Studio Diary: The Bynars

Straight from the band’s collective mouth, “This is our first full-length LP.  We self-released three EPs in 2008 and 2009.  The album is about two-years and a few hundred songs in the making – there are no repeats from the previous EPs.  Our goal was to make an album based on strong songs.  Not necessarily songs with a shared theme, per se, as we thought the theme would present itself on its own, but an album with no filler – just 10-12 of our best songs.  I think most bands try to do this, but maybe at some point they compromise that idea for their theme or they throw in a song that they really like “personally.”  We tried to be as objective as we could be about choosing the songs for the album. Obviously that’s nearly impossible to do, but we think we found ways to make it happen on some levels.”

What was your recording schedule like? We recorded for almost a full week in August for basics – drums, bass, guitars and some keyboards at Camp Street Studios in Cambridge, MA.  Did almost all the vocals and programmed parts on our own over the course of the fall.  Then we came back to the studio for two weekends to mix the record.

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Any notable instruments or gear on the record? Aside from using amazing old amps and capturing the explosive live drum sound in the Camp Street room – we (and Ben, our synth player) were excited to use some of their synthesizers, specifically their MiniMoog.  We ran a lot of stuff through that.  Ben also used the studio’s Mellotron on a song called “Every Little Thing You Love.”  On the same song, I used a cool old oil-can tremolo amp thing, which we were told very seriously that we should be careful with and should, in fact run out of the studio if it falls (whatever is in it is either really toxic or really explosive… I didn’t ask).  On “Love Explosion,” I also used an 8-string electric mandola, which I had never really heard of before.

What was your goal with this recording?

Our other goal with the album was to get away from the retro sound that had come across on our first few self-recorded EPs.  Whether it was ’60s pop or ’90s alt-rock, we found people constantly equating our music with the past.  We do love old-school songwriting, but we really want to be relevant today. I like songs I hear on the radio today just as much as I love songs by The Beatles.  I’m not ashamed to say I listen to and love so much of the music that is on Top 40 radio right now.  We made the attempt to exit our self-imposed retro comfort zone and become a band from 2010.  No matter what, we’ll have a bit of a throwback tinge to our music (doesn’t everyone?), but ultimately I think we succeeded at sounding more current with this album, which is exactly what we wanted.  And the future will only hold more of this, so we’re excited!

How does it compare to your last EP in terms of music style and recording process? It was a completely different approach in terms of recording, choosing songs, working on songs, even writing.  Before we would guess – Hey, these seem to be our best four or five­ songs, let’s make an EP.  Sometimes we were right about the songs, sometimes we were wrong, but it was very subjective and very haphazard.  We were much more methodical this time around in all departments.  I think the result is a richer, more musical album.


Sonically — obviously recording this album in an amazing, legendary studio like Camp Street certainly helps things out quite a bit!  Our previous EPs were completely self-recorded.  We wanted this album to have a certain sound that we knew we were unable of achieving on our own – we wanted it to rock, and we also wanted it to have an electronic flavor, more programmed drum parts, etc.

How did you choose the studio?

So we starting looking around at studios and Camp Street was pretty much a no-brainer.  It was right in our backyard, had a great vibe, Adam and Alex were cool guys… and then all the history… really what sealed the deal for me is the fact that the drums for Weezer’s Pinkerton were recorded there.  We were able to merge the huge live sound of that room with our programming and the result is really exciting! I think we found the perfect match in Camp Street.  Just walking in for the first time, it felt right.  The room has great vibe, a great sound. Between the history, the staff, the sound of the room… it was really a no-brainer.

What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it? Special gear? Recording techniques?

We were honestly looking to make a very electronic record.  Then we looked at our songs and were like… that’s not gonna happen. Well… at least not the way we had originally thought.  We basically wanted to make the fourth MIA record, but then we said… that makes no sense for us, haha!  Baby steps.  So we decided to marry our pop songs with the electronic and I think the result is really cool!  This was the first time we used programmed drums and synths, samples… all that stuff was (and is) very new to us.  We needed Adam [from Camp Street] to help us with those things.  We wanted to do a very modern sounding record while still being true to our songs and I think we pulled it off really well. We couldn’t be happier!

What kind of recording equipment did you use (analogue/tape, software, etc.)?

We recorded everything to Pro Tools. We don’t get snobby about older-is-better techniques. The newer and faker sounding the better, as far as we were concerned… at least for this record…  When it comes to being old-school, the only thing we get a little snobby about is synthesizers.  But really we’ll use whatever.  Camp Street has the full-scale capabilities to do anything, and we utilized some really cool old instruments… and their board is Black Sabbath’s old board… so we got our doses of retro and nostalgia in other ways.  It’s such a cool studio with a lot of history; we just focused on being as un-retro as possible as a band, and the retro things happened on their own anyway.


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

We rehearsed our asses off for months before even stepping foot in the studio.  We were able to get a lot of full-band takes – get that special energy that sometimes presents itself when tracking together as a band, doing basics with guitar/bass/drums.  But we also did a lot of individual tracking after that.  All of the vocals were recorded by me at our practice space, then brought into Adam at Camp Street to work his magic, getting them to sound top-notch.

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

We didn’t attempt to make a performance record.  In other words, we didn’t shy away from piecing things together, doing things over, using many layers of sound. For example, on many of the songs there are 40+ vocal tracks.  Freddie Mercury might even consider that excessive on his lesser days. 

Did you face any obstacles in recording? How did you overcome them?

Our main obstacle was mixing our live sound with the electronic elements.  We hadn’t done it before… like… at all… it was a big experiment, and a big gamble.  That was all done in the studio… in fact it was done late in the game during mixing sessions.  The real obstacle is going to be figuring out how to pull it all off live.

Upcoming full-length available spring 2011 // Recorded at Camp Street Studios, Cambridge, MA // Self-released


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