“Disclaimer” First Print

Hey. So I just posted a clip of Murray and Rob listening back to the first print they did of “Disclaimer,” a song that is shaping up to be the opening track on the album. Murray had to re-do the vocals at the last minute, actually the night before this video was taken. The original take that he did weeks before wasn’t sitting well. I thought it was too aggressive, but this new take is like Mellow Dude singing. I like it a lot and people are gonna be all: “HUNH?” when they hear it.

Check it oot: thedears.org/pagefour.

I also realised that this is the first music preview of any kind for the new album, so this is some pretty hot, inside scoop stuff here.

Glass-Half-Full Blues

Murray and Rob (Arquilla) have passed the midway point in mixing: working on song seven now and quickly running out of time. Murray negotiated a few more days at the Hotel to finish the album, and due to scheduling conflicts we had to move our mastering date to April 21st. Aside from being totally exhausted, working fourteen-hour days and barely sleeping with Neptune waking up at 7AM, Murray is starting to burn out, worried that his mixes aren’t going to cut it. He says his ears are so hyper-sensitive to frequencies and sounds that he can’t see the forest for the trees. The unity is ceasing to exist and all he hears coming out of the monitors are layers.

This morning I listened to the six finished mixes and they are really impressive. I referenced them to some other albums with great production – Air’s Virgin Suicides, Beck’s Sea Change, Doves’ Some Cities, Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Kid A (lots of Nigel Godrich) – and one thing struck me about the production of these albums: they each have a unique sound. The textures created by effects and unconventional instruments are what make those albums stand out and, well, special. When I went back to listen to The Dears’ mixes, I was struck by the same nuanced sound: these tracks already have an identity, and aside from needing to be squashed in mastering, I think it’s all there.

Mixing this record is a huge feat: some songs have over sixty tracks, recorded digitally. They’re being sent out of Logic, through a pair of converters that are hot enough to fry an egg on, and into an analogue Neotek board. They’ve had to do in-the-box sub-mixes of grouped instruments to make everything fit on the 32-channels that they have. After running all the outboard effects and compressors, the patch bay becomes a total entangled mess, and Murray has the habit of stepping back and saying: “It looks like we’re ready to print a mix.” It’s intense, and I know I couldn’t do it in the amount of time that we have given ourselves (if I could do it at all). Actually, if I did it this album would sound pretty jazzy, and not in a good way.

I’ll just stick to keyboard playing, administrating, childrearing and blogging.

Day Two at the Hotel

Yesterday I overheard Murray on the phone and he said: “This is the album I’ve always wanted to make.” I think he was still on a high from the killer string session. Wednesday – the first day of mixing – was spent tracking at Mountain City. From noon to 7PM. Murray kicked out the lead vocals for two songs, I did backing vocals on three, and Krief came in and did some backing vocals, too. We did a gang vocal on one track and it sounds very…motley. This is definitely not a very polished record, performance wise, but sonically it’s incredible. So from 8PM to 3AM, Murray, Rob and Drew started building the “studio within the studio.”

Hotel2Tango is 100% analogue, which is wicked since Murray wants to mix analogue. Only we recorded digital, so we had to rent some converters and put the puzzle together atop the Hotel. Murray came home tired and wired: he just wanted this day to be over and the next one to start so he could keep working.

Today (Thursday) was day two at the Hotel, but most of the session was spent trying to get the converters to talk with Murray’s laptop. Between tests, we had a children’s choir come in to record four or five takes for one track. We were all getting teary-eyed: it sounded pretty frigging awesome. After the choir left, it was back to the converters. Turns out it was something very nerdy like telling Logic which clock to use.

Anyhow, it all works now and the setup is humming. Two weeks and thirteen songs to go.

The Big Crunch

These past few weeks, Murray has been in the basement studio, poring over all the recorded tracks. He’s choosing which takes to use, re-amping things, experimenting with effects, comparing microphones, doing some editing, and on and on. He starts mixing tomorrow at the Hotel2Tango: Murray’s pretty comfortable there, and he’ll be manning the boards for over two weeks. It’s the longest The Dears have ever taken to mix a record, but I personally feel super confident in what’s going to come out of there.

The other day, Murray was working on getting the tracks ready for mixing, when he realised what he had to do: he just said f*ck it, and is going all the way. Now what, you may be asking, does that mean? It means no restraint. Not chaos, but a very careful, controlled density. I mean, this album is huge and full of crazy depth, and I’ve said it before but this is a real Dears album. I really doubt we will get played on the radio, or get a video into rotation, but we were never really good at those things anyhow, so why try to go there?

The strings came in today. We start mixing tomorrow, and today Murray is still tracking at Mountain City. In fact, we are tracking tomorrow morning, right up until we move into the Hotel. But I was at Mountain City when they showed up, just two players, viola and cello, and even as they started to rehearse the simple chords that were to replace the Mellotron, I knew this album was about to be elevated to new heights. This record is going to destroy you. I promise.

I have to go in tomorrow to do my last vocal tracks. I’ve kind of taken the lead on one track, and do some harmonies on others, and I’m always really self-conscious about my vocal tracks until I hear them in the mix. Listening back to a solo-ed vocal take is excruciating, so I try not to do that, but I did realise that I really love singing. It’s a lot of fun. Maybe I should start a vanity side-project? Naah. I’m not a song writer, so I would have to pull a Scarlett Johansson and just do covers, but I’ve always found those sorts of endeavours a bit masturbatory. I have thought of doing a not-lame album for kids that wouldn’t drive parents crazy…like re-worked lullabyes or something. I could do “Asleep” by The Smiths…though that would be kind of dark…maybe forget the whole idea.

At any rate, Neptune and I are going to be at a lot of the mixing sessions (mixing is more toddler-friendly than tracking), so I plan on posting more about how that’s going. Maybe I’ll add some multi-media as well so you can see the crazy lengths to which Murray’s hair has grown.