  We had a ton of bands – all of which delivered incredible sets!  All in all, it was a great party of a time.  We’re also working with Powderfinger Promotions to help us get the word out.  The official release date was 9/18/12 and now we are just trying to spread the word and get our music heard.  Booking shows, promoting, and I have a couple of potential licensing opportunities in the works.

Any special packaging?

CD Digipack.  People still buy CDs, right?

For more visit heynowmorrisfader.bandcamp.com.

ALBUM INFO:
Hey Now, Morris Fader
Good Times Ne’er Forgot
Recording Studios: New Alliance, Woolly Mammoth, Hi-n-Dry, Tremolo Lounge, Various Home Studios
Record Label: Buckwad Records
Release date: September 18, 2012
Engineer and Producer: Jonathan Taft
Album Artwork: Jesse James Salucci
Mastering: Nick Zampiello and Rob Gonnella at New Alliance East Mastering

KEY GEAR:
• Hammond A-100 Chopped Organ with a Leslie 142
• 1977 Rhodes Suitcase Piano
• Vintage Hohner Hollowbody Guitar with a Bigsby
• Vintage Morley Wah Pedal with Oil Can/Echo Chamber Unit

Have a unique studio story to share? Email [email protected].
photos by Jeremy Martin

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