I have fond memories of making do with whatever I had to record tracks and make some music. I was that kid with a two boom boxes – recording, rewinding, then recording while the other one was playing. Then you’d flip that tape into the other one, and do it again. Hell, 4-tracks seemed like voodoo magic when they came out. “You mean it’s backward masking on Side 2? Mind blown!” I had a Tascam, and of course, a Vestax. While they lacked in quality, those methods provided a solid foundation for knowing you could just hit record and get something down. Now, it’s so easy with DAWs and even portable audio recorders to do it at a much higher quality level.
2013 has been the year where music production apps for your phone or tablet have really come of age. The algorithms and processors are now fast enough to handle a whole lot of data. The old standby, GarageBand (iOS $4.99), has improved immensely since the old Mac desktop version. If you have a screaming new tablet, you can really carry a studio with you. Impressive standouts on tablets include FL Studio Mobile (iOS /Android $19.99) and Steinberg Cubase 7 (iOS/Android $9.99).
But sometimes, it’s nice to get out of sequencing and multi-tracking and get back to just messing around making something cool. I’ve noticed that a lot artists I know feel like they need to create amazing tracks whenever they record. We’ve lost that child-like, playful instinct to just mess around and have fun.
With that in mind, here are some cool apps for your smartphone that make music. Some are probably on tablets too, but mostly these are the cheap or free ones for your phone. These aren’t for pro productions, they are meant to be fun and to provide you some inspiration. Most of them have social sharing and saving. Some have more mixing capabilities than others. So, this holiday season, mess around with some apps for making music, get out of your comfort zone, and have some fun.
Figure is beautifully simple. It’s great for beginners, and has a really easy way of sliding across the screen pad to create sounds. Loaded with drums, bass and lead synth. You can set loop length, and export files to iTunes cloud, SoundCloud, Twitter, and Facebook.
It’s voice-to-music technology that the makers describe as “turning your phone into a Synth Kazoo.” Vocolo is an app that is “played” like a kazoo, where you hum or sing into the microphone and it creates an instrument. But instead of just one sound, there are multiple instruments; multiple effects settings allow you to jam to backing tracks, too. You sing in a melody and it translates it to a bass or clarinet, or other instruments.
Purely for guitar enthusiasts, this app does it flawlessly. If you play guitar, the interface for chord finding is fantastic and the layout for chord structures really helps you visualize exactly which strings are making up the chord. And as far as strum touch apps on Android, I believe this one is the most responsive
Musyc falls in to the category of matrix creators. By using planes on the screen matched with tonal or instrumentation settings, you can easily “plot” a song. You do this by “drawing shapes” and then tweaking their sound and attack like a sandbox creation. And with 64 instruments, it’s quite the playground.
Another entry into the burgeoning “voice-to-music” category, Songify takes your voice and turns it into a song. They call it “songification” and you don’t even need to be able to sing, just speak. The results can be mixed, but it is fun to burn a few hours with.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.
November 30. A dark, hot arena in Lowell, Massachusetts. A paraplegic man strapped into his wheelchair floats over the audience, dozens of hands holding him safely aloft while his own hands form fists and punch rhythmically at the sky.
Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier watches with a smile on his face, furiously picking away at his guitar. When the song ends, he praises the enthusiastic masses, commenting on a lackluster NYC audience a few nights prior. It’s hard to imagine how any crowd could resist the powerful stomp of this French monster.
But make no mistake; Joe claims Gojira is not a “French” band.
“In France,” he explains during an interview in Vermont a few days before, “the vibe of the country is very far apart from metal, so we cannot really go, ‘Yeah, we’re French!’” He laughs, mimicking an angry-faced musician playing a guitar slung low.
Though all business on stage, the amiable frontman exudes an infectious sense of calm while discussing his band, their connections to France and to the world.
“Mario—my brother—and myself, we have an American mother. She was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and she grew up in the States. She traveled to France, met my dad, and stayed in France. Never came back to the [States]. So we had, also, this American education. I mean, even though I was born and raised in France I had more of something else, this education, so since I’m a kid, I’m like, ‘I’m not French, I’m a human being.’ So Gojira is more like a ‘human being’ band. An intellectual band.”
