Thursday, December 23, 2010

Recording Week 3 (Guitar)

Hello and welcome to the third installment of the Algernon Cadwallader studio journal. We'd like to thank you for keeping an interest while we take care of the boring "behind the scenes" part of the band. Think of it as though we are open during renovation. I assure you we are doing all that we can to make things as entertaining as possible for you. We're especially fond of the feedback that you leave in our comments. It's nice to keep in touch with the outside world. Without further ado, Joe Reinhart on the guitar.

Things began quite like they did for bass tracking with three premium amps standing at attention to prove their sonic worth. These three were the Orange AD 30 with Mesa 2X12 cabinet, the Vox AC 30, and the Fender Twin Reverb. Though all fierce and unique we managed to weed out the Twin fairly quickly and began focusing on the remaining soldiers. Joe fell in love with Vox when we toured in Europe and he played a rental every night for a month straight. The way it breaks up like earth under a bulldozer causes the soul to cringe with pleasure. He bought one almost immediately after we returned home and just finished paying it off the other day. It's little brother, the AC 15, can be heard on our Fun 7". For anyone who has ever played out of an Orange I need not try to sell this one at all. In touring band terms, it is the Mercedes Sprinter of guitar amps. It is the brightest (looking too) and heaviest sound you can ever expect to hear and the knobs are even labeled with goofy little cartoon icons! It doesn't take much to get this pair singing like Hall and Oates in the boys room. We start putting some stuff down but soon get a suspicious feeling that maybe that was too easy. Everything sounds great but maybe a little to great? With a bit of A-B'ing it becomes evident that the offensive tones of teenage rebellion and 20-something frustrations we are looking for in a lead guitar are coming by and large from the AC 30. Rather than cluttering tape with multiple tracks of each guitar take we decide to use the Vox for the dirty stuff and have the Orange provide us with very intimidating clean parts. So with the easy stuff out of the way, on to the hard stuff.

And so it was, in the honor of great sound, that Joe escalated the gauge of his strings to 12's. His finger tips would soon look like deep canyons of dried super glue. His care-free temperament would follow. As we entered the month of December it was getting quite cold in Philadelphia as it usually does. We are no strangers to winter here in the warehouse. The big open warehouse with 12 foot tall windows, skylights, brick walls, and concrete floors. In fact we are like bitter, scornful brothers of the bastard season as we are forced to live in immediate proximity to it day and in and day out for 4 to 5 months out of the year. We played the game of balancing the quantity and intensity of space heaters in the studio with the frequency of breakers we were tripping in our fuse box. The morning routine includes rolling out of bed and quickly snuggling into a winter coat before leaving the bedroom. The studio was still warmer than the common area and so that was incentive to stay in there and keep working. Joe's writes parts that are no less than miniature guitar solos that he sometimes repeats and to watch him play them is to be very confused. Now, to watch him write them, alter them, and/or add to them is to be completely dumfounded, aggravated, and/or slipping in and out of consciousness. We could basically measure the time it took to finish a song in days. Somewhere around this time Tank and I found it best to leave Joe in the studio and pop our heads in now and then to see how things were going. A lot of times things were going like Joe bouncing up and down and playing jangly Operation Ivy songs on guitar and other times things were going like Joe curled up on a coat in the middle of the floor sleeping. And in between that recording Algernon Cadwallader songs. With the extra time on my hands I adopted a big puppy named Drake. He has proved to be very helpful around the studio. Say hi Drake. Moving onto the clean guitars was a welcomed milemarker and soon enough they were done.

At this point we were ready to take what we had on tape and dump it into the computer. Joe utilized connections he made when going to college to get us into Drexell University's studio to do this since they had a bigger and better digital interface which would save a lot of time and trouble. I could tell I was coming down with something flu-like so we went to our favorite nearby bar and got really really drunk. We celebrated how far we'd come and got the courage to think about how far we had to go. I had nightmares that night and woke up feeling like a trash can. We would have to put off doing vocals and move on to editing or adding axillary instruments. I wondered for the first time if we'd finish this recording before we left for tour.

Ladies and gentleman, and unexpected gift from old man winter; trash soup!

Monday, December 13, 2010


I just came across this blog on which our friend Duncan from Louisville spurts a little history about band shirts he has acquired over the years. A really neat idea since the best part of crappy DIY band-printed shirts is obviously the memories that follow them home from the show. Algernon Cadwallader made the top 12! I found the origins of our shirt particularly moving. Maybe because I was there to experience them too. Cool!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Recording Week 2 (Bass)

Obviously Thanksgiving is the most deceptive of American holidays but I'll be darn'ed if I don't enjoy myself back at my mom's warm house cooking, drinking, eating, and watching movies all day. There is still the lingering feeling that we could be celebrating something better and honest.
And so there is Hanksgiving, where we give thanks to one of the greatest actors whose mug has ever graced the silver screen, Tom Hanks. This tradition started several years ago by friends of mine and we've been carrying the torch ever since. After a grueling week and a half of tracking drums we felt well deserved to relax, laugh, and get fat.

Feeling rejuvenated and anxious to move this recording along and comforted that we still had enough Dogfish Head 90 Minute to last us at least a few more days we entered the studio bright and early to attack the bass tracks. With plenty of heads and cabs to choose and not really being any good at reaching any sort of decision we set them all up at once to let them duel it out in the battle of the bass amps. At the end of the battle the winners were 2 mics on the Ampeg SVT through the Acoustic 405 2x15 for the punk rock high end as well as the doomy low end and a close mic'd Acoustic 450 head through a Peavey 2x15 to pick up the slack with it's punchy low-mids. We also learned to re-cone a speaker at this time. There's nothing like brand new strings on a freshly set-up bass to make you feel like your holding god's dick in your hands. And so we began knocking out tracks, backing up a few times for missed notes or fucked up rhythms. There's alway things that pop out of a song once you record it for the first time that you've never noticed while writing and practicing it. Moving at an increasingly fast pace the golden brew poured freely in and out of our pint glasses. By 1AM we had finished all the main tracks and the last couple were done in single takes, including a scorching Elvis Costello cover. That night we celebrated the virtual half way point.

The next morning or afternoon we found the studio and put bass on all the "B takes" of the songs just so we had options of which to use later on and then that was that. Bass done. Our beaming accomplishment was transient though as we all knew that the next peak we had to climb would be the most treacherous.

How to Write a Song with Peter & Craig