Friday, February 20, 2009

"See America" Recording Update 1

The DeSoto and Garden St. Sessions

This is the first installment of the album newsletter, which we began writing as a way to include you in our creative processes and experiences during the recording of this next album. We started writing the music for "See America" (album title) in June of 2008. And I think a very interesting detail about the actual songwriting is that it was done in a variety of places, ranging from under Santa Cruz mountain redwoods, to inside abandoned rusty boxcars in Oregon. One aspect that definitely comes across in these songs, is our growth as band working to solidify its true sound. The songwriting process has really pushed us all to work together creatively, and I think we've reached the richest combination yet of our collective musical influences.

The recording philosophy for the next album has changed a bit from our last release "Stream of Consciousness" (2007), mainly as a result of our experiences playing shows over the last year. For this album we wanted to recreate the energy and emotion of a live show, which is really the root of our inspiration and drive to play music. So instead of heading straight back into the studio to record, we decided to grab our gear and put ourselves into some more "mojo friendly" environments.

Right after the first of the year, the band spent a week in San Francisco, recording on DeSoto St., in the Ingleside neighborhood; a really cool place to walk around for a bit if you ever have the chance. The house we recorded at belongs to our drummer John's family, who told us that Sly and the Family Stone actually lived down the street from them back in the 70's. They used to see limos driving to and from Sly's house, taking the band to shows, etc. So getting into the recording session that week, you definitely felt a little bit of history in the air.

We tracked the majority of the acoustic work in the house dinning room, which has this fantastic, almost eerie sound to it, making you feel like you're playing music in a cave or definitely a room twice its size. The song "Class and Style" (which you'll hear on the new album) was actually written in that dining room while the band was touring this past fall. Hence, we decided it should probably be recorded in the same place.

It was really inspiring to live, eat, and breathe music for that week. Not that we don't anyways, but being able to wake up, have a cup of coffee while looking out onto a hillside of cypress trees and classic San Francisco houses, and then pick up a guitar and record a song-it seemed like such a fluid and natural progression, like music was suppose to happen there. I think practicing and recording can become a part of a schedule sometimes, like something that needs to be "done". And one thing we've realized about the music is that great music is created almost by accident, when the inspiration isn't forced.

After we got back from SF, we set up shop at Downtown Brew (our favorite venue on Garden St. in San Luis Obispo) to track the majority of the electric side of the album. "DTB" as we call it, is the first midsize venue we ever played as a band, and the site of some of our most epic shows. The room is pretty dimly lit, with exposed brick walls and a series of painting of great artists (like Bob Marley, and Iggy Pop) that give the place a really cool vibe. For us, the room brings a lot of comfort because we're so familiar with it, but also a sense of performance from all the shows we've played there.

We set up all the equipment in the middle of the room, and tracked the songs live (which means we recorded the songs while all of us played at the same time). We didn't know at first, but apparently you can hear the music like a block or two away. And every so often we'd hear a cheer from outside after we finished playing, or people would ask us about a song while we got coffee across the street. It's interesting because, not only do we bring this amazing live energy to the session, but by recording in such a public area, we get to connect with the community and include them in the creative process.

Feel free to email us with any questions you have about the new record. And be sure to check out some of the videos from the Downtown Brew sessions here:

Click here to view pictures from the DeSoto St. sessions

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