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While the revolution in recording technology centers on affordable digital audio workstations, the affection for the old analog traditions and sounds is more than just nostalgia. To that end, Britain’s six-piece Band of Bees is working hard to reclaim and recapture some of the vintage sounds of legendary artists from the ‘60s and ‘70s like The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, and the Young Rascals in their recordings.
To create the celebrated sounds from past eras takes more than modern simulators – it requires an esoteric mix of current and vintage gear, and the Bees’ arsenal is mostly made up of co-founder Paul Butler’s collection. Butler, a self-declared student of vintage production technique and technology, emerged from the band’s newly-constructed studio, The Steamrooms, for this interview.
Octopus is the first album to be recorded at The Steamrooms, and is the band’s third release. It’s another entirely original mélange of hot grooves, solid vocal lines, and funky horns, with echoes of many classic pop productions simmering in the mix.
Butler has spent a lot of time studying old recordings, carefully analyzing how certain sounds were created. Here he describes the mics, console, reverbs, and echo used on Octopus, as well as the techniques used by the band to record the album.
You’ve recorded each of your three albums in a completely different
environments, from a garden shed, to Abbey Road, and now your own studio. Could
you talk about the recording journey you’ve made over the last four years?
I’ve always admired the sound of older productions, not only do they capture the energy better, but they have a certain chunky sound I love.
For the first album (2002’s Sunsine Hit Me), it was very hard work to get the mix to sound right, to get a vintage sound, so we had to rely on a lot of outboard gear. To add to that, while recording the album our monitor speakers broke, so we had to wait while they were repaired. As we struggled with the mixes for the album, I complained that we ‘should have just gone on to Abbey Road Studio 2.’
As it goes, the album was nominated for a Mercury Prize [Ed Note: the UK’s most prestigious annual music award] and before I knew it, we were signed to EMI. It wasn’t long after that my wishful thinking became reality and we were booked into Abbey Road Studio 2 for six weeks to record our follow up album, 2004’s Free the Bees.
During the making of the second album, I discovered that the speakers we had repaired during the mixing of Sunshine were wired out of phase. The repair firm had botched the job, which explained why we struggled so much with our mixing!
Read more of Analog Recording in Digital Times from the Disc Maker's blog.
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