Vocal Tracking for "Crowds"

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Vocal Tracking for "Crowds"

Over the course of the last week we hunkered down to complete the remaining elements of the next 3P - Crowds. After reviewing our options Stephen decided to track the vocals at our friend Crispin Day's new studio in the backyard garage of his house. Crispin has done an amazing job turning the building into a functional control room that's ideal for vocals and overdubs. He's also got some beautiful rack gear to boot! Most of all, the space had a great vibe to it that made the session feel really relaxed while still being incredibly productive. Vocals were split over a day and a half with a full day to start followed by a half day. All the members of BamBoo were present for the first day, and on the second Stephen and Steve went by themselves to finish off the parts. 

For microphone selection we went with our tried and tested favourites. For my vocal parts, which tend to be more aggressive and louder, we used an SM7B. We used an AKGc414 for Steve and gang vocal overdubs. I. Love. Gang vocals. I really do. There will never be a song I'm working on that I can't hear gang vocals for. There's something really powerful in a multi-voice recording that always catches my ear. Having so many timbres of voice layered on one line or phrase just brings something to life for me in the song every time I hear them. However, part of what makes something special is not having it all the time, so gang vocals are generally sparse for BamBoo - but man do I get excited when an opportunity to do them arises.

 

As mentioned above, Crispin possesses some excellent outboard gear which we put to good use during the sessions. Possibly the coolest piece of outboard in the studio (and rightfully placed directly in front of the producer's chair) was the STA-LEVEL. 

Also in Crispin's toolkit were a couple beautiful Vintech Pre/EQ units, a wcked API-heavy lunchbox and a 500-series DBX compressor. Each piece of gear got some use throughout the day as we wrapped up vocals on day one and decided to lay down some acoustic to give everyone's voices a break. 

We originally wanted to use one of Crispin's acoustics that was in the room, but it had a preamp section that was a little loose, causing a rattling in low notes. After a few failed attempts to tape the preamp up to prevent the buzz we opted to instead use a guitar we saw hanging in Crispin's house. The strings were absolutely dead, but with the help of some creative EQ and Compression we managed to get a good sound that served the song well. It was a great way to finish the day!

- Marcus

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Drum Day at Union

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Drum Day at Union

Today we returned to Union Sound Company to track the drums for the next 3P - Crowds. Union Sound is the studio where we tracked the drums and vocals for the Chances album two years ago. We were assisted in the studio by Alex Gamble who did a wicked job looking after us and engineering for our session. 

The first couple hours were dedicated to tuning the toms. Nick and Stephen had thrown new heads on the toms a couple days prior to the session and Stephen set to meticulously tuning them and working out clear intervals between the pitches of the toms. Stephen also had Nick bring along the shell from his other kick drum so we could make a "kick tunnel of love" to get a little more resonance out of the bass drum. Once the toms were tuned and the drums and cymbals were placed it was time for the mic placement. 

We had some familiar mic's for most of the kit - MD421's on the low toms, SM7B's on the hi-hats and ride and an RE20 on the kick - but we also employed some less traditional ones this time around. Most notably we used Beyerdynamic MS201's on the snare top and the hi-tom. This dynamic mic just brings a little more tone and character to the sound as opposed to the more traditional SM57. Stephen noted a quote by Steve Albini who said, "If the SM57 were a microphone it would sound like this". Also notable was Stephen's decision to put a PZM microphone directly in the kick drum to capture more of the attack and click. 

Wide shot capturing most of the mics being used for the session, as well as our fancy mood-maker lights.

Wide shot capturing most of the mics being used for the session, as well as our fancy mood-maker lights.

Once the mics were placed and we had sounds everyone liked Nick dove into tracking. All-in-all the tuning, setup and a quick lunch break had taken us from 10am to 2pm. Nick began with the first track off the new EP - "Alright". The song begins with a tight tom pattern that lasts for just under a minute, so all the tom tuning off the top of the session paid off immediately. The next section of the song is hi-hat heavy with sparse fills. The chorus and bridge that follow are great sections for aggressive drums and the cymbal sounds captured matched the tone of the song really well. 

