Studio Diary: Spirit Kid

Boston’s Spirit Kid has been generating quite the buzz locally, and that word-of-mouth is sure to spread with their latest 7-inch release. Emeen Zarookian, the band’s founder and frontman (not to mention the handsome gentleman on our February 2010 cover) recently spoke with Performer about the latest recording sessions for the tracks “Wrong Kind of Money” and ”Honestly.”

What was your recording process like for the 7-inch?

We did a main tracking session for each song with bass, drums, and guitar playing live, and then I would go in and overdub more guitars/keys. Matt and Andrew also added some lovely tambourines on “Honestly.” Each song’s basic tracking was completed in a day, with an additional overdub session. Because of our busy schedules we still had a tiny bit of vocal overdubs to do before final mixing.


You went analog for this release, right?

About 95% of the music has been recorded on analog 1″ through a Trident 65 board. Other than that we did a few backing vocals in Pro Tools and mixed it through the board again.


What’s the story behind the album?

The previous album had taken me a few years to record, since I played all the instruments and didn’t really have a plan of action for it. Since the completion of that album, the live band has become more of the actual band and the new songs I’ve written have developed through us playing together. I decided we should go and record these songs because I really loved how they sounded at that moment in time, and really wanted to capture it on tape.


How does it compare to your last record?

The last album was recorded on and off on my own mostly at home, in a practice space, or anywhere I could find. These are the first Spirit Kid recordings actually done in a studio and since the rhythm section is comprised of other musicians, it already had a different sound going in. The songwriting has definitely changed a little bit and gotten a little darker at times, but I can never let go of the pop elements. We also developed certain sections and little parts of the song by playing together. Before I would do it all in my head beforehand or experiment by editing the music in Pro Tools.


How did the material for this release come to fruition?

The first song, “Wrong Kind of Money” had been around for almost a year and I had actually played it with Elizabeth & the Catapult when I was on tour with them last summer. After I got back, Andrew, Matt, and I fleshed out a great version of the song and I just wanted to capture it as it was. I’m glad we did it when we did! After Jack [Younger] moved studios, we were going to go do some overdubs. But after hearing how awesome the new room sounded we decided to record a whole new song I had just written, so we could get some huge drum sounds.


Why did you choose to record at Basement 247 again?

I’ve been recording with Jack Younger since I went in to do a session with Eli “Paperboy” Reed about five or six years ago. Since then I have played on numerous sessions at the studio for Jack, as he has needed bass, keys, or guitar on random projects.


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

There were a couple points where we were really channeling some Fleetwood Mac sounds. I think that’s what we told Jack for the drums – Fleetwood Mac meets Spoon. I love all those drum sounds. For the bass we went direct with my P-Bass, it just sounds that good. We also used a variety of guitars/amps (Epiphone Casino, Fender Tele, Eastwood Stormbird, to name a few).


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

We tried to do all the basic tracking live, with the exception of a few punch-ins. I think if you have the capability and the band sounds tight and well rehearsed, then there is nothing like capturing the energy of a really good live performance of a song. It’s really hard to do, with so many factors to consider. We had a couple takes we did of “Wrong Kind of Money” that were super high energy and I thought were pretty kick ass, but weren’t 100% there. We took a break to eat some burritos (our collective favorite food) and did another take, which was much slower, since we were so full, but totally clicked since the song has a mellower feel in general.

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

I’m a sucker for production and layering. A lot of what we do in the studio isn’t possible live, unless we have tons of people on stage, which sometimes happens. On one song there is acoustic guitar, electric piano, acoustic piano, and tons of background vocals, none of which is usually there live, but the song still works live. At least I think so. If the song is good it can be transformed into different versions, which I think is actually really interesting.

Co-produced by the band and Jack Younger // Recorded at Basement 247 in Allston, MA // Released this fall on RPL Audio

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