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Using the Comfort of a Home Studio to Kickstart Creativity After a Recording Hiatus
To get a band to connect personally and professionally takes time and balance. After a seven year hiatus, Dressy Bessy is back and making their Yep Rock Records label debut with the album KINGSIZED.
“If you can get a group of people together to sick it out with you and grow with you, only good and come from it,” says lead singer/guitarist Tammy Ealom. Their passion for music is obvious and flows naturally. Ealom notes that performing is a release of energy and positive vibes. She is proud of how the band plays together and notes that they feed off each other.
All of the songs on the new LP reveal something inherently personal about Ealom but at the same time, relates to the general population. Ealom notes that for the past seven years “it’s not like I’ve been sitting here doing nothing… I’ve been writing!” Inspiration flows out her and songs aren’t forced. In the moment, things just happen and she doesn’t questions the origin. Looking back, she can usually reflect and realize where those feelings came from and what they were tied to. “I can’t really pinpoint what I’m trying to say; I just let it go. Each time the song can be about something different, it can relate to what I’m feeling at that moment,” says Ealom. Perspectives change over time and our understanding of things evolve. Ealom’s ‘everything’s relative’ and ‘day-by-day’ perspective is the reason people can relate to the music on a deeper level.
Dressy Bessy’s first two albums were completed in their home studio and the following two were completed in professional recording studios. They initially made the switch because they had the option to: “It’s rock and roll! You have to try different things,” says Ealom. With recording in their home studio, Ealom notes that they downside is the same as the upside: “You can do what you want but you catch yourself second guessing.” They chose to record this album in their home studio because it was less pressure and they wanted to concentrate more on the performance aspect. Having the time and freedom for the creative process to flow was key to this album’s organic feeling.
The quality of the room can dramatically alter sound. To get an accurate-sounding environment, in terms of room treatment, guitarist John Hill notes that “our main tracking room is also our rehearsal space and pretty much breaks every rule for what is generally considered a good tracking space.” Hill reflects that there is so much gear in their room that reverberations aren’t much of a problem. The band tends to favor very dry sounds and their room has proven to be effective in this regard. Aside from vocals and percussion, all tracks are done in that room. Ealom likes having her own space to work out vocals since there is no pressure and her creativity can flow. They do a rough mix and then add vocals, which can, in turn, inspire lead guitar parts.
Hill is the gearhead of the group and has fully stocked their home studio. For outboard gear they have preamplifiers in the API 500 Series format (8 channels total), although none of their modules are actually API. The two primary brands are Sound Skulptor MP573, which is a Neve 1073 inspired preamp, and Classic Audio Products of Illinois (CAPI) VP26. For tracking, Hill doesn’t use much processing but generally will have a compressor/limiter in-line. Some of those are FCS Pico 500 (VCA), Alta Moda AM-10 (FET), Aphex Expressor (VCA), and Urei/JBL 7110 (modified).
Ealom does most of her vocals with Electro-Voice RE20 into a Cloudlifter CL-2. For drums, Hill uses a rather simple set-up (a slightly modified Glyn Johns method for mics), two Advanced Audio CM87se for overheads, Beyerdynamic M201 on snare, EV RE20 inside kick, and CAD E100 outside kick. For guitars, Hill uses variations of two mics, some of which include the Beyer M201, Beyer M69, Beyer M160, Shure SM7b, and GLS Audio ES-57. Most bass tracks DI using a Little Labs Redeye into Sound Skulptor MP573. Hill notes, “One unique thing about our recording approach is that we rarely use condenser mics, with the exception of the drum set-up, and some of the backing vocals.”
In true gear head fashion, Hill has a top-five list of pieces of gear that he couldn’t live without: EV RE20, Beyer M201, Beyer M69, Advanced Audio CM87se and the CAPI VP26 preamps.
After a seven-year absence from recording, Ealom notes that the Internet has completely taken over in terms of bands self-promoting. Musicians are constantly throwing themselves out there just so people know who they are. The biggest challenge they think they will face with having a seven-year gap is finding what their old fan base is doing now. Having a support system that really appreciates the music isn’t only made up of the fans, it’s also the label that backs you. Signing with Yep Rock has been great for Dressy Bessy and they have nothing but positive things to say about the experience. “They really love our band and that’s number one. They [have] a great infrastructure, a great team of people and are working really hard for us,” says Ealom.
Since the 2008 release of Holler and Stomp, the band has reconstructed itself. The number of notable guests bassists has increased and the collaborations have greatly impacted their music. The bass lines for KINGSIZED are stylistically different, so they sought out bassists with varying styles so each track would have a unique vibe. The collaborations happened so organically and working in their home studio really allowed the creative juices to flow unencumbered.
Dressy Bessy’s indie-rock sound doesn’t try to emulate anyone else. Ealom expresses that by saying, “I have to make music whether people come out and like it or not.” I don’t think we’ll have to wait another seven years for another album. Dressy Bessy is back and ready to rock!