Midnight Masses on Creative Inspiration Through Grief

There are few events more painful than the loss of a parent too soon. Lead vocalist and songwriter. Autry Fulbright, singer/songwriter for the New York band Midnight Masses, knows this all too well. He worked through the grief of his father's death by recording Rapture Ready, I Gazed at the Body [Team Love], Midnight Masses' debut EP, with the help of TV on the Radio's Gerard "Ghosthouse" Smith and producer/engineer David Tolomei (DNA Studios, Trail of Dead). 
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There are few events more painful than the loss of a parent too soon. Autry Fulbright, singer/songwriter for the New York band Midnight Masses, knows this all too well. He worked through the grief of his father's death by recording Rapture Ready, I Gazed at the Body [Team Love], Midnight Masses' debut EP, with the help of TV on the Radio's Gerard "Ghosthouse" Smith and producer/engineer David Tolomei (DNA Studios, Trail of Dead).

Here, Fulbright, Smith, and Tolomei talk about recording "Preacher's Son" (Fulbright's father was a preacher and a DJ), "Walk on Water" (with verses sung by Jaleel Bunton of TV on the Radio), wrestling with reverb, and gear they can’t live without. ? 

What was the process of recording "Preacher’s Son"?

Fulbright: "Preacher's Son" was the first song written for the EP. Originally the song was written to be acoustic. It wasn't really very engaging in that form so immediately Gerard had some ideas to give it a different, haunting feel. ? 

?Smith: A lot of the samples are based on field recordings. I had Autry play a bunch of different percussive instruments and sampled them. I used the Pro Tools LE 7.3, Music Production Toolkit, and MPC live drum samples. ? 

Tolomei: On my end, the workflow for "Preacher's Son" was opposite that of most songs. I was delivered files from Gerard, and then the band and I cut live drums and bass at my studio right before the mix session. Because the files were already so processed by the time they got to me, the drums and bass had to be similarly processed in order to sit with the rest of the track.? ?

"Walk on Water" is a very lush-sounding song. Reverb can sometimes muddy up a song. How did you maintain the clarity in the mix? ?

Tolomei: “Walk on Water” started out with EMT plate poured all over it as sort of a foundation. That was then built on with other reverbs, choruses, pitch shifters, and delays, a couple of strange patches from our Orville, as well as a number of plug-ins ([Digidesign] D-Verb, [Audio Ease] Altiverb, and [SoundToys] EchoBoy to name a few). Because the song was so drenched in effects, finding space for clarity became the major conflict in the mix. At the end of the day, more time was spent EQing and automating reverbs than was spent mixing the source material itself. ? ?

What recording experiments did you try out on the album? ?

Smith: Less is more, especially given the (lack of) budget and time constraints. ?

Tolomei: The majority of the experimentation on my part was done in the mix stage. The band naturally has a very unique sound all on their own. In order to preserve this, the setup for basic tracking was relatively minimal. When mixing I did a lot of experimentation with my effects returns. Almost half of the faders on my SSL were devoted to effects. All the reverbs and delays were heavily EQ’d, many of them sending into each other, creating feedback. The processing on the reverbs and delays made the mixes develop a mind of their own at times, so all the returns were heavily automated to regain some control.? ?

What are five pieces of gear you couldn’t live with out??

Smith: Audio-Technica AE3300 cardioid condenser mic, Glyph GT 050Q hard drive. ?

Tolomei: EMT 140 plate reverb, Eventide Orville harmonizer, Thermionic Culture Vulture distortion unit. ?

[Photo credit: Keith Grieger]