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Thanks To Gravity

We recently had the pleasure of working with “Thanks To Gravity” on some new music. Folks from the New England area probably remember TTG from their heyday in the mid-90’s. Their unique instrumentation and eclectic songwriting style found them signed to Capitol Records for a multi-album deal, Thanks To Gravity toured relentlessly and worked with a who’s-who list of producers and engineers over the years. Fast forward to 2018/19 – founding member Andy Happel had a fresh batch of songs and decided as a birthday present to himself, he’d like to get the boys together for a session to record them.

Being the small world that Maine can be, Acadia had a few connections to Thanks To Gravity already. Bassist Drew Wyman is a regular fixture here, a first call session player who has an uncanny ability to play exactly the right part the song calls for, with the tone and feel to match. Drew and Acadia engineer Jason Phelps had recently become friends (playing gigs together in Portland’s own legendary jamband “A Band Beyond Description”) and Drew asked if the guys could come check out the studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above left: The string arsenal         Above right: Sean’s incredible sounding kit

The band had another connection to Acadia – Jason and TTG’s lyricist and frontman Andy Happel taught music together at 317 Main Community Music Center in Yarmouth, at times collaborating on Andy’s fiendishly difficult musical selections for the school’s annual staff concert. Jason always felt great respect for Andy’s musicianship and was thrilled at the opportunity to work with him in the studio.

Finally the day came and we got setup for the first session. It was obvious that these guys weren’t messing around – drummer Sean Daniels had his own personal monitoring setup, complete with mics etc. We used his mics plus several of our own and ended up with a truly amazing drum sound right out of the gate.

Drew’s rig consisted of four signals – a clean DI & clean amp setup plus a distorted amp and a dirty DI signal. Between the multi-channel setup and judicious bass selection, once again Drew had the right tone for each song, everytime.

Andy and his daughter Lila played some stunningly virtuosic violin together on “Send Up The Signal” followed by an absolutely off the charts improvised solo that nearly melted the paint off the walls! It’s one of the true joys of being an engineer to witness such moments.

Andy worked his way diligently through multiple layers of vocals, creating some beautiful harmonies. The bar was raised yet another notch by the keyboard playing of special guest Duncan Watt. Our Hammond B3 was absolutely singing/crying!

The mixing and editing process was a pleasure, as Andy and company worked to strip away anything that did not belong. These guys have a TON of experience working in world-class studios and it showed in how they approached the mix. Jason was able to quickly find the tones they were looking for and the end result sounds amazing.

The songs run the gamut stylistically from the rock assault of “Send Up The Signal” to an upbeat pop anthem in “LYHL”. “Atlantis” shows the clever lyricism and melodic hooks Andy’s songwriting is known for, while “A Blanket Of Stars” is a straight-up gorgeous ballad. The songs are so varied, but the common thread that makes them “Thanks To Gravity” songs is obvious. All four tracks we mastered by Pat Keane Mastering, and we couldn’t be more proud of the results.

Silvertone Twin 12 Model 1484

Gone are the days when anyone could walk into your local department store and buy a 60 watt all tube guitar amp that one day would become a vintage collectors piece!

This Silvertone Model number 1484 (commonly referred to as the Twin 12) was sold in Sears, Roebuck and Company from 1963-1967. This amp sports an all tube front end with two independent channels that can be used separately or daisy chained together to get an extra gain stage out of it. The output tube section is powered by two 6L6 output tubes producing about 60 watts. The head can be stored in the back of the amp for safe transport and has a 25ft speaker cable so you can separate the head from the cab to reduce feedback (at least that was a selling point at the time) Oh little did they know what was about to happen to Rock and Roll!  The amp also sports an all tube tremelo and reverb tank which is foot-switchable and both are part of that vintage silvertone sound. The amp was originally marketed as a medium sized amp for both guitar or bass, and was equipped with two 12″ Jensen C12 speakers so it could handle a wide frequency range.

Silvertone as a brand started around 1915 with hand cranked phonographs, and then they quickly branched off into radios (in the 1920’s) and finally landed on instruments and amplifiers in the following decade. The most famous instruments from that time period are the 1448 and 1449 guitar models which are very collectable on the vintage guitar market. These are referred to as the “amp in case” models, because they actually have a very small 3 watt amp with a 5 inch field coil speaker built into the case.  The models were usually sold with a “learn to play” 45 record and cost around $68 in 1962.  The guitars were a 3/4 sized guitar perfect for kids learning to play, and were built from poplar with masonite tops and backs.  These guitars have a had a multitude of top stars playing them for decades, some of them being Beck, Cat Power, and Dave Grohl.

Most of these guitars and amps were actually built by a variety of different manufacturers who were building similar types of instruments and amps at the same time. Most of the makers were big named companies such as Danelectro, Valco, Teisco, Kay, Thomas, and Harmony.  All of which are collectable on the vintage market with their own products not just with their branded Silvertone products.

The twin twelve was truly a breakthrough as far as marketing a cost effective amp that was of professional grade for the masses. I can recall many a story from old timers who got one of these at an early age when they first started their garage bands. They could plug two instruments in at once, a guitar and a mic into the other channel so they could use it as a small portable PA system. Some notable users of the twin twelve over the years have been Pete Anderson, Coldplay, Jack White, and Beck.  Among all its awesome usable tones my personal favorite is all knobs up through a modern 412 cab.  This tone will cut through the densest of guitar mixes with tons of character.  We are very glad that we have this amp as part of our arsenal down here in the studio.

Wurlitzer Upright Piano

Acadia acquires a new upright piano

We had a long relationship with a well-loved Chickering piano here at the studio. It’s original owner was interested in bringing it home after many years of service at Acadia.

We are very lucky to have a 1929 Steinway Long A Grand Piano here at the studio but some music requires a different sound – this is where an console piano comes into play.

We knew of a Wurlitzer console piano that was looking for a new place to live, we just had to get it here. We hired Jeff Day and his crew from The Piano Movers of Maine to safely move this extremely heavy Wurlitzer piano from a 2nd floor apartment down a flight of stairs onto the icy sidewalk and finally into the live room here at the studio! After an expert tuning by Alexander Peppe of Alex’s Piano Service, she’s settled into the live room, and we’re happy to have it in service – in fact we used it for the first time with Jeff Beam in a session and it sounds great!