The concept of French intellectualism becomes apparent with just a glance at the band’s lyrics. Standard heavy metal tropes and clichés are nowhere to be found. Gojira takes a more philosophical stance than their peers, choosing instead to cover such topics as the power of nature, personal spirituality, and respect for all life.
Even though Duplantier’s approach to writing lyrics may be culturally reflective, he says, “I never tried to sing in French. It was completely natural to sing in English. I guess I wanted to sound like Metallica and Sepultura. But more than that…when you want to deliver a message, you want to be understood by the world. The idea of communicating something to the world, it cannot be in French, really.”
Growing up in the small town of Bayonne in the southwest of the country, Joe (and his brother Mario, who has served as Gojira’s drummer since the group’s inception in 1996) discovered an early interest in art and music. “I learned piano a little bit when I was a kid,” Joe says. “I would never work on piano, really, but I would still take lessons and then not work during the week because I thought it was a little boring. But I grew up with the sound. The very first guitar I had was my mother’s guitar and it was just a piece of crap. It was an old classical guitar, all broken and beat up, with two strings on it. But I would spend hours on it, trying to make a sound. I thought guitar was really difficult until I grabbed a real guitar and I was like, ‘Whoaaa!’”
But in those days, there was no heavy metal scene to speak of in France, and kids felt enormous pressure from society to pick a “respectable” career path early in life and stick with it until retirement or death. “In school and society,” Joe explains, “the outside world would be like, ‘No, this is not a job,’ but we were lucky to have very open-minded parents. When your parents back you up, it helps a lot. I mean, you see your kids playing and completely passionate about music…do your thing. And if one day you’re a bum in the street,” he adds, laughing, “that’s your problem!”
The Duplantier’s parents, as well as those of guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie, may have been on to something. Gojira’s latest album—2012’s L’Enfant Sauvage—is their first for the renowned Roadrunner Records label and their fifth overall. The album has seen them headlining multiple tours across Europe and the United States, and most recently, wrapping up a tour as special guests for Slayer, which ended its run at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. They are scheduled to play Australia’s Soundwave Festival in February, and are currently ironing out details for a possible tour of Japan in early 2014.
The routine has been grueling, non-stop since the album’s release. This is the reality of a working band in the Internet era, when almost no one buys albums anymore.
“Life on the road is not easy,” Joe adds. “We get mentally and physically very, very tired. Right now, we are exhausted.”
And for a band like Gojira, there is little breath to be had from show to show. Between supporting slots with Slayer, they headline one-off gigs whenever possible, and to keep things exciting for themselves as well as the crowds, the band tries to change things up whenever they can.
“Mario is the one deciding the setlist, usually. You know, ‘This song after this song will boost the energy, then we need something to chill, and go back to something stronger.’ He’s really good at it.” But Duplantier is aware of the toll so many months on the road can take. “We have a lot of songs, of course, but there’s just a handful of songs we’re able to play in that state of fatigue. Don’t get me wrong; we put 100%, all our energy goes into each show, and it’s very important to us. It’s like a mission. But because we’re so tired, we can’t be like, ‘Oh, let’s play that old song that we haven’t played in years.’ The way we put the songs together, and how we interpret—how we play them—that’s what makes the concert unique.”
Judging by their performance in Lowell priming the audience for Slayer, or by their brutal headlining gig in Burlington, Vermont, one would never know this was a band past the edge of exhaustion.
“It’s kind of strange to go on the road for so long,” Joe continues. “We’re hungry for new songs. I wish I could be in two places at the same time, in the studio constantly, creating stuff, because that’s what I like the most.”
In the gap between the end of the Slayer tour and next year’s round of appearances, Gojira hopes to burn through some new material in the recording studio. In fact, they have begun writing already, on the tour bus, a phenomenon that Joe admits is rather new for them.
“I actually hate it. I mean, I love it when there’s an idea and it works and it sounds like there are things happening, but it’s really weird to sit in the middle of all these shoes—because everybody throws their shoes in the back lounge, and dirty socks—and a computer, and [Mario’s drum] pad…we’re not a rock band anymore, you know? It’s like being in a cage, a stinky cage with a computer. It’s not the same. I need to be in a room with my friends and jam, so I cannot wait to get to that stage.”
