Musical Rooms

August 7, 2008

Competition: Win tickets to see Little Wings in Whelan’s

Filed under: competitions,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 4:31 pm
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kylefieldLittle Wings play Whelan’s next Wednesday, August 13th with support from Goodtime John.

To win one of three double passes to see the band, just answer the following question:

Kyle Field was a member of the band Rodriquez with two other well-known musicians. Name one.

Leave your answer in the comments (or by email to musicalroomsATgmailDOTcom) and winners will be chosen by 5pm next Tuesday, August 12th.

Links: Musical Rooms Part 38: Little Wings

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Musical Rooms Part 38: Little Wings

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 4:16 pm
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littlewings

“I have absolutely no favorite because I really like constant change, so a new place is exciting; the music can happen in a new way and new experience is what I am interested in. I use people’s spaces/friend’s “jam pads” i don’t have one of my own. My theory has always been stay relatively gearless, low overheads, don’t rent a practice space, etc. so that I usually just dip into people’s zones for x number of days and making a recording. I like the unfamiliar smells, every bit of new stimulus is good for my style of doing things. I get really swamped by the same old space sometimes, the place where I live has so many other uses than just for playing music, cooking, paying bills.

What’s important in that space is whatever musical equipment people are using – it’s a treat for me to use too. There is a random element wherein you are collaborating with what’s there, and I enjoy the loss of that control. I can be fairly improvisational, creatively speaking. In terms of how much time I spend in a place, it all depends. When I am ready to unload the songs again, the right situation appears.

I enjoy the feedback (non-verbal) and not just the bounce back that playing new songs for people gives me. I think getting alone time is essential to let the thoughts and ideas breathe, but too much of it defeats the purpose for me.

There are anywhere from between five and 30 ways that a song can start to happen for me. Writing words first – like, I want a song titled : this! – a melody hummed while playing an instrument, a melody sung while walking around, singing someone else’s song and getting one of my own out of it, making fun of a song I don’t really like or think is goofy and realizing i could come up with words that would fit that and it would make sense, etc. The way that it happens varies which is nice I think, I have to think about it to remember how a song happened, and I remember where I was sometimes and often some life details too.

I don’t own much recording equipment myself. I always thought that if I had it around I would never use it. Or use it alot at first and then let it collect dust like some sad Nintendo sitting under a coffee table. So I have a hand-held tape recorder that I use to document melodies that would be impossible for me to remember. I also have Garageband on my laptop and have used it to great success. Once the song starts, I think it takes over and how it was recorded was forgotten. I don’t even have an external microphone, I just use the built-in mic and it sounds fine somehow.

What I like most about my space is that I take it with me however I can.”

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Originally formed in the seaside town of San Luis Obispo, the music of Little Wings completely imbibes the environment in which it was conceived. The brainchild of American songwriter, performer and acclaimed visual artist Kyle Field, he has recorded albums for both K Records and Marriage Records and has played bass in the band Rodriguez with M Ward and Mike Funk. Devendra Banhart also invited Field and his friends to join his latest European tour as his backing band. Little Wings play Upstairs at Whelan’s, on Wednesday August 13th at 8pm. Support is from Goodtime John and tickets cost €10 plus booking fee from WAV, http://www.tickets.ie, Road Records and City Discs. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/littlewings.

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August 1, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 37: Field Music

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:13 am
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“The room we record and practise in is an upstairs room in a community centre in Sunderland, which we’ve been in since 2001. I wouldn’t exactly call it a favourite space – we can’t really afford anything else. But it is incredibly practical, especially as we record ourselves and tend to spend quite a lot of time making our records – the School of Language record was recorded over about five months. We share rent on the room between the three members of Field Music (myself, my brother Peter, and our schoolmate Andy Moore), The Futureheads and a guy called Peter Stebbing who occasionally features in a band called the Amateur Dramatics. There are eight of us in total, hence calling the studio 8 Music. Ingenius, eh? Me and the other Field Music-ers are the only people who really use it as a studio – for everyone else it’s primarily a practise room, though everyone’s recorded bits and pieces there.

The building is a an old 1930s school building. At some point, probably in the ’70s, this became a sixth form college and now it’s a community enterprise building – there’s a creche, people training to be gas fitters and a few rooms to do computing courses in the building. Our room is about 25′ x 12′, so it’s quite big. The walls are covered by charity shop curtains, which don’t keep provide any sound insulation at all, but do stop high frequencies bouncing around the room too much. In fact, it’s not sound-proofed at all, though the walls are quite thick and my dad, who works for a building company and is very handy, helped us fit an extra door and a second-layer of double glazing over the windows.

Unlike most studios we do get some daylight in, which can really improve the atmosphere of the room. And of course we can open them mid-practise if it starts to get a little sweaty. Very little in the room is specifically geared towards it being a studio – again, because we simply can’t afford that kind of thing – so the fluorescent lights buzz and rattle, and the walls are square to each other (which is acoustically bad because it generates ‘standing waves’), and it’s quite difficult to control the bass
frequencies bouncing around.

