The Third Track of the December EP was written two years before the EP was ever recorded. It has the most unique sound on the EP, influenced entirely by flamenco music. It was recorded two years ago on a classical nylon string guitar but has undergone a transformation since initially recorded. The song was initially revitalized when Andrew and I played at the 2012 A Pot Full of Wishes fundraiser. We added the instrumental section that I had hoped to include at some point, and also scrapped the classical guitar for a steel string acoustic guitar. We had so much fun with the song that it was impossible not to put on the EP!
Just before recording began for The December EP, our producer Corey introduced me to the band Calexico. It was serendipitous in a way because Calexico, a Southwest based band, provided a lot of inspiration on the direction to take in the studio with the song. They have a Flamenco sound which reminded me of Two Words. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard them prior to writing the song!
As with all the tracks we first recorded a scratch acoustic track and then layered in the drums and bass. We then added Andrew’s electric guitar parts and the final acoustic guitar takes. This is when the fun began… My first instrument ever was a hand-me-down accordion that I tinkered with over the years, but never got into playing too much. However, after seeing Calexico perform at The Royale in Boston this past October I was inspired by their use of the accordion. Therefore, we added accordion to the choruses, as well as the instrumental break. It was a pseudo hommage to the band!
We then layered in lap steel throughout the song. For those who don’t know what a lap steel is, its pretty much a guitar that you play on your lap. The strings are never fretted, but instead played with a slide, and the instrument is normally kept in open E6 tuning. It is typically used in country music as well as some blues. After finishing the lap steel parts, we recorded Chris on trumpet, and later myself playing trumpet harmonies. Two Words was by far the most fun to record!
The second track of The December EP came together last, but is quite possibly my favorite as well as the most well received track on the record. Like the others, Something More has a personality of its own. I initially wrote the song while experimenting with my Meinl Cajon. I placed a Shure Green Bullet harmonica microphone inside the cajon, ran that through a Line 6 DL4 delay pedal which also acts as a looper. I then looped a beat on the cajon, and began playing and writing verses.
Something More didn’t fit the mold for what I envisioned Mic City Sons would sound like. However, it fit right in after some experimenting in the studio taking out some parts while adding others. The track opens with Andrew on electric guitar (Gretsch Double Jet) using an Ebow, and myself on the acoustic guitar (Takamine EF-407). A crescendo in the form of a cymbal splash joins in just before everything clears way and the band joins in for the first verse…
We were very fortunate for Yuri Lysoivanov (a friend of our producer Corey), to record the organ parts for the song. He lives out of state, and did all of the parts without ever meeting us in person! His parts join in during the first verse and continues throughout the song. After hearing the difference the organ made, we are seriously considering adding keys to the band on a more regular basis!
I woke up extra early this Saturday morning to perform an Acoustic set at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market at the Armory in Somerville, MA. I played songs from The December EP as well as a mix of covers. Check out the Gigs tab for info on upcoming shows including this coming Saturday, March 23rd! Here’s the set list from the farmers market:
The song really encapsulates the sound I was hoping for when Mic City Sons came together in August 2012. It was my first real attempt at blending my early influences while paying hommage to them. I wrote the song on my Martin HD-28 acoustic guitar last winter when I was experimenting with dropping the tuning of the guitar down a full step.
On the EP recording, I also play a Hohner Marine Band Harmonica in D. Corey is on kick-drum, tamborine, and later drums. Mat and Andrew join in on Ibanez Active Bass and Gretsch Double Jet Electric Guitar in the second verse. Mat played through a Great River 500 series pre-amp DI and Andrew played through a Marshall JVM 410 into a Soldano 212 cabinet. I also tracked an electric guitar part with my Telecaster played through my Fender Blues Junior to match my acoustic guitar parts.
Don’t Take Me Tonight was one of the most challenging arrangements. The song went through so many iterations. I’ve moved choruses around, sped it up, slowed it down, changed the pitch, added and subtracted verses, and debated scrapping the song entirely. Luckily, it all came together during the recording process.
The lyrics provide the inspiration for the cover of the EP. I took the picture at the Back Bay Station in Boston.
Today marks the day for the release of The December EP from my band Mic City Sons! You can listen now on spotify, or buy the MP3 album on iTunes or Amazon. You can also buy a physical copy on cdbaby using the link below:
You can also hear the EP by clicking the Hear tab. The band is looking forward to getting back out there to play the EP live! Check out the Venture tab to see upcoming performance dates!
