By Mike McGinnis
Positive and negative. Quiet and loud. Angst and ease. Can’t have one without the other.
This is a primary concept we’ve been working with on our new record and trying to incorporate as much contrast as possible in both the sound and the themes without steering too far from the sound we’ve previously crafted for ourselves. As much as we’re using this theme to our advantage, it’s bound to come through in the studio process. There are sessions that are easy as pie, and ones that send you home rethinking all of your methods.
We re-entered Gradwell House Studios after a couple week layover to clear our ears. We previously had finished all of the instrumental tracking, and I just had to go back in to track all of my remaining second guitar tracks and a few accent tracks for noise and leads and some other small nuances.
The guitar tracking was cake, and usually is, as the pressure is off and once I get a good tone dialed in I can blast through the songs in just a few hours max. My secondary guitar rig looked like this: Gibson SG > RAT > MXR Micro Amp > Musicman HD150 > Marshall 4×12 / Peavey Classic 100 > Marshall 4×12. Pretty basic tube amp rig through 12″ speakers. Sounded killer.
Another short layover, and we returned for the most trying process on any Fight Amp record; the vocals. We’re consciously trying to move our vocals into some new territory with this record, so we demo’d the vocals and have been working every week in the space since well before tracking the music to lock in the exact patterns, melodies and harmonies we expect to hear once we’re in the booth.
We also used a technique we haven’t in the past and are running a second vocal track through a guitar amp to get some natural distortion and reverb in our headphones while tracking to give it a feel similar to a shitty practice space PA system, which is right in our wheelhouse.
Once we hit the first vocal session, it was obvious that it all had paid off, as Jon in particular, who writes most of the lyrics and patterns and does most of the vocal heavy lifting, was able to belt out a couple of our A side tracks pretty easily, and hit a comfort zone that he probably hasn’t hit before in previous sessions. I got in there and finished up one of my main vocal tracks and did backups on the ones Jon had sung and also had a pretty easy-going session, and after 6 hours we had wrapped up 3 of the 8 songs we’re working on. Definitely a productive outing, and the end product is something we’ve never been as stoked on vocally for this band.
After taking these home and sitting on them for another week, we entered Gradwell again to continue the process. This time we invited two ex Fight Amp members, Rebecca Burchette (who played and sang on our first LP ‘Hungry For Nothing’, and now plays in Multicult) and Patrick Troxell (who sang on our first 7″ and now plays in Creepoid) to hang out and contribute some vocals to a couple songs.
It was awesome getting everyone together and having them contribute. There guys are still family to us, and this was the first time we had this group of five people in the same room in a long time. We’re huge fans of both bands these two play in these days, and in fact, Creepoid was just visiting Philly for a few days after completing an 80 day tour, and we were somehow able to line up the schedule to get Pat in to contribute before they split for their new hometown, Savannah GA.
So needless to say, both Pat and Rebecca killed it. We got exactly what we needed pretty quickly, had some beers and caught up, and then got back to work on the main Fight Amp vocals. But like I mentioned in the beginning, you can’t have an awesome session without knowing the struggles of a rough session, and now was the time for us to hit a few walls. Jon had some trouble singing the next song the way he wanted, so we moved on before we dug in too deep. Dan and I were able to complete our short parts in that same song, and then we sent Jon back in for another song, but he was having the same issues. Just not getting the right energy, performance or pitch.
Jon decided to cut himself out of the session and just pick up on the following one, and we were able to get a few more of my vocal tracks done. But even at the end of the session, we moved to one of my main vocal songs and I could not find the right way to sing it after spinning our wheels all night long. We started to get past midnight and had been working all night, so exhaustion was setting in and was getting harder to focus. Of course we found the proper approach for this song right as we ended the session, which should make it one of the easier songs to complete next time through.
So with the good comes the bad, and hitting walls vocally is something this band is certainly used to and is actually a productive thing, as we now know what DOESN’T work and basically have the exact method that needs to happen next time honed in. The next session should wrap us up vocally, and we can finally get to the mixing sessions that we’ve been so anxious to reach so we can start showing everyone what we’ve had up our sleeve. Stay tuned.
** Fight Amp’s new album is out Spring 2015 on Brutal Panda Records. Keep your limbs peeled for pre-orders and other cool announcements.