The conditions are far from ideal, working with GarageBand software and the limited amount of technology they can haul with them on the bus.
“It’s mostly riffs and ideas that we record,” he says. “We have a list of riffs, but we don’t have, really, a song. Well, we have two songs that [we think], Okay, there’s a structure here and there are enough ideas to make something. Some of the stuff is really exciting, but the conditions are really difficult, and when the bus is driving…”
Joe shakes his head, chuckling again. The exhaustion he spoke of earlier is still far from apparent. He appears comfortable and confident as he considers the next steps of the band. When confronted with the fact that Gojira is fast approaching its 20th anniversary, he remains as philosophical as ever.
“I don’t care,” he says, smiling. “I just try to be a better person, and my personal life is very important for me—my family—and trying to have a life that I actually enjoy. Of course [with] the band, yeah, it’s like, ‘Holy shit, it’s more than half of my life.’ My adult life is Gojira. Almost all of it. What we do, though, is we work hard making our group healthy, communicating, having good moments and being on the same page, all of us. With different personalities, sometimes it is not easy, but I feel we’re doing a pretty good job.”
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Audio specialist Sennheiser announced that it has recently filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in light of the pending spectrum auction scheduled to take place in 2014. The government auction, which jeopardizes the future use of wireless microphones and monitors operating in the 600 MHz range, will force many U.S. based content creators — including broadcast, film and live production professionals — to attempt to stage their shows using little more than half of the currently available UHF spectrum.
In the document filed on November 4th, Sennheiser argues that the winners of the spectrum auction should compensate owners of wireless microphone equipment that will be rendered obsolete as a direct result of the planned spectrum repacking. Currently, the FCC has not announced any plans to compensate wireless microphone owners, who play a critical role in U.S. content creation and who will have to make significant investments in new equipment for the second time within a few years.
“Wireless microphones are an essential ingredient of content creation in the United States,” commented Joe Ciaudelli, spectrum affairs, Sennheiser Electronic Corp. “Currently, the United States is the number one content creator in the world when it comes to broadcasting, film production and live events. The A/V professionals that produce this content, which is enjoyed by both domestic and international consumers, depend on the 600 MHz frequency spectrum each day. Now they are being told that they must vacate this UHF space, and with no contingency or recourse to recover their equipment investments. This is grossly unfair, especially considering that this will be the second time this has occurred within a few years. This time mics and monitors won’t be able to simply be relocated into lower portions of the UHF because it is already packed with replacement mics for ones rendered obsolete by the 700 MHz reallocation. TV stations currently operating in 600 MHz will also be relocated to lower channels, exacerbating the congestion.”
“Not only does the pending spectrum repacking threaten to diminish U.S. leadership in content creation, it creates an unecessary hardship to many thousands of audio professionals by forcing them to reinvest in compliant equipment,” he continued. “While adverse effects of the spectrum repacking will inevitably occur, simple fairness says that the auction winners who will derive revenue from the auctioned spectrum should provide compensation.”
Currently, the vast majority of U.S.-based major film productions, television broadcasts and major concert events in the United States rely heavily on the 600 MHz frequency range. Eliminating access to this not only significantly increases congestion in the 500 MHz frequency range, but also places unprecedented technical demands on both the equipment and operators working in this space. The FCC has also received letters of support for Sennheiser’s position from industry leading companies including Shure, Audio Technica, Lectrosonics, and CP Communications. “We encourage others to write to the FCC as well,” states Ciaudelli.
Following is an excerpt from Sennheiser’s recent filing that illustrates the role wireless equipment plays in the U.S. commercial, political and economic arenas:
“Wireless microphones are ubiquitous in all aspects of the entertainment business, in news reporting, in sports, and in U.S. commercial, civic, and religious life. They are essential to the production of virtually all non-studio broadcast events, and to nearly all studio-produced programs as well. These include team sports from local college broadcasts to the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Final Four, and the Stanley Cup; the Democratic and Republican political conventions; post-election national and local coverage; the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Awards shows; events such as the Olympics, NASCAR races, the Kentucky Derby, and major golf and tennis tournaments; and on-the-scene news reporting of all kinds, both local and national. These broadcasts routinely attract millions of viewers.
