Gear Metropolis

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In The Studio with The Best of the Worst

August 21st, 2017

I few months ago The Best of the Worst released a new EP, Painted Fools. Here are some of the details about the recording process.

Listen to the EP here: https://thebestoftheworst.bandcamp.com/

Check out the studio here: http://www.exeter-recordings.com/           

 

The origins of our new EP reach back to 2015 when we began the demo process with our buddy Joe Lanza. We bunkered down in our practice space with him and went to work on these songs. This was the most extensive demoing that we have ever done as we fully recorded 5 out of the 7 songs on the EP. At times we were even tempted to release these songs, but in the end we were not totally excited with how it sounded so we decided to wait and work on 2 more songs to have another awkward not-quite-full-length / very long EP that we have perfected over the years (see: Quarter Life Crisis, Calling From the Grave and Natural Born Haters). By that time we were going out on our spring run with Stuck Lucky, then summer came and went, and then it was fall 2016. We had been playing these songs for a while and we were itching to get them down. For studio we looked at places we have never gone before. We wanted a different perspective on our sound so we listened to a lot of audio samples and decided on Exeter Recordings. Exeter had done some stuff that sounded real heavy and also some catchier stuff so it seemed like a good match. We have never met Joe before but he seemed excited about the idea so we jumped into it. After meeting we found out we know a bunch of the same people and were on the same page with how this record should sound.

Natural Born Haters (and the Great Bands! Great Dudes! songs) was our first foray into using a click. While we have been able to record without one previously, the use of one helped us lock in more and also sped up the process so we decided to use that approach again when starting this record. We nixed the idea of using a scratch track and recorded drums, Jay’s guitar and bass live to the click. We had been playing these songs for long enough now that this seemed like the natural thing to do and would help with the overall feel. Jay. Joe and Kozak played through the songs to get the best drum take and we followed that up with overdubs of any mistakes for Jay and Kozak.

Joe tracking drums at Exeter Recordings

As far as gear goes Joe used the same DW kit that he has had since he was in middle school. The new addition to his setup were his Saldua had crafted cymbals (china, ride, and crash) and a Ludwig Black Beauty Snare. The snare instantly popped while we were tracking and the ride cut through great when it was featured. For bass we used an Ampeg SVT head with an Ampeg cab, the standard for bass tone. We also through a Sans-Amp before it to dirty it up. Kozak played his fender P-bass with a jazz bass neck which sounded just the right amount of dirty through the setup. For guitar Jay used his Orange Rockerverb MkII 50 with an Avatar 2×12 with vintage 30 speakers. Before this record Jay had recorded all of his guitars through a Mesa but recently switched to Orange and it has been sounding amazing. Live he uses an Ep boost to push the amp but for tracking he just cranked the amp and it really started to sing. The studio has 2 iso booths so all of the tracks were completely isolated. For the live tracking he used his 1991 SG standard.

pedals used on the record

Bass overdubs were minimal because Kozak destroyed the bass parts on this record. The only funky thing we did was at the end of Habits Live Hard. We used a Boss Blues Driver to thin out the tone for the soft ending. Subtle but effective. After 2 half days of recording, Joe and Kozak had finished their tracking and it was onto Jay. The distorted tone remained mostly unchanged except when a note-heavy picking part would come up. For parts like the beginning of Where Complacency Lives, he rolled off the volume a little, to reduce the gain, so the notes came through more. For the first ringout part in Habits Live Hard he used a Moog MF chorus and in the intro of In My Apartment he used a Proco Rat to achieve a thinner/fuzzier tone. The organ lead in We’ve Been Taken Captive was done with a distorted guitar and an Electro-Harmonix B9 pedal.  

Before moving onto cleans, Cheech was up. For his main distorted tone he used a Mesa Triple Rectifier boosted by the boost section of a Zvex Box of Rock through the same Avatar cab. For guitar he mostly used his Fender Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan pickup, sprinkling in the use of his Fender J Mascis Jazzmaster.  This tone really complimented Jay’s tone well. Parts that were doubled stacked up nicely and his leads fit well into the mix. On this record Jay and Cheech double each other more than ever before so they each took a rhythm pass and then went back and laid each of their leads on top of that. After all that Jay went back with his 2011 Gibson Melody Maker Special and the Orange to beef up any rhythm parts that needed to be thicker. On the end of Like Bugs in Amber Cheech used an Earth Quaker Devices Hoof Fuzz on the lead, and in the beginning of We’ve Been Taken Captive he used an MXR Flanger.       

Cheech laying it down

Then it was clean tone time which required more finessing as many of the clean parts required a different feel. The clean channel of the Orange Rockerverb was used as a bass for all the clean tones. The Melody maker was used with the unaltered Orange clean tone for much of the clean parts in Like Bugs in Amber. Besides that song, much of the “clean” parts were boosted/overdriven. Cheech used a TC Electronic Spark for a good portion of his cleans while Jay cranked a Keeley 4 knob compressor to get a little more grit on his. During Liz’s vocal part in Habits Live Hard, Jay used a MXR Phase 90 and for clean lead in In My Apartment a Strymon Brigadier was used for some delay. The same mix of guitars were used with the addition to Jay’s Fender 69 Thinline Telecaster reissue on a few parts. The last bit of tasty guitar that was added was to the second chorus of Spoiler Alert:. Jay added his Eastwood Sidejack baritone guitar tuned to drop A to the second chorus. It really helps that chorus hit and sets it apart.

Vocals are an exhausting process just because of the quantity of singing/screaming parts. Joe and Jay spread this over two days to give their voices a break. We have went through this process so many times that we have a good feel for ourselves and developed a great rhythm for tracking with Joe. Having demoed most of the songs extensively before tracking there wasn’t much experimenting going on in the vocal booth. The one exception was in Where Complacency Lives. Jay channeled his nu-metal vibes and thus the whisper/speaking part was born. He also improvised the part after this at the end of a take and we ended up keeping it. Joe also explored uncharted territory for himself on this record, laying down some screams in a couple of parts.

After Joe and Jay laid down their vocals, it was onto horns. We recorded trombone, trumpet, and sax at the same time. It really allows Liz, Kate, and Stiffe to lock in and blend with each other. They ripped through these songs which showcased how well they play together. Compared to our previous songs, there is more of a separation between vocal parts and horn parts and it really allows the horn section to shine. The horns finished so fast that we were able to do gang vocals the same night. Tom Etts also stopped by and recorded a part on It Doesn’t Really Matter. The last day of tracking Liz recorded all her vocals and we added some auxiliary stuff. Tamborine was put on a few parts, glockenspiel on It Doesn’t Really Matter, and acoustic on a few songs as well.      

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