Taking its name from an e.e. cummings verse, If By Yes echoes its namesake''s poetic pop and avant-garde style. Its substance and style are the sum of its parts: vocalist Petra Haden (who has lent her voice and violin to sessions with Beck, Bill Frisell, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and The Decemberists, among many others), along with multi-instrumentalist Yuka Honda, who co-founded Cibo Matto. The duo grew into a quartet with the addition of drummer Yuko Araki and guitarist Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu.
The band''s debut album, Salt On Sea Glass (Chimera Music), began in Honda''s home studio in New York City''s East Village, where it was written and recorded over the space of nearly a decade, whenever Haden and Honda could meet up. Songs would take shape with Honda producing— using her Pro Tools HD setup to improvise structural and sonic ideas— and Haden riffing on complementary vocal melodies. Also contributing were friends and family, including David Byrne, who added vocals to “Eliza,” and Haden''s triplet sister, Tanya, who contributed to writing “Imagino” and illustrated the album cover. Keigo Oyamada, aka Cornelius, produced “Still Breathing” and did a remix of “You Feel Right.”
“These recordings are a lush mélange of overdubs,” recalls Honda. “On this recording, I built most of my tracks using simple drum sounds on a Korg Triton [keyboard workstation] and [then] added on from there. For ‘You Are Something Else,'' I wrote a sketch using my favorite Roland DJ-70 sampler. Michael Leonhart, who plays trumpet with Steely Dan,created a one-man horn section, which I captured using a Blue Dragonfly mic. Thomas Bartlett played a Wurlitzer through a Z Vex Seek Wah [effects pedal] and an Ibanez analog delay pedal, and Shahzad Ismaily created an ‘indie-rock'' guitar part for the chorus. When Petra and I got together, we listened to the horn loops and were immersed in the sensations they triggered.
“It's fun to write with Petra, as she''s one of the few people who gets off on sounds as much as I do,” Honda continues. “She came up with vocal ideas fast, which I recorded into Pro Tools using a Shure KSM44 mic through a Neve mic pre. I tinkered with the sketch/demo for a few months until we saw each other again, adding overdubs with friends.” The quartet recorded “Three As Four” live at Chimera Music''s studio in upstate New York. “I wanted to write a song with kick drum on every beat, so the music could turn around in both ‘4'' and ‘3,''” Honda explains. “Our main engineer, Scott Hollingsworth, used a Pro Tools HD 8 system with an Apogee Rosetta 800 interface and Big Ben master clock. To record drums, he used an AKG D 112 mic into a Neve 1083 on kick, an SM57 mic into the Neve 1083 on snare, an AKG 414 mic with a -20dB pad cardioid pattern into API 512 mic pre''s. For overheads, we used a Coles 4038, one of my favorite mics, into an Avalon 737 using the compressor and some subtle EQ to add high-end. Shimmy played a Fender Strat through his 1950s Fender Deluxe amp, miked with a Shure SM57 mic into a Neve 1083 preamp. Yuko started to play this groovy beat on drums and I added the bass part on a Fender Rhodes, miked with two Coles 4038 mics into an Avalon 737 preamp.
“Scott was on-point and got the importance of the sound of the kick being earthy and soulful,” Honda adds. “He triggered a noise-gate with the kick to open the overheads. Getting those sounds quickly during the recording was important because it directly influenced the way we played.”
Home bases:New York City and Los Angeles
Sequencer (or Multitrack) of Choise: Ableton Live
Main Gear: Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Plus, Z Vex Seek Wah, DigiTech Whammy, Ableton Live with Akai APC40, Yamaha Tenori-On, Nord Electro 3, Manikin Electronic Memotron, Roland Juno 60