Talk about it (1996)


Thoughts on Talk About It

By Warren J. Bloom ('96-'97)

I'd heard Lonnie Bedell's recordings on the Tufts Amalgamates' then-recent disc Unexpected Guests, and I loved his clean, you-are-there sound, so I'd booked him to tape The Newport Sound's final show in '95.  He did great job, so I had The Hyannis Sound book him to record our last two shows at First Baptist Church in '96. However, as we were setting up, I could tell Lonnie was a little skittish about the space, and it began to dawn on me that the recordings I knew of his were made in chapels with high slanted ceilings and space for the sound to breathe. The all-purpose room in the basement of First Baptist, on the other hand, is basically a wood-paneled cube, and there was little he could do with mic-placement that would've made the recording sound like it was made anywhere other than inside, well, a wood-paneled cube. A humidifier going on and off, and an outdated electrical system causing a low hum throughout one entire show's tape, didn't help matters. (St. Christopher's, which was the location of great live recording in '97, was a very late addition to our schedule in '96, so we didn't yet have the crowds there to make a concert taping work.)

The '96 summer culminated in our first trip into a recording studio, namely Room 9 From Outer Space in South Boston. (Future Sound producer John Clark, who I happened to know at the time, had yet to put his mobile recording rig together.) A few of us had studio experience, with college groups and otherwise (Winston, Darren and Brendan had recorded with the CoCoBeaux at that very studio a year earlier), but we weren't psychologically equipped to deal with the kind of detailed work we should've done. I was nominally the producer, but once we were in the studio all bets were off, as a) those of who'd recorded before had had wildly difference experiences which made for some unforeseen disagreements, and b) it was obvious that I'd personally done little real preparation other than booking the studio, thinking of some ideas for mixing -- most of which were awful in hindsight -- and just being really really psyched to go into a studio. Dave Richard, the studio's engineer and our de-facto producer, bless his heart, managed to keep things together.

There were two important moments, though. At one point on the first afternoon, Winston, Niles and I were taking a late lunch, eating some deli sandwiches on the floor of the main recording room. Suddenly, from Dave Richard's board to the main room's speakers came this glorious noise: the busy but sonically well-defined intro to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", followed by the second part of the intro, with a booming bass, shimmering backgrounds and kickin' VP from Mikey B. like we'd never heard it before. When we got the bridge, Winston said "Now this is why we're gonna write 'All sounds made by the human voice' in the liner notes, because nobody's gonna believe it." That was definitely a defining moment both in my experience with the Sound and the Sound's recording history, because it was then that we realized a) we should do this more extensively, and b) we should definitely do this more often.

On the following day, we all crammed into the control room to hear some rough mixes. As we listened to "That Cat", Dave suggested that the scat quartet be filtered to sound like an old-time radio. Some guys were aghast: Effects? On an a-cappella recording? There were a few purists in the group who objected to the idea of us sounding like anything other than "us," but Dave won out, and now it's hard to imagine the track without that old-time radio sound. In hindsight, of course, it's hard to imagine a group under The Hyannis Sound banner even debating the studio-effect issue at all.

But even more ludicrous, also in hindsight but perfectly reasonable then, is that we recorded all of the tracks for all five songs in one 18-hour day (including the time it took to get things going in the morning, rotating lunch breaks, rotating dinner breaks, and our normal goofing off). Wherever parts sang together live, we sang together in the studio too. To our credit, we were limited by our budget, meager by today's Sound standards; the idea of spending another day (or four) isolating parts, doing multiple takes and singing parts differently than the live arrangements weren't options. But it also just didn't occur to us that we should really nail one or two tracks, rather than do five just okay. The point of '96 tracks was not sonic perfection; it was about the giddiness of finding a second medium (after live recording) by which we could translate the experience of that summer onto disc. And I think it did the job pretty well.

Album Art: Nick Niles ('96-'97)