Studio Diary, part 7

This part of the studio diary will be a little different. I’ll tell you a little about our recordings in general, and a little bit about all the other stuff we’ve done while we’ve been recording.

As you might know by now, we started recording at the beginning of October at Lil’ Yellow, a cottage located in Western Finland Province. It’s an awesome place to be, especially in the autumn, when it’s not too cold to go mushroom hunting out in the forest, and yet the leaves have already turned a hundred shades of yellow and orange (especially the maple trees!). We spent a week at Lil’ Yellow, just Me, Laura, Saara, Ilari and Juha, our recording engineer – we sometimes refer to him as The Record Company, especially when he buys a round. During that week we recorded seven songs live, out of the 12 tracks that are to appear on the forthcoming album. You can read more about the details of the week from the previous Studio Diary posts.

Lil' Yellow yard

There’s exactly o n e maple tree nearby.

The woods

In the forest.

After the week at Lil’ Yellow, we took a week off and visited Tampere for a gig at Lost in Music. After the Tampere leg, me and Laura took a ferry to Tallin and stayed there for a few days, mostly wandering around the city and stumbling in to a cozy café or a restaurant once every few hours. One of the places we happened by was a nice little student café, where, as we entered, three people were sitting at a table taking turns on Ukulele, the barista gave us a small cup of freshly ground coffee beans used in our coffee just to smell, and it took us a better part of an hour to realize that what we took for comic books on the shelves were actually volumes of christian literary and that all the music videos that they were showing on a screen were gospel songs from revival meetings. The place is called The Living Room, and it serves kick-ass coffee.

Tampere

A Scrabble moment with the band at Lost in Music.

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Jere getting cosy in Tallin. This guest house was b e a u t i f u l.

After Tallin and Tampere we relocated our studio to Ruoholahti, Helsinki. We also started a crowd-funding campaign for the album. And the busy bees we are, we were able to not play more than three gigs during the last few weeks. The last one we actually ran to from the studio, leaving Saara and Juha to go over some cello parts while Laura and I took the chance to perform few of the new songs live, first time ever. We also played a wonderful show at a care home, bringing some burlesque to the elderly with our amazing muse Noora. It was the resdients’ wish, when asked for what kind of activity they were looking forward to. I was told the exact phrasing was “gambling, cocktails and nudity“. A prohibition themed party for the people who actually remember the prohibition – now that was something. “In Paris they took ALL the clothes off!“, as it was aptly put by a gentleman after our show.

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Laura and Noora having a cigarette break.

Noora on stage

Armi Von Vepp on stage at the care home.

So we haven’t actually recorded non-stop for a month now – the total of studio days is closer to two weeks, give or take.
Some days have been shorter, and more frustrating than others, as is usually the case. Some of the frustration is technical, some not so. Helsinki is a funky place to be a singer in the winter time – the sheer amount of sharing of favourite remedies ranging from tea-with-honey to taking a salt room session going on in the singers’ scene is amazing. And you will catch a cold. And it will take you a better part of the spring to get over it. We’re on the winning side, right now, fingers crossed, knock on wood, that sort of stuff. We diligently take our vitamins, and there has been a lot of rum involved.

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Our vitamins, from 1956 with love. It’s actually a bottle for silver nitrate from the soviet era, and judging by the amount of the bottles, it were used for photogrpahy.

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Even in the city we keep getting treats like this!

So right now we’ve five songs ready, and most of the remaining songs only lack in minor details, harmonies, toy piano, smoky laughter of the muse, and such. There’s a song, though, a duet which I wrote about three weeks before we started recording. It’s not exactly giving me nightmares yet, but there’s plenty to do. I might need to devote a whole blog for that song only. On the other hand, there’s a brand new tune called Zaza on the album, which was written two days before the studio, and which we arranged in one afternoon, so… the other song might magically just fall in place all of a sudden (although my guess is sweat and tears).

Laura engineer

Laura behind the wheel.