View from the driver's seat.

View from the driver's seat.

For the second song, "By the Way", the only thing that was changed for the setup was swapping out Nick's K MasterSounds hi-hats for Sabian AA's that he rented from Long & McQuade. The original hats were a little too crunchy for this song, as there are extended sections of the song with open hi-hats being implemented. The new hats, as Stephen pointed out, were darker and sustained a little more. 

Stephen adjusting mic placement. 

Stephen adjusting mic placement. 

For the third and final song the only adjustment we made to the drums was adding a China cymbal for a few dramatic splashes and a heavy prog-ending. There were enough open hi-hat sections to keep the same hi-hats as the last tune to keep it smooth. Nick used his DW Collectors snare for every song today, and it made a few appearances on the last 3P as well.  It's modelled after the Black Beauty snare and it just sounds so good in a big live room like this that there was really no discussion of swapping it out for other snares today. 

We managed to finish the drums by 7:30, so we ended this session the way every drum session should end: with percussion! Alex and Stephen removed the baffling from in front of the KM84 room mics and raised the Neumann U67 we were using for a kit mic up to accommodate Nick's stance for the percussion parts. 

All in all it was a fantastic and really productive session. We can always count on Stephen to manage our time and energy really well, and getting to work in Union again was awesome. What a producer! What a space! What a drummer! I can't wait to get started on the guitars and bass! More to follow!

- Marcus

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Loud Mouse Studio: Day 2

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Loud Mouse Studio: Day 2

Stephen and I made it to the studio shortly after 10. With Nick slated to arrive in a half hour we decided to make the most of our time and lay down some acoustic guitar over the ending of the song we had finished on the previous day. We ran an AKG414 into one of the 1073's and nabbed a great sound.

The night before I had restrung my acoustic guitar, and there's nothing sweeter than a freshly stringed acoustic. I'm especially fond of this guitar because it was my mother's for many years before she gave it to me. The wood has aged really well and the guitar sounds and plays wonderfully. My mom took great care of this guitar and I'm really blessed to have it.

We finished up the guitar as Nick arrived. We listened to what we had laid down the day before, and then started preparing to record drums for the next song. After a take (or two) we decided that a change in snare was due. We reached for a DW Signature Series that Nick borrowed for the session. It fattened up the drum sound perfectly for the second song, which has more of a post-rock feel towards the end. It also meshed with the toms of Nick's kit in a beautiful way. 

Stephen also wanted to change up his drum room sound. So we reached for that trusty 414 and emulated something we did for acoustic guitar recording on the last record; we aimed the 414 at the ground and lined it up with the kit. It made for an awesome sound!
 

Nick proceeded to crush the song within a few takes and just as few punch in's to nail some tricky fills. It was my turn to lay down some guitar. The song has a catchy intro riff that sounds great on my guitar, an Ibanez Jet King I've had since high school. The choruses have a picking part I play through my classic delay/overdrive combo. We also layered whole notes of the chords for the chorus to beef it up. When we got to the ending of the song we needed one last tip over the post-rock edge, so I dialed in a lower octave on my Micro-Pog - yet another toy I had to have after Stephen introduced me to it last year while recording 'Chances'. 

Mike was arriving later in the day, so we kept the session moving and started grabbing takes for the final song of the batch - 'Getting Away From Me'. A slower tempo song and one we've played at a number of shows at this point. Everyone was very comfortable and accustomed to this song, so it came together pretty quickly. We kept the same drum setup as the previous song and Nick hammered it out very quickly. 

Guitar for this last song covered most of the tones I would use across a set; clean with delay, overdriven with delay, overdrive, delayx2 and Micropog (this delay thing is getting out of hand...). For the verse parts we opted to remove the delay for tracking and add it in during the mix stage to keep it clean and tight to the click track. The choruses came together really well and we had some fun at the end of my session experimenting with some manual swells and feedback to lead into the last chorus of the song. 

At this point we were closing in on the end of the session, so with an hour left we moved our attention to bass for the song with the post-rock ending. While Stephen and Mike tracked the rest of us started taking down the drums and cleaning up the studio. 

