Welcome to issue #153 of Tape Op.
This issue’s guest End Rant, “Industry Standard,” by my pal Garrett Haines, led me to recall a session and album from nearly two decades ago. John Vecchiarelli was a busy, gigging musician around town, and had previously released a great record called Tiny Rooms. When he approached me to produce and record his follow-up album, he asked if he could use one reel of 2-inch tape and track multiple songs parallel to each other, using only 4 or 8 tracks per song while carefully leaving open tracks between the songs as buffers. It was hilarious, kind of like playing a game of Tetris, but we made it work as his music was beautiful and austere. We kept that ethos throughout the entire recording process, even when there were drums, in which case I’d use a simple stereo mic and nothing else to capture them. I had a really great time making the record, and forged what felt like the beginning of a friendship, though many events in both our lives would soon lead us on different paths.
John’s album, Songs from Whoville, came out in 2004, and soon after we met up for dinner. He mentioned a few reviews had come out, but that some were calling it “lo-fi.” We discussed this at length, as to our ears it was a very warm and detailed album. The vocals had been sung into a top end tube condenser mic. I’d used my rare, high end Silverbox Hamptone tube preamp. Nothing about the record screamed “lack of fidelity” to either of us. Later that night, we both decided that critics were calling it “lo-fi” simply because it wasn’t an ornate, dressed up album. Or simply because they might have been feeling lazy.
I put the album on as I wrote this, and the power of the songs and performances still stuns me. There is nothing about the recording one should call low fidelity. Nor is there anything present that hinders the album from connecting with a listener. “Industry Standard” or “lo-fi,” be damned! I know in my heart I did the right thing in the studio for this album.