Finnish Uncle Scrooge magazine

“This guy’s decorated like a christmas tree. Must be someone famous.” “More like a peackock… A pop star…”

And oh, a short word on the percussions! You might have noticed that Ilari’s drum set with Abejas is not the most conventional one. He uses a padded bass drum pedal with a cajon, two tambourines taped together as a ‘snare’, two cymbals but no hi-hat and various shakers and zils and a frog shaped guiro. For Kammerkabarett he also used a trash bin. For the last album he recorded a typewriter. This time he hopped on the morning bus carrying a crowbar, which by the way makes the second most industrial sound I’ve ever heard – the most industrial would be the industrial metal press that ended up on the album of my other band. Well, anyway, the crowbar was a cool thing, but as it happens, the houses surrounding our Helsinki studio are having their metal roofs recoated, which means there’s heaps of old steel plates lying all over the place. Not exactly bell plates, but they make do for a kettle drum! And then there is the match box.

That’s all for now. Tune back in soon!

-Jere

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Studio diary 2014, part 6

It’s been a while since the last studio update. We’ve been quite busy with gigs, recordings and other stuff, most notably with the Finnish showcase festival Lost in Music and it’s ‘seminars, cocktails and free form mingling’ counterpart Music & Media.

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After coming back from the Lil’ Yellow, we established our base in the city at the ever moving Livegraphy studio. As I’ve previously mentioned, this time we’re doing more overdubbing than on the previous album. I’ve added some guitar tracks here and there, even *gasp* distorted guitar. And I’ve still managed to play more songs on an acoustic guitar than last time. Ilari has once again played wacky percussion sounds along with his usual not-so-usual stuff.

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Today it’s Saara Day. There are a few harmonies and ambient sounds for Saara to add on existing tracks, and a few new songs we’ve started the work on in the city, with some guest musicians on board. Saara does most amazing stuff on this album, and I can’t wait for you to hear it.

-Jere

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Studio Diary 2014, part 5

We’re now done with the first part of the recordings. We spent a marvelous week at the cottage (now dubbed Lil’ Yellow) recording, eating and sleeping well, taking some fabulous promo pictures, going to sauna, drinking wine and certainly not talking politics, listening to inspiring (or otherwise funny) music, and recording some more.

Not too many bands record their songs live. Which is a shame, because it makes you a better player, a better listener and it certainly highlights the songs rather than individual instruments. Recording songs live forces you to let go of wonderful takes and to live with mistakes. It also gives you the chance to lean on, learn to trust and to appreciate the people you play with.

It’s what we do.

And it’s a wonderful thing we get to do what we do in such an inspiring environment. Lil’ Yellow is truly an amazing place.

Zaza rehearsals

Arranging and rehearsing Zaza.

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Just Saara being wonderful.

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Jere and Ilari are playing an instrumental back at the cottage. In the meanwhile, mushrooms!

Laura & Saara

Laura and Saara taking it easy in the forest.

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Just before the dinner bell rings.

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Jere and Saara attentively listening to the days outtakes.

We’ve recorded the band parts live, but there’s still some clinkers and clankers to add and some general sprinkling of fairy dust over the songs to be done. There’s also a few songs that me and Laura will be mostly doing by ourselves. And then there’ll be visitors. Actual guest appearances, ladies and gentlemen! But for now we’ll take a little break from the recording, and start getting ready for our appearance at the Lost in Music Festival. Until the next episode, Sweethearts!

With love from Lil’ Yellow, the Pitkäoja Speakeasy,

-Jere

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Studio diary 2014, part 4

On Monday we had a late breakfast, after which we started getting ready for a photo shoot. We had planned to have new band photos taken earlier, but since we’re all available now, we decided to sacrifice a studio day for – well, see for yourselves, Sweethearts.

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We did manage to record a spectacular version of a song in French titled Le Grand Feu. It’s a song we’ve played as a duo for a long time, and which we made a band version of for the Mascot Moth tour.

On Tuesday we had a (sort of) day off.
In the morning me and Ilari did some practicing, after which Ilari had to leave for a few days. Saara and Juha had to leave for the day as well, so me and Laura spent the day composing, arranging and most of all sharing the heck out of our crowdfunding campaign. Check it out.

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Since Ilari is still away, today we’ve mostly been practicing and arranging Zaza, a song I mentioned earlier. The song turned out to be even more absurd than I had planned. A big part of this is thanks to Saara, our wonderful cellist.

We’ve also smoked a lot of cigarettes, drunk some damn good coffee, and practiced, practiced, practiced.

