So most of the writing was done back and forth sending the songs?
It was a real mix. Most of the ideas started together, but being that we live across three different states, we would, in our home studios, add stuff, splice, edit. Various groups would get together in different spots. People would come out and visit me, and we’d work in the studio on parts.
We’d all converge in the Bay Area several times and round stuff out, demo it out, then take it home again and continue to refine it. It really was a mix of long distance and getting together to iron out the wrinkles, talk about it in person, make sure it’s natural and not the square over-tweaking people tend to do when they’re in their home studios.
Keeping it natural, keeping the flow open, sending stuff back and forth, then ultimately going, ‘Well, that’s as done as it’s gonna get, let’s rehearse the hell out of it and go put it to tape,’ which we did in the shortest amount of time we’ve ever made a record, I think. We recorded and mixed in six days.
Why take that approach?
We had to. We all have our lives, we have different responsibilities, families and jobs and that kind of thing. We had six days together. We had Dec. 26-Jan. 1, or whatever it was, and it had to get done. Luckily, with Steve Albini at the helm, we could actually accomplish that. Our last few records were only a few days more, total time. Because with him, there’s no bullshit.
As soon as the mics are set up, you’re doing final takes. We’re basically a live band, so we track it, if we need to fix a couple mistakes, we fix a couple mistakes, but other than that, you just go put a couple meaningful overdubs, put the vocals on. And he’s a really good engineer. The stuff practically mixes itself because it’s recorded so well, and it’s just so natural. This one’s a little more ‘warts and all,’ but it fits the music.
If intensity carries over, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The honest mistakes due to over-intensity seemed to be wrong to try to pull out or fix, so we just left it.
Doing it in that short burst, do you think that has an effect on how the album comes out?
Probably not, because in order to—and we’ve always done this—when you’re an independent band and your budget is limited, and time is one of the greatest resources anyway in life, you don’t want to go in there and dick around. We’re always prepared.
We go in there knowing exactly how we’re going to track it, we go in there knowing the song arrangements. We’ve got a list of the overdubs and everything we need prepared.
This time I don’t think it affected it, though you could say in an abstract way—there’s no pressure, if we didn’t do it, we’d just finish it later. But we really wanted to, and I think that driven like, ‘fuck it, let’s get it done,’ maybe did lend itself to that kind of putting out of your head from the get go that you can over-think anything. Put it down. Don’t overanalyze anything, just leave it. Put it down and leave it.
How does that compare to the last record?
Every record’s like that to a certain extent because you’re always limited. Last record we did we had a gap in between tracking and mixing, of several months. What we did was we took the tapes in to a small studio a friend of mine was running in San Francisco and we fucked with it pretty hard.
We did experiment a little bit and take our time doing more abstract, experimental stuff, re-amping the whole mix through all of our pedals and subtle psychedelic effects that had the space to be heard in that kind of record, since it was so expansive and open, it had a lot of room for subtleties to carry over.
If you wanted to spend 45 minutes making one word of a vocal get filtered a certain way, you could do that. It wasn’t going to hurt anything. This time we had the tweaking we were going to do figured out in advance. We had the methods figured out, walked in and did it. A bit different, but again, it depends on the music.
Whatever we went to go get done, we’d have been able to get done, if we’d prepared to do it that way. Don’t make me repeat that, because I have no idea what I just said.
Photo Credit: Brendan Tobin