Motion-picture production, from Hollywood blockbusters with nine-digit budgets down to student work at the local community college, relies heavily on wireless microphones for clear, accurate audio. Live events, from Broadway productions to stadium-sized outdoor concerts, need wireless microphones to reach the back row. Presenters in auditoriums, lecture halls, and houses of worship find them indispensable.”
From the funky beats of The Roots, to the vocal prowess of Stevie Wonder, to the fierceness of Queen Bey, New York’s indie-soul sextet The Rooks are a perfect combination of all the right things.
Garth Taylor (vox), Louis Russo (bass), Gabe Gordon (keys), Nate Mondschein (drums), Spencer Hattendorf (sax) and Graham Richman (guitar) all met at Wesleyan University as undergrads. After years of running in the same social circles, and overlapping into various musical endeavors, the guys formed The Rooks in late 2011. They recorded a brief set of studio singles in early 2012, and just released their first EP this past summer.
Now, they are living in NYC as “salaried humans,” says Taylor, with legitimate jobs as teachers, lawyers, and something that Taylor and Mondschein are unclear on, but agree is some form of “financial sorcery” and trying to make this music thing happen.
Their five-song EP, Something You Can Take, is a collection of jazzy, poetic numbers about swooning over that certain someone. All the songs are a reflection of the group as a whole as Mondschein explains, “Everyone on some level is involved in the song, but in varying capacities.” Whether one person brings an idea to rehearsal, or they all develop it together in improvisational jam sessions, the goal is the same: “To find a balance between putting out a cohesive, artistic product, but one that also shows the different sides of our sound,” Mondschein continues.
They call themselves ‘The Rooks’ because they are rookies to the industry, and like a rook, they are looking to strategically move forward. Their next move is to tour through Connecticut, New York and DC. Then they plan on recording more material in December. After that, Taylor says, half jokingly, it’s on to stardom and Grammys.
“I think before we even knew what the name of our band was, I told everyone that by the time I’m 25 I need to have a Grammy in my hand. I need to be holding it; it needs to be on my shelf, that’s it. Recently I have made the caveat that it doesn’t need to be a real Grammy, like someone can make it for me at the mall, that’s also fine. But I need to have it,” Taylor jokes.
Joking aside, the guys are making moves, and creating a sound that this generation of music is missing. The Rooks’ main goal is, Taylor says, “Definitely within the next few years we want to be seeing new faces and sharing our music with as many people as we can.“
HOMETOWN: NYC via Middletown, CT GENRE: Indie Soul ARTISTIC APPROACH: Balancing collaborative writing and improv. URL:therooksband.bandcamp.com
The ripples of the reverb sway back and forth like the tides. This is surf music, an American tradition passed down to us from Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello’s bandstand romps on the beach. But the bikinis and Wayfarers have a darker tint today, shaded by the towering redwoods and scattered driftwood on the shores. There’s no suntan to be spoken of; it’s much too cloudy. Frankie and Annette might have to throw on an extra layer if it gets any darker.
Traditionally, surf rock isn’t a genre laden with realism. It’s escapist at its core, an urge to run, not walk, board in hand to get away to the beach for a while. But in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll be a little harder pressed to find every day so sunny.
That’s where Seattle surf quartet La Luz comes into play. While the name translates to “the light,” the band’s debut full-length It’s Alive veers ironically into the darker side of surf, dropping expressive, damaged vocals over frenetically paced psychedelia.
“It’s not just like sunny California pop,” says the band’s lead singer and guitarist Shana Cleveland. “I think of surf music as having a gothic vibe to it. The surf rock I like to listen to the most is Link Wray and Dick Dale and stuff like that. It seems like it always has a darker side than, like, the Beach Boys.”
Supplementing Cleveland’s tenacious guitar hooks and blackened lyrical tone is a full-on assault of all-female vocal harmonies, drawing a haunting, lo-fidelity alternative to the glossy style of ’60s girl-group pop.
While the marriage of raging surf rock and glistening girl group could drown in overproduction, the band’s lo-fi attitude carries over into the recording process, a nod to Cleveland’s passion for cassette-tape aesthetics and the grimy garage style of artists like Shannon and the Clams, The Shivas and Ty Segall.
