Exploring Madison's Music Scene
Mar 17, 2014
09:29 AMLocal Sounds
Local Band Offers a Glimpse into the Creative Recording Process
A while back I wrote an article about Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services and several local bands who have already used this new model to fund their projects or were in the process of doing so. One of those bands was my good friend Bob Manor and his band The Getaway Drivers. They’ve had a lot of local success but the new recording they are working on is already sounding like it will be their best.
How would I know that? Well, one of the cool things about funding an artist’s project is that you receive periodic updates. These updates inform the “investors” on the status of the project, the expected completion date, any unforeseen delays, etc. Quite often there are interesting insights into the project as it moves along to completion or recounts of discoveries along the way; those a-ha moments when the muse strikes and the project's path bends to the muse’s whims.
Recently Manor sent out an update that was quite compelling. The update contained two song snippets, revealing those songs in various stages of completion and edited together chronologically so the listener could hear the effect at various stages of production. One might think that music is visualized as a whole, but more often a very simple idea becomes more elaborate, is conjoined with other ideas or even transformed entirely as the other band members contribute their parts.
The recording process itself is revealed to some degree in these two songs as well. A good sounding song is dependent on so many factors: The size and construction makeup of the room, the type of microphone used to capture the instrument and the placement of the microphone, even the use of multiple microphones on a single instrument that can be blended (mixed) together to take advantage of each microphone’s characteristics or the characteristics of the instrument. A guitar, for instance, sounds very different if you mike the soundhole versus placing a mike nearer the bridge of the instrument or even the fretboard. Anyone who has ever been involved in a recording project knows that days or even weeks can be spent just getting the drum sounds.
Check out the two songs from The Getaway Drivers here.
The first track, “Hope Road,” starts out as a crude home recording. Pianist/violinist/vocalsit Sheila Shigley recorded on the piano capturing the lyrics and the chord progression, probably as it was being conceived. You’ll hear the clicking of the metronome, harmonies that she added while driving in the car (yes this happens—a lot of musicians carry portable devices to capture moments of inspiration) and even an airplane going overhead. The song moves into a band rehearsal where the players are feeling their way about. You can especially feel guitarist Dan Butson finding his legs in the song.
“Poor Man” is even more fascinating. “You will hear me noodling with the riff on piano last year,” says Manor. “You'll hear the chorus start to take form, then a patch of Dan and me playing with it, then you'll hear a studio rehearsal with [drummer] Greg Thornburg and me, and then the track will transition to a full complement of players, with [bassist] Ken Keeley and Dan joining in on well-rehearsed bass and electric guitar parts, and Sheila singing the harmonies. The song is now with Brian Daly at DNA Music Labs for mixing."
And that is the real kicker. As Manor himself explained, “I thought I was doing a pretty good job at producing and mixing our music myself. Then I decided to use Brian Daly and the songs just came alive; it’s unbelievable.” And here is a good lesson for any aspiring recording artist: Every stage has its own expertise. The songwriter, the arrangement, the embellishments, the engineering and capturing of the song and the production. The trick is to not lose the feel along the way; that inexplicable human essence that bleeds through the music and infects the listener. That is what a good song is, crude or polished.
Manor was kind enough to send me a demo of “Poor Man” in its entirety as it is nearing completion at DNA Studios. It’s a great pop song, perhaps the best the band has done. I’m excited to hear it and I know The Getaway Drivers can’t wait to share it with you.
Although their Kickstarter project was successfully funded and is now over, you can still help The Getaway Drivers and the countless other bands and artists in the most significant way: Go to their performances. You will be astounded at the breadth and quality of the creative forces we are lucky to have in our midst.
Here’s your chance to do just that: The Getaway Drivers will perform at the High Noon Saloon on Saturday, April 26, at 4 p.m. Their drummer, Greg Thornburg, is a fine fingerstyle guitarist and will open this early show.