Spirit Family Reunion, from whom you can expect a classic kind of Americana performed by musicians who know how to pluck a banjo the right way, sat with us to talk about their recording process. What really makes this band stand out is that they don’t sound like they’re re-inventing anything. When you see them live, the sound is all their own, and the soulful yelps and gospel harmonies in jams like ‘I am Following the Sound’ and ‘On That Day’ should convince you of what you’ve been missing.
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
The first stuff we just did ourselves, in a basement on the Brooklyn side of the east river. Usually on cassette or 1/4” tape. We’d use those recordings to try and book shows, or burn em onto CDs to give out or sell whenever we could. More recently we’ve recorded in some small studios with friends.
If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?
We pretty much record everything in the studio now. We want everything to have a consistent sound.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home?
When we think about recording at home, first thing that comes to mind is this Tascam 388. Its got 8 tracks, uses 1/4” tape, and most importantly is pretty easy to use. Also happens to sound pretty good. We probably first heard about the 388 from the early Dr Dog or Black Keys records.
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
A really good 2 inch tape machine. I’d like to try to record on the same thing a lot of our favorite records were recorded on.
|Spirit Family Reunion’s Gear: Tascam 388
|” We probably first heard about the 388 from the early Dr Dog or Black Keys records. “
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?
We expect to make our next recordings much in the same way that we made our previous ones.
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
We want it to feel alive and exciting. Here’s our technique: get a good take with some good mics in good places, keep it pretty clean and true, engineer turns some knobs and plugs in some cables, and there you go. It’s not just throw a mic up in the middle of the room and plug it into a boombox, and it’s not slaving away one note at a time until you can piece together a song. Just whatever it takes to make it breathe and feel genuine.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
We recorded in the studio most recently with our pal ANGERHAN. He’s done a lot of good stuff including a recent favorite of ours, a record by Sonny & the Sunsets called “Tommorow is Alright”. He recently had a bad encounter with a gal named Sandy, but he’s on the rebound and we’re looking forward to doing some more recording with him soon.
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
Exile on Main St. by The Rolling stones has an awesome sound. Raw but concise. We like that.
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
Playing together is all that informs the process of our recording.
We all sing around a large diaphragm condenser mic. Currently we have an Audio Technica AT-2035. We use some other gear too sometimes, but that mic is all we need. –
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band – fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?
Ever since we’ve been a band we’ve always done much of everything ourselves. We burned CDs, carved stamps, silkscreened CD cases, made 7” labels out of wood, sewed together songbooks, you name it. When you do all these things by hand on a small scale and you don’t try to make it look like something it’s not, you have no choice about how it comes out looking. It just looks real. The largest thing we’ve made all at once was the first pressing of 3,000 CDs of our record last year. We couldn’t burn and silkscreen all those ourselves, so we had our friend make the cases at his letterpress studio. We like things that look and feel handmade, and when you’re doing things on a relatively small scale weather its 30 or 3,000, you can genuinely have that. If you’re pumping things out on a scale so big that you’d have to fabricate that look, then are you really being honest about what you’re making?
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
The most challenging part is getting the energy from our live show to come across in the recording. The most rewarding aspect of recording is probably when you are in the middle of the take and you already know that that’s the one. That this is the take that is gonna be on the album.