Studio diary 2014, part 8

We’ve had quite an evening! The crowdfunding campaign is now over, and we exceeded our goal by almost one third. The thousandth fan just liked us on Facebook. We’ve got the album artwork ready and the album mastered tomorrow.  I’ve kind of let the last studio diary entry slide. Let’s fix that, now that we can rest relatively easy with the album ready to be sent to the people of Jakebox in Sweden, who’ll be taking care of the pressing and printing.

Ilari is an amazing guy. He has some serious musical know-how, and he thinks quick. Real quick. He also doesn’t really rule anything out without trying. Hence the crowbar. And the steel plate (see below). It also turns out he’s very good at whistling, finger snaps and rhythmic clapping, which are all very difficult things to do well. We love Ilari.

 

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We found this steel plate lying around…

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…and Ilari turned it into kettle drums and thunder.

We also love Saara, our wonderful cellist. One of the things she contributed on the album was 50 or 60 takes of a passage in a song, because she’s good enough to discard 50 takes, out of which at least 48 we would’ve sworn were perfect. She’s also wonderful at being awesome.

 

Saara in the studio, rehearsing a Christmas special.

 

We must also not forget our Muse. During the recordings we performed with her a few times live, and she’s just a magnificent, funny, energetic person to be around. She also did some screaming, yelling, giggling and whispering (trés demure!) on a track, which is our vision of how an old dancehall band might’ve sounded if they’ve just suddenly invented heavy metal in the middle of playing a set. The inspiration for the song and Noora’s voice on the song come from Louis Feuillade‘s 1915 movie, Les Vampires. It’s actually not a single movie, but one of the first crime series in the world. A part of the album artwork also gives a not-so-subtle nod to Les Vampires.

 

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Virgina Woolf and rum go well together, apparently.

The other BB

Some inspiration – and solace – was provided by Brecht’s Threepenny Novel, Life of Galileo and The Good Person of Szechwan.

 

I think I mentioned in a previous post that we’ve been busy outside the studio as well. We’ve of course played gigs, private and public, and also been on stage for a fahsion show, where Laura was being pretty, I was being a roadie for Saara who was playing a solo piece on stage. We also played at a party in a hotel, where we were involved in a mystery crime! And somehow we managed to take some photos for the album cover, too (well, mostly in the middle of the night!).

 

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Laura some hours before the fashion show, trying on a reindeer leather dress by Jukka Rintala.

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Must be the first time the backstage was accessed with a keycard, and the catering included poached eggs.

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Ilari and Laura looking through frames during an all nighter.

 

Then we got this lovely fellow called Joel Kupiainen play some clarinet on the album. The song he plays on has an outro pinched from another song we did for a radio drama, which was broadcasted on the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Radio 1 in the summer. I think Joel actually came up with the melody for the outro, so we wanted him to play it on the album as well. This is, by the way, a Café de Abejas song with three distorted guitar tracks. And other stuff.

 

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Trying out different approaches. We went with the ‘over the top discordant’ one.

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Accordeoniste?

MORE DISTORTION!

MORE DISTORTION!

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Glockenspieliste?

 

And finally, we’ve got all the songs ready and we can sit down with Janne at E-Studio for a 9 to 5 mixing session.

 

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Checklist, with designated days for each detail.

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Feeling that the songs are in good hands. Gold and platinum records, from the 80’s until 00’s.

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Laura and some serious hardware.

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We lasted from 9 a.m. until lunch with a single cup of coffee.  After lunch we downed a pot, each.

 

There are many people we wish to thank for making this album happen, but probably none so much as our grand patrons, Harri & Terttu, who’ve given us their full support from the very beginning, and let us rehearse at their city apartment, and record at their cottage, and have just been all round encouraging and most helpful.

 

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Getting the final ‘go ahead’.

 

We’ve decided to call the album “Is this Casablanca?”. It’s also a track on the album, and a song we played, according to the setlist, on the very first full-lenght Café de Abejas gig ever. That was before the first album came out. So the songs been in the making for quite some time, but like Laura put it, “We just weren’t ready for the song before”. It makes a good title, and certainly conjures up images. For the title’s sake, and for other reasons, I’d like to acknowledge the influencers and inspirators for this album: John Donne, Pierre Berton and Charles Simon, Louis Feuillade, Bertolt Brecht, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Concha Piquer, Serge, Charles, Bogie, Bergman and Bacall, Raymond Chandler, John Keats and Danny Elfman. There might well be others, others we’re not even aware of. But you might find it fun to return to this list once you have the album in your hands, and hunt down details – I think you might enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed writing these songs.

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-Jere

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Thank you!

As you may know by now, we’re in the middle of making our second album.

As with the first one, we have a crowd funding campaign going on. And! Just a couple of hours ago our goal at Mesenaatti.me was reached (and exceeded)! Thank you, thank you, darlings, for pre-ordering and letting us know, that the album is expected! And thanks to everyone who shared the campaign at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even by word of mouth, we could not have done this without you!

So as a very small token of gratitude for the absolutely overwhelming results with the Mesenaatti campaign here are some wallpapers we made of the upcoming album’s artwork. There’s a desktop wallpaper (1920x1080p), and a few different mobile wallpapers (480×800), mainly because iOS7 uses a parallax effect and won’t align wallpapers as intended. So we recommend you use the last of these three images for iPhones with iOS7 installed.

We think we’ll go have a glass of bubbly now!

-Jere & Laura

Desktop background 1920x1080p. ©Café de Abejas 2014

Desktop background 1920x1080p. ©Café de Abejas 2014

Mobile background 480x800p. ©Café de Abejas 2014

Mobile background 480x800p. ©Café de Abejas 2014

Background for iPhones with iOS7, 480x800p. ©Café de Abejas 2014

Background for iPhones with iOS7, 480x800p. ©Café de Abejas 2014

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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!

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Laura and Saara taking it easy in the forest.

Ilari & Saara

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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