The Making of Dinner Music – Studio Diaries #4

vraday04-07

-The Second Rehearsal-

I had finally scored a bed. At this point I had shifted to the center room, and ended up managing to stake a claim to that room for a majority of the sessions. Joe was on the couch that morning. I tried not to wake him as I stumbled out of the bedroom into the kitchen/living room he slept in.

I went through my usual morning routine of dump all the video footage I captured on the phones that day before onto Joe’s computer. Mine was acting odd, and very slow. So we decided to use his as the main hub.

My fussing around in the kitchen (and walk to the front patio for a coffee and wake ‘n’ bake) ended up waking Joe. As we had coffees and discussed the previous evenings great rehearsal we began to go over the itinerary for today. Due to the awful noise the water heater made in the condo, it made watch TV almost impossible. We had it cranked and were still straining to hear what was happening in Vice Principals and Stranger Things. So Joe and I (well, Joe) decided we should go looking for a soundbar for the TV. You know, because that’s what bands do while living in another city recording a record. Shop for soundbars, so when they come home from the studio they can watch TV with clearer sound.

After John awoke we informed him of the plan and he was in agreement that it needed to be done.

We packed the car up and made our way through the busy midday Chicago streets until we found Best Buy. We managed to make short work of our morning task and proceeded to make our way to the rehearsal space. This time we decided to try side roads as the highway was rammed the day before. This became a common game we played on our trips to the studio. Dodge the traffic.

The side roads offered no time savings. Chris was already at the studio with Eric when we arrived. We were switching rooms today. We were going to rehearse in our actual recording room. So we had to move gear around. This chewed up the better part of an hour.

vraday04-06

It can be tricky thing switching rehearsal rooms in back to back days. I could recall many times where sometimes why would switch rehearsing rooms within a 48hr period and what sounded amazing the day before became utter shit not 24hrs later.

Well this happened somewhat this day. It wasn’t a trainwreck but the rehearsal started on the wrong foot. While we were setting up, Joe’s laptop screen was destroyed from the shelf above it falling down due to audio interference. We switched gears and tried to use my laptop which within the next hour completely died. So we had no reference files to leverage.

vraday04-03

We started with ‘Spider & The Fly’. What sounded huge and focused the day before was coming across lifeless and open. Chris was the first person to notice the difference in the room sounds and the effect it was having on all of us. We couldn’t center ourselves in the room’s mix. We were all struggling to hear ourselves and our place in the song. We ran it a couple more times hoping for things to improve. Which they didn’t.

We moved onto ‘Steel Teeth’ next. This was the point I realized that it was going to be an all day struggle unless we pivoted fast. ‘Steel Teeth’ isn’t a tricky song, but all of us were going through a distracted run of it. We were trying to play it, and hear ourselves and the other members. As a result we were losing our place in the song because we were focused on the song in the room.

I knew it was rapidly approaching that point of no return in rehearsal where you get so caught up in your own head you never firmly get grounded for the duration of the jam. After running through ‘Steel Teeth’ multiple times just to try and play it start to finish we moved onto ‘Normal Things’. This song does have a weird time shift for the outro/coda and that became the next stumbling block (for me). After we stumbled our way through it we decided to take a break and go for lunch at the local taco spot down the street.

With a mixture of tired and frustration, we all sat and ate tacos in relative silence. We filled the silence with random small talk but the first part of the rehearsal had gotten to everybody. The one consolation was it affected all of us. It wasn’t just one of us having gear or performance issue, and the rest of the group tiptoed around that one person. We all were having a tough time finding our footing in the rehearsal.

vraday04-08

After our lunch/dinner we made our way back to the rehearsal space and began making our way through the rest of the songs. As we progressed, each song had it’s own peculiarity about it ,  as though it wasn’t wrong per-se, but it was 10-15% off sonically.

As we neared the end of the evening It was suggested we try 2 of the odder/slower tunes that require organ and piano lead lines. Ironically these 2 songs (‘No Time Like The Present’ and ‘Weird Things’) sounded really good. So we decided to end on that note.

Eric had returned to the space at that point and suggested we go for drinks and Longman & Eagle that night. So we packed up and made our way to Longman. I’ve had enough drinking evenings with Eric over the year to know something. Chief among them is the fact, Eric Abert is fucking hilarious when he’s had a couple drinks. Not suggest he isn’t ordinarily, he is. But after that 2-3 drink magic window we all experience the customary brand of Eric dry humour has and even great edge and delivery.

So we spent the evening unwinding at the bar together. Eric regaled us with some stories, none of which I would share in this forum, but they resonated enough that John and I would rehash them during the rest of the recording sessions.

By the end of the evening we had decompressed enough from the long day to go home and feel pretty good about starting tracking drums the next day.

Even though everything was somewhat off during our last rehearsal day, i still felt great about the drum parts Chris had crafted. I mentioned it to John and Joe that night.

vraday04-04

You know, even if everything else sucks on this record, at the very least we could release just Chris’s drum tracks, because they fucking smoke!” We all agreed, that compared to Little Creatures, the band felt tighter and more streamlined. Which is odd, as it had been almost 2 years since we last jammed. But there was an undeniable sense that this collection of songs felt like a band that had be working on them for the last year.

I passed out that night excited for what was about to start the next morning.

Words & Photos: Jason Thomson.

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