Updated: May 2, 2019
Dear Doonan are getting back into the studio. This time to record their long-awaited debut album. Inspired by the psychedelic sounds from the East, and fusing together their string swindling Westernised elements, Dear Doonan are bringing their powerhouse live show performances to conceptualise an East vs West LP. Working alongside studio veteran Adrian Carroll, and with the superior ear of Guy Gray, this album is set to be a doosy. So hold on to your seats, this will be a wild ride.
Months ago, Adrian and I met to chat about this recording idea. We discussed the logistics of a project this size; the idea of a live stereo recording, complete with a live stereo mix, which will be set in stone on the day of tracking. I then pitched a short, two track (with interlude), 15 minute set of eastern doom, and psychedelic jive to Adrian, and he became very interested.
The two track jams consisted of sitar solos, heavy percussive beats, psychedelic funk guitar licks, doom bass, and god like vocal melodies. All blended into an eastern tale of anti-political values, societal optimism and diverse musicianship.
This took place in December 2018. It worked so well that we (the band) decided to continue on and record the entire album.
The project plan is as follows:
Live Stereo Recording - Production Plan
Client: Dear Doonan
Date: Wednesday the 20th, to Saturday the 23rd of March, 2019
This project aims to achieve a 14 song, live recorded album in the Audient Studios. The band being recorded is Sunshine Coast psychedelic outfit, Dear Doonan. Multiple live rooms will be linked to the Audient 8024 control room, to create separation between the various instruments played by the six piece band. The session will be recorded live, bounced into stems, then mixed at a later date. It will be mastered by an outside source, and eventually printed on 12 inch vinyl, and released as Dear Doonan’s debut album across all digital music platforms.
About The Band:
Formed in May 2017, six piece psych-groovers, Dear Doonan, are known for their good-time, charismatic, and vast, psychedelic sound stylings. They fuse psych-rock, blues, funk, folk, and have a heavy middle eastern influence throughout their multi-instrumentalist creations. Dear Doonan have played a bunch of shows throughout SE QLD, among the release of their first single ‘Soultana (High on a Cool Wave), in April 2018. Approaching the release of their next single (aimed to be released in December), and after holding a few of their own shows, the band are planning to host a festival called ‘Farmed’, on the Sunshine Coast early next year. Dear Doonan have a dire commitment to their music, and it shines in their live performances.
Members: Zachariah Norton, Julian Homewood, Scott Montoya, Jamie Devers, Jim Smith, Steve Summers
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/deardoonan/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/deardoonan/
CD Baby - https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/deardoonan
Bandcamp - https://deardoonan.bandcamp.com/
Producer/Engineer/Mix Engineer: Steve Summers - www.stonewaxproductions.com
Senior Engineer: Adrian Carroll - killerguitarcarroll.wordpress.com
Senior Mix Engineer: Guy Gray - https://studios301.com/recording-mixing/guy-gray/
Engineer/Mix Engineer: Joao Paulo Pereira
Assistant Engineer: Ash Saron (1013761) - https://perceptionaudio.wixsite.com/perceptionaudiosite
Assistant Engineer: Bhavya Sudhir Menon (1007781)
Assistant Engineer: Daniel Littman (1010733)
Songs & Instrumentation:
EAST SIDE (A)
Song 1 - Druids Raga
Song 2 - Hiradomaree
Song 3 - How Do You See?
Song 4 - Mountain Man
Song 5 - Brian Ferry's to Jonestown
Song 6 - Skull Shine
WEST SIDE (B)
Song 7 - Hey Lady
Song 8 - Tad Insane
Song 9 - Demons
Song 10 - Vegan
Song 11 - She'll Be Back
Song 12 - Puff Puff Give
Song 13 - Soultana (HOACW) LIVE
song 14 - Balthazar (Bonus Track)
Country Joe and the Fish - Grace https://open.spotify.com/track/14ktIU4NIECCqGZXXh6isi?si=jIUaeIdsTtuUciGUmxbYCg
The Doors - LA Woman https://open.spotify.com/track/6DmfWj5kOa1fX8AwN9byOn?si=j_WcVR5pRbGQciQe4u5msw
Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall https://open.spotify.com/track/7K6xMPtAjTuLPNlJMLf5bS?si=xOJLCSXeQzmJv2FSUj_UHA
Kikagaku Moyo - Smoke and Mirrors https://open.spotify.com/search/results/kika
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Doom City https://open.spotify.com/album/4VgiURFXN6UsS6AshIsnmu
Funkadelic - Can You Get To That https://open.spotify.com/track/6QUngYwZ65et2ye7Bj85EK?si=GZ1hi9KcTga6rHm1fkDySg
Wednesday, 20th of March - Setup Schedule:
Thursday 21st/Friday 22nd/Saturday 23rd of March - Tracking Schedule:
Band Budget: $15,000
Production Cost Breakdown:
All recorded stems bounced as .wav (24 Bit, 44.1 KHz), organised into a separate stem folder to suit each individual song.
