Studio report: Tides From Nebula – Safehaven (guitars p. 2 of 2)

29.03.2016

First part of studio report – “Drums and bass” is available here. Second part – “Guitars part 1″ is available here.

10th of February (Wednesday)

Noon. I arrive at the studio. Everyone is already positioned and in action. It’s been three days since my last visit. How are the guitars doing?

Adam: “We’re in the middle of the fourth song, so if we finish it today, that will be half of the album recorded”.

In the studio, all of the guitarist are present, but I can’t see the drummer.

Przemek: “Since Sunday, Stołek has been editing the drums and correcting the rhythm section, so that there would be no flams, meaning minimal uneven sounds, which are overlapping each other”.

Maciek and Adam record guitars on the tracks edited by Stołek. A day before the recording of a given song it is being edited and then it’s recorded the next day. Recording of all guitar tracks for one song takes the whole day, even up until late at night, so that it can be finished on that given day/night, as on the next day there is another song waiting to be recorded. The studio is located in the same yard as Stołek’s home, so there are no doves or couriers used for the edited tracks to be sent to the control room.

There are four songs to be recorded. There are four days until the tracks’ submission deadline. There is just enough time.

The guys play for me a song recorded last night. It’s a song, which was introduced to me the night before by Adam in a text message saying: “Man, regret you’re not here. What has just happened made us all collectively shit our pants”.

Very intriguing, although I’m trying to limit my imagination regarding the physical part of this excitement. The song is called “All the Steps I’ve Made” and Przemek says that to him currently it’s the best song in TFN’s history. We’re listening. I’m sinking into the sounds and thoughts to the point I don’t notice the end of the track. Main impression: this is a good band, because of the depth. Not only productional depth, but mainly compositional.

But what steps did the connotations take, before the song got its official name?

Stołek is not here, so Przemek explains: “The working title for this one was Nilsik. At the time of making this song we were listening to lots of Nils Frahm’s music”.

Valuable inspiration. If you don’t know the guy, definitely check out the great talent of this Berliner.

Back to the recording. Again decisions about which guitar should be used are made.

Maciek: “Maybe SG, what do you think?”
Adam: “I’d go with Telecaster, Maciek”.

After choosing the guitar, Maciek is trying to look for the appropriate sounds, as you may not always remember everything from the demo. Then he tries first to take it with edited rhythm section tracks, then the sound is set and off we go. The first piece to be recorded is a strong part with a long, attacking tremolo section. One take, the second try and the room fills up with energetic sounds, which start moving everybody in the studio. Maciek is cutting the air with a wall of aggressive sounds while the guys outshout the noise, motivating their colleague to squeeze everything possible from the instrument. Got it. Fretboard is hot, red wrist is red, but he nailed it perfectly.

Another part, another amp, another guitar and of course new settings. Maciek returns to the computer and takes over sound control. I like watching his precision. He focuses on every sound, shift, detail, irregularity. Even when he is recording and the computer is being operated by Adam, when something goes wrong and Adam asks to do one more take, Maciek asks what was wrong, he wants to know about everything that is happening to every note. Now he’s looking for a sound and the rest of the band is waiting. They check their phones, sink into their thoughts while staring at the wall, yawn. While looking at the making process and listening to this album, which can make quite some buzz, I realize, that this is how it works. “The album of a lifetime” is born among the unexpected moments of magic, but also yawns, beard scratching and flicking of pinpoint irony in a comment under a friend’s far-from-genius post on Facebook. Days are filled with interesting balance between the suspension in actions and constantly maintained concentration. It’s as if you were taking part in a 100 meter run final at the Olympic games, where the rules oblige you to alternately start the run and then take your position back in the starting blocks every 10 meters.

Lunch. We’re talking about the current session, about the need of this constant focus and tiresome module of operating, where you have to switch on and off all the time. I’m asking about the keyboard parts, which I can hear are plentiful on this album.

Maciek: “Most of them we will import directly from the demo, because they are already recorded well. The not-so-well sounding pieces we will redo at the end of the recording works”.

Back to the control room. Adam records a strong riff appearing at the end of “The Lifter”, which went in without any retakes. Then the flageolets from the beginning of the song are done, first played normally then in reverse mode. Przemek: “Awesome, I have goosebumps”. Modifications of this song start to expand. One track is played in a regular way, the second one is reversed, the third also, but it’s the one taken from the demo. New discussions – how to arrange all of this, what should be in which channel, which part should be laid over the other, what should meet what and where. Everyone gathers by the computer, they are listening to the songs and exchanging thoughts in excited voices. Change, save, play. Everyone agrees: this shit crushes.

