Bodega’s latest release, Endless Scroll, is out now on the What’s Your Rupture? label, and it’s got something for everybody—at least everybody who likes smart punk, post-punk, and low-fi. The songs on Bodega’s debut album are rhythmic, beguiling and clever. Check out the official video for “Jack in Titanic.”
The album was produced by Parquet Courts guitarist/vocalist Austin Brown and recorded in a practice/recording space that Parquet Courts used to have in Brooklyn. On hand to set up the sessions and dial in sounds was engineer/musician Jonathan Schenke, who also mixed the album.
“Parquet Courts had gotten that space to work on songwriting and demos for their record Wide Awake,” Schenke explains. “It was halfway between a small studio and a glorified practice space, but there are a couple of amp closets and a small vocal booth that we wedged Montana [Simone] and her stand-up drum kit into. One of my roles in the initial tracking was to help move mic stands out of the way so she could get in and out to listen back to takes, and then make sure they were set back up for the next take.”
The rest of the musicians were situated in one large space, along with Brown and Schenke. “Playing in one room helped the band play more or less like we would at a live show. Seeing the faces of Austin and Jonathan certainly helped as well,” observes Bodega’s Ben Hozie, the band’s rhythm guitarist and co-vocalist/songwriter along with Nikki Belfiglio. “It’s very important to have an audience in mind when performing, but better still to have one on hand. Making eye contact with bandmembers is also helpful. The eye can see what the ear cannot.”
“I think one of the most interesting aspects is we recorded to Austin’s Tascam 388, the same machine that they recorded [Parquet Courts’] Light Up Gold on. The 388 has a cool sound—midrangey and compressed—and I feel like that’s a big reason that Light Up Gold sounds the way it does,” says Schenke.
“It wasn't so much that we wanted to make a record that sounds like [Light Up Gold],” Hozie says. “I personally wanted to share a material connection to it—running the tape through the same gears, collecting some of its energy.”
“I actually have a shootout on my Soundcloud that I made while we were recording Parquet Courts’ Tally All the Things That You Broke,” Schenke says. “We brought in Austin’s 388 and my Otari MX5050 half-inch 8-track. I recorded to the Tascam, the Otari, and then to Pro Tools—the same track, we just multed it out. Both the Tascam 388 and the Otari MX5050 leave such a sonic imprint. With this Bodega record, I can hear the 388: hyper-compressed, accented midrange thrust in the foreground of the sound. You can definitely hear it with the way the bass and drums pop and it’s a cool mid-fi sound. ”
Brown, Schenke and the band definitely took an overall approach to the recordings that emphasize those rhythmic elements.
“We talked about having the bass and drums really far forward, and playing up the groove and dance aspects of the songs,” Schenke says. “I think it is a really defining characteristic of the band versus a lot of guitar-based bands.”
Heather Elle’s bass was taken DI through a Vintech 1272 Neve-style mic preamp. On Simone’s drums, Schenke recalls he put up an AKG 414 overhead mic, an Electro-Voice RE20 or Sennheiser 421 on the floor tom, and Shure SM57s on snare top and bottom.
All guitar amps were placed in closets and were miked up with Beyer M160 cardioid ribbons, which are among Schenke’s favorites for guitars. “Something I concentrated on the first day was to get good headphone mixes for everyone, so that even though the amps were in closets and Montana was in a booth, everyone felt comfortable and confident playing,” the engineer says.
Brown ported the basic tracks into Ableton Live and recorded most of the overdubs, including final vocals, on his own with the band. Schenke then dumped the files into Pro Tools before mixing the album in Doctor Wu’s, the studio he owned and operated at the time in Williamsburg.
Schenke shares a few details about Doctor Wu’s and the mix:
“We had a Rupert Neve Designs 5088,” Schenke says. “That studio, as well as the new studio that I just opened with my studio partner, Jake Aaron—Studio Windows in Brooklyn—was very much an analog-digital hybrid. We had lots of Universal Audio digital plug-ins and Fab Filter, Eventide, Soundtoys, etc., but we also have great classic outboard gear.
“During Bodega’s mix, I wanted to take advantage of the outboard gear to retain and magnify the classic sound that we started with the 388. So for drums, we had the bus going through an 1176. On vocals, we used an Eventide ddl-500 for that quick slapback. And all the guitars went through vintage API 550a’s.
“One side effect of the way we’d done the tracking is, because the guitars were so close-miked and we were using ribbons, I ended up carving out the low-mids quite a bit and trying to get much more top end intact. When you see Bodega live, the guitars are so staccato along with the driving bass sounds, and we really wanted to make sure those cut and sang.”
Schenke says he also ran his Thermionic Culture Vulture parallel across the entire mix bus, to enhance saturation and grit. Another secret weapon that was employed during the mix: those computer-generated spoken-word phrases that pepper the songs.
“When they perform live, Nikki has a sampler onstage, including the computer voice,” Schenke says. “So many of their lyrics and outward presentation is talking about people’s use of technology, dependence on technology, and those bits point to that.”
“The computer samples were from a free text-to-voice software that me and Nikki found online,” Hozie says. “I think the computer voices function as something like hype emcees would on a rap record, but also as Brechtian interruption devices.”