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-Jere

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Studio diary 2014, part 3

What a beautiful, sunny day it’s been! And how productive! Today we started our morning with eggs and bacon (our studio guru really knows how to get lazy musicans out of bed!) and lots of coffee. After the breakfast we continued playing around with Waiting for the Roses, with which we weren’t entirely satisfied with yesterday. The other song we started approaching in the morning was La Lirio, a ballad that came about when Laura and I were visiting Andalucía a few years ago. It’s going to be a real old school tear jerker once we’re through with it.

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It seems we’ve now found the pace for doing things. We start after breakfast, playing a certain song through four to six times, in two different takes, after which we take a break and change the song. At some point we have dinner, after which we listen to the takes, and maybe start with a different song. Before supper we get back to the song we started the day with. After supper we listen to all of the best takes once more, and maybe do some song a few more times. After that it’s a glass of wine or a beer or two – and a lot of reading old comic books.

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Today, though, it’s sauna, confit du canard for supper and some rum for dessert. After all, it is Sunday, and we now have four songs recorded, which means we actually nailed three songs today. That’s a lot.

-Jere

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Studio diary 2014, part 2

On Thursday we arrived at our cottage, where the bulk of the recordings take place. Thursday and Friday we mostly set up equipment and rehearsed and did a bit of last minute arranging.

Today we started the day with one of the most demanding songs we’ve written. Luckily we practiced this song a lot  for Kammerkabarett. It’s also surprisingly old song, one we actually wanted to include on Mascot Moth, but decided against, for some reason. The song is called Is This Casablanca?, and it’ll make a killer first track.
After Casablanca we did a few takes on a much more streamlined Waiting for the Roses, which is a song we haven’t really played live anywhere else than Savoy-teatteri. Personally I’m pretty anxious to get this one out there for all you to hear. Laura does some amazing acting on this track!

We took a short break from recording, when we were invited to see Irina Björklund, who happened to play in Salo (which is the town closest to our cottage). Irina is a wonderful person and performer, and her band is amazing. The drummer, a certain Mr. Haavisto has been a great support for us, never too busy to lend his extensive know-how in all things musical. He also has a role to play on the upcoming album, but we’ll get back on that a bit later.

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Right now we’re back from the show (needless to say, it was great!) and up for a few takes still. And then we’ll eat. And have a few beers. And relax, and listen to music, and spend time together. Isolated from pretty much everything, in the peace and quiet of the Finnish countryside, we’re probably much more relaxed than we ought to be. No matter. This is heaven.

-Jere

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Studio diary 2014, part 1

Sweethearts! We’re off to the very specific la-la land some people refer to as The Studio! We’ll post daily (maybe!) about our adventures! Here’s the first part:

We’ll start recording tomorrow. This is true.

Yesterday I wrote a new song. This is not strictly speaking true.

The lyrics for the song I wrote have been lying around for about a year. Without giving too much away, they have something to do with this. I’ve been, from time to time, playing around with different ideas, but yesterday the song really came together, and I ditched most of the ideas I had had up until then. I am a bit nervous, though, because we’ll need to work out the song very quickly. On the other hand, working under pressure will help us crop all excessive bits and pieces. And trust me, there’s a definite risk of excess. We’re talking about way artsy stuff, here.

Other than that, we’re doing dandy.  The last week or so we’ve mostly been editing videos and providing material for our very-soon-to-begin crowd funding campaign for the next album. The record will be available for pre-order through Mesenaatti.me, and we’ll let you know more as next week.

There are wonderful people all around, and so, like our studio engineer Juha put it, we now have “a caseful of Neumann microphones and half the city’s stompboxes”, as well as a beautiful Anders Liljeström acoustic guitar at our disposal. This was also a good time to get my flamenco guitar fixed. The work was done by a friend and a future luthier Markus Ullakko, who’s also made some amazing archtops and acoustics, and I’m looking forward to getting him make one just for me.

Right now we wish to thank Aatsi, Markus, Timpe, Hannu and Markus for lending us various stuff from stompboxes to guitar building skills.

 

-Jere

Jere testing microphones and a Liljeström acoustic guitar.

Jere testing microphones and a Liljeström acoustic guitar.

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October 2, 2014 · 1:46 pm