Maciek: “Because of these changes we have just added ourselves two hours of sitting here. Now I have to redo my part, because the first one won’t sound good with this new motif, but it was worth it. I’m fucking tired and I’ve had enough but this is exactly the moment where you have to tough it out.”

Here is the sentence which should be hanging on the wall of every young band wanting to achieve something. It’s 20:40. I have to go. I’m leaving the guys in the studio and going back home through an evening covered city thinking about the invisible determination which leads to achieving goals in life.

12657808_10153571858706032_2751608506038095781_ophoto by Kara Rokita

11th of February (Thursday)

Morning. I get the message from Adam. “We went for the record. All of us slept at Stołek’s place. We finished at 1:30″.

I get to the studio at 11:00. I expected eyes with dark rings and dropped noses, but they guys are having none of this. Everybody is excited and in a moment it turns out why. They play for me the song they finished at night, so “The Lifter”. One word: explosive. There is a lot of things happening in this song, but everything is very coherent. The vibe of the whole song gradually and beautifully increases, the mood intensifies and accumulates, as if a storm cloud penetrated and lightened by the sun. It’s interesting how differently you listen to a song when you know which track is what sound or instrument. People subconsciously tend to focus only on the most audible guitar parts, whereas often underneath them there is a lot of valuable stuff happening.

Maciek: “Damn, I gotta tell you I’d listen to it one more time. I felt the same way when we were recording “Aura”. Back then we also couldn’t wait to hear how it will all sound after the mixes”.

Adam: “True, but I hope this album will really sound the way we want it. With every album before, the final effect was a bit different from what we had in mind before entering the studio. Now, first we spent two years on making the demo, which already sounds almost like an album, and then we are making it sound even better in the studio. And of course we have a great mixing engineer.”

But what if Forrester won’t make it sound they way you expect?

Przemek: “If he can’t do it, then I don’t know who we should work with on this album”.

The energy keeps flowing in the air. It’s intensified by the next song to be recorded – “Traversing”, which is probably the heaviest song on the album. Maciek and Adam are changing the strings. Recording. Whammy effect. Adam’s part goes through smoothly. Then Maciek is recording the same riffs, but on a different effect. Dirty notes flow in, making it all sound as if it were a dusty universe.

Adam is nodding: “This is going to be a good record”.

14th of February (Sunday)

1:15 at night. I get a message from Adam: “Why do we feel freshness, even though we’re leaving the studio at 2AM? Because despite being totally knackered we listened to every song recorded thus far and we are as excited as kids. We have a feeling we did something special”.

Afternoon. I reach the studio. The door is opened by Adam. His eyes look tired, but are filled with flames.

“Did you get the message? We stayed up really late, but we have a feeling that what is being created here is SOMETHING”.

All the guitars are already recorded, there is only one song left “Home”, where there are not many guitar tracks, but plenty of keyboard pieces, so today’s session will probably also be a long one. Everything should be finished today, though. The first two songs “Knees to The Earth” (over 90 tracks in the song) and “All The Steps I’ve made” (over 60) were already sent to Forrester for mixing.

The sound searching for keyboards starts. The game has the same participants as with guitars: effects, amplifiers, settings, adjustings, discussions. “Przemek, turn off the white and put on the blue one. Here it breaks quite nicely. Stołek, put the sum to the monitors”.

I’m asking whether they already know how many new songs they’ll play live on the forthcoming tours?

Adam: “Basically all of them. Well, maybe except one song, but this whole album is generally made to be played live. It will rage”.

Maciek is recording keyboards. Listening to this is interesting, because you can hear the songs with most of the instruments already recorded, so basically their finished versions.

20160214_185246-1

“Home” is playing in the background and among the sounds sparking with magic, Adam is telling me how he feels about the concept of this song. For him, it’s about a real home, a place, where you feel safe, even if the dark parts appear in the song, it’s as in a family where tough days or conflicts also occasionally happen. What is interesting is the way every member perceives a given song or album’s title, as each of them see it in a different way.

Adam: “To me this album is personal in terms of what has happened in the last two years of my life, how much has changed in it. It’s present in emotions contained in the songs, but also in titles. To me, all of them are joined in a way. They have a common, personal element”.

