I'd heard good things about this album and when I finally got the chance to hear it, I was a convert too. Sometimes it's folky and sometimes noisy, but it's always interesting and a beautiful listen as a group of songs. Plus there's a story behind the recording. I spoke with Ben Knox Miller, the band's principle songwriter and singer and he talks of ferrying borrowed recording equipment out to his parents house on Block Island, RI on New Years Day 2008 while his folks were away escaping the dead of winter. "We didn't see anyone the entire time we were there except for the clerk at the grocery store," relates Ben. The ten isolated days on Block Island seemed to work our just right for the recording. The record was produced, and primarily recorded, by Jesse Lauter who was 21 years old at the time and a junior at NYU's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music. All of his classmates were on Christmas break, so he borrowed the best gear he could from his fellow students. Along with lots of unusual instruments, they ferried out two PreSonus DigiMax LT 8-Channel mic pres, which were lightpiped into a Digi002 running Pro Tools LE. A Universal Audio LA 610 was the only other pre and was used with an Electro- Voice RE20, primarily for the vocals. The drums were in a different room, but they had video cameras and monitors so they were able to see that room on video monitors. Ben calls the record "a glorified home recording," but is quick to credit Lauter's role on the record as taking the band further than they would have gone alone. Jesse would often push the band to do many more takes of a track than they were inclined to do, "as many takes as we had in us - it was a feat of physical endurance," said Ben. The title track had over 100 takes, "After 1000 whiskeys and lying on our backs, it took doing over 40 takes to realize the song could change." Miller praises Lauter's pushing them so hard to break down their inhibitions and take the songs and record much further than the previous album which they had self recorded, which he now feels wasn't as fully realized as it could have been. For his part Lauter refers to his method of editing between multiple takes as "recording live with surgery," and is happy with the recordings. "I wanted the record to be like a movie, and sonically be a good mix of the crunchy and the pristine." When they got back from Block Island, additional recording was done at Adorea Studio in New Haven, CT with Travis Bell and Lauter, and then additional overdubs and recording in Jesse's Williamsburg apartment. Finally, the record was mixed by Brian Taylor, who Ben refers to as "technically brilliant." Jesse concurs, "We needed a fresh set of ears." The record was mixed over seven days and entirely in the box. Lauter credits PSP's Vintage Warmer plug-in on the master buss as being a big part of the sound of the mix. The record was initially self-released by the band and then re-mastered by Bob Ludwig when Nonesuch picked up and re-released the album. It was the first record Lauter recorded and produced. Originally from Atlanta, GA, he'd worked in studios as an assistant since he was 15 years old but made the move to New York when he got into the NYU program. He's been staying busy as a freelance engineer working with folks like The Woes, Ingrid Michaelsen, James Blood Ulmer and Smokey Hormel, and co-owns Axis Sound studios in NYC. (www.lowanthem.com, www.jesselauter.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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