Mike, who had missed out on our post-rock adventure, was overjoyed when he heard the results of our shenanigans. He and I are huge Thrice fans, and something about the tone of the guitar for the last part of the song resonated with us especially. 

Mike finished his bass and we had the studio all packed up. We wrapped all the cables, tore down the microphones, trashed burrito wrappers, and shared warm wishes and a job well done all round. Over the two days we tracked drums and guitar for all three songs, and bass for two out of three. It was a really fun experience, and I'm glad we're trying out this 3P model and trying to work together more in the studio. Last year for 'Chances' the tracking was more broken up, so to come together for such a short time and accomplish so much made me really happy to have friends at my side and a common goal. I can't wait to share it with everyone. 

Big ups to Nick Obal for hosting us at Loud Mouse Studios. A massive thanks to Stephen as always for making it all work and sound amazing. Runner up thanks to Nick for coining the term '3P' ;)

- Marcus

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Loud Mouse Studio: Day 1

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Loud Mouse Studio: Day 1

Stephen and I started off the day nice and early getting to the studio around 9:30. My former workmate Nick O was already at the studio with all the requested microphones on stands and Stephen's patches all laid out. I quickly set to making sure the session stayed focused and on point...

 

Nick C arrived shortly after 10am with his drum kit and we started the process of setting up the kit, tuning the drums, choosing which cymbals and snare we wanted to use for our first song, and placing the microphones (sorry for the potato quality..)

 

We followed up with listening to the drums in the control room while Stephen dialed in the sounds with a nice array of house gear Loud Mouse has available. Some noteworthy items were definitely the API 7600's, the Custome British Sidecar and the Slate Dragon Compressor. Nick played for at least a solid hour while Stephen carefully crafted the sounds. 

With the sounds dialed in we were ready to start tracking drums around 2pm. Nick was totally focused and on point and really nailed his parts on the first song. We listened back, made some edits and talked about how we wanted the last part of the song to play out. We ended up driving the energy up alot just through the drum arrangement and it all came together really nicely. 

With the drums in the bag we moved onto bass. I'll be making a post soon with more photos and video of that process - but sufficed to say that we ran the bass through an LA610 direct and tracked in the control room. Mike was also totally on point and delivered his bass parts within a few takes. 

At this point we were around the 8 hour mark and we shifted our attention to guitar for the last couple hours of the session. The song demanded some chorus effect provided by my trusty Boss DD7 Delay on the Modulation setting. We also had some delay courtesy of my DD6 Delay as well as some overdrive and octave for the end of the song which were crafted with a Danelectro Cool Cat Overdrive and a MicroPog respectively. Once we had layered the guitars a couple times we had finished all our tracking for the day - and we only ran over our 10hr timeline by 10 minutes!

Tomorrow we're going to hit the studio for 10am and work another 10 hour day. With all the setup taken care of and everyone acclimated to the studio I'm very confident we'll finish the other two songs for the first of the three 3-song EP's tomorrow. Stay tuned - plenty more content to come!!!

- Marcus

 

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Verge Music Lab: Day 1

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Verge Music Lab: Day 1

Stephen walked to the apartment where we started off the day proper  - with some breakfast. Then Stephen, Steve and I loaded up the car and we set off to the other side of town to the Verge Music Lab.

We were greeted by (yet another!) Steve and his young pooch Molly. Stephen and Steve have worked in this space together a few times for Steve's solo material, so they knew their way around. I got to stroll the space and take in all the awesome detail, room treatment, and microphones ready on stands around the outer walls. It definitely has a great vibe, and all the wood panels, gobos and slats definitely made for a comfortable atmosphere. Steve from Verge put it very simply with a smirk: "Wood makes it good." 

Stephen picked out a couple mics to shoot out on Steve's voice. The first was an AKG C414 XLII - no stranger to a BamBoo session, and the mic we used to record the vocals for 'Hurt You' at the farm last year. The second was a Telefunken AK47 - "Arguably one of the most badass vocal microphone model names." Stephen pointed out, which I did not deny. 

