Wrapping up our week with Gin War, we’re bringing you an exclusive reflection written by the band, discussing the process behind recording their EP Piece of Moon— twice. Read on!
We recorded Piece of Moon twice. The first time, about a year ago now, was at a higher-end, bigger budget, longer running studio, with really expensive gear, fronted by two of the best engineers in the business (who remain great friends of ours). About 4 months later, we redid the album in our friend Bryan’s basement. Why would we do that? Are we super dumb? Yes. BUT…
I think if you’re going to be in a band you need to realize quickly that there’s a time limit on it. Bands don’t last, you need to make sure that you’re not wasting any time on hang ups that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life. First and foremost, you should make sure the music is exactly how you want it to be, only compromising with your bandmates. Get a level head, make sure everybody wants the same thing. When we did our first record (Half of a Good Plan), also with Bryan in Bryan’s basement, we had a vague idea of what we wanted our band to sound like. Real. Organic. Rock and roll, the way we saw it. No gimmicks, no flashy stuff. Bryan helped us bring our early songs to this low-fi light. He made us sound like us. Less editing, more performing. Less focus on fidelity, more focus on the energy. Whether or not people were going to dig the music didn’t matter, what mattered was people hearing it the way we thought it was supposed to sound.
For whatever reason, when we recorded PoM the first time around, our only mindset was “lets up ante with production quality.” I guess it made sense at the time. It was the second EP, make it sound better. Duh! So we booked time at a really great studio and recorded the album. We wound up with a good sounding record. Too good. In the sense that… it didn’t really sound like us. We sounded like windup toys. We needed somebody to come over and take a shit on our chests. The bottom line was, we wanted people to listen to the record, see us live, and be like “yeah, that makes sense. That sounds like Gin War.” So before it was too late, we said fuck it and decided to redo it. This time with good ol’ Bryan.
Every studio does it differently, every band thinks they know what they want to sound like. There’s no correct way to do it. There are millions of variables, sometimes you get it all right and sometimes you fuck it all up. Bryan knew exactly where we were coming from on both EP’s, and wasn’t afraid to expand on our vision of the band. You can hear a little bit of Bryan on every single Gin War song. Whether it be a vocal, guitar, drum, or bass idea, he is constantly thinking and reworking things on the fly. We tracked drums in a living room. We spent an hour drunkenly live-tracking “Still Mine” because it “might be sick.” [“Still Mine” was eventually live-tracked sober for the EP] We snagged an upright bass that Planko shredded to pieces.
We sent around the unfinished EP to friends, had them all make notes, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and we made changes accordingly. We opened up the recording process to anybody that cared enough to be involved, which led to the most unique experience I’ve had recording an album. It’s tough pleasing everybody you want to please, but ultimately deciding to let people in on what we were working on truly shaped the album. We had pals come in and sing parts, play parts. Joey D. (Bryan’s leather-jacketed diva assistant) made appearances on guitar all across the album. I assaulted Bryan for literally months with mix notes and ideas for re-tracking or adding or subtracting things, and he was (for the most part) cool about it. I’ve worked with a lot of great producers in the past, a lot of people I still truly look up to, but there’s nothing like working with Bryan, somebody who places himself in the band for the duration of the recording process. The music matters as much to him as it does to you, which until now, I’ve never felt with anybody else. Go do a record with Bryan Little.
In retrospect, the first attempt at Piece of Moon served as an expensive preproduction learning experience. With Bryan’s help, the second proved to be exactly what we were looking for, and we’re glad to have bitten the “lets redo it” bullet. We ditched aiming for the best sounding record and we tried to have as much fun as humanly possible while recording a record. We were left with something that truly represents us and the friends that cared enough to be involved. Listening to them both back to back, some people might think we’re crazy. The first doesn’t sound bad, it sounds good. The second one is just a little more… Gin War. Hope y’all dig it.
Missed out on the rest of our week with GIN WAR? Read our Q&A with the band here and see our exclusive acoustic video of “Trip” here. Keep up with GIN WAR over on Twitter here, and check our their EP on their BandCamp page here.
Check back in two weeks to meet our next Artist Of The Week, as the feature takes a short break for the holidays.