Elvis Is IN The Building! - The Boxtones Monthly Blog
So as everyone and their granny is aware, we have been slaving away recording our album for the last four months. Now that it’s coming to an end we are able to spill a few beans about the process, the surprises, the grumbles, the hilarity and the sheer effort involved in recording professionally in the awesome pimped-out Soundstruck Studios here in Dubai with our favourite genius Producer Mr. Elvis Garagic!
Now our initial mandate from Universal Music MENA on the primary discussions about our upcoming album (when it was naught but a twinkle in our eyes) was…’this needs to be a masterpiece’!
‘Ok, cool…sounds easy enough” we squeaked, ambitiously and then scurried off to our respective homes and prayed to the nine muses of Zeus for divine inspiration and a couple of catchy hooks!
If we are totally honest we took a while to get down the first few ideas, but as every creative person knows, once the ball gets rolling you are off! Inspiration feeds inspiration and so it ended up that one track snowballed pretty seamlessly in to track after track and pretty soon we had a full album that we were happy with.
Next up was deciding where and how we would record. We toyed with travelling somewhere abroad or even flying a producer in from elsewhere to work with us. In the end all it took was one visit to SoundStruck Studios and a little chat with a very enthusiastic and aptly named Elvis, and we were sold on staying in Dubai and seeing this out on our home turf with home talent guiding us!
The whole process was a learning curve for all of us. Usually we work on our own tracks in our own studio and Gary does the bulk of the editing and producing as he has a background in it. However, we knew that this time we wanted outside ears and opinions not aligned so closely and personally to the songs.
Elvis proved to be the perfect choice! We spent around a couple of weeks on pre-production and it was the most fun we’ve had. It can get pretty testy when you are in a band and almost exclusively spending time in each other’s pockets and sharing different views on the tiniest of topics. So having such a positive and excited influence in the studio was invigorating to our work ethic and kept us enjoying even the differences in approach.
On our first vocal run through Elvis had Will on piano and Gary and I around it X Factor stylee. He managed to break down what we had done and had us experimenting, moving tempo, notes and feel and generally breathing life in to lines and sections we had perhaps glossed over. It was a real learning curve and although as a band you need to stick to your own integrity, when having external influence to your music we quickly found a groove with Elvis where we were all working towards the same vision and feel and able to ‘GET’ what each other were trying to portray.
For me this was the best part as Gary writes most of the melodies he can at times find it hard to write for me and my range and Elvis called that out straight off the bat which completely changed a lot of my parts. It was a simple thing but made a world of difference to me.
Following the pre-production we each had a week or so to go in, work and re-work our parts. First off was Gill laying down her drum parts…
“Recording is not one of my favourite parts of being a musician, but the whole experience of creating the new album at Soundstruck Studios with Elvis has been great! The attention to detail during pre-production really paid off in the end and I’m so excited to hear the final product.”
Pat was up next layering the second half of the rhythm section in prep for the more melodic instruments of piano and guitar, and then finally the vocals metaphorically the cherry on the top (eh guys?). Well Pat thought so ;-)
“This is probably the most discrete I’ve been on a record, and that’s fine by me. I think I played for the songs for the most part, I even told Gary recently that he should take a part out to leave more room for the strings. I think we learned a lot doing that record, where everyone’s space is. It was a good time to stop and listen to each other and go “oh right, that’s what you’re doing, that’s pretty cool, maybe my line is a bit in the way of that, I’ll do this instead”. A constructive and instructive period in this band’s life I believe. “
As a nice little sidebar Will managed to score a pretty cool couple of instruments for his parts. Thanks to the awesome guys over at Melody House and NMK he bagged a pretty rare and incredible Wurlitzer. The story goes that Alicia Keys was booked for a show here in Dubai and asked for a Wurlitzer for the live gig. One was quickly ordered and delivered but in true diva style she turned up with her own after all. Therefore this beautiful and rare piano was ready and waiting in the wings for Will and his dainty fingers to have their wicked way with it just in time for our recording session. From old to new, Will’s next featured toy was the very futuristic Roli Keyboard. Additionally SoundStruck’s Yamaha grand piano also made a nice full body of sound on a few of our tracks. Now if you’ve never seen one, it looks (for want of a better description) like a huge, ribbed rubber matt. What it actually is, is a space-age creation of genius. The keys are little rivets and peaks of silicone so sensitive that each key can change pitch, bend and modulate the sound of each note simply by the pressure applied. Now this was no easy feat and Will had to spend a good few days getting to grips with his new baby. So a big shout out to the guys over at Roli for working with Will and helping to promote our soon to be released material!
“My personal favourite moments from Soundstruck Studios included conducting the children’s choir, playing around with the borrowed Wurlitzer 200a from M.E.I. (same keyboard Alicia Keys records/performs with), and finally getting to tickle the ivories of a Yamaha Grand Piano.”
Laying down the vocals was great fun and both Gary and I ended up moving and changing a huge amount from our original layout, which felt like a really creative process thanks to Elvis and his ma-hoosive wealth of knowledge about what sounds good and right individually for each track. Even when we were sure we had something down he managed to bring another element in or a vibe we hadn’t even considered. We definitely learned a lot that we will take on with us in our musical careers. So, cheers Elvis!
For Gary, it’s all about the entire process. Being the one who usually comes up with the initial song idea it’s exciting to see each stage of the song before completion.
“My studio experience is always a fun one. I love learning new techniques on how to capture the sound of a particular instrument, or a new plug in/ pos- effect that really makes something shine. Working alongside Elvis on the new record, both in pre-production, with everyone’s instrument, my own recordings and now the edit and mixing phase has been great. Nearly 4 months of hard work, and we are nearly at the end”
For part 2 of our amazing experience in the recording studio, stay tuned to the next edition of our monthly blog where we reveal some extra surprises and guest appearances…