Chester Bay has been one of my favorite recording experiences in the last 21 years. Their acoustic/reggae/rock/jam/folk style called for a very clean, transparent, and in-your-face production. Having a nice, big sound room and some seriously pristine mics and preamps allowed us to capture what they do so well – perform great music live.
Jake and Cory Bosben are true songsmiths with ultra-creative pop sensibilities. Every step from honing in on the arrangement to the final mix was highly gratifying. The only problem was having their tunes stuck in my head every moment I wasn’t working on the album. For that reason and so many more, we’re proud to feature Chester Bay’s new song, “Victory” on our first-ever Droptone Sampler.
We approached tracking by starting with rhythm takes, capturing drums and bass live, while Jake played along with scratch guitar and vocals. Marcus Greely (drummer) was extremely prepared, allowing us to focus on getting great, large-room drum tones and in-the-pocket grooves. With Cory’s ridiculously tight bass playing we were able to capture unusually dynamic rhythm takes that exposed their nack for seamless groove changes.
Next, we recorded Jake on our two in-house Taylor acoustic guitars. Room micing with 2 Neumann KM184’s and close micing with a stereo pair of transformerless AKG 414’s covered both Jake’s big strums and delicate funk lines. To add some beef we also miced up his amp and used the direct line for kicks. Yep, that’s 6 tracks for acoustic guitar alone. So much of their music is based on his playing we didn’t want to miss a thing.
Mike Salow ripped through electric guitar rhythm and solo parts adding a lot of edge and tasty technical ability to their tracks. He’s a studio monster and he killed all his songs in one session! Check out “40 hours” and “Who We Are” for a couple of his highlights.
They let me fill in some guitar work that fell in my own comfort zones with a reggae Wah Pedal on “My Reality” and acoustic fingerpicking on “Victory.” These guys are so fun to be around I had to try get on the album so I can jump on the bus when they end up touring with a 10 piece band!
Geoff Matson played incredible sax on “Far and Gone”. His style is uniquely melodic, even Branford Marsalis esque. It was nice to use a couple of our best mics to heat up his already warm tone.
Kevin Gastonguay added some incredible piano and organ parts. He’s a savant; I’ve never seen a studio cat chart, record, manipulate midi controlled organ draw bars, and text his girlfriend all at the same time. But nothing was lacking! Check out “These Memories” for his ability to blend what’s both beautiful and soulful at the same time. Also check out his band, New Sound Underground.
Pancho Lopez (Blue Print) completed the rhythm tracks with percusion touches adding color and syncopation to nearly all the songs. His ability to play just about everything that shakes, rattles, and rolls made it easy to enhance all the beats without weighing down the mixes. Pancho is one of those one/two take, great musicians we rely on heavily at Droptone for various projects.
Finally, tracking Jake and Cory’s vocals was a blast. Signal chain: Neumann U87 to Universal Audio 1176 – clean and very forward worked for these guys. They sing with such great tone and pitch it was nice to focus on emotion when getting takes. They got sweet, sad, happy, and mad in all the right places. When we got lost on back-ups, Droptone’s Stephen Helvig was there to show us the righteous path to majestic harmonies. He also lended his pitch perfect ear to subtle vocal editing. Everybody does it, but not always well. I think Steve’s the best in town at this.
The mix was fluid. Maybe the only trick was to figure out a way to help delineate these two twin brothers uniquely but subtly different voices. A la Beatles, I just panned them a little like George Martin did to John and Paul and it’s like they’re right there in front of you at the Wicked Moose or something. Jake and Cory that is. 😉
Basically, with talent like this I just tried to get out of the way. They didn’t need production tricks, they needed production quality. I think we did that. Listen to this album from beggining to end and let us know if we did. I know Chester Bay did their part.
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Join us at the Droptone Studio Showcase on Friday, April 12th, 2013 downtown at The Fine Line Music Cafe. Chester Bay will be playing their CD release show with supporting performances from 9Tomorrows, Mikel Wright & The Wrongs, and Hounds of Finn. Starts at 9:00 pm. Ages 18+. $10 at the door or just $5 presale.