2019 turned out to be another year jam-packed with great players, a fantastic set of sonically diverse projects, and some awesome new studio upgrades. Our top new gear highlights from this year include 8 channels of aurora preamps (GTP8), a Wurlitzer upright piano, a Hammond SoloVox, an Ampeg SVT910 guitar/bass cabinet, an otamotone, and of course our new commercial-grade Bunn coffee maker to fuel it all.
We’re also in the midst of a studio re-wire, which, if all goes according to plan, will end with the debut of our brand new patchbay, custom designed (by Mr. Patchbay) to improve ALL of the connections we have between our gear. We’re so excited to hear the difference it’s going to make!
Of course, we’d be nowhere without the incredible musicians who chose to record and mix their records with us this year. Over the course of 2019 we worked on over 70 different projects, 40 of which were released this year. We are so happy and humbled to help support Maine’s music scene and we hope you’ll take some time to listen to these records.
In a world of ever evolving gear options, we have to weigh our choices carefully. However, now and then something comes along that is a no-brainer. We recently acquired a few new pieces of gear that have instantly enhanced every project we work on.
AURORA AUDIO GTP8 – Eight Channel Preamp
If you were to ask us previously “what is your favorite piece of gear” we’d most likely have answered that it was our Aurora Audio GTQC Channel Strip. Designed by Geoff Tanner (designer/engineer who worked for Neve during their golden era of 71′-84′) it features a 1073-style preamp and eq plus both an FET and OPTO compressor and sounds incredible – it’s our go-to choice for vocals and bass. We’ve been dreaming of owning an Aurora Audio GTP8 for tracking drums for a few years now and recently we made that dream come true! The GTP8 is beautifully simple – eight channels of Class A “Neve 1073-style” preamps with a simple trim control and phase/phantom switches. These almost NEVER come up for sale online – so imagine our surprise to learn that our friend/local audio guru Michael McInnis had one for sale! Preliminary results have been dramatic – the kick drum sound is truly jaw-dropping and having all the main drum mics using the same pres makes for a tight, cohesive sound. We are thrilled to own this amazing piece of gear!
ROYER SM 21 Dual Mic Clip
Every once in a while an accessory comes along that makes life easier. The Royer SM 21 is an elegant solution to simple problem. Like many engineers, we love the sound of a dynamic mic combined with a ribbon mic on electric guitars. The go to combo is a Shure SM57 along with a Royer 121. To ensure phase coherence, one must carefully align the fins of the Royer with the label band on the Shure and be sure they are aligned on both axes for optimum bass response. We often mic up two or three cabinets at a time, requiring multiple mic stands and lots of careful alignment. The Royer SM 21 is a mic clip that hold both mics on a single stand and allows you to perfectly align the mic capsules. We ordered two as soon as we heard about them and they have proven to be extremely useful in tracking sessions.
BUNN VP-17 COFFEE MAKER
That’s right. Probably the piece of gear that has the greatest impact on every session is the coffee maker! We know what motivates people and most musicians are caffeine-fueled machines. If you have recorded with us, you already know that we offer copious amounts of tasty, strong coffee for our clients at all times. We’ve worn out a couple of high-end home models and decided to step up to the Bunn. The VP-17 can brew up to 3.8 gallons of coffee and hour! We’re loving the “on-demand” nature of the Bunn – pour water in the reservoir and coffee immediately begins to fill the carafe. We have a burr grinder on hand for fresh ground coffee every time.
Book a session and come check out our new acquisitions soon!
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.