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This webisode (#2) is the first of a two sessions we recorded at Pie Studios in Glen Cove, NY. Perry, the owner, loved the Masters From Their Day concept, and offered to have two episodes shot there. We happily accepted his offer, and did two sessions within three days (our video director needed a day between shoots to rest his camera-arm!!). The 2nd episode shot at Pie Studios will be released very soon, so be sure to sign-up to be notified.

When we first began preparing for this session, the artist (Annie and the Beekeepers from Brooklyn, NY) emailed to me the song they planned to record. It was a beautiful song about love and loss. My head was swarming with ideas about presenting it in the most effective manner, and I was getting excited.

Then… the night before the session, as we were loading our gear into the studio, they called me and told me they just wrote a new song, “In the Water,” which they were very excited about. They recorded it at practice with an iPhone, and offered to send it to me to hear. I was very skeptical about switching songs the day before the session, but I agreed to listen.

Then I heard it… and I was mesmerized. It was dark, moody, and introspective – a gospel-inspired mantra that lulls then jolts the listener. It was hypnotic, reflective, yet vicious. It was warm, but it gave you the chills. It wasn’t pretentious, but it was very important – a quest to find the self.

The development of this song had apparently led them to a different format suited to the song. In their demo recording, I heard a lot of elements – banjo, electric guitar, doubled vocals – that were foreign to their usual sound. Yet these new instruments were played instinctively for sonic effect rather then traditional approaches one might expect from seasoned instrumentalists.

While simultaneously playing the banjo strings, Alex (Alexandra Spalding) slid her hand on the banjo head to create a percussive ‘egg-shaker’ effect. I wanted to highlight this technique, so I aimed a Microtech Gefell M930 large-diaphragm condenser at the place on the banjo head where her hand was sliding.

I wanted Ken (Woodward)’s toothy electric guitar to sound very natural in the big live-room to give the recording a sense of depth and space. The cabinet was recorded with a vintage BBC 4038 ribbon microphone, and the opposite end of the large live-room was recorded with a Neumann U67.

Annie (Lynch)’s vocals were recorded with a Microtech Gefell UM92.1 large-diaphragm tube condenser, and Alex’s vocals were captured with a Neumann U67. During the interludes when the two singers deliver ghostly ‘ohs’, they are both singing simultaneously into opposite sides of the UM92.1 set in figure-8 mode.

As always with these sessions, the Benchmark MPA1 and PRE420 microphone preamplifiers were used exclusively, as were the Benchmark ADC1 a/d converters and DAC1 d/a converters.

The biggest challenge of the session was taming the old banjo and guitar that the band brought with them. The banjo was an antique ‘tenor’ banjo, and it simply refused to stay in tune. Luckily, Perry (Margouleff, the owner and head engineer at Pie Studios) has quite an ear for tuning stringed instruments. He was able to whip the banjo in shape just in time for a keeper take.

The old acoustic guitar that Annie plays has plenty of character (perhaps too much). When Annie would hit a big chord, the warmth of the guitar would turn into a muffled grumble – almost acting like a heavy compressor was on it. On some takes, Annie would passionately lay into some chords a bit too hard, causing the guitar to ‘bottom out’. Luckily, as it happened, the first recorded take of the day, which was the favorite take overall, had a very solid acoustic performance.

I ended up mixing the acoustic a little bit lower than the other instruments so that it didn’t distract too much from the vocals. I felt that a more skeletal mix would create the proper ambience for the mood of this song. Both guitars push up and out at the right moments, but sit back during the rest of it.

I hope you enjoy the song and the video, and I look forward to talking with you in the comments section!!

PS. Make sure you download the track from the link that is near the upper right corner of the video screen. Choose CD-Quality unless you have a pro setup.

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