Louis XIV Range of Motion

Louis XIV''s rockfest marches on with tin cans and high-end string arrangements

Yeah, they're over the top sometimes (okay, most of the time), and that whole rascally sex-god thing has been pretty much played out by now. So what angle is left for Louis XIV as they prep to drop their new album in January 2008? In one word: rock.

The band's new, as-yet-untitled set (Atlantic, 2008) is a modern rock 'n' roll coup. Self-produced by the band with singer Jason Hill at the helm (“pretty much because we're cheap,” Hill says with a laugh), it's all glam guitars and bludgeoning rhythms, but with the impetus of a lot of new gear and the added element of band growth.

“We started producing and recording our own music out of necessity,” Hill explains, “but we found that the actual creation of the sounds is just as much fun as songwriting.”

“We've definitely grown,” bandmate Brian Karscig chimes in. “We really flourished in the studio this time and set out to make something different.”

Recorded primarily in the band's own “dream” studio, Hill and Karscig — with Mark Maigaard on