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.
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.
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.
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!