Producing, engineering, mixing
I first heard Brooklyn's BELLS≥ when they opened for the Dismemberment Plan at New York's Webster Hall in January of 2011. I was, to say the least, impressed. Here was an instrumental rock band with everything you could want from an instrumental rock band: a truly incredible drummer (Zach Barocas, best known for his work with Jawbox), a powerhouse bassist (Adam Rizer, formerly of Oxford Collapse), and two guitarists with unique and different playing styles (Chris Ernst and Steve Shodin).
I had the pleasure of running into Steve at SXSW that March, and made it known that I would be thrilled to record BELLS≥ anywhere, anytime. That offer was realized in the most literal manner imaginable, as I wound up recording the band at their barely-ventilated practice space on the very hottest day of an exceptionally hot summer.
The debut release by BELLS≥ had been beautifully recorded at The Magpie Cage by J. Robbins, so we set about to do something slightly different with this EP. Since we had neither a great-sounding room nor the luxury of easy overdubbing, we decided to capture the band's raw energy by recording them live. We piled in some preamps, threw some microphones on the drums and guitar cabinets, and set about capturing the band at their most lively and uninhibited.
Seemingly impervious to hundred-plus degree heat and innumerable technological mishaps, the band managed to stay both fiery and precise. They blasted through five new songs in a single afternoon.
Mixing these songs was an absolute delight. Though the band's practice space was far from perfectly treated, the natural reverberations of the space proved to be quite pleasing. For sparser songs like "Gusto" and "Mirror Power," I leaned heavily on the Beyerdynamic m160 I had positioned in front of the kit, magnifying the character of the room itself. For tighter songs like "Low and Behold," I was able to piece together a more structured and separated sound from the close drum mics.
Perhaps the most striking thing about mixing Lamé was how nearly every approach I tried with these tracks flattered them in some manner. Regardless of the room, the microphones, the preamps or the compressors, there is simply no substitute for great musicianship. BELLS≥ make music that is both muscular and cerebral, and works with big, roomy treatments and dry, architectural treatments alike. I did my best to balance both here, and I'm truly honored to have had the chance to work with one of my favorite new bands.
Lamé was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering, and was released as a digital EP on October 19th, 2011.
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