DARA gathered around the speakers in Ben’s study notebooks at the ready. “Here it is,” said Ben, “the first half of the album.” He pressed play and we began to listen to the work we had put in over the last few months. We had a studio date the next day, and we wanted to get the first half of the album combed over and ready for beta testing. There was a lot to be done, but we were creating a list of things to go over, effects to add, and aligning the songs with the message. Once we decided we were adequately prepared to go in the studio the next day we parted ways and rested up for the next day.
We had an 8 hour session that day. We figured on about an hour each song, then another 2 hours to do some final tracking on one of the songs. The first song we got through about right on schedule. The second song took a little longer. Most of what we were doing was mixing and trimming a bit of the fat. I did enjoy watching Joel lay down some light organ for one part. The third song was where we got to really roll up our sleeves.
The third song, Ants on the Hill, has always been a beast of a song. Clocking in at around 7 minutes it is certainly the longest on the album, and some would argue the most epic. That being said there were a lot of things we wanted to do to turn it up to 11. This is where our notes from the last night really paid off.
One of the main things we were looking to do from the onset of this album was to incorporate layers and sound effects into the music to more effectively tell the story. One of the songs most suited to this treatment was Ants. We had compiled a laundry list of effects that we wanted to add. And so we began to search for just the sounds we wanted.
We dug through samples of robots, insects, even quasars and lots more. Piece by piece we compiled the samples we’d need onto the track. Then once they were found, we got to put them into their spots. We placed each sound carefully into the sections that called for it. Carefully we mixed the sounds to suitable levels in the mix and applied reverb where necessary. After we were done, we sat back and listened to the story unfold upon our ears while Joel bounced the song.
After we were done with Ants we realized our initial time estimates were a bit optimistic. We had quite a bit of mixing left to do on the next song, but finishing that would leave us with no time to record the vocals we needed to do for the song after that. How quickly eight hours can fly by! We decided vocals were a more crucial goal and skipped ahead to tracking those. Ben took the mic, and began to sing.
Ben laid down the vocals beautifully as always. What we were all looking forward to was Kevin’s backing vocals. Ben had done most of the backing vocals on the other tracks (save for a special guest or two). We had begun to add backing vocals to the stage show, so decided to add some other voices to the tracks as well. When it came time for Kevin to record it was apparent he felt a bit out of his element.
This was unusual to see as Kevin usually acts with such understated confidence. I’ve heard him say he wants to do a backflip off of something while spinning fire poi. I have no doubt he’ll do it, and well, because he is such a badass. After his initial mic shyness wore off he quickly laid the tracks down. Just in time to. The next band that Joel had booked had shown up a bit early and we were just about to spill into their time.
It felt good to have accomplished so much that day, even though we didn’t get through our entire list. What we did get through had turned out more expansive than we had even imagined. We left looking forward to the next day that we’d be able to get into the studio, but left feeling good about having half of an album under our belt.
Sending peace and love on behalf of DARA,