The room contains an assorted jumble of amps, guitars, keyboards and studio bits – it changes depending on who’s on tour or who’s busy rehearsing/recording at any particular time. Keeping the room organised has become really important as we’ve all become busier – you don’t don’t want to get home from a long tour and find there’s no space to put your drum kit. We’ve had the same mixing desk for over ten years – an Allen & Heath GS3, which we bought from Peter’s student-loan money to do a six-month community recording project in 1997 – it’s seems slightly crazy that I set up my own studio when I was only 17; writing out funding applications and sorting out insurance and paying rent. Over the last two years the desk has seen a lot less action as both me and my brother have been recording and mixing on computer.

It’s been quite important for us to have a real piano in the studio (in fact we have two – one mini-upright and one ‘portable’ electric grand – a late ’70s relic despised by roadies everywhere but with a really unique sound) – there’s no way to replicate that sound. As much as our equipment isn’t far beyond what you might have in a bedroom studio, having the space to record acoustic instruments live in a room (or in the corridor outside the room, or the toilets underneath etc.), capturing the air bouncing around is really important to us. Those Field Music records might sound quite pristine, but you couldn’t describe them as being highly-produced – just us in our little funny-sounding room with three cheap microphones on the drums.

How much time we spend in the studio depends on what’s going on. While we were recording Tones of Town, the three of us would be in the studio for four or five plus hours on an afternoon, maybe three days a week. When we were rehearsing for the ToT tours we’d do four afternoons a week and leave ourselves the rest of the time to do admin. I always tend to gravitate to working on mornings, for a whole host of reasons but partly because no-one else really wants to be in the studio then – the School of Language album was mostly recorded in sessions between 9am and 1pam, going in every day and then also doing a couple of evenings every week. I’d also work on editing or mixing on the laptop at home or wherever I happened to be; in a cafe, on the train, in a hospital waiting room. Luckily though, I live really close to the studio – just a ten minute walk – there’s a little bit of room for more spontaneity. And I can always just record at home if I need to capture an idea quickly.

Peter and I both write with a pretty clear idea in our heads of how we want the finished recording to sound – for us, a song isn’t just a set of chords and some lyrics – there are always lots of arrangement and production ideas in there from the very beginning. Maybe because of that, it is often easier for us to work on our own and, for School of Language recording, I think I’ll keep it fairly solitary. It’s quite nice at the moment though, having spent most of last year playing and recording on my own, to get in the practise room with some other musicians and rock out and jump in a van and head out on tour.
For writing, it’s easiest if I’m a little bit bored, have a few journeys to make on the metro (ideal thinking time) and maybe a few cups of strong coffee. It tends to be a back and forth process between sitting with a guitar or at the piano and having time to let my thoughts wander. I find it difficult, if not impossible to write on tour and I rarely write in the studio, other than just coming up with fragments on the piano. With the School of Language albums, any demo-ing of ideas was done straight into the computer – that way the demo can actually provide the basis of the finished recording even if there are loads of mistakes or the structure isn’t in place – ‘Rockist Pt 1’, ‘Disappointment ’99’ and ‘Extended Holiday’ all came from very early demos, and most of the others are just a generation or two removed.

We don’t have a great deal of equipment – I have two electric guitars (an old SG and a jazzy Ibanez semi-acoustic), two regular basses (a Precision and a funny short-scale Squier Musicmaster which only cost £99 brand new) and an Epiphone acoustic. We only really use one guitar amp – a reissue of a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb, though occasionally I’ll dig out something else – like one of those tiny toy Marshall stacks or this six watt Fender Champion I’ve been using for gigging. For bass, we use whatever’s around – maybe Jaff’s Ampeg or ours or the Deluxe again – and take care how we mic it up. We’ve had the same Pearl drumkit for about 16 years, but now with a Gretsch Snare Drum, and reluctantly-replaced cymbals. We don’t have a huge stock of microphones either – two Rode NT1 condensors, three AKG C1000s, a Rode Valve mic with switchable polar patterns and a cheap Nady ribbon mic – it would be great to have a couple of really expensive, great-sounding microphones but I also quite like the limitations of working with so little equipment – it’s encouraged us to be a little bit more creative with where we put the instruments (in the hall, at the top of the stairs, in the ladies’ toilets?) and how we mic them.”

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Field Music’s most recent album, Tones of Town, was released in early 2007. In 2008, the band have been working in their Sunderland studio on various offshoot projects. Peter Brewis’ album The Week That Was will be released on August 18th. David Brewis released an album as School of Language in February this year through Memphis Industries/Thrill Jockey. The touring band features David, Peter and Neil Bassett (Golden Virgins, Former Cell Mates). Andrew Moore is currently working on an album under the pseudonym, John Monroe. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/fieldmusic.

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