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April, Track 4, Let’s Go out Tonight

by on April 22, 2010

Lovely lovely big brass band… One of my favourites from the album and in some ways the easiest to record (in others not). Came from one of the original demos and we originally recorded it as a very simple song. Si described as a song about the end of winter, that feeling where you’re waiting and hoping for spring to arrive so much that you can almost feel it… Rich was working most of the day we recorded it so we actually overdubbed his guitar part later on but the rest of it (bass, drums, piano, melodica) is all from live takes on the day that the 3b Media boys came down to take photos… After we recorded I spent about half an hour gently putting everything into a lovely big warm space (mainly one of the old spring reverbs in Altiverb – can never remember the name but it’s the one described as “cakey” and beloved of Tom Waites) and it just kinda sat like that… Si did a ‘proper’ vocal and it sounded just lovely but the idea for a brass band kept floating around… And then James said he could ‘acquire’ one – Garforth Brass Band who he’d played for a couple of times in the past. Big groups of trained players are very expensive to hire and we had to agree an “exchange of services” to make it happen. James scored out the parts and we thought it sounded ‘nice’. You only get to hear these things as bad midi files… So it was like “yeah… wow… great work mate!” (Thinking “that sounds great for a computer game from 1993…”) Real important moment was when me and James went over to the bands rehearsal. The band had never seen the music before and James had never heard it played by real instruments. He had about 12 mins to play through, work on sections and explain what was going on with with the band just sight reading it cold. This was the only time they would get to play it before the recording. Instantly just sounded gorgeous. Everything you could possibly hope for… was quite a moment. Afterwards me and James were giggling like little kids – “F*ck me… Did that sound just like EXACTLY like a brass band or what?”

This was about 2 weeks before the recording. We recorded them in the church upstairs from the crypt. It’s a great sounding room but big. We had to basically relocate our studio up the stairs. Me and Rich were lugging gear and plugging stuff in for about 5 hours before they all turned up… Recording a 30 piece ensemble like a brass band is both simple and difficult. Simple cos it’s kinda standard if you have a nice room – near stereo pair (ribbons XY over conductors head), far stereo pair (room sound) and close mics on sections just to bring out details. It’s difficult in that we only had them for just about an hour and a half and that time is PRECIOUS. They had only played the piece for that 12 mins at rehearsal so there all kinds of possible problems it took about 2 mins to run a take but they can only do so many takes repeatedly before they get blown out…. The space we put them in right at the head of the church was pretty cramped once we had them all in as well which made getting in to change mic positions really hard. Doing headphone mixes was tricky as well… they were really nervous about working with a click and we could only provide headphones for each of the section leaders.

In the end it went great. A lot of tea/coffee and biscuits were consumed and we there were a couple of sections where we had to run multiple takes just to get some tiny details right but it all worked out… Mainly from jsut 2 takes Mix wise it actually took a while again mainly because it instantly although it instantly sounded great we wanted it to sound AMAZING. We did a lot of tiny timing edits to make sure that the brass fitted exactly with the lovely easy feeling that the band already had and we also had to sort out a number of little tuning issues. A big cold room like a church ain’t great for brass instruments and tuning and some of the instruments had slipped slightly over the various takes… this was kinda hard work cos we were trying to fix individual notes within an ensemble recording so it was a case of gradually averaging things out, sometimes pushing the close mixes past the note so that with the room mics (which make up way more than half the sound) it averaged out. There was a lot of automation across everything as well, just to make sure that all the details came out. It was a constant battle to keep the brass sounding so huge and warm without overpowering the vocal and band and vice versa. Was a lot of work but really worth it… everytime we played it back loud in the studio we all had a little swoon. Invariably followed by a “hold on… I think we can make that bit just a fraction better…” One of my faves though. Gorgeous. Lovely lovely lovely big brass band…

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