Musical Rooms

December 7, 2010

Musical Rooms Part 103: Solar Bears

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:00 am
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“Our musical room is a small part of Rian’s home. It resembles a loft or attic but it could be a mezzanine. Rian has been learning about music production for over a decade, working most days on various projects. His house is located on a steep hill in Delgany, Wicklow. It is not far from woodland and the quality of oxygen is better than you could hope for. There is an energy in the locality that is lacking in the area I am from personally. Both Rian’s parents are musicians, as is his brother Oisin so there are countless books on music and instruments laying around.

There happens to be another studio next door called Strawberry Studios, ours was called Studio Antarctica unofficially. Equipment-wise the list is longer and more varied than either of us had recalled. We worked off a Mac running an ancient version of Protools. We used keyboards like the Proteus 1 + 2 as well as more standard fare like Novation K-Station. The guitars ranged from a Epiphone Viola Bass (a Hofner copy) to an Adam Black Orion using pedals like the EH Holy Grail Plus and the Keeley Blues Driver.

The real joy for us was tape machines which included a My First Sony Cassette Recorder and a Tiger Electronics Talkboy Cassette Recorder, which featured in Home Alone 2, if I am not mistaken. We used some software for textures as well but it was mostly hardware that we got our ideas down on for editing. Songs were created without much labour or polishing. Rian spent quite a while mixing and doing final touches. There were times when we left the windows open to allow the ambience outside to creep in. That is something Can used to do. An element of nature is important.

We sampled scales of guitar and saxophone to create new synth sounds. Another trick we did was recording the resonance off a Welmar Acoustic piano strings after shouting at them. Sometimes Rian started a track, sometimes it was me. Everything was shared and equal. Roles became non-existent early on. Thankfully we produced a piece of music each time we met up.

The room itself has enough books, angles and objects to ensure interesting acoustics. There was plenty of beer and wine drinking during sessions. Afterward we would watch an old-skool science fiction film or a psychedelic opus like The Holy Mountain to inspire us for the next day. The laidback approach suited us both as people and music makers.”

Solar Bears are Dublin/Wicklow duo John Kowalski and Rian Trench who met at sound engineering college. Sharing a love of world cinema, their music combines a number of different influences ranging from electronica to film composers like Ennio Morricone and George Delerue. Their sound is a mix of programming, acoustic instruments, synths and vintage tape machines. They are signed to Planet Mu and their 2010 album, She Was Coloured In, was named in Rough Trade’s 100 Albums of the Year and in Uncut Magazine’s Top 50 albums of 2010. For more information visit

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1 Comment »

  1. I really love reading/seeing more about where the music I love comes from. Solar Bears made such a great album, so interesting to read the technical deets 🙂

    Comment by Nay — December 7, 2010 @ 2:28 pm |Reply

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