I think the easiest thing is going to be to keep everything in the correct chronological order. Otherwise I’m going to have trouble working out what on earth is going on. Should you be curious though, Flotsam & Jetsam is still very much on the way, and we’ve actually been in to record next month’s release as well. All progressing well.
So this post harks back 2 months ish now. I never posted a studio report for dog Tired. So here it is.
This is the first time I’ve deigned (haha) to share the actual lead vocals on a pØ track. I enjoyed it. I’ll be doing it more often.
This was a very reasonable day’s work. Relying a bit on memory now, but I believe the drums were in already, so we laid down some tight grooves quick smart. Bit spoilt having Paul really. He’s very quickly able to get into the spirit of whatever’s on offer from month to month.
Mr Martin was up next, bringing a bag of treats as is his wont. He also brought a big bag of bass. It’s such a delight watching people turn up and bring their own flavour to all of these dumb songs I write. I particularly enjoyed the big slappy bits. Oh yes.
Jack turned up just in time to overlap with Ant, which was nice, and I was next up, recording the acoustic. I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, but I’m feeling pretty confident with recording in general, but especially playing acoustic rhythm guitar.
Then it was Jack’s turn to do some electric. I had to run off to do some errand, I forget what, but came back to find Paul and Jack writing/working out the chorus riff. But where Jack really shone was the improvisation stuff. In particular, his improvised solo after the middle eight was a first take wonder. We tried for another take, but it wasn’t worth it as the first was just so good.
Then the vocals. I went first, then Jack. There was a little bit of fun working out one of my more obscure timings but other than that everything was very smooth and sounded wonderful.
And this time you don’t have to take my word for it. You can listen and judge for yourself! Class.
I am also able to report that the non-standard capitalisation of the song title aggravated at least 50% of the musicians involved. So there’s that.
Well last week I reminisced about the week of recording for The Way Home. This week, I’d like to go a little into the detail of the time that went in to the project.
Around November 2014, I started thinking seriously about what I next wanted to achieve, musically speaking. The answer was fairly obviously a Roo’s Radio album. So I set about making it happen.
Initially I thought it might be me and Paul doing the bulk of the work, with the band filling in towards the end, but in fact, the others wanted to throw in behind the idea as much as I did. And I’m glad for that, as we have a far better end product because of it.
Not least because of what I’m about to tell you. Three extra people on the project meant a lot more working hours. Here then, is a rough breakdown of actual time that went into just the making of the music. Physical production and launch are a story for another time I think.
I’ve counted the total time of everyone involved, which in this case varied from just me (songwriting) to the band (four of us), to the band with producer, to a church choir (20ish). This is a very rough estimate, and I’ve erred on the side of conservative guesses to be honest. I’ve gone with 1 day = 8 hours.
The actual album process from start to release ran from January 2015 to November 2015, with some songs initially written as early as 2011.
• Initial songwriting 2011 – 2015. Approx. 2 hours per song, but I may have written up to 25-30 songs in that period. Some of these ended up with strangeday, some may still see the light of day, and some are probably just for me :P. Only 11 made it onto the album (the intro track was written during the process of producing the album and is a reworking of parts of two of the other songs with some extra bits)
• Extra band songwriting for 5 of those songs during band practices (2013-2014)
• Initial album planning (December 2014)
2-3 hours taking to Paul W about recording and the band about the project
• Building collaboration tool. 3-4 hours collating songs, influences, building an online wiki for collaboration
• Pre-recording band rewrites
Roughly every Wednesday evening between January and May 2015 plus one Saturday a month in the same period
~64 hours (evenings)
~128 hours (Saturdays)
• Working out final track selection and rough order/album journey/themes
• Final pre-production with Paul, May 2015
• Recording scratch tracks May 2015
• Studio week May 16-22 2015
• Choir recording June 2015 (inc prep) rough estimate
• Extra recording days July/August 2015 2-3 days with various people
• Cello writing/recording July 2015
• Mixing and editing June-October 2015 – officially 12 days, but estimating 22
• Band feedback on editing (very rough approx)
Total ~1000 hours or ~125 days
NB. This does not include artwork, physical production, design, launch planning or general low-level (casual) thinking about the songs/project management etc.
It was a year and two days ago, on the 16th May 2015, that we started a full week’s work on The Way Home – the Roo’s Radio debut album. It marked the first time that I had worked full time, albeit for a week, on a music project.
