Recording The "Settling" EP
Now that we're getting nearer to the release date (April 7th! all major digital platforms! SO MUCH PLUGGING!) I wanted to go over the recording process for ya'll so you can have a better understanding of the magic that went into it.
The initial idea for "Settling" was very very different. the track list was different, the title was different, and originally I was going to record it Han style (Solo, mofo).
Whilst trying to find bassists to audition on JoinMyBand (not an endorsement) for a different project, I stumbled upon an ad from Joshua McFarlane for musicians to work with and build his production portfolio.
We chatted back and forth and I sent him my humble soundcloud recordings and he volunteered his services. I hadn't had solid plans at that point so I was a bit excite-able, and suggested the half baked EP idea and we were rolling.
I had rough recordings of most of the songs (except Positively Pissed) and sent him those, and he wrote drum parts digitally first - we did a lot of file sharing. He would write great drum parts, send them to me, I would critique them to death and send them back, He would take my incredibility finicky comments and implement them with the grace and patience of a saint and we ended up on the same page and happy with the results.
When those parts were 100% decided on we arranged for me to head up to his studio space at Talula Records to start the recording process.
On September 24th 2017 we started officially recording! Joshua took the digital written drum parts and performed them acoustically on his kit so that the drums were authentic (which was a must, for both of us). He also recorded samples of the beats so he could touch up any rough bits if necessary.
On October 7th we had a full day of acoustic guitars, bass and vocals.
The acoustic takes were honestly painless - I know the songs like the back of my hand, so there was minimal repeat takes needed - just some extra bits here and there.
The bass was also relatively easy. I had written the majority of bass parts before coming although some still needed fleshing out. I used to be a bassist for the punk band
Grim Citizens so the bass parts are particularly lively on some of the tracks - root note bass work is so boring! Vocal wise I struggled a lot more - I'm very insecure about my vocals and some songs are quite testing - specifically "Saturdays" so there was some difficulty but we muddled through.
On October 14th we started working on electric guitar parts and trying to make "Positively Pissed" work. which was the hardest part when it came to recording the entire EP. Positively Pissed is very stop-and-start, and changes speed often so to record it traditionally would have been very difficult, especially with just two of us. Eventually we decided, over the course of the sessions, to take a 'half live' approach. I recorded the guitar both mic'd and DI'd on Joshua's Hollowbody electric guitar, whilst Joshua recorded the drums at the same time. I also sang the vocal along with it - so the 'live' feel you get on the EP is pretty close to accurate! backing vocals, bass, and much editing to both drums and guitars were done after the fact. the combined effect is what we've got - mostly I've learned to stop writing songs that defy time and speed.
I had written a myriad of electric guitar parts to go with the songs but I wasn't 100% sold on them all. I’ve never been a prolific or particularly confident electric guitarist and it shows in my playing. Joshua was on board with my ideas but recommended we had them performed by other guitarists - his logic being that a part can have new life if played by a different person, and as I have performed the majority of the EP myself it might feel fuller if there are other performers in the mix. I initially thought he was just trying to soothe my ego and not just tell me I played like crap, but I cannot argue with his results. The solo at the end of Break is identical to how I had written it, but managed to take a life of it’s own performed by someone else. Joshua and his friend Jack filled in the electric parts at a seperate session. Most of the parts I had written but the guys had added onto, and they also threw in some doubled parts and extra touches here and there which really filled out the sound of the whole EP and added some needed depth.
On October 21st we were finishing up backing vocals and “Positively Pissed” as well as listening back to the mixes of the other tracks and working on them. It was starting to take shape and although there was a lot of mixing left to do, they were starting to sound like “real” songs, if that makes any sense at all. Joshua added piano and synth parts throughout the EP and as subtle as they are, they continued to give it more authenticity and soul than I could have ever realistically imagined. Even now, one of my favourite parts of the whole EP is the piano in ‘Break’.
Our last day of working on it, mostly mixing and mastering but occasionally throwing in missing elements, was on October 26th.
For the mixing process we meticulously went through everything. Joshua would leave me in peace and play tracks and tell me to write down any issues I had with them and I tried to be my most critical with it. Each time he’d come back, look at my comments and we’d start fixing things. We were dedicated to finishing and mastering it that evening - which meant I missed my train and Joshua gallantly drove me home well after 10pm.
On November 7th Joshua drove all the way to my house to hand me two discs. One was the contract info, pictures, files, stems and masters etc and one was an official master CD.
And it was AWESOME.
That’s the recording of ‘Settling’ - Six weeks of two strangers recording an amazing EP in a converted garage. I had no idea it would sound as good as it does (to me - music is subjective, blahblahblah) and I could not have predicted how proud I would be of it.
I have written thousands of songs, I’ve performed since I was a child in a variety of wacky places, I’ve recorded myself and have had others record me in lots of different ways - but I’ve never had a proper, professional sounding release. It’s taken over 16 years of me writing songs to do so, but it’s finally happened.
I hope you take 25 minutes on April 7th to sit down, turn it on, and indulge me with your listening skills.