Warehouse Eyes' Prisms has been in our phones, cars, homes, and hearts incessantly since their July 2015 release. Here at HW! we can add the studio sound system to that list. Our interns can attest that, as their producer, I paid extra special attention to this project. The five piece, built around the songwriting and spirit of Jennie Lawless and Chris Williams, unpacked their demos almost a year before the public would hear the first single. One might ask, "what 'n the hell took so long?" The answer is not that simple.
Jennie and Chris have an incredible passion for what they do. They came to me with imaginative ideas, a willingness to collaborate, and the courage to explore new sound territories. The songs they wrote had a strong backbone, so through the process of collaborative experimentation, we fleshed them out with fresh skins. You can hear a considerable difference in presentation between this new set of songs and their previous release, Carvings. A few changes in the band's membership contributed to a shift in sound. Kevin Scott (bass) has been with them all along, but Matt Vannelli (guitar) and Alex Young (drums) stepped in without any preconceived notions and brought some wildly creative ideas to the table.
One thing we knew we had in common from the get-go was that we shared a tendency to draw from a very broad sound palette; acoustic, analog, and digital. As many musicians can probably relate to, standard drum and guitar tones don't always satisfy one's creative hunger. An unexpected tweak of a guitar pedal or synth can inspire an entire soundscape and influence the direction of an arrangement.
Taking the concept of unlocking creativity by using new sound tools one step further, various DAW's can also unlock creative possibilities. In the process of writing and manipulating parts, Pro Tools acted as home base in order to streamline the process of arranging upwards of 90 channels of audio per track. Ableton Live's incredible time warping capabilities provided an interesting format for morphing drum kit stems. Bitwig is a newer spin-off of Live and made programming glitch patterns in "Same Dream" a breeze. Its simple drag-and-drop capabilities open a lot of doors. Logic and GarageBand are great platforms for demo work and are almost always involved in the early stages of any song's development. Am I fishing for endorsements? No, I'm just a nerd. Some of our best material however came from guitar pedals and analog synths. We ran synths through guitar pedals, guitars through synth pedals, and drum tracks through a synth filter circuit. We were like children in a candy store (sans belly ache). It all came together in a way that doesn't sound nearly as complex as the process of producing it, which was the goal.
To further illustrate the evolution of WE's arrangements, I thought it would be fun to post an early demo next to the final, or 'done-zo,' studio recording. Hopefully there are some geeks reading this that find it as fascinating as I do (see below).
DEMOS VERSUS FINAL STUDIO VERSIONS
Smoke was filled with great ideas when it arrived at the studio. However, the momentum of the song seemed to levitate instead of flow downstream. The hypnotizing swell of the guitar throughout the track needed to play off of the beat in a more musical way. I thought the band was going to laugh at me and walk out when I suggested they swing the groove instead of play it straight. Take a listen! Great things can happen when you re-imagine the groove of a song.
This second example is a fun one. "The Same Dream" was a favorite at our 2013 HW! Demo Contest. It immediately struck me as a candidate for some 'dreamy' sound design, which happened to be exactly what Chris and Jennie had in mind. You can hear elements that foreshadow the final production work making this a great example of a song that plunged into the world of electronic manipulation where it belonged. Props must be given to guitarist Matt Vannelli and his impressive ability to manipulate his guitar to sound like a synthesizer. The last chorus contains a stack of about 10 guitar elements that play off of one another in a multi-dimensional way. Some staccato, distorted and dry. Some clean, harmonized and wet.
The EP "Prisms" was produced, recorded and mixed by Lance W Conrad, the author of this entry. Recognize!