Did I ever tell you about the time we went and recorded the eighth song in the whole of 2016? Sit tight, I’m gonna.
You might have noticed over the last few months there’s been more ‘featuring’ type songs going on. Well. Two. Anyway, Paul was asking if I’d ever consider letting someone else sing the whole of a Pedestrian zero song. Then I saw a video of Paul busting out some banging vocals on the internet and I rather thought he might have a point.
This song seemed like a great fit. It also seemed like a great time to get in my other strangeday bandmate, AJ, to play some guitar. And oh he did.
The final two players in this great drama are Ant Martin, who is fast becoming a pø stalwart, and Cec Harding, returning for the first pedze track since January.
In terms of a recording day it panned out much as they do these days. Not obscenely early start; drum set up; drum recording; drum pack down; quick drum comp; Ant turns up with snacks (although El had also bought us bacon rolls from Dolly’s Diner); bass recording; overlap with next musician turning up; debate about whether to sneak in acoustic or have lunch; lunch; vocals; hastily improvised backing vocals.
It’s a great time, honestly.
All I ended up doing in the end was acoustic guitar and some ooh/ahh backing vocals in the chorus. Which was very nice. Seeing everyone else make their mark on the track was very gratifying.
And that’s about that really. Great times. Track should be out soonish. In the meantime enjoy a couple of images and a couple of videos in lieu of the photos I didn’t manage to take.
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.