” Jess’ mini keyboard is actually a sampler, the Korg Microsampler. It plays samples from the record, she can play key bass on it, sometimes it has drum loops, new samples we have made… “
It’s rare to see a band mature as fast as Lucius did. Started as a mellow and rather ordinary duo of female singer songwriters, this project in the last 2 years or so has expanded and grown in unexpected, abnormal yet wonderful ways. Their impressive performance at our Deli NYC B.E.A.F. 2011 event showcased a band that, with a little imagination in the arrangement and performance departments, can take traditional songwriting to an entirely new level. Music fans (and industry) seem to be noticing, since they have started to sell out shows in NYC and Austin during SXSW. The two ladies can write good songs and sing beautifully, and with the help of the two boys in the band, put on a show at once emotional and powerful. One of the guys, Dan Molad, is also in charge of recording the band, which mostly happen in the house he shares with singer Jess Wolfe in Brooklyn. We asked him a few question in that department.
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
Most of our recording (i’d say about 70%) is done at our home studio, Sounds Like A Fire, in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. The rest, at this point, has been done at our long time friend and producer extrodinare, Tony Berg’s studio in Los Angeles.
What do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?
We would love to always be working with anyone we love and respect musically weather that’s in a studio environment or otherwise. It’s always more about people and their creative spirits, than how “professional” the space is we are in. We have enough gear, instruments, and creative energy to make a record with just the 4 of us, but it’s been refreshing to get others perspectives and creative choices that may have never crossed your mind. Tony and his engineer (he hates being called one!) Shawn Everett are 2 people who really understand our aesthetic while bringing in a whole new energy to this band.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home?
I really love my old Altec 1612A limiter. It’s got a really rich color unlike any compressor I have heard before. I also have a Bock 251 that sounds good on pretty much anything and anyone. A real magic microphone (pictured). David Bock really knows how to make a Microphone from the ground up!
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
Well, it’s tough, because, usually the thing I find most limiting about our studio (or really just having any studio in New York!) is the space itself. I would LOVE to have a HUGE live room, like in a church in the woods, but that’s not really possible here. So, I guess I would probably have to say a pristine Studer 24 track tape machine and some old Neve 1073s.
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer?
We like having some control of this to a certain degree, just because we have that ability to do the recording and producing role ourselves. But it would be great to actually do a record from start to finish with Tony and Shawn (Everett). I am also a huge fan of Dave Fridmann, and Nigel Godrich.
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.
For our live setup, we actually don’t play with a “bass” player. Pete splits his guitar signal to his guitar amp and to a bass amp with an A/B switch. The Bass amp signal has an Electro Harmonix POG on it before hitting the amp which puts the Guitar down an octave and makes it sound like a Bass. Jess also plays key bass sometimes, so they split the Bass duties. I, the drummer, play a Low Tom as a kick drum, miking it from the resonant/bottom head with what’s traditionally a kick drum microphone and makes it sound like a kick! Less gear means more space in the van!
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
Well, one interesting thing is that the girls (Jess & Holly) always sing at the same time into the same microphone. I setup my Bock 251 in a figure 8 pickup pattern and they sing into either side of the microphone. What’s interesting is because they sing a lot of unison stuff into opposite sides of the mic, the capsule can’t fully vibrate sympathetically in either direction, which creates this unique, almost distorted tone in some of the vocal tracks which I have grown to LOVE.
Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
We all do, but I’d like to think that I have definitely assisted Holly and Jess in developing their vision. This incarnation of the band has been a real discovery process for everyone, we are constantly exploring and we hope to do so as long as we can!
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
As I mentioned before, Tony Berg, Shawn Everett and our friend Steve Wall all helped us in the making of our record. Our friend Blake Mills also added some beautiful guitar sounds to the record too!
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
I would say their isn’t just one person. I’d like to think it’s a ton of records. But, I have always been a fan of committing to something even if it makes you a little uncomfortable… isn’t art all about taking risks? I mean, with that in mind, Brian Wilson, George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Phil Spector just to name a few…
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
I guess the recordings will always be the spring board. When we have an idea, we like to document/record it in some form, and later we try to find a creative way to perform it that gives the audience that feeling like, “oh that’s the song I know” but usually with some new elements. We seem to always end up recording a few more elements than we are able to perform with just the 4 of us…
Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?
Up until a few days ago, when our van was stolen, we found all that gear pretty darn useful! But in all seriousness, Jess’ mini keyboard is actually a sampler, the Korg Microsampler. It plays samples from the record, she can play key bass on it, sometimes it has drum loops, new samples we have made just for the shows…so there is definitely a lot going on there!
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?
We do pay a lot of attention to the visual element of our show (obviously). But the outfits are for us just as much as for the person watching the show. Getting into “costume” makes it feel like more of an experience. Just as someone with a 9-5 job gets in a suit and tie every morning, or an actor wears a costume…it helps us get into character, so to speak…
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
I think the most challenging part is trying to step outside of yourself, and approach any record as a listener. What do I want to hear, and what will I believe? And the most rewarding, is when you feel like you have accomplished those things.