Old News releases its latest EP, Castro, on Friday, Feb. 2. The band will celebrate with an all-ages performance at The Donut Whole. Guitarist and vocalist Beau Harris says that the EP reflects a number of changes within the band and its circumstances since the first Old News release, 2017's Consolation Prize. Joining Harris on this recording are Sutton Wilson (trumpet), Blaine Martin (bass) and Max Abood (drums, percussion).
Jedd Beaudoin: What's happened between the last EP and this new one?
Beau Harris: There were some pretty big changes. Originally, Old News was designed as just a recording outlet for me. On our first EP, Consolation Prize, I played all the instrumentation except for horns and strings. At the end of it, we realized that this could make a really great live project. Around that time, we started flirting with the idea of making it into a full group — we being myself and Max Abood, who's the current drummer. We knew exactly who we wanted to add in. They were all available. So it just grew into a full lineup. We immediately turned around and started recording in August. We'll be putting it out this Friday.
Tell me a little bit about the actual process of recording the album.
We did a kind of halfsies recording style with this. We did drums, half the bass and vocals at a studio here in town. And then, in order to give us more time to focus in on some more intricate details and really focus in on the sound that we wanted, we did guitars, the other half of the bass, horns and auxiliary instruments in my home studio which ballooned into having way more guitar tracks than are necessary and a lot of different horn layers and strings and keys. Then we sent it off to be mixed and then it was mastered by TJ Lipple, who is a hero of ours who worked with American Football, Fugazi, MGMT, some other artists we really like. He really put the sparkle on the edge of it.
Good for you guys!
I'm a big proponent of…if you have a sound you're trying to chase after, go find the people that have that sound, instead of trying to make something that is that into that. All those people are working people that really want to make music. It's just email. We emailed TJ. He was, like, "Great! It'll be done in two weeks." And now we have it. If you have a certain sound, just be very specific about describing it. Learn how to achieve that sound and then go and do it because it will save you a lot of time and lot of money at the end.
So you guys have actually sat and studied maybe not only the art of writing but the art of production as well. "How did they get that snare sound?" "How did they get that guitar sound?"
That's one thing that we really all geek out about. After you go through and analyze, "Here's what notes or chords are in this song," the vibe and the recording of it is a whole other angle that is…if you're recording something and you're expecting other people that aren't your friends or yourself to listen to it, it's gotta sound great. That's a learning curve. If you want a specific snare sound like we had in mind or a specific snare sound like we had in mind or a specific guitar sound, then you gotta go find the records that you found that on, look up how they did it and then try to re-create that the best you can. You do that enough times and you can really expedite that process and know exactly what you want.
I find that element of the process so interesting. There's the story of The Band, who backed Bob Dylan, working in this house in upstate New York. They're in the basement. Just the physicality, those instruments, their voices, needing to be heard, impacted the harmonies and composition and the arrangements.
Exactly. I think room and space and the character of where you're at has a huge impact on your music, be it literally the room that you're in, the state of mind you're in when you go there, or just what's influencing you. In our case, we did drums in a concrete sunroom that had a ton of light pouring in. It was beautiful. We turned around and did guitars in my bedroom, which sounds a little bit wacky but each room has such a character, both that it imparts on your sound and on you as a writer. You just gotta find where you feel and sound inspired.
Where else could a guitarist be more comfortable than in their own bedroom?
Exactly! I flipped the mattress up against the door and mic'd everything up like if I had my perfect ideal way without having to spend the time. I mic'd it up and annoyed my neighbors for, like, seven days. Spent like six hours a day tracking until I got all the takes and then went back for all the other layers and got it.
It's got a very homey vibe to it. We just wanted to capture the sound of where we were living and what we were going through. Part of that is doing as much of it as you can yourself.
And 20 years down the road it's something you're not necessarily going to be able to replicate.
There are a lot of studios that sound very, very neutral—not that that's a bad thing, being sterile and having a great place to start is a good thing but if you want to capture a specific character, then what's better than your room?
I've always enjoyed it when you hear homemade recordings or recordings that are done sort of in warehouses or something and somebody drives by on a moped and that reads on the audio.
If you listen really, really carefully to the opening track of the EP, "Everyone's A Minimalist," when Sutton is playing his horn line, you can very distinctly hear the refrigerator door closing, after the second hook. It's just one of those quirks. It was a great take so we kept it. But you run the risk of that.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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