Catchy but soulful, vintage but vogue, Retail Space is a Brooklyn-based duo dropping some highly dynamic music. In a scene that is getting increasingly weary of the neo-psych aesthetic, the band manages to masterfully package synth-y, psych pop vibes with a charming, indie-folk tinge that feels crisp instead of tired. The band, who recorded their most recent release, In the Lotia, using only analog equipment, was kind enough to talk to us about their recording process, their creative process, and of course, the gear that helps drive it all forward.
Where does the title “In the Lotia” come from, and how does it hold special meaning when paired with your music?
When we wrote and recorded In the Lotia from the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2015, we were in a transitional period. We had just moved to Brooklyn that previous winter after graduating from SUNY Purchase and were working our first jobs out of school as accountants. Settling into that incredible change of being in a big new city for the first time was definitely on our minds. The band we were in previously called Swimming Pool, which was the first project we had worked together on as musicians, had just broken up and Retail Space represented a next step in our musical careers. By trying to define these events, we mutated the word loggia into lotia as a new word that would mean “a transitory place” lending the phrase “In the Lotia” the definition of a “transitory state of being”.
What is the songwriting process like working with each other? Are there defined roles, or does it vary from song to song?
The majority of the songs from In The Lotia were written on our Crumar Orchestrator (also known as a Crumar Multiman-S). To begin, Jacob starts by messing around with different chords until he lands on something that we both feel inspired by. While he’s finding the progression, Izzy starts writing lyrics that describe the way the music makes her feel. Once a progression is set, we start humming melodies over top of it until one sticks. At this stage in the song we reference the initial ideas Izzy had and both work out lyrics together that fit. After some initial lyrics are written we agree on the overarching idea for the song and those lyrics are revised accordingly.
“In The Lotia” was produced using only analog equipment and recorded to tape. Can you talk a little bit about what the recording process was like? And were there any challenges that you faced recording this way?
Honestly the recording process was great. We had only used DAWs before this record and it was freeing to know that half of the decision making process was already made for us. We had 8 tracks to arrange the songs and since we knew we were going to be making this record for vinyl production, ideally we had 36 minutes to fill and had to write songs that started off louder at the beginning of the sides and tapered off to quite ballads by the end. The reason being the closer to the center of a vinyl record the less volume & bass you can have. The most challenging part of the process was only having 4 hands to mix down the songs live from our 1/2″ 8 track tape machine to our 1/4″ 2 track tape machine. We spent many hours and lots of practice working on manually automating volumes, adjusting the panning of tracks during playback, and fades. The process was very hands-on and could collapse at any moment which made it really exciting.
Were there any pieces of analog equipment you were most excited to use during the recording process?
We have an old Altec 1567a mixer that had just been overhauled and refurbished right before recording In The Lotia. At the time we were most excited to get to use it on the rhythm section because of it’s well deserved legacy of being the mixer used primarily on the old 60’s Motown singles.
What other synths and guitar effects did you use in the record?
The Crumar Orchestrator that we talked about previously was the only synth used on In The Lotia. To enhance the already magnificent sounds that it makes we used an EHX Clone Theory and a MXR Carbon Copy. The reverb tank on our 60’s Princeton Reverb also helped mix it with the other instruments in the arrangement.
Is there any other piece of gear that you think made a large imprint on the album’s sound?
The album wouldn’t sound nearly as good without the help from Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. His mastering work from the 1/4″ reels of tape we brought him helped the record come to life. In particular the Tube Tech SMC 2BM was instrumental in helping to clear up the dusty sound of the mixes.
What bands are you most excited about to see emerging out of the local scene?
Our friends Pop & Obachan are releasing their debut record “Misc. Excellence” on October 7th. We’ve played with them a couple times and they are amazing every time we see them. Besides that, we’re also excited for our friends LVL UP with their big release “Return to Love” on Sub Pop which sounds awesome.