We made a quarantine video and it was a lot of fun to put together! There were some interesting things to navigate with the audio and video, but I think it came out great for live, self-made audio and video. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with Mitch Easter on several records, it’s that a lot of things that we think matter really don’t matter. What matters is the performance and the end result… rock-n-roll is supposed to be full of experiments, risks, and mistakes. That’s what makes it exciting, human, and likeable.
While I’ve made lots of videos for my day job and some of my ideas have turned into our other videos for The Eyebrows, this was a challenge because we had three people at different experience levels, and visions of what this was going to be, capturing their own audio and video. We came together more near the middle of the project, and we’re really happy with how it turned out.
I mitigated some of the audio challenges by learning more about how to use something called Parallel Compression. I’m not a recording engineer, but the best way I can explain it is that it helps bring out the bottom end of the sound spectrum.
Shawn recorded his drums on an iPhone app, and they sounded nice and compressed, but there’s no control over the cymbals crashing or individual drum sounds, and if you’ve seen Shawn play drums, he hits them really hard! Darrin recorded his bass via the phone, I think with the phone right next to the speaker. Looking at the waveform, it was a square, much like what you see when something is distorted and too loud. But never fear, I learned about how to use parallel compression to give the bass and drums more proper bottom end.
I’ve also been learning about how to use distortion when mixing. I put a tad of that on bass to bring out the high end of things… as that’s what tends to be heard on small computer/phone speakers. But as for the main bass tone, that was mixed way down. Still, I think it ended up great and it was just the right and perfect sound.
I recorded the guitars, piano, and vocals in my project studio – Hot*Dot Recordings. I plugged my ’79 Les Paul Custom straight into my Carr Mercury, and I think I turned it down to 8 watts, but had the clean volume up fairly high. I replaced all the tubes with some non-standard things to make it sound the way I want – loud, clean, and breaks just right (perhaps I’ll explain on another blog…). It’s got a nice crunchy sound, and through a Sure SM7B mic, it’s fairly transparent.
I recorded the piano – a real piano that my grandfather left me. It’s a baby grand from the late 1900s – and it needs some work. But I think it has the right amount of out-of-tunage. Also, I struggled with the mics, and ended up using The Beatles/George Martin technique where you put a dynamic mic right over the strings you play most. In the mix, it sounds a bit tinny, but I can live with that.
Shawn requested that the piano be taken out of the mix, but I was always missing how I originally wrote it, and thought that was one of the key things (see what I did there) I liked about the song originally. So you may hear some differences here and there vs. the version you will hear on our record, VOLUME. Some lyrics changes too…
I was toying around with filming myself singing, and didn’t intend for me laying on the bed and singing to my dog to be “the take” – but I thought there was something endearing about it, and of course about Oliver Luv. He’s such a great dog. I’m so lucky.
I was going to make some more tweaks to the audio, but somehow the session went missing… so it is what it is. I’m OK with that.
The video side of putting this all together was a bit of a chore. I’m not as experienced with Final Cut Pro. I think I made six versions of the video over several weeks, and just kinda was done by the last one. I learned a lot about the software, so I think our next video will be much easier on me.
Shawn really wanted the video to have the Super-8 effect on it, and of course, I didn’t film it that way. So I had to figure out either how to do it “in post” or somehow try to resample the captured video through an app on the phone, and that’s exactly what I did. Plus I added some things I learned in post as well.
All in all, it was a fun thing to do. I wish it had been completed sooner, but I think every musician should learn as much as they can about producing their own music and videos. Looking forward to publishing more videos and soon!