Brooklyn’s Conveyor presents an intriguing blend of styles and influences on their sonic palette. Combining the percussion of afropop with moody electronics and rhythmic patterned vocal placement, their sound is bouncy and creative. Many of the songs are the result of a collaborative writing process, giving the defined sections an air of intricacy. Time signatures that break out of the 4/4 mold suggest artists not content to rely on the safety of familiar patterns. The band releases their debut full-length album on Paper Garden Records. – Dave Cromwell
Roland SP-404 Sampler
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
We do 100% of our recording in a home studio setup.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home? (Please mention the brand and model name and say why you like it)
Alan: I am inspired by the API 512c preamp. We run a good portion of our mics through one. It is entirely consistent and reliable to the point of being inspiring because although there are times that I don’t necessarily know what to expect will happen on the output side, I find myself depending on a certain level of input accuracy and familiarity, which I know I can find in the 512c.
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
Alan: If cost is not an issue we would probably add an original Neve console complete with 1073 pre-amps and EQs! More specifically, I would like to add a Neumann U47 or U87. They are solid condensers that would be great to have as another option when tracking vocals.
T.J.: I’m definitely of the opinion that the engineer makes the most of his/her equipment and not vice versa, so while I don’t necessarily have a specific piece of gear in mind, I’d like to expand our outboard processing capabilities in lieu of relying mostly on digital plugins for things like reverb and delay.
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?
Alan: I don’t think we have any reason to expect to work with a producer. We have produced all of our projects to date on our own and it is a method of working that we have gotten used to, but we are certainly interested in bringing another mind to the table just to see what difference it might make having somebody else to bounce ideas off of.
T.J.: I think in addition to being able to bounce ideas off of a fresh brain, a producer can have mastered a particular studio to the same degree that a musician can master an instrument, so the thing that excites me about working with someone else is being able to rely on someone to consistently capture our ideas in the most sonically pleasing way. Self-producing can be limiting because it forces you to reckon your creative ideas with your technical capabilities, which may not always be as extensive as the next guy’s. I’d love to work with Ben H. Allen on something; I really dig the sound of his records. Him or Nicolas Vernhes at the Rare Book Room in NY.
Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound? If you do, please list the ones you use the most and let us know why you love them.
Alan: We certainly use effects to add texture to our sound, but I don’t think we rely too heavily on them. I use a Boss DD-20 Delay that get’s a good amount of use, it is pretty flexible and can do everything I need it to. Other more specific effects that don’t get as much use are a Fulltone Supa-Trem (so smooth) and an Earthquaker Devices Bit Commander (great square wave / noise generator).
T.J.: For live performance, I’m indebted to my Digitech Digidelay, through which I run my vocals. It’s a good way to have control over vocal FX that might otherwise be left to an uninterested engineer (depending on the venue).
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
We don’t really aim for a certain style when we record, honestly. We try to record each instrument as accurately as possible with the gear we have. Ultimately it always comes down to whether or not it sounds good to us in playback, and as simple as that sounds, it really is how we go about things.
Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
Alan: All four of us have input along the way. For example, Michael knows more about how his bass should sound than any of us; likewise with Evan and his snare. T.J. and I definitely drive the shape of the recordings if only because we have a greater interest in the technical/production side of things.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
T.J.: At this point we’re pretty self-sufficient, but I’m definitely intrigued by the potential of developing a consistent relationship with an engineer. I’ve read stories about Dave Fridmann (longtime producer/live engineer for the Flaming Lips) wearing a lab coat at shows and working the board like a mad scientist while the band plays. If anything, I think it could be interesting to work with someone who has the potential to be a sonic influence with a set of tools that aren’t musical instruments.
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
T.J.: More than any particular artist, I’m influenced whenever I read about anyone’s recording exploits. Every single person records differently, and I always find myself intrigued and itching to try out things that I read other bands have done. Record an entire drumset with one overhead mic? Let’s try it out! Tape an SM98 to your singer’s forehead while he bashes around the live room screaming? Okay!
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
Both are true for us. Some songs we have been playing live for months and we are able to bring a lot of those sounds/arrangements into the studio while another large portion of the album did not have that experience and were really birthed in the studio. In that case we find ourselves referencing many of those sounds as we learn to play them live, but I think overall we strike a really comfortable balance among writing, performing, and recording.
Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage? (Please mention the brand and model name and say why you like it)
T.J.: We like to make pretty extensive use of Roland samplers. The SP-404 is a really compact piece of gear that is great for triggering the sort of ambient/environmental sounds that we like to use to emphasize our songs. Fulltone FX pedals have also been really good to us; Michael uses an Octafuzz on his bass to get a really awesome fuzz bass sound, and as Alan mentioned earlier he uses the Supa-Trem.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band – fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?
T.J.: We don’t work with anyone on our personal visual component. I think all of us have the tendency to want to dress nicely for nice things, like performing music, and then beyond that we’re individually influenced by the style of performers who we look up to. Personally I like to dress pretty consistently in my daily life, and that consistency carries onto stage for me. If it felt like an effort, I think we’d pretty quickly stop doing it. As for artwork and the appearance of our records, we’re all very attracted to things that feel organic and natural. We’ve worked a few times with friend and designer Benji Haselhurst on LP artwork, and our relationship has come blossomed really nicely.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
Alan: For me, the most challenging part is attempting to match how a particular instrument or song actually sounds on record with how I think it should sound. Rarely if ever do we record something and say, “Yep, that is exactly what we were going for.” On the flipside, we are also very comfortable with embracing the little intricacies and unique elements that are recorded on any particular day, and it can be extremely rewarding to listen back and hear something unexpected for the first time that has most likely never happened in any other take.