Another year is in the books for Justinnovate Music.
Here are a few highlights from the past twelve months:
For a five-song project, the drum production is quite varied: two drum tracks in the cavernous Studio D at Nimbus (“Vancouver Grizzly” and “Monarch Butterfly”), one in the fully-furbished Studio A (“Margaret”), one in Mike Paton’s ‘vibey’ living room in West Vancouver (“Friday the 13th”) and the title-track in singer Charlie Kerr’s basement.
The vocals, bass, and guitars were recorded all over the place, including the aforementioned studios and basements… we probably used your basement at some point.
Charlie gave me a lot of vocal tracks to work with, and at that point I was hesitant to delete performances that had attitude. I wanted to double-check and triple-reference everything.
In the shadow of darkness, I developed unique arrangements to identify each song, testing out nearly every conceivable combination of background vocals, mono doubles, stereo doubles, hyper-compressed doubles, calls and answers… during tracking, we went so far as to audition different vocal microphones for different sections of the same song. You can hear the effect on “Vancouver Grizzly” when it gets to the chorus: the vocal spreads out full stereo and the vocal timbre becomes more… bear-like. We also used a megaphone for the 3rd verse. On “Margaret”, the verse vocals are in a constant call-and-answer, between mono and stereo.
We put the mixing and mastering of the EP in the able hands of Alex Aligazakis, aka Condor. He made the tracks punch through the speakers in ways I could only imagine, and made sense of all the layers… just letting the better guy do the heavy lifting!
The Sharkweek EP was completely mastered and ready to go as far back as August 2011, but the band members were still finishing their education at various post-secondary institutions, and not everyone was in the same continent.
시 오신 것을 환영합니다, Oliver.
When the stars finally aligned, Jonathan Simkin signed the band to Light Organ Records.
The Sharkweek EP was released on June 11, 2013.
In August, JPNSGRLS and I worked together producing “Red & Green” for the label’s Christmas compilation Sleighed. Paul Shepherd engineered the session and Steve Bays mixed the song. The album was released on November 27.
The JPNSGRLS have been recording with Steve Bays at the historic Greenhouse Studios over the past year. There is a growing anticipation for their next album, and if you’ve ever seen the JPNSGRLS play live, you know they’re going to set the bar higher.
In January, Jet and I worked together to produce the Real Life EP, three indie-pop songs of positively uplifting music. It was the recording debut for which her growing army of Youtube fans had been yearning.
It’s hard not to be a fan of Jet; she isn’t fazed by twelve-hour days. Jet gave encouragement as I recorded electric bass and figured out synthesizer parts. In her songwriting and studio process, the creativity and positivity are endless. More than just about any other artist I know, she is exactly the person you would expect to meet if you only knew her for her music. Now that is honesty.
Always hungry for more, Jet came back for seconds. She had written “Gold Mine”, addressing society’s frustrating perception toward musician-types. The lyrics are direct and determined, gone was her signature ambient and laid-back vibe, replaced by a new persistently impactful and relentless performance. We felt it could be a single, and she had a secret weapon: the power-stack drum machine known as Hugh Barbour, with a MicroKorg under one arm.
What a year for these boys. We started pre-production of their debut album Thunderous Goodbyes in May 2012. They had been together roughly a year, but already established an amazing chemistry. They had clear goals in mind: notably, to work with Tom Dobrzanski for his production savvy on We Are The City albums.
We finished recording at Vogville in December 2012. Before sending the tracks for mixing, I wanted to add a few ‘sparkle’ elements. I felt it was important not to force any new parts and to let them reveal themselves, especially if time is on your side. I made countless small changes over the next two months, slowly but surely gaining the band’s final approval.
Although we had a total of 11 songs, mixed by either Alex Aligazakis or Tom Dobrzanski, and mastering done by Brock McFarlane at CPS Mastering, two songs did not make the final album cut. The band had simply outgrown them. It’s more desirable to stand behind all nine songs than it is to doubt the integrity of an 11-song album.
Thunderous Goodbyes was released June 18, 2013.
After winning the Cellar Launch Project in May, they went on to release a music video for “Windows”.
In the following weeks, they entered the Fox Seeds contest, one of dozens of bands to do so. They were announced as finalists, and received substantial airplay on FOX99.3FM for three of the album’s songs: “Last Night”, “Easy Living” and “Blacklight”.
They ultimately finished second place to Pigeon Park, putting forth an epic performance at The Commodore on September 20, 2013.
Now firmly on the radar of Vancouver’s diverse rock scene, they began recording with Tom Dobrzanski to produce their next album at Monarch Studios. They are planning an early 2014 release.
Although I have little experience mixing country records myself, I felt confident enough to mix our first single “Walking On“. As the head engineer at Vogville from December 2011 to July 2013, I was able to watch several great country producers and mixers work their magic. I was grateful for the opportunity to apply some of the techniques picked up along the way.
“Walking On” was released on October 8th, 2013.
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WHAT’S COMING IN 2014?
In May 2013, the Sons Of Granville approached me to record their sophomore album, Imperative Drive. Producing an instrumental band presents unique obstacles and opportunities. It certainly helps if the band is naturally connected to its audience. Making a name for themselves busking on Granville Street, they have developed a vital connection with their fans. They are an intrinsic feature of life in the heart of Vancouver’s entertainment district. Since their self-titled debut in 2011, they have added a vital new component to their sound: the thundering percussion of Jarrett Plett. Together, each member provides a unique flavour of exquisite virtuosity.
For the second straight year, the Georgia Straight named Sons Of Granville the #2 unsigned local band for 2013 in its annual Best Of Vancouver issue.
We began pre-production for Imperative Drive in the summer, and we first entered the studio in September. The album meshes the best of their raw, live performance with their uncanny compositional complexity. Jarrett Plett even steps away from the cajon for two cuts to beat the heck out of a conventional kit.
We are excited to finish the album in early 2014 and prepare for a big summer release!
When I first met Jess, we discussed her recording plans as she showed me her debut album. We decided to produce one track, a new song called “Hold My Hand”.
The song was written for a single voice and piano, but it’s one of those versatile songs that fits any adaptation. She combines the classic vocal presence of Celine Dion or Adele, with the complex, immersive backdrop of Florence and the Machine.
For pre-production, we auditioned several instrumentations, arrangements and tempos. One day I helped set the mix levels of her home-recording program so she could better track piano and vocals. She diligently recorded numerous amazing demos, making subtle alterations, and the true shape of the performance emerged.
With pre-production now complete, we are heading to Vogville.
In the meantime, check out her latest video “Anthill”
Happy New Year, Jess!
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To close out 2013, I was very fortunate to share the stage with Adam Bailie, aka WATASUN, as we opened for Daniel Wesley at the Commodore on December 30th. Adam put together a mesmerizing 30-minute set with a rotating cast of local talent.
On January 4th, the Sons Of Granville perform in the 5th annual Vancouver Spring Show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. They have invited me to accompany them on electric bass. It will be an honour to join the chemistry of three phenomenal instrumentalists.
On January 6th, Badland Empire performs “Walking On” for Urban Rush. It goes to air early in the New Year.
A special thanks to all the artists I have had the pleasure to work with, for their energy, creativity, patience and confidence in our collective vision. It is inspiring to see where your music has taken you.
Happy New Year,
and Carpe 2014