4 - 6 individual songs, mixed by Steve Summers in S6 studio, external to the recording sessions, to be delivered for submission in Week 13.
4 - 6 song masters.
NOTE: Continuation of this project will spill into Trimester 6, as we now have 14 tracks to mix and master, rather than the originally scoped 10. The scope has been minimised for the purpose of reaching a quality result ready for submission.
One Massive Setup
For a six piece band, with an abundance of instrumentation, Dear Doonan's musical ideas were really put into perspective once we began to tackle this setup, which took us about 8 hours to complete. Very few adjustments were made to the original plan, in terms of mic choice and placement, as well as signal flow and the effects chains. Thankfully, we were able to make an earlier start on this setup, which allowed us to finish with plenty of time to check the sounds.
Drums and Bass setup in Live Room A. Taking up a healthy 12 Channels of the Audient 8024.
We had three Overheads for the Drum mic setup. Two pencils over each tom, and a shotgun over the drummers shoulder.
Julian's Bass Rig. Complete with M88 cab mic, DI, and some yoga positions.
One room, four guitar amps. All our electric sounds were setup in the Audient A control room, with an added 16 channel multicore, linking this room to the control room.
In the initial sessions, we spent the first few hours on the Saturday morning completing our setup. Checking every instrument and source, and gain staging as we went. The headphone mix alone took about 2 hours. Though worth every second, as it made for a comfortable vibe, and well balanced mix for each of the band members. Before our lunch break, we played the songs, and were able to create a test mix from the recording. We had a listen, added some EQ and compression, then started tracking.
The first few takes were rough. The pressure was on, and the band members were getting frustrated with some of their efforts. It's not easy to perform live in an environment like this. All members worked super hard and really put their all into this session. 5 Takes later, the first song was down. We took a break, listened, and worked on the first live mix. We EQ'd and Compressed some more, Panned each source, and did some slight-of-hand fader automation, creating viable space among all the noisey instrumentation.
So much face touching going on...
Although, after a month of listening back to both tracks, we all agreed that we wanted to re-do the mixes, as some of the elements were a little buried in the mix. From here, the planning for the next mammoth session begins.
Let the Sessions Begin!
Continuing on with this mammoth setup, we ran with our new goal of tracking another 12 tunes for the album. Working again alongside some talented engineers, we made this gigantic project our bitch! This can be summed up into one word... Planning!
...And to make sure things flowed a lot easier, I added a breakdown of each song, depending on its instrumentation, to the production plan. This easy adjustment helped us efficiently change over between songs without the headache of trying to figure out who's where, when and how... It was a simple as this:
This 2 page sheet hung proudly in every room for each band member and team member to refer to.
We had the pleasure of working again with veteran Adrian Carroll (killerguitarcarroll.wordpress.com). This guy knows how to position a mic. And the way he captures a drum sound is second to none. Utilising the mics listed in the plan, and some tweaks to the kit, our drum sound was a 70s psych-rock gut buster. The perfect aesthetic for our sound. Pressure was on for us to perform... well!
“Getting the takes right was the most challenging thing. Better preparation and practice would have been helpful, but it’s always going to be different when recording. In recording sessions, you’re concentrating on every last tiny detail. Whereas a typical band practice, or live performance, doesn’t necessarily matter if you make a mistake or not, its improv! Especially if you’re focusing on the vibe and flavour of the show, then the odd mistake almost works. That’s the challenge with recording. We’re a live band. So trying to relax a little, and play with style tends to make you pull on the reigns. Making sure that every drum hit is precise and every horn note is in tune. It’s a balancing act of perfection and groove. Too perfect becomes too rigid, too relaxed becomes too loose.” - Jim Smith
Snare Doubles and Adding Some Crack — We toyed with the snare sound for a while. Our Gretsch Catalina Snare wasn’t holding its tune as well as we wanted. I think it might be time for some new skins. We ending up swapping out the Gretsch for a Ludwig Steel Snare. Even though it had more “pop” in its tone then I would have liked, it gave use a tighter tune than the Gretsch, allowing for an easier adjustment later in the mix.
After our mammoth session, and some edits, I found that the snare sound wasn’t as full in some of the heavier songs as I would have liked. The slower, more blues driven songs sounded great with the Ludwig, and the snare as it was helped carry the groove forward. Though for songs like Hey Lady, and Skull Shine, where the energy is far more rabid, I felt that the snare lacked a lot of crunch. So, with the wonderful virtual world of in-the-box mixing, and a little help from my friend and mixing/master legend, Joao Paulo Pereira, I was able to make a small adjustment to the snare to help it “crack!”
