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This Blue Heaven – Recorded at Camp St. Studios, Cambridge, MA
This Blue Heaven is a fantastic Boston-based, female fronted pop/rock band. The group recently held a sold-out video release party in Cambridge, MA, for the track “Slow Dance Slow.” The clip (as well as the band’s music) is available at www.thisblueheaven.com and YouTube. Performer recently caught up with This Blue Heaven to discuss the recording of their latest batch of songs.
What’s the story behind the album?
Spinning and Shining is the product of a couple-years-long process of learning to write songs together and crystallizing our sound. We’ve been playing and writing together for a while, but the first album (Quicksandglass) was an enormous learning experience for us. The songs were in one shape when we went in, but the production process with David Messier at Same Sky Productions took place over a number of months and was extremely collaborative and interactive. There were hours spent with three or four of us sitting around the control room, laboring over a bass line, for example. Or searching for the perfect word for a chorus lyric. Or haggling over song form. David taught us as much about songwriting as he did about recording and gave us a ton of experience working together on it, so we came out of that record MUCH more capable of taking a song as far as it could go together. Ultimately that allowed us to write new songs in a better, more efficient way and enabled us to go to Camp St. Studios with a much more finished group of tunes. And then we could just focus on getting them to sound as awesome as possible – for which [producer] Paul Kolderie and Camp St. were totally ideal.
What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it? Any interesting gear this time around?
We wanted to try and push the edginess and bigness a little more with the Spinning and Shining EP. Some of the better-sounding tunes from our first album – songs like “Insomnia,” “My Disgrace,” and “Any Other Way” – had a bit more edge and grit to them while still retaining our trademark pop sound. We wanted to do even more of that. The Camp St. live room is pretty renowned for huge drum sounds, so that was a big factor in going there. They also have some great old gear – stuff like old tape echo machines, Moog and Juno synths, a Mellotron, and some amazing vintage guitars.
The guitar selection also contributed to the bigness of the sound. On “Nova Love” for example, we quadruple-tracked with a Les Paul, Les Paul Jr., ES-335 and a Telecaster. They’re all slightly different sounds that fill in different frequencies, so all together pretty much create a wall of sound.
We used all kinds of fun toys for mixing. The vocals were put through the tape echo for a lot of stuff. On “A Serious Mistake” we ran the Moog through a wah pedal with left and right panning for the swooshiness in the intro and bridge sections, and also ran the glockenspiel through the Moog to sort of make it sound like it was underwater.
Paul had an interesting technique for mixing. He’d get a song to a point where it was maybe half done, then would turn off the studio monitors and put the mix through a crappy ’80s boom box, then mix for an hour or two through that. After a while you get used to it, and it sounds good, then suddenly he switches back to the studio monitors and it sounds absolutely unbelievable. So the fact that you’re mixing for a variety of different sounding equipment ensures it’s going to sound good no matter what you listen to it on.
Was it mostly a Pro Tools setup for this record?
We recorded digitally into Pro Tools, through Camp St.’s Tweed Audio M3024 console – which, rumor has it, was previously owned by Black Sabbath. All mixing was done out of the box, meaning no Pro Tools plug-ins. The final mixes along with the vocal and instrumental stems were bounced through tape and printed back into Pro Tools.
What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking?
It’s funny that it’s actually much faster tracking individually, since it’s easier to focus on getting good sounds and good takes for one person at a time. But it’s very easy to lose the energy of a live band interacting when you do that. So, we spent the first session all playing together in the same room. The focus was on getting keeper takes for the drums and bass, but we spent just enough time dialing in everyone’s sounds that we were able to use some of the basic guitar and keyboard tracks from that session too. We tracked seven songs that way, then picked five for the EP, and started in on the guitar and keyboard overdubs, and finally the vocals.
Produced by Paul Q. Kolderie
Recorded by Adam Taylor and Alex Hartman at Camp Street Studios, Cambridge, MA
Assistant Recording Engineer: John Northrup
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA
Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice
Photography by Kelly Davidson. Design by Alphabet Arm Design, Boston, MA.
Spinning and Shining is available now at thisblueheaven.bandcamp.com