Sound Team is an Austin, Texas — based six-piece band that melds indie rock and postpunk with German synth music and '80s pop. The group takes an exploratory approach to songwriting and recording; experiments are encouraged, and accidents become deliberate additions to their fuzzed-out, arty songs. Their studio approach incorporates '70s tape echoes and synthesizers, a primitive drum machine, and an occasional typewriter.
Having already produced four of their own EPs, Sound Team decided it was time to cut a full-length CD. As with their previous efforts, the band recorded most of their CD Movie Monster at Big Orange, their own studio in Austin that is a cavernous 1,500-square-foot space that once housed a 7-inch-vinyl pressing plant. Converting the barnlike space into a recording and rehearsal studio required a messy overhaul that involved carting out garbage, toxic chemicals, and old Velvet Underground lacquers. Walls were then built for a control room, and the extensive rewiring was handled by keyboardist Gabe Pearlman (who is a “master of postapocalyptic living,” according to vocalist-guitarist Matt Oliver).
The band also designs and prints their own T-shirts, posters, and cassette covers at Big Orange. They even have room to store a massive installation art project, with 40 TVs stacked in gridlike fashion — each playing a video loop showing a band member's body part. “It's pretty ‘Mad Max’ over there,” says Oliver.
Sound Team recorded several songs with producer-engineer Mike McCarthy, who was in town working on a Spoon record. He brought over his Calrec console and a few choice mic preamps. After his departure, the band reverted to their usual standbys: a 12-channel Mackie mixer, Neve 1073 and API 512 mic pres, and their prized Otari MTR 90II 2-inch 24-track machine. They then recorded a few of Movie Monster's tracks and most of the overdubs, often also working with a Fostex 4-track machine.
The song “TV Torso” evolved out of a basic 4-track recording put together by Oliver. “He gave me a recording of some mumbles and asked me to come up with words to what I thought he was saying,” says vocalist-bassist Bill Baird. For “TV Torso” and the lead track, “Get Out,” Baird built the song from a basic drone produced on his Yamaha PSR41 keyboard. They recorded drums through the Neves, guitars and synths through the APIs, and ran it all straight to the Otari using the Mackie for monitoring. Mics included a combination of Shure and Sennheiser models. “It sounds like 70-some tracks, but it's not even 24,” says Oliver.
They recorded every track on the album differently — some were layered piece by piece, others were cut with everyone playing together in the 1,000-square-foot live room. Only their experimental nature remained constant. Oliver brought in his old Wurlitzer electric piano, and synthesist Michael Baird, Bill's younger brother, brought in his Minimoog Model D and an old Arbiter Soundimension tape echo, which they used throughout the CD. A Roland Space Echo and an Echoplex were also used.
The band brought the final 11 songs to Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) to mix. To his dismay, most of the songs didn't have track sheets. “We wouldn't have it any other way,” says Oliver, “because it was very exploratory. We should probably be more methodical, but when you're in the space and having fun, you don't really want to sit there taking a lot of notes.”
Home base: Austin, Texas
Multitrack of choice: Otari MTR 90II 2-inch 24-track
Favorite synth: Minimoog Model D