“When I was first writing the music for this band, [for] the first few songs that we played I was mostly inspired by stuff that was on cassette tapes,” Cleveland says. “It makes a lot of sense that we use kind of a lo-fi kind of recording because a lot of stuff I was listening to at the time I was hearing on cassette, so it was all kind of gritty and lo-fi.”
The band recorded It’s Alive, out now on Sub Pop’s sister label Hardly Art, in the same place as 2012’s Damp Face EP: a trailer park bedroom on the outskirts of Seattle. But Cleveland says the band was sure to take more care with the full-length to hammer out the particulars.
“We recorded the EP in a day and kind of mixed it in one more day,” Cleveland explains. “[We] just blew through it as fast as we could, just to have some tracks recorded. We went back over a couple weeks and did overdubs and spent a lot of time so we could have it mixed as we wanted.”
That wasn’t the only change that La Luz undertook, however. Although It’s Alive shares a few tracks in common with the group’s earlier EP, the band added Alice Sandahl’s organ chops to its lineup in an effort to round out the surf vibe of the record.
“When I heard the EP I thought, ‘Holy shit, I love this shit and I need to be a part of this shit.’ I really loved hanging out with them and it’s been a magical experience,” Sandahl says.
Despite Sandahl’s reckless abandon en route to joining La Luz, the project has been years in the making. Cleveland and drummer Marian Li Pino had played the Seattle scene in K Records’ garage outfit The Curious Mystery, so when Cleveland set out to assemble an all-female band, Li Pino was a natural choice.
“I really liked the way we worked together, so when she asked me I was totally down,” Li Pino says. “It seemed like it would be really fun to play in this band, too.”
The addition of bassist Abbey Blackwell took more legwork, but once approached she was game.
“Shana was just looking for girl bass players and I kind of almost knew her,” Blackwell says to the laughter of her bandmates. “I’d heard her music before and I thought she was super cool so I was like ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll hang out with you guys and play music.’ ”
The creative process for La Luz has followed suit, with Cleveland handling songwriting duties before presenting ideas to the band for arranging.
“It ends up changing or evolving based on what people think makes sense,” Cleveland says. “I don’t have a hard or fast idea of how the song’s gonna go. We definitely have a lot of collaboration.”
One of the most crucial steps for the band, especially given its girl-group aesthetic, is combining sultry vocal harmonies to the instrumental backbone of its surf sound.
“Those are two of my favorite things to hear in music,” Cleveland says. “I have a feeling that backup vocals are coming back.”
Cleveland’s affinity for tender harmonies layers distinctively against the band’s aggressive, guitar-driven surf backbone. But she enjoys the dynamic, the druggy haze of the band’s beach buzz, allowing her lyrics to shine between her ripping guitar solos. Suddenly, La Luz has carved out a unique style no Dick Dale or Diana Ross can lay claim to.
“I think there’s only benefits to having our own unique sound,” Cleveland says. “I feel like it’s pretty accessible music. It’s the kind of music that appeals to a lot of different kinds of people.”
After the band’s album release, the ladies will take to the road to open for psych-pop legends Of Montreal, turning their Pacific Northwest brand of goth-surf into a coast-to-coast wave. Blackwell describes the sudden rise in notoriety as something of a surprise. “I don’t think any one of us expected it to become this successful,” she says. “I had no idea what I was getting into, so how could I know?”
What was your pre-production like on this project?
Josh: We went to a cabin in Southwest Harbor, ME with a couple of acoustic guitars, a banjo, a bass, a keyboard, and a stripped down drum kit. We mapped out and roughly arranged ten songs. We did a simple room-mic demo recording of them. When we started working in the studio, we pulled up the demos and started recreating them as the base for the songs.
Why did you record at your home studio?
Josh: I have spent the past several years building and improving my personal studio (Black Hat Music in Medford, MA). Over that time it went from a simple place for me to work on my own projects to a viable recording and production studio. I have been fortunate to record and produce some amazing artists over the past couple of years, learning how to best utilize my space and gear along the way. Deciding to record the album at my studio also had a lot to do with knowing the tools, rather than relying on a third party studio for instruments and mics.
