original. acoustic. music.

To the studio!

The Kilbirnie Festival gig went pretty well - a lovely hot day, a stage near the food tents, a whole bunch of people passing through - what more could you ask for?


There were three stages at the festival, ours was the San Francisco Bath House stage, supported in part by that inimitable venue and Groove FM. Pete Baillie was in charge of proceedings and once again proved what a vital cog in the great Wellington Live Music Machine he is, nay, not a cog, a veritable drive shaft, an entire transmission assembly even, a turbo-charged component of such necessity to the smooth operation of said machine that, without which, said machine would be naught but a jumbled pile of inanimate and largely useless hunks of metal. Look, he's just a really cool guy, okay?

The list of acts read pretty much like the Acoustic Alchemy gig with a few new and old faces. Mr Tommy Pickett was in the house, back from a (kind of) tour of the South Island and, as usual, in fine form.

Tommy, Darrel and I had spent a great night jamming the night before, playing each other's songs, and Tommy called me on stage to sing the harmony part to his Run With The Ball I'm Holding.

Darrel and I played well - things are just getting easier the more we play and Darrel tells me the recording of the gig sounds good despite the wind. The Stomps followed us, those crazy noisy cats and their punked up blues that made a few people take a nervous step back.

The sun (and possibly the few beers the night before) got the better of me so I missed the rest of the acts.

So what's next?

Well, Tommy Pickett and The Gracious Deviants will be playing a double-header soon - where? Bodega, we hope, when? soon. Stay tuned.

Darrel and I have been busy since the festival and haven't been able to jam lately. We do have a new song in the offing - I have almost finished the lyrics, but am at the stage where I need to run them by Darrel while I still think they're okay. The last time we played the new song together, the bridge lyrics consisted of: "Now the bridge...../This is the bridge..../It's the bridge...yup it's the bridge". I still don't actually have lyrics for the bridge yet... what we've got's kinda catchy... hmmm. Too bad the rest of the song is about a mountain, and not a bridge, otherwise it could have been perfect.

We contacted STL Audio and have a couple of dates to choose from for our session. How does one prepare for the studio? I have asked some of my friends at work (all sound editors, most of them musicians) and besides knowing how to play our own material, and play it well, there's not much else. I put together a songbook with all of our lyrics set out clearly, so we can have a definitive record, but there is so much more to a song in the way it is sung and played that there's bound to be some variation.

Troy, the engineer/owner suggested we find recordings that reflect the style and sound we want to achieve in the recording. I've been looking through Suzanne Vega stuff for the way her voice was recorded (although much of that is in the performance itself - she has a very distinctive voice), and the way producers like Mitchel Froom and Tchad Blake arranged the accompaniment around her. As far as the guitar sound goes, I just want to hear every bit of it - to be swimming in a deep warm pool of guitar. I've heard some recordings of folk artists like Don Ross (GoogleVideo search this guy if you want to see someone who can really play the guitar) that are just guitar and nothing else. I guess there is some sort of dampened reverb in there somewhere, but mostly all you can hear is wonderful wonderful tone.

I've tried to create arrangements for our music, with keys and drums, but it just doesn't sound satisfying. I'd really like to hear a great recording of Darrel's and my guitars entwined in our voices and to know without any doubt that there is nothing else needed. One of my workmates, JD, said something that really stuck with me: he said that many a good song is ruined by a tacked-on arrangement - the Hammond B3 organ coming in at the tail of the verse into the chorus, or the string section, or the guitar solo coming out of nowhere and going nowhere. However, he said, a little shaker in the background can do wonders.

If we aren't going to hire a backup band for our live gigs, why should we put anything else on our tracks? I would like to explore the percussive nature of the acoustic guitar though. Darrel and I have created some nice syncopated rhythms in a couple of our songs, but it would be nice, I think, to use the wood and the metal sounds to complement the tune.

Although... we have been toying with the idea of gansta rap - lose the guitars, and buy some gold chains. Instead of Darrel and Pete, we could be Scoop Doggie Dizzle and Pete Diddy, G to the muthafunkin' D y'all. Word to your momma.