Again, we duplicated the Snare Top track. Added a gate purely to knock off the Attack and Release of the snare, leaving us with the middle of the transient (more focused on the harmonic).
We then pushed some of the low end through using an EQ, purely to fill out the harmonic range some more.
We inserted a Limiter, which helped push some of those worthy harmonics through. We then blended the duplicate with the Snare Top and Bottom mixes and found the sweet spot.
The result is a more harmonic snare. More crack, without an overkill distortion.
Julian's bass sound was again a driving force. I got him to focused on tonal choice for each different track, which gave him a lot of room to play with the tonality of his 1960s Greco P-Bass.
Bass Time Continuum (Phase Issues) —Julian Homewood, (aka Jewlion Bass Jesus) is undoubtedly the groovy glue that helps this free-flowing, click-avoiding band to keep time. His bass tones are implemented by feel, more so than dialed using amps or pedals. He uses a Greco P-Bass. Warm in its mids and diverse in its voicing.
Julian talks about his tone — “I play a hollow body (Greco) bass, which has a really warm mid range tone. It’s really responsive. I try to let the body’s tone come through and not rely on the amplifier too much. I always try to feel and hear the tone coming from the instrument itself, before adjusting anything else. This particular bass has a wide tonal range, allowing me to jam acoustically or add sub bass when needed.”
After everything was recorded and I was in the editing phase, I found that majority of the mixes was lacking something, and I couldn’t figure out what. And being unmixed, I thought that the bass was fighting with the kick drum and it might just needed some complimentary EQ. Though, after digging a bit of a hole for myself, and finally getting another set of ears on it (Thank you Ash Sharon you legend!), I found that the bass was out of phase on every track. Then, with a little flip of the Polarity switch on the Bass DI channel strip, all my low end came back and slapped me right in the face. There it was, hiding out of phase this whole time. Just goes to show that the simplest of things can be missed. Lesson learnt… Always check the Phase!
Mic Blends for Vocal Aesthetic —Knowing our lead singers vocal qualities and how he tends to perform as a vocalist is something I’ve learnt playing beside him for the last few years. Zachariah Norton doesn’t sing like a normal vocalist. He’s a jaw dropping songwriter and delivers in a way that compliments his character. Think Jim Morrison and Nick Cave meeting for a drink at Country Joe’s tavern.
Being familiar with Zachariah’s unique vocal style, we decided to double majority of his vocal tracks, emphasising his articulate, story-telling traits. So depending on the song style, we used a combination of a RE20 broadcast mic (Main vocal), and an AKG D190 as the vocal double. Then we overdubbed another double using an old Copperphone radio mic. This was the secret weapon. When blended, this combination gave us a grittier vocal tone that really helped glue Zachariah’s vocal delivery, allowing it to give each track (Demons, Vegan, Soultana) some viable aesthetic.
“Dear Doonan swirls between the East and the West. Folk simplicity mixes with psychedelic blues rock for transient grooves and colourful instrumentation. But most importantly, you’ll feel a little sad, mostly happy, and will almost certainly have a little chuckle whilst your body grooves around the dance floor!” - Zachariah Norton (2019)
Editing each of these sessions was luckily a walk in the park. Because every song was tracked live, there were only a few minor edits that needed to be made. Some in the performances (for example, a mis-hit, or bung note), others were as simple as topping and tailing each track, and adding crossfades. And for the first time ever… I’m using Pro Tools… Gasp!
I’m a very comfortable Logic Pro X user, and have been using Logic as my main DAW for the last 5 years of producing, mixing and editing, and the thought of editing and mixing in a different DAW can seem a little counter-productive in a project of this size. Though, I feel it is time to learn some of the ins-and-outs of this diabolical DAW and learn how to swim in the deep end of the audio pool. Pro Tools look out, I’m taking you over! All the sessions were recorded using a Pro Tools rig, so it was easy for me to begin the edits, and tackle each of the tracks quickly, without the headache of consolidation and inter-DAW-transfer, whilst learning a few keyboard shortcuts along the way.
In the box guitar reamping — With having such a dynamic guitar tone, (from heavy fuzz to sparkling blues tones) I almost always use a mic combination of an Shure SM57 and a Royer 121. This gives me a fuller frequency to work with. It’s better to have more than not enough. And by having two mics on the same source, it also acts as a safety net. Meaning, if one mic cuts out, and your take is awesome, then you don’t lose the magic. This is what happened in our tracking session. The Royer had a fault, causing it to cut in and out throughout the recording. Though, because I had the SM57 tracking as well, I didn’t lose my awesome guitar take.