A curious phenomenon, Hello Phones. In the room in which the exist, punk guitar riffs raise a glass to arpeggiated synth pop, toasting the bobbling electronic uncertainty a long and happy life. Synth pop accepts graciously and offers to buy punk the next round. Across the room, breathy vocals share a joke with the snarled lip of lyrics spat in frustration. The two get along famously.
This is the odd, disjointed yet dovetailed room of Hello Phones. When they want to apply sarcasm it’s readily available: “Fine, then, what shall I bring…will it ever be cold, will I need to bring my boots?” ‘Aquarium’ enquires on tip-toeing down the Greyhound steps into the city, while lead singer Fran’s eyes visibly roll to heaven.
As its equal and opposite ‘Circles’ speaks of cloying familiarity, the need to explore new horizons (even if those horizons lie within) illustrated by ricocheting guitars and punchy percussion, stopping briefly for a focused inhalation before ripping a hole in the suffocating wall of the everyday.
Latest track, ‘The One’ acts as a wonderful apéritif to new album ‘Future City’ and puts electronica firmly to the fore. This is a bold delineation, but if history has taught us anything about the Phones it’s that somewhere off stage, deep in admiration of the propulsive synth rhythms a guitar waits patiently.
We found the band painting oscillation waves while discussing the perfect snare noise. ‘Will you be in our ‘Write What You Like’ feature?”, we asked, in between comments on attack and sustain. Guitar and sample man Joe Velour had a light bulb moment . We can’t thank him enough for his efforts, for here we have a ‘fly on the wall’ view of the creative process behind ‘Leave It’ from the forthcoming album. Here’s Hello Phones:
We kept a recording log for our new album, documenting the recording process step by step. We wanted to make sure we had some notes from our recording so that we know what we did and what we can learn when recording in the future. Here is the log for our song “Leave it” which is the last song on the record.
Recording Log: ‘Leave it’.
This is the song we want to sound more raw and less thought out than any song on the album. We want it to sound more unrefined and wild.
Drums: (two mics-an oktava mk-219 for the overhead and a sterling st-55 above the bass drum directly facing the snare)
Miking the drums for this song has been a bit difficult. To get the sound we want we have had to move mics ever so slightly but not too much. One on top of the bass drum between the snare and one overhead has been the way we have miked the rest of the album with live drums. Since this is a different room than the first one we started, the recording in the overall dynamics have been different. I don’t want to change the configuration too much because I want the album to sound consistent.
I asked Dimi to play less loud but the mics are still clipping, even though he played louder on other songs in the other room that did not clip. Turning down the input is not changing the situation. Finally putting a divider between the drum set and the wall is making the difference, emulating the more compressed sound of the first room. (destroyed in Hurricane Sandy).
We recorded a bunch of takes and the last one was the best. The one I call “just one more just to be sure”. Usually people are more relaxed during this take because in our minds we already nailed it so people play with less pressure. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but this time it worked well. We got the drum take we wanted and the sound that works for this song and were able to maintain consistency.
Bass: (Direct in Box with a Line 6 guitar pod)
The bass on this track was recorded with a direct in box. After a few different approaches, Orlando got the feel that works. This bassline, like the rest of the basslines on this record were recorded at Orlandos’s apartment which makes for less pressure and more ability to stand back and see how it’s coming together and whether or not it is a good fit. After some experimentation with the bass tone, we got one that we think is a good fit.
Keyboards: The rest of this record we used the Nord Electro 3 Stage Piano going direct. For this particular track though we used Reason and recorded through pro tools through rewire. There is not much going on keyboard wise on this track, but we got the sound we wanted. The Farfisa sound on Reason sounded a little more rough around the edges than the Nord so we went with this. Fran being the talented keyboard player that she is, knocked out the take in one shot.
Guitar: (1971 Gibson L-6 and a Fender Hot Rod Deville. Recorded with 2 mics- A shure sm-57 and a Sterling ST-55)
Usually I go into a track knowing exactly what I want to play. With this track though I wanted to be a bit more spontaneous at the time of recording. I was playing the track a certain way during practice but when I started to record I played the chorus part in a different position on the guitar but only after the first chorus. I started to play the part really high up on the neck with the other strings open and it made this screeching Sonic Youth-esque kind of a tone. It was not what I originally had in mind but it started to sound really good so I went with it, which is exactly what I wanted to do from the beginning. The song sounds more raw than I think we were going for but that is okay. It still is somewhat consistent with the rest of the record. I did it in a couple of takes which is rare for me. Even when I nail takes, I want a lot of them to pick from. The second one worked so I stopped right there and let it be.
Vocals: (Recorded in my bedroom studio with a Sterling ST-55 mic)
Fran just went nuts, there were partial lyrics, a basic skeleton idea for the song. We wanted something kind of wild so Fran just unleashed and we took part of one take and part of the other take and fused it together. We got exactly the kind of sound and attack that we wanted. The vocals came out totally crazy but that is what were looking for. We love it!
Overall we got exactly what we were looking for in this song. Since we really did not have the money to record this song, or any other song on this album in a real studio we did it ourselves. While we may have gotten a bit of a better overall sound, we would be paying for the luxury of being able to do our takes until they were perfect and that is something that would be impossible for us financially. Plus, no one will ever work as hard on your record as you, and no one really knows what sound you want except you so this whole process has really been great for us. We decided to spend our money on having it mixed and mastered, which made the record sound really good in our opinion. Creative control is priceless!
Hello Phones new album ‘Future City’ is due for release December 2013 on Station Records – keep up with their very latest news here.