In actual fact, what went into that album was so much more than just that one week, as I’ll tell you more about next time, but spending concentrated time doing a project like that is always going to stand out as a special time in your memory – good or bad.
Recording an album is an interesting business. There’s a lot of hard work, but also a lot of potential boredom: waiting your turn, setting things up, getting something wrong over and over again. There are high points and low points, but you’re always striving to ensure that the best bits make it onto the record.
Prior to going in to the studio I had recorded a bunch of the guide tracks. I believe I finished recording these on the morning of Saturday 16th, and we then did a bit of work on the guitar for Flicker. Already the exact sequence of events is fading from memory. Flicker was definitely the first song we worked on though.
Paul wasn’t around in the afternoon of the 16th so we did some final bits of writing and got some rest for the week ahead.
We’d booked in a drum day on the Monday, so we spent Sunday on Flicker and possibly another song we didn’t have drums on.
Monday morning was spent setting up the live room for the drums, and then Paul stormed through the drums for six songs in one day. The last song of the day was Dream Again. Paul had to leave for a gig or practice and was right up against it to get the song done, but true to form he smashed it out.
For the rest of the week we had to try and get through as much as possible. Generally speaking we had to get bass and guitar sorted before we did vocals, so we’d spend mornings doing the instruments and afternoons doing the vocals. None of the lead vocalists were drinking alcohol, milk or caffeine so there was an awful lot of herbal tea drunk that week. And lots of vocal warm-ups and vocalzone to look after our voices.
For fun we hooked up a live webcam during the week. We didn’t have a huge number of people checking in with it, but the footage (unfortunately without sound as we didn’t want to broadcast our numerous mistakes and dodgy conversations to the internets) was saved. We edited some of it into this video, but perhaps one day we’ll do more with it.
Most days we’d decide on a plan of action for the next day. We didn’t plan anything too far ahead and just went with how we were feeling.
We had a chart of things needing to be done and it became clear as the week went on that we weren’t going to make it through everything. We still had 2 days of time booked with Paul, so as the week went on we tried to find some more time where all five of us were available. One of those days was in July and the other in August.
The last afternoon/evening of the week saw us working on However. It was pretty emotional because it was the end of a great week. And However is quite an emotional song that means a lot to all of us, especially Claire. So she poured her heart and soul into that vocal, which was the last thing we recorded in that week. Every one of us shed a tear during that performance. Magic.
Then we decamped back to mine where everyone including El piled into wine and cheese, breaking our alcohol/dairy prohibition. And that weekend was the first NAGfest where we played a set.
[Edit: You can now read Part II]
What a week! Below is a fun infographic I made to show what went into the week. There’s quite a few in-jokes there, but I think you’ll be able to appreciate it.
Instead of having a constant problem with tenses like last time, I’m writing this report/diary/meandering mess after the studio day. It makes it easier.
The second song of the year is in the bag. Recording wise. Release will be at some point in the next couple of weeks. This is probably the shortest write to release time I have ever been involved with. Although having said that, Cec had the idea for the song years ago and has been toying with it since. Do we count that? I don’t think we will.
We kicked off at Awesome Source at 9am on a Sunday morning. I’d been in earlier in the week to record a guitar scratch track. Due to a lack of Ally for this session, Paul had also built a synth bass backing track.
We’d decided on three different guitar tracks, and subsequently three different guitars. The first was the main strummed chords, which was easy enough and we got it done in around 30 minutes.
The second was a little trickier. I’d written (ish) a picked part, and Paul suggested we borrow a classical guitar – which we did, from a good friend, Pete. I actually first learnt to play on a classical guitar, but it’s been a while, so I was fairly rusty and it took a while. The part’s going to need some editing to get it into shape. In an ideal world we’d get it right, but unfortunately time and money are against us. Perhaps we’ll look at that in more detail another time.
Third guitar was mainly to add a little extra texture to the choruses. A nice little CAPO 5 part.
Then we were off on the vocals. Cec is singing the main vocal, and she got her part down beautifully before lunch. Claire and I followed suit after lunch, and we were all done by around half four, which felt really good. Almost feels as if we’re getting the hang of this recording nonsense.
Even without editing and mixing, the song is sounding great. I’m very keen to get this into your earholes. In the meantime, enjoy this video of seven and a half hours condensed into one minute: