I’m a sucker for bands that produce their own records, assuming they have the recording chops to pull it off. There’s an authorial intent that’s present when a group stewards the course of a collection of songs from conception to release, and it’s evident on SpiralArms‘ latest LP, Freedom. I had a chance to talk to the band’s vocalist/guitarist/producer Tim Narducci about the tracking sessions, and the band’s approach for fitting in so many instruments (drums, bass, vocals, three guitars, and keyboards) into the sonic spectrum.
So first of all, could you guys give me a quick breakdown of the gear you’re using? I know you have a lot of instruments in the band.
The gear used by the band is pretty basic. We use Orange and EVH amps for our backline, GMS 6 piece drum kit, Keys are amplified by motionsound and a vintage leslie cab.
What was the recording process for Freedom?
I produced the record and there were three of us involved in the engineering process over the span of the record. Mike Gerlock was at the controls when we tracked drums and keys at Bomb Shelter in L.A. ( Eric Kretz of Stone Temple Pilots studio). Brad Barth (our keyboardist) and myself handled the rest when we did the additional overdubs back at our studio’s in Livermore (S.F./East Bay Area), Audio Voyage/Sonic Room. I took on producing the record because of the vision I had early on writing the record. It needed to sound and flow a particular way, much like Led Zeppplin IV. That was my model or go to, rather than looking at the songs as singles, each song supports the other with different feel and vibe, color and shape, to make up Freedom as a whole. I wasn’t convinced too many producers would see it that way.
I read that most of the album was tracked live in a 16-hour period and went for a looser, not micro-punched kind of sound. Have you always recorded in this manner or was it new to this album?
It was a little bit more involved than that, but close. The basic tracks i.e. drums, bass, guitars, and keys were tracked quickly then we moved on to vocals and solos. I believe Freedom sounds the way it does was because of our mindset and fuck it attitude towards how records are made today. Somewhere along the line technology made it ok to make everything perfect in a recording, I hate that. Humans aren’t perfect so why should audio snap shots be? Making a record is much like a photograph. If you Photoshop it to death it looks like shit…so do overproduced, over grided, over auto tuned records. So we avoided all of that, went for the best raw tones and emotional performance we had in our selves and left it alone.
There’s a cool vocal sound on a lot of the record- the mild overdrive and the echo combine to give it a live tone, like it’s coming out of a PA. What gear or plugins were used for that?
The vocal sound was one I studied before cutting the tracks. I wanted that early Ozzy and Paul Rodgers sound, so I listened and listened and came up with what I thought would do the trick. We used 4 mics total. A Neumann U89, Shure SM7, Shure SM58, and a customized CB radio mic. The heavier stuff the SM7, the single vocal intimate tunes the U89. I tracked “Lovers Leap” vocal with the SM58 and my acoustic guitar live, which in most cases would have been a scratch track. The cut I couldn’t perform any better so we kept it, the vocal slightly out of phase with the guitar mic bleed…it ended up very unique and cool. We used a Universal Audio compressor for vocals on this record rather than the Neve 1073 pre’s /Distressor vocal sound on “Highest Society”. I really love the way they Freedom turned out.
It’s not uncommon to see a band with three guitars, or two guitars and a keyboard player, but three guitars and a keyboard is a lot. Do you have issues fitting it all in the mix? Do you always have 3 guitars or does Tim only play sometimes?
As far as the record goes, I tracked rhythm on the left side, Craig on the right, and Anthony up the middle for choruses or big moments in the track. Live, I mainly sing and break out guitar for special songs like “Freedom” and “Lover’s Leap” to add slide or ebow, that ambient thing those songs call for. Everyone’s tone in the band compliments the other, it makes for a nice massive crushing wall of sound.
Thanks guys. Anything to say in closing?
Please check out our new record Freedom available on Steamhammer/SPV, also available via iTunes, and check us out on tour fall 2013 in Europe with Scorpion Child, 2014 the U.S. and Europe!