Stephen routed the microphones through some great gear and had Steve sing while he dialed in the tones. He ran each through a Tube-Tech EQ, then one through a Urei 1176 and the other through a Distressor. The two mics complemented each other nicely, and after a few adjustments Stephen decided to use both for the tracking. 

infocus tube tech.JPG

Steve laid out some great takes and Stephen kept the session moving at a steady, productive pace. My role today was support, documentation, cracking-wise and chipping in where I could. It was a fun session for me - I got to sit back and watch these two work together and make some music really spring to life. 

- Marcus

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The Silver Dollar

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The Silver Dollar

Last week we opened up for The Dead Projectionists at The Silver Dollar. Our relationship with the Silver Dollar and it's booker Dan Burke goes way back to the beginning - and even a little before then I suppose. I've played this venue with every band I've been in since moving to Toronto. Random Family played here, Britta B and the Banter, and of course BamBoo. 

Our first show as BamBoo was at The Silver Dollar opening for our friends in Fever City on December 20th of 2013. We've played there countless times since and Dan Burke has always been a supportive and fair host for us. I've literally seen him dig deeper into his pockets to pay us more when we brought out a stellar crowd one night. It was really important to Dan that we get a gig with The Dead Projectionists. So much so, that he had four different dates and plans of attack to make it happen. 

The show was really well attended (especially for a Thursday night) and we played plenty of new material. The venue has undergone some changes - they got a digital console (X32), a couple different bartenders and a fancy faux glass backdrop behind and above the stage. They're still working out some kinks, and the house drum kit is still a P.O.S., but for any shortcomings the venue might have when it comes to sound it more than makes up for in atmosphere and memories. 

Our next show will be at The Horseshoe Tavern on January 7th when we release the first of our 3 EP's. 

 

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Studio Visit

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Studio Visit

Stephen and I visited Loud Mouse Studios last week in Etobicoke. The plan is to tackle drums, guitar and bass over two 10-hour days in early November. 

A good friend of mine, Nick Obal, gave us a tour of the facility. Nick and I were hired at Long and McQuade at the same time last year. Since then he's moved on to other projects and has found himself working out of Loud Mouse. He's a standup guy and it'll be great to work alongside him again.

The studio itself is modest in size, but has lots of character. Plenty of nice toys to play with too. We checked out the live room where we intend to record the drums - a small room with high ceilings that is made 'livelier' by a stone wall on the West side of the room. It's got a nice tight sound, but still allows for the drums to breath. You can check out the website for Loud Mouse Studios here

We're having a rehearsal tonight to finalize our new arrangements so we can whip up ghost tracks for Nick to record his drums to when we get to the studio. We'll also be preparing for our upcoming show at The Silver Dollar opening for The Dead Projectionists

In the second week of November Mike, Nick and I will hunker down alongside Stephen and Nick to track the beds for the first 3-song EP. Things are moving along at a great pace at the rehearsal factory and I'm really excited to get this EP underway!

- Marcus

BamBoo

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Intro

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Intro

Just over a year ago our band BamBoo released its first full-length album. 

We dedicated a lot of time, energy and money into the effort and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. The whole process was a dream: We found a great producer and friend in Stephen James Kerr, who helped guide us in and out of the studio. We tracked drums at a beautiful studio called Union Sound on the East End. We spent a weekend at my parent's farm recording guitars, bass and overdubs. We even went on a small tour that by all accounts was no large success - but was certainly worthwhile considering how much we learned about ourselves, our band mates, and everyone's expectations for the band. 

It's been a busy year for us and now we're beginning the early planning for the next release with a batch of songs we've been working on. Some made their debut months ago, and others are only a couple weeks old. They're all similar in that they've got mood and energy that speak to us and our style as a group, and also in that they've been entrenched in some old arrangements that could use a boost. 

Stephen joined us last night at the rehearsal space to talk on the songs he'd like to work on and help us with some arrangement ideas. We're also trying to decide on our approach to the recording for this first batch of songs. This time around I'm hoping to be more diligent in documenting and commenting on the process - so expect some more content, musings and music soon!

-Marcus
BamBoo

 

 



 

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