“My favorite place to make music is my living room. The Xiu Xiu studio, called “thee fallings out brose studio”, has been there, interrupting my life since I moved into my current apartment in 2005. It is both hyper productive and socially stunting to be able to look at it from my bedroom’s open door.
There is a nice view from my second storey window out over the tops of trees. There are bird feeders outside the window and their chattering and calls frequently sneak into songs. The sun shines in at about 5pm and I have to lower my head if I am to see the computer screen or I will go blind. But then again it forces me to listen harder as I cannot see anything.
My dad used to work at digidesign, the company that makes Pro Tools so he stole me a pile of prototypes when he worked there. It is a good, if Frankenstein-ian set up. I had to get it fixed once and the pro tools guys laughed at me the whole time as nothing I own should work but somehow it does. Also there is a pedal called the fuzz probe. DIRTY! Then a few guitars, piano, some weirder stringed instruments, a massive collection of gongs and bells a cheapo micro Korg that everyone on earth bought in 2003. But it rules. The only cool guitar I have is a 1953 Silvertone. It is too fragile to tour with but I love to record with it.
I adore quiet. Sometimes I have to wait for the neighbouring yardwork to stop before proceeding. I got a new mic – amusingly called “the Woodpecker” – that has been quaintly observing the bird theme and as well sounding beautiful. Isolation is essential for me, and also a total curse. I love to immerse myself in microscopic details and at times I think that is what makes a song sound fresh, the subtle parts. But this can lead to a myopic ear (?) so a friend is always welcome to say what to do next. I think I need about 40 hours alone and one hour with someone with perspective to fix all my errors.
The writing process depends on the tune but often I do love to take to a dumb sound like crappy direct guitar to establish the harmony and structure, and then over-record and over-improvise on top and that. Then I cull away the majestic wanking and hopefully find a song beneath the “experiments”. The mute and volume automation in Pro Tools is invaluable for this.
Equipment-wise, we use oft-mentioned cattle prod tools, Event monitors, a few fairly basic tube Pre-amps – Summit, Belari (totally cheap, but gnarly sounding) – a crap but distinctive HHB with a compressor and then a couple of Summit limiters. Nothing special, but all work horses. I have two good mics by Blue that seem to work on about everything and then a junk SM57 that was used at a Magic Mountain ride that a friend stole that has a huge on/off switch. It is great for a certain type of vocal. I also use a bunch of older plug-ins, and I’ve just learned to smash up. I like the idea of having less and learning odd placements, or over extending an intent rather than having massive amounts of gear. I have developed a pedal fetish as of late. Terrible, but useful habit.
What I love most about this space is that it reminds me of David Lynch.”
Xiu Xiu are an experimental US outfit whose 2008 album Women as Lovers received garnered a collective thumbs up from critics. Their genre criss-crossing takes in folk, electronic, shoegaze and post-rock. They play Whelan’s in Dublin on Thursday May 22nd. For more information, gig dates and tracks, visit www.myspace.com/xiuxiuforlife.