We have many different guitars, basses, amps, keyboards and percussion instruments [here] to choose from, and a few different mics and preamps to capture them. We felt confident that we could undertake this project ourselves and would end up with an album that we felt represented us.
What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it?
Shawn: We tend to think about the sound of each song individually rather than the sound of the album as a whole. Our goal is to make an album where no two songs sound alike, yet they still flow as a collection of songs without feeling disjointed. Instead of tracking basics for ten songs at once, we decided to break them into smaller groups (four, four, and three). Since the songs vary in style and feel so much, we thought it would be easier to stay focused if we were only thinking about three or four songs at a time.
How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process?
Shawn: I almost feel like making our last EP was our warm-up for making this album. It was our first venture into collaboration and was more about arranging together than writing together. This time around was a lot closer to starting from scratch. We started out just writing chord progressions and mapped out the songs before they even had melodies or lyrics. We’re doing all of the arrangement in the studio this time, whereas last time around we had played a few of the songs live before we started recording them.
Did you use any special miking techniques?
Josh: Drums were recorded using a seven mic setup. There was a Shure Beta52 inside the kick drum, aiming at the lower right quarter of the beater head, Shure SM57s close miking the snare and rack, an Audix i5 on the floor tom, two Oktava MK-012s in an X/Y configuration about four feet over the top of the kick drum, and a Cascade Fat Head about three feet in front of the kit, angled toward the void between the kick and snare.
Almost all of the acoustic guitars were recorded using an Oktava MK-012, positioned where the neck meets the guitar, angled in towards the body, through a Seventh Circle N72 preamp.
While there are many different guitars and amps used on the album, the recorded tone for all of them is a blend between a Cascade Fat Head through the Seventh Circle and a CAD E100 through an ART MPA II. They were positioned with their head baskets touching, roughly three to four feet in front of the amps.
Vocals were all recorded using an Advanced Audio CM12se through the Seventh Circle preamp.
What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking?
Josh: Since we’re arranging as we’re recording, all of the tracking has been done individually. Drums were recorded while bass was playing along, but the bass was re-recorded later. Everything else has been layered on.
Shawn: Using the studio as a writing tool is a defining characteristic of the way we work, though some day I would love to try making an album with everyone in a room playing together – maybe that’ll be our next one!
Any special guests?
Shawn: So far we’ve had some backing vocals contributed by members of Parks (Matthew Girard, Brian E. King, Liz McBride), Saraswathi Jones (Tanya Palit), and The Grownup Noise (Paul Hansen, Adam Sankowski).
What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live?
Josh: While things in the studio inevitably get more complex, we have been conscious of the live show while arranging and recording. We’re trying to not let it get layered to the point that we will be unable to recreate it live.
What were the toughest challenges you faced?
Josh: Engineering and producing an album yourself is always a challenge. There’s a lot of factors at play and the mental switch from creative to technical (or vice versa) can take you out of the moment.
Shawn: We recorded and mixed our previous EP very quickly…at times it has been tough adjusting to a slower pace.
Can you tell us about working with other Boston bands on background vocals?
Shawn: We invited some of our friends who are in Boston bands to come over and sing backing vocals on one of the songs. I hadn’t yet finished writing all of the lyrics so we hadn’t tracked the lead vocals yet. Backing vocals were just “oh oh oh”s so we figured we could just get them out of the way. We sent a demo of the song around with just the backing vocal part so our guest singers could learn the melody. The next day we got this email back from Paul Hansen (lead singer/guitarist, The Grownup Noise):
“Hey guys, so listening to the track today, I kinda wrote a melody and lyrics for it, since I was def feeling it. Which obviously you can punt on, but yeah, just got a little too into it. It felt really good to do either way, and I won’t be offended if you’re already set on lyrics/melody. We can def rock whatever backgrounds you need.”
How could we say no to that? We were dying with curiosity to hear what he came up with and how it stacked up against my lyrics/melody. Paul’s version of the song ended up being so cool we actually used his melody for the chorus, though with my own lyrics, making it our first “accidentally co-written” song. We’ve even been talking about The Grownup Noise recording Paul’s version of the song and releasing both of our versions as a split single.
How will you handle final mixing and mastering?
