The long version.
Finishing an album (or EP) is a strange thing. You are simultaneously excited to share the new songs, but also just a tad bit sick of them. There really becomes a point of time when you decide it’s time to move on because you’ve nickel and dimed every mix decision to death and lost all objectivity months ago.
Such was the case in 2013 with 37. The band was picking up steam. We had gigs booked and were networking heavily with other local bands. We really wanted physical product to sell at our shows that showcased our lean and mean approach to our live set. And that’s where I think we went astray. We felt rushed, and as a result, became too reductionist in our approach to the mixes. We should have let things simmer a little longer to see what treatments best served the songs.
Some time after Karl’s passing, the idea of remixing 37 took root. I worked in earnest on these mixes for months. Revisiting EVERYTHING. Changing EVERYTHING. EQ. Compression. Level. You name it. But then, Nick and I started working on our new songs and the remixes went back on the shelf.
About three months ago, I found myself needing a distraction from mixing these new songs. I pulled out a copy of 37 and put it on. Generally, I liked what I heard, but right away I was disappointed with the drum sounds, particularly the snare. Scott had such a great sounding drum kit and my mixes really didn’t do it justice. Next, I noticed Karl’s bass tone. Live, he almost always used a phaser and his tone was thick, meaty and chewy. Not so on the EP. And the bass tones on my remixes weren’t much better. I decided right then and there to keep the good stuff from the original mixes and only change the things that really bothered me. Along the way, and to my surprise, I discovered some forgotten tracks “hidden” within the mix files that really brought a couple of the songs to life.
Every song has at least one new part added that was omitted from the original release. Some are very subtle, some aren’t. I’ll let you discover all of them for yourself, but I want to mention three of my favorites. 1) The Fixx influenced vocal delay line (a la Red Skies at Night) on the chorus of Push & Pull, 2) Karl’s Moby-esque piano track on Change, and 3) my sustaining feedbacked guitar duringthe outro of Upside Down Girl. Totally worth the price of admission.
Now on to the nerdy, engineering stuff.
How did I address the lackluster snare sound? Well, the main culprit was my overuse of the bottom snare mic. Simple fix. I muted it. Second, was the snare reverb. I was never really happy with my reverb options for snare (sorry Logic and Lexicon), so I went searching and found Valhalla’s excellent VintageVerb plugin. The 80's plate algorithm sounds just like what a reverb should sound like on snare.
What about Karl’s bass sound? Even though we recorded both a dry and wet version of Karl’s bass tracks, we only used the dry version for the original mixes. Karl and I felt his phased out bass tone was too much - the phasing effect totally washed out the attack of his bass. We tried mixing the dry and wet tracks in various combinations and tried every modulation plugin I owned, but nothing replicated the magic that happened live with his BOSS GT-10B multi-effects processor (with phaser set to stun!). When it came time to work on his bass tone for the remixes, I knew I needed to nail the phaser effect. Luckily, I had recently picked up the SoundToys PhaseMistress plugin and the first preset I tried on Karl’s bass track was exactly what I was looking for. Thick, meaty, and defined. Perfect.
By the time you read this, the new mixes should be available in all the usual places for downloading and streaming. If you are a collector and must have the original mixes, there are still a few copies of the CD available at CDBaby and Bandcamp.
I really hope you enjoy the re-mixes.
Now…back to the new EP.