Mixing. This is the first time I’ve personally done any mixing in a software program. The Zoom R16 came with Cubase LE 4. So armed with a pair of headphones and my home stereo speakers to A/B the mix, I busted out a rough mix in 2 days time, without any EQing or compression. I’m kind of a geek, so I really enjoyed setting up each folder, labeling and coloring all the tracks, cleaning up the .wav files. The grunt work. So I passed this first mix around to the band and label guys and got some notes from them. I contacted Jonathan “Nails” Natera at Appleseed Studios in Fairfield about helping me with EQ-ing and compression. I knew that he mixed our album “Wasted Love Songs” in Cubase, so I knew he had great experience with Cubase AND with EQ-ing our band. Plus, by going to his studio, we got to mix and do all this on his studio monitors. For those who don’t know, studio monitor speakers are way different then most all other speakers. They have a flat response. This means all your home stereo/car/headphone speakers have a dynamic response. They increase the bass and high frequencies. By mixing on studio speakers, you’re able to get a more true mix that will sound even across the most speakers. Anyway, he was more than happy to help me out and we headed to the studio. We started with “Bottles” and went to work on each instrument. Kick drum, snare drum, and the overheads, to get the drums sounding good. Then the upright bass. Once we got the rhythm section EQ-d and compressed and sounding good, we knew that most of the hard work was done. Both Nails and my philosophies agree that the most important foundation of a good mix is the relationship between the kick drum and the bass. Okay, enough rambling. Guitars and vocals were pretty easy after that. Before we knew it we had gotten our efforts applied to a couple more songs and it was time to head home. Then the next day, I applied our settings to the remaining songs. Did another mix and sent the songs back to the band and label guys. Now I’m just waiting for their notes so I can fine tune the mix. Then we’ll send the master .wav files to be mastered. We’re going to have Carl Saff Mastering do this record. He did “Wasted Love Songs” and did an amazing job. More about mastering later.
I’ve had a Tascam 424 mkII for 15 years now. It’s just a 4-track cassette recorder. I’ve used it for almost every band I’ve ever been in and recorded many of my friends’ bands too. Trying to make 4 tracks work has always been a challenge. It was always great to hear people say “wow, you did that with only a 4-track”. As much fun as I had with the old Tascam, I’m happy that we’re upgrading in home recording. With a recommendation from our studio producer, I just picked up a Zoom R16 (16-track digital recorder). And that is what She Swings, She Sways is recording their newest EP “Porches” on. At first, I’ve always been skeptical of the brand Zoom. They were always just a guitar FX company in the 90’s and definitely onthe cheap end. But after reading tons of reviews, I decided that this was the device that was going to put the 4-track to rest. Can’t wait to not have to bounce tracks!
For a band that has been together for 5 years, it doesn’t feel like we’ve done much recording. We’ve made 2 six song EPs and a full length album. We’ve also recorded one song for a tribute album “Crystalline” for The Nadas. I think we always wanted to make more records, we just didn’t find the time. That’s why we’re all pretty excited about this. The plan is to write/record/release 3 EPs over the next 6 months. With the band now being a 3-piece, it’s even that more important that we generate new content. Content that represents the current configuration.
We start with the title “Porches”. I think Troy came up with the name. He likes to name things. He noticed that several of the songs for this EP referenced porches in the lyrics. Porch sitting has always been a part of my and Troy’s life for years. We’d sit and talk about the world for hours on end. Just hanging out and talking. It’s what we do. It’s what the band does. We like to sit and talk and shoot the shit. Good times. So it was definitely a title that we could all get behind.
The songs. We settled on 7 songs for “Porches”. A few of them had been written for a while and a few of them are brand new hot off the presses. 3 songs are Troy’s. 3 songs are mine. 1 song is Cory’s. 2 of Troy’s are older songs that have never had a band arrangement before. For both of them, we just sat down one day and BAM! They just came out. We had a renewed energy when we became a 3-piece. There was a new joy trying to come up with new arrangements. We were having fun again.
Recording “Porches” has been really fun, easy, and stress free. Not that we haven’t had a blast recording with Nails at Appleseed, we have nothing bad to say about that. And we look forward to recording there again. But doing this new record in our home... it’s just been super comfortable. We just practiced the hell out of the songs. One day we set up mics on the drums and got them recorded in a few hours. 2 days later, we recorded the upright bass in a couple hours. 2 days later we got all the guitar tracks done. Next day we got the harmonica, mandolin, accordion done and most of the vocals. In one week’s time, we’ll have everything recorded. There are some really sweet pictures on Facebook of the different days. It’s been a great experience that brings back all the fun feelings of using that Tascam 4-track for the first time.
Mixing and mastering. That's where we're at now. More to come. :)