Maciek: “I see “Safehaven”, especially combined with this cover, as something ironic, if not even cynical. I think the world is heading in a direction which will lead us, as social beings, to unhappiness. We surround ourselves with something which is suppose to protect us and give us happiness, but it actually turns into the opposite”.
 
Przemek: “For me, titles are always only an addition, something that we attach to songs, when the music is ready. They just add colors to the songs. A song or an album title in combination with the cover, can be interpreted in various ways. For example, on the photo of this album’s cover you can see a piece of heaven, so actually the universe and in this sense this “dehumanized” skyscraper may appear as something close and safe. On the other hand, if there was some nature in the shot, then one could think, that this building doesn’t have much in common with safety and definitely not much with our roots as the human species. But that is just my take on it and nobody should take any suggestions from that. I like it when everyone can listen to a song with a clean and open mind without any hints, especially from the artist, who created it”.

Stołek: “I associate “Safehaven” with concrete flooring, because that is the working title of this song, as we were laying out the concrete on the floor the day before we started making this song”.

Stołek. Tides. These four guys. I like them. They are different. Adam – full of passion, musical awareness and heavy humor. Maciek with great musical ease, sense of sound and spontaneity. Przemek – an enthusiast of long, long sleep and honest, honest talks based on an openness that reaches out to deep emotions. Stołek – the ninja, creator, party generator, with an impressive technical knowledge and pinpoint jokes hitting the nail on the head so hard that it leaves no room for any riposte.

The album is almost ready, all the tracks are titled, but how is it with the album’s tracking list order?

Adam: “We choose it consciously basing on the feeling of a given song in this specific place on the album and its interaction with what is before and after it”.

How about the live show’s set list?
 
Adam: “Usually, on a tour we play the fixed set list, but now we want to change it, play different songs from the new album. It’s important, that we already know how to play this album live. For the first time since “Aura”, we learned how to play the album before recording it, so that the live feel of songs could be transmitted onto the tracks recorded in the studio”.

Przemek: “I personally feel as if I was on tour already. I spent the whole of my time only with these guys, contact with other people was only via phone”.

It’s true. For the past few weeks, the van-tour situation is taking place. You spend basically all of your time together, ever day you see the same faces, you do the same things. There is physical tiredness and mental weariness, but I can see that they still have the energy. That they feed on the sense of value of what they are doing. Despite the tiresome efforts of recording for so long, which lower their concentration, they still are precise, pay attention to every note, pick sounds very consciously. All of that is not without the jokes and picking on anything that comes along with the reality. Humor of situations, humor of the internet. Zbigniew Stonoga, Karakany i Kuba Ka. Yeah, I know, you don’t know who they are, but still wanted to write it anyway just for the fun of it. Absurd – the more time you spend together the more its range expands and the bending of reality deepens. During one of the breaks Adam, just out of nowhere, started making sounds of a howling dog. I burst into laughter and realized that it’s been a really long time since the first day of recording.

And now an example of something important:

Adam: This motif with muted strings, do we recorded it or import from demo?
Przemek: It’s already in the project. We moved it when you fell asleep on the sofa.
Adam: Ok. So Maciek, give it a shot.
Maciek: But wait, don’t play it yet. I’ll look for something here without listening. Let me form some nasty beast here.
Adam: Yeah, this is better.
Maciek: Gimme one small decibel or two, please.
Przemek: It’d be cool if we had a gentle fog here. Just one soft puff.
Maciek: I think we need keys here.
Adam: But with this effect.
Przemek: I’m not sure if it shouldn’t be smoother.
Adam: You’re right, but the keyboard will do it.
Maciek: Let’s put it through delay and reverb. We have to change the context here.

Maciek changes the context, the room fills up with a fairy-tale space.

Adam: “You asked how we create motifs – this is exactly how. Everyone throws his idea into the pot and something new, different and collective comes out of it. That happens not only in the studio, but also in the rehearsal room, because we compose only during the rehearsals. We don’t make music at home”.

At the end, let me just add that the piece illustrated with this example lasts less than 20 seconds, but the works on it took more than an hour and a half. Yep, again. They finished this song, listened to it, then sat me in a place called the “sweet spot”, in other words, a point in which the sound from all the speakers comes in one place and played me the full album. If I had to write down all of the impulses, sounds and impressions I experienced during the listening, this text would have to expand by a further 16 pages. So at the end of this studio report let me just tell you that one hour after listening to this record I still couldn’t gather my thoughts. Prepare for a thrilling trip.

Chris Bienkiewicz

Safehaven

 
 
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