I am pleased to say that this marks the final post for the EP! Corey and I finished the final overdubs this past week. We had been bouncing different ideas around for what to change or add, and I am really happy with what we ended up with. We recorded vocal harmonies and doubles as expected on each track using my Neumann TLM-49 again. We added some tambourine to one of the tracks as pictured above using Corey’s AEA R84 Ribbon Mic. We also added some hand claps, new harmonica parts, and a kick drum. It’s still up in the air on how much of all of that we will end up using, but it has definitely added a new dynamic.
Getting Ready to Record My Trumpet
We then added trumpet harmonies to one of the tracks as pictured above using the Neumann. Trumpet was the first instrument I learned to play, and I was excited to play alongside Chris’ recorded parts. After adding the trumpet, we added an electric guitar part using my new Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin 2 (pictured below) played straight into my Fender Blues Junior amp. I just restrung the guitar with flat wound strings, which gives it a really warm sound. This was the first time I have ever used flat wounds on my own guitar, and I was really happy with them.
My Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin 2
Corey will be mixing and mastering the EP in the coming weeks. We are very excited to share it with everyone! I’ll also be announcing some upcoming shows shortly so stay tuned!
After the previous evening tracking vocals we were left with a few other parts to finish for the EP. Note in my previous posts In the Studio (Part 1) (Part 2) and (Part 3) we had done drums and bass, acoustic guitars and some vocals, and electric guitars, respectively. This final recording phase was by far the most fun! We experimented with several different instruments as well as different parts of my apartment. First we recorded myself playing Lap Steel parts for two of the songs as pictured above. Corey and I took the songs apart piece by piece and came up with the parts to play on the spot.
Recording a foot tap on the stairs with my Neumann TLM-49
Next, we recorded my foot tapping for one of the songs. We are still not sure whether we will keep this in the song or not, but that’s all part of the recording process. You try things and see how they fit relative to the big picture or concept of the album… We then broke out my first instrument ever, and by far the one that the ladies will love the most, my accordion. We added this to the choruses of a song that has a bit of a Latin/flamenco vibe. I have always been a big fan of this type of music so I couldn’t resist adding a song inspired by it to the EP, and I’m glad we did because it ended up sounding great!
We also tried some harmonica parts for one of the songs, but aren’t sure if they will make the album. We used one of my Marine Band harmonicas played into a Shure Green Bullet Microphone. This was run into my Fender Blues Jr. Amp and had a really cool overdriven tone.
Hohner Marine Band Harmonica played into the Shure Green Bullet plugged into the Fender Blues Jr.
We ended the evening tracking Chris’ trumpet parts. He plays trumpet on three of the four tracks. We recorded his trumpet parts through Corey’s AEA R84 ribbon mic. We had previously used the R84′s on the drum overheads on and Andrew’s guitar cabinet. They really captured the trumpet sound nicely!
Christ on the Trumpet
We will have one more session in the studio for final overdubs of the vocals and anything else that may pop up after the new year. Then the EP is out of our hands and Corey will be doing the final mixing and mastering. We cannot wait to share it with everyone!
Earlier in the week we recorded my main vocal parts for all four songs on the EP. We did this using my Neumann TLM-49 microphone plugged into Corey’s Universal Audio Apollo. We have been using the Apollo for everything so far except the Drums and Bass which were recorded in the studio. The Apollo is a recording interface which converts the audio source digitally to your computer for recording. It has been amazing so far! You can read more on how we recorded the Drums and Bass by clicking here.
Behind the mic was a SE Reflection Filter as pictured above. The SE Reflection Filter is pretty much a portable vocal booth, and undoubtedly one of the best pieces of equipment that I have in my studio. It is a curved wall that sits behind the microphone and reduces room noise, a common issue in home recording studios, which aren’t normally acoustically sound. Next up we will be experimenting with recording a few different instruments, and we will also be recording Chris’ trumpet parts. Stay tuned!
After another Sunday evening in the studio we finished tracking the electric guitar parts for the EP! Andrew came by with his main guitar, a Gretsch Electromatic Double Jet, as well as his 2×12 Soldano speaker cabinet. We ran his guitar through my Marshall JVM 410 amp head, and also experimented with a bunch of different effects pedals. He also used my Fender Koa Telecaster pictured above for some parts in the song “Don’t Take Me Tonight.” The Tele has a bit of a country twang to it and it really brought out the color we were looking for in the song.
Andrew and Corey Hiding Behind My Beer
It was a really cool night for me since I didn’t have to do much except sit back have a couple of beers and listen in as Andrew and Corey worked. I did eventually track one electric guitar part myself which really thickened up the song it was added to! We are continuing with recording this week so stay tuned for updates. I’m really looking forward to sharing the record with everyone. It has been a really fun process so far, and it will be even more fun to start playing these songs out again with the changes we have made in the studio!