In a lot of ways this period felt a lot like a time of preparation – setting things up for perhaps a big year in 2017. If it was a Star Wars movie, it would probably be Rogue One – we have have the plans for the Death Star, we now just need to figure out how to exploit them.
Let me explain – there was lots of time in the studio, and – as 2016 came to a close – releases for both the Matt Hay band and Meech Brothers projects are imminent.
But before all of that, there was a gig for Matt Hay & The Makers at Thunderbird on July 8. Unfortunately for me, after a rather miserable week where I cut my finger pretty bad and got a nasty bout of flu, I actually had to sit that one out. I must have been pretty sick, as I HATE cancelling gigs. The show must go on though, and the team had a good one without me.
Recording of the Matt Hay album commenced in the last weekend of July at the near-mythological Surgery Studios. Hidden away in a semi-industrial, semi-derelict part of Newtown, it’s nondescript door belies the wonders that lie within. Founded by Lee Prebble over 10 years ago now, this is it’s second location. Famously cutting his teeth on a trilogy of stunning debut albums for The Phoenix Foundation, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds, Lee and his studio has gone on to make many records and collect a staggering number of awards. Filled with a mix of old-school analog-cool gear as well as a cutting-edge ProTools suite, it really is a musicians paradise (although, as is almost mandatory for a creative space, heating and insulation is minimal). For me, the best part of this menagerie of gear was the Rhodes (Mk1 Suitcase) Electric piano and Ed Zucullo’s wonderful Hammond (C3) Organ and Leslie speaker. There was even a real piano too. Such lovely instruments! Classics.
As mentioned in an earlier post, it would not be Lee recording us, but Andrew Downes. Andrew has been doing this a long time. He even recorded a demo of one of Gareth’s and mine’s old bands (was it “After Hours”?). He’s perhaps most famously known for recording and touring with Fur Patrol.
As with our previous recordings, the first weekend was all about tracking the rhythm section. So I was pretty much just playing along, recording some guide tracks on my trusty Nord.
I’d go back to The Surgery for two sessions in September to record my actual parts on the vintage keyboards. And then back for two final sessions in late November / early December to record Backing Vocals and handclaps with Phil and Matt. In the intervening months Matt had been making regular visits to the studio to track a multitude of guitar parts, as well as recording his vocals at his house.
To give you a bit of an idea on how sweet that Rhodes sounds, here’s a quick iPhone recording of a Haley Bonar song that I managed to squeeze in between takes:
While all that was going on, we managed to fit in three more gigs at Thunderbird. One in mid-September, but without George (after he got pretty sick upon his return from his Rarotonga gigs with Laura Collins). Despite his absence, we had a good night. We were back about a month later and this time Matt was a bit sick – but we soldiered on. This one wasn’t quite the full-house that we’ve become accustomed to at this venue, but it was still great fun.
The last gig of the year would take place on December 16 at T-bird. We billed this as the “Christmas Special”, although we didn’t play any Christmas songs. But Matt was in a surprisingly festive mood and along with giving us all gifts (Nick Bollinger’s excellent “Goneville” book), he also got us to adorn various wacky (tacky?) yuletide hats. Once upon a time I would have found this sort of thing horrifyingly embarrassing and cheesy, but one of the (few) benefits of aging is that you learn to care less and just enjoy yourself. And really, in the end, that’s what this is all about. In a world that is capable of breaking your heart on an hourly basis – if you think about it too much – playing in a band provides an antidote to all that is wrong with this planet. It’s more than just a distraction, it’s fun – and sometimes, having fun might be the most important thing that any of us can do.
And yes, the third Meech Brothers EP is just about finished.
In September I made this little video and put it out into the world (perhaps, a little prematurely) as a so-called “teaser” for the new release
Gareth and I finally completed mixing and handed the songs over to Chris Winter for Mastering. Chris has worked for Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post and has recently setup his own studio in the former Avalon TV studio. What a great space, and what an interesting building. Once the centre for TV production in New Zealand it’s new owners lease out space to a variety of creatives and bands. The spaces not yet leased-out have been preserved in time with a number of suites still containing the old cameras and control rooms. It’s all a bit eerie and a perfect location to shoot a zombie-apocalypse movie! Chris also plays trumpet in Eb & Sparrow and is an all-round good bloke. He’s just getting into this Mastering thing and he spent a lot of time and effort and was very patient with our various requests. I think for “bedroom” projects such as ours, the value of Mastering is even greater than for a recording made in a pro studio. Chris was able to compensate for some of our short-comings in the recording/mixing department. And it’s always good to get someone else and some fresh ears involved.
Whilst Chris was doing his thing, we got in touch with graphics designer and illustrator, Simon Waterfield, who we went to school with. Simon is also a drummer with an impressive CV of bands behind him, and currently drums for super-fun Gun ‘n Roses tribute band G’n’F’n’R. Things are now fairly progressed on the artwork front, so I can finally say with some confidence that the EP will be out early next year.
On the very last day of the year we got up crazy-early and headed into the forest reserve behind Karori for a photo shoot with Simon.
The new EP will be called “Brown Owl”