Above: Sarah Jaffe with
SINGER/COMPOSER SARAH JAFFE’S ALBUM DON’T DISCONNECT (KIRTLAND) has
the sounds of synths and acoustic instruments that were manipulated
to seem synthesized. Drummer/producer McKenzie Smith worked
with Jaffe in his Redwood Studio (Denton, Texas; redwooddenton.
com), which he owns with bandmate Joey McClellan.
Jaffe’s new songs started with sketches that she’d bring into
Smith’s studio to flesh out, with engineer Jordan Martin capturing
the action to Pro Tools. “She had cool ideas, but they were
45-second bits,” Smith says. “I would get a rhythmic idea and a
groove, maybe get the bass drum sound I wanted first; some of
that sounds like an electronic kick drum, but it’s actually a small
marching bass drum that I have. I would beef it up and sometimes
make it sound electronic in the mix. It has the human element and
the processed, digital element.”
Then, Smith and keyboardist Evan Jacobs would layer in keys
and synths. “Sarah and I would try out simple lines and lay down
synth ideas, and then for more complex stuff, we had Evan,” Smith
says. “One sound people will recognize is a [Roland] Juno 60 I have
that’s temperamental. If you get a cool sound going, you better
hurry and record it before you lose it!”
Nord and Prophet keyboards were also used. A Moog Little
Phatty supplied the bass lines on all but three tracks.
Smith’s studio is in a 1,200-square-foot out building on the same
property as his late-’60s home. There’s a small guest apartment,
tracking room, iso booth, and a control room, where Jaffe ended up
recording a lot of her vocals.
“The studio vibe was extremely relaxed,” Smith says. “She’d be
doing a ‘scratch vocal,’ sitting on the couch in the control room.
We had an SM7 up at all times, and she’d say, ‘Let me lay down this
thing real fast.’ But, listening back later, she would say, ‘Could we
just keep that vocal take? I really like it.’
“Sarah is an extremely consistent singer, though. She’s great all
the time. So if we went back to redo anything, it was to get better
control over the sound, never because of her performance.”