Shawn: We’ve kind of been mixing each song as we work on it, so we plan on doing the final mixing ourselves. As far as mastering, we plan on working with either TW Walsh (who mastered our last EP) or Steve Mazur (who has mastered several projects that Josh has produced for other artists).
What are your release plans?
Shawn: Our fans who contributed to the PledgeMusic campaign will be the first to hear the album via digital download. We also plan to release [it] on CD.
Any special packaging?
Shawn: We offered our fans the opportunity to have their name and even their photo included in the CD liner notes for contributing to the PledgeMusic campaign, so the packaging (as far as inserts, gate-fold, etc.) depends on how many names and photos we have to include. We’d like to keep the packaging as green as possible (recycled paper, soy ink). The environmental non-profit organization Reverb will also be assisting us in offsetting the carbon [footprint] from manufacturing and shipping CDs.
ALBUM INFO & CREDITS
Band: Golden Bloom
Recording Studio(s) Used: Black Hat Music (Medford, MA)
It’s hard to imagine integrating new technologies or ideas into something as simple as a microphone stand, but Hercules has added a new twist to theirs.
Their straight stand with the “H” base sports a cast metal bottom with two cutouts, just the right size for a vocalist who might be using a pedal. It also cuts down on material, meaning it’s lighter and easier to transport. The boom stand, however, has a standard tripod configuration for adjustability, and with that in mind it’s a bit more adjustable for vocals and miking up instruments. In short, the boom stand just has great adjustability overall.
Here’s the aforementioned twist: the height adjustment on both is done via a simple twistable clutch, no threaded inserts to strip out, and no repeated tightening (or over tightening) to wear out parts. One quick twist to release, one to tighten. But it doesn’t stop there. Hercules now has a mic clip that works in the same way. A simple cam lever at the end, no threaded connections needed. Just slide on over the end, flip the lever, and the mic clip is secured. Even better, it can be used on stands by other manufacturers. Both ideas fall into the “why hasn’t someone done this sooner” area.
Consider how many mic stands have met their demise via cross-threading parts, and it’s easy to see that when the next stand in your tour van bites the dust, it might be time to check a Hercules.
PROS:Adjustable, with little room for user error.
PRICE: $25-35 (each)
Specially designed for backline companies & touring musicians
Quick Turn makes height adjustment quick & easy
HERCULES H Base is weighted for exceptional stability
Reverb was probably the first “effect” for guitarists other than overdrive – originally found on amplifiers, and later in the digital realm, with complicated parameters. TC brings the simplicity of the old, with the sound quality of the 21st Century.
The HOF Mini is not much bigger than a business card, so due to the small size it can’t fit a 9v battery; power needs to come from a standard power adapter. With just one knob it gives the analog feel of a vintage amplifier’s reverb, but for those tone-tweaking freaks a USB port is included for uploading sounds from the web, and editing of sounds via TC’s TonePrint editor software. Sounds can also be loaded via a smartphone, using TC’s TonePrint app.
Our review unit came loaded with TC’s “Hall” reverb mode, but the reverbs on TC’s full-sized big brother (the original Hall of Fame pedal) are all available to be loaded, as well: Room, Hall, Spring, Plate, Church, Mod, Lo-Fi, Tile, Amb and Gate. Of course, TC pretty much perfected the digital reverb, so the sounds are fantastic, and while it may take a bit more to load or change a sound, once it’s done, they don’t disappoint.
Unlike digital reverbs of old, these have a musical quality that actually makes sense, sonically, for guitar. In front of an amp, or in an effects loop, it sounds great. Oh, and for the pedal tone purists, it’s true bypass. This is a nice small package to get a decent reverb, without taking up space on a pedalboard or taking a bite out of your bank account.
It’s more than likely a school night. A light glows from a room in Sacramento. A microphone plugged into a karaoke machine hangs from the rafters of a teenage bedroom. Toiling below the mic, two pre-teen punk rock hopefuls sit in front of their instruments and begin picking through notes, forming what will be the first song of their catalogue. It’s 2007, and the members of Dog Party are 11 and 9 years old.
