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.