Vast Robot Armies’ Studio Diary – Day Six


I like being in a recording studio. I like watching a song go from the simplicity of the original music.” – Grace Slick

Some of the things I will remember about the Air B&B condo we stayed at.

  1. It was a beautiful condo. Exposed brick and high ceilings are a sure way to win me over in regards to living spaces.
  2. I still don’t understand fish. Specifically, the concept of fish as a pet. As a living decorative accessory, sure. But as pet? Nah, I don’t get it.
  3. It was located in what must have been (and I’d imagine still is) the loudest intersection in Chicago. All the cars started their day there. I shit you not. A cacophony of horns, revving engines, squeaky brakes and endless construction filled my waking ears every morning.

Most of the mornings there involved me waking around 7:30 – 8:00am, and puttering around the condo until Joe and John woke up. Or until I ran out of activities and overtly woke Joe by standing over him as he slept and starting a conversation. This would invariably create enough noise to cause John to wake from his slumber.


What followed was usually a 10 minute conversation about the appliances that Joe needed to fix around the condo (Dishwasher). I fixed it. With quite literally, a flick of the switch. We would also remind him that there was a bag of garbage by the door that he could take out at his earliest convenience.

After the morning Joe tauntings, I’d watch them kill Call of Duty zombies on John’s PS3 for about an hour.

That particular morning I can recall waking up and going over a new plan of attack for day 2 of drums. Communication of song arrangements was becoming more of a struggle by the end of the previous evening, so I wanted to try something different to help the process along. I figured the best way, would be the most simple and direct approach. Me, sitting on a stool in the recording room while Chris, John and Joe played the songs and I called out changes.

When we arrived at Electronical it was noon. I remember Allen & Eric saying at Longman & Eagle that first night that they liked to start early and end at a decent hour (10am – 9:30pm). I remember thinking to myself as they said that “These guys think I’m new...” They seemed to have forgotten then was my third go around the recording wheel with them. I figured by day 3, noon would be the start times. I was off by a day.

We had 5 songs of drums left to do. I wasn’t too concerned, but I knew the last 5 songs were more challenging from and arrangement and familiarity perspective for Chris than the first 5. But Chris is a champ, so I figured we had it in the bag. I didn’t say it aloud mind you. But I knew it.


Even though I had figured it best I shouldn’t bother playing a rhythm bed track, and just focusing on conducting the arrangements (* I figured I could overdub my parts later), I still found myself throwing on Allen’s tele (Note: it’s awesome to play) and jumping with everyone once we started rolling.

We began the day with the song ‘Everything New Is Old Again’. All through the demoing process, this has been a favorite of mine. It’s definitely an unabashed rocker, and has, by far the best bridge of any song on the album. It also ended up being the song that saved my ass when it came time to do vocals, and I found myself going off the rails during my vocal takes (more on that later). Chris got it in 3 takes.


Next up was ‘In Shreds’. This was the beginning of the terrible 3. By that, I mean there were 3 songs that were by far the most daunting in terms familiarity. An up tempo song that has some dynamic movements within the verses and oddly phrased pre-choruses. It was at this point that I’d taken off the guitar and sat on the stool. Like some sort of poor man’s conductor I ended up watching Chris, John and Joe run through the song, and I’d wave my hands and bounce my head to the tempo. With my eyes widening, we would approach the change and then I’d crash both my arms down to signify the change. Not the most graceful or pragmatic method, but it got us through it.

After we got the take it was decided that unlike the previous day, we should break for lunch earlier. I had been speaking in glowing terms of a Mexican place around the corner that we’d frequent during the Goodnight Myopia sessions. Taqueria La Zacatecana. It’s on 3029 North California Ave. By far one of the best steak burritos I’ve ever had. Not only is it amazing, it is so big you end up getting 2 meals out of it. Recording can be expensive, so this was a welcome savings.

After we returned from our lunch break, we decided to go with the song ‘Little Creatures’. Chris dug this one. It ended up being really fun to play. I considered it one of those “surprise songs”. To clarify: Obviously every band digs their own songs but usually before going into a studio, band members will sometimes feel that certain songs will go smoother than others. Or assume that certain songs will pop even more in a recorded format. Sometimes though, the songs you thought would translate well are surpassed by a surprise song or 2. A song you knew was good, but thought it fell behind one of the other songs that was assumed to be “The Song”. ‘Little Creatures’, ended up being one of the “surprise songs”. There ended up being 3.


The last 2 songs were ‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘Your Ex Knife Set’. We went with ‘Suckerpunch’. That one turned out to be an easy one. Chris breezed through it. ‘Your Ex Knife Set’, was the one song we never actually rehearsed. It’s a slower number, with a long tripped out coda. We ended up running through this song as handful of times. The end result was fantastic.

That was it. All the drum tracks were in the can. We went and listened back in the Control Room. Chris did an unbelievable job. Itunes shuffle and Whiskey drinking commenced. For me it was one of those moments where you realize you just witnessed the best possible outcome of a scenario.


After an hour we packed up and made our way back to the condo. We were all lit up over the quality (sonically) and performance of the drum tracks. When we walked into the condo door we ransacked the fridge and freezer. We assumed what we ate (a box of frozen Pizza Bites, a package of Bertolli Fettucini dinner and a liter of coke) we could replace in the morning. That was the beginning of the 4 day running joke of someone saying: “Hey, we need to go to the grocery store, and make sure we replace the Bertolli Noodles, Pizza Bites and Coke…” We left a huge mess in the kitchen and I went and passed out.

Words & Photos: Jason Thomson

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