Sisters Gwen and Lucy formed the band out of a love for ’70s and ’80s punk music. Encouraged by their parents, they quickly blazed a trail most independent musicians would envy. Since 2007, the group has released two full-length records and is preparing to release their third (Lost Control) with the help of Mike Park and Asian Man Records. The girls have merch, a record deal, and they’ve just completed yet another national tour. Side note: they still tour with their parents. And yes at 17, Gwendolyn has just gotten her driver’s license, but points out she wont be able to legally drive her bandmate/sister until she is 18, due to California state law.
The interesting thing about Dog Party is that they’re incredibly well behaved. Although it’s interesting on paper, the 17-year-old with the guitar and the record deal is surprisingly normal. Dog Party likes playing shows, but goes so far as in our interview to point out that, “During the school year we try not to play too many shows during the week. We just played a show last night (Thursday) and it was really tough! I had an essay that I had to work on the entire time, and even missed our friend’s band, who I really wanted to see. We just have to really manage our time.”
Their latest effort, Lost Control, is incredibly accomplished. Their sound lies somewhere between The Runaways and Best Coast (emphasis lying arguably on the latter, somewhat unintentionally). Their new record was recorded on tape, a process the girls prefer over digital, as recording to tape is, as they put it, “more genuine, more raw and full of energy.” This begs the question: What garage band do you know that’s made it through three records? Better question, what 15-year-old has an opinion on tape vs. digital that they can actually back up via a catalogue?
This isn’t meant to be patronizing, either. A quick jog around the Internet exposes interview after interview of the same question regarding school, boys, age, parents etc. Dog Party basically answers the same ‘Top 5’ questions worldwide. No wonder they have a publicist. I imagine at this point answers can simply be copied and pasted. Their story begs another question: How important is age in music these days? Was Dog Party arguably too young at its inception? Do they often feel patronized due to it? They’re also both female and in the punk scene, and although we’d like to think that was all cleared up by Ms. Hanna (Kathleen) back in the ’90s, is still mostly a major issue.
The girls address the topic with ease. “We choose not to really look at age or gender in relation to the bands we listen to or the shows we play, but I guess it could affect some people before they actually get to know us.” Age or gender apparently does not factor into Dog Party’s universe. They are without interest and can’t be bothered by either supposed hardship. The only downside they care to mention is, “It limits the venues we can play and we occasionally miss out on [performing live] with some really cool bands because of it.”
We’re at a stalemate. Dog Party is either so incredibly positive that they float above any and all conflict, or they are the most media-savvy teenagers in public school. They are normal, happy kids. They live normal lives and probably eat dinner every night with their family. But they have a publicist, which is what makes this feel different. They aren’t prodigies or musical masterminds. Their worth is built upon their relationship as a team. Their value is as a band; Dog Party is indie-rock’s most successful (literal) garage band.
They don’t hang out with people their age. They go on tour with musicians like Kepi Ghoulie (a punk scene staple for 20 years). Their first show was opening for Agent Orange. Dog Party goes home and does their homework, but the bands they open up for are the same age as their parents, and maybe that’s the real lynchpin here; Dog Party is two young ladies with incredibly supportive parents. Maybe at the end of the day this isn’t about talent or luck, but about a support system built around the creativity of two young people.
As their label owner Mike Park points out, “You don’t see many parents who are at every show helping sell merch and just being there to support instead of trying to show the world their kid is the next superstar. Everyone is humble and understands the punk ethics involved in this DIY endeavor.” Maybe what we really need are for the parents of these two bright young musicians to write a book on how to help kids blossom artistically. There aren’t a lot of kids out their who have three records under their belt, but there also aren’t many parents who would let their kid hop in a tour van at 17 and haul ass around the planet. This is a “chicken or the egg” scenario that should really be given some thought.
Gwen and Lucy are positive about their musical future. When asked about their upcoming plans, their only goal is “to have as much fun as possible! Make good records!” In some ways talking to Dog Party feels like talking to the incredibly positive sheltered kid in your math class. Except Dog Party isn’t sheltered by a social construct or an overly protective patriarch. They are held boldly in the arms of a music scene and network of people who’ve chosen to foster and encourage two kids with big ideas (and killer punk songs, to boot). Does Dog Party have more records than the average garage band because they are exceptional? Or is this a shining example of what two kids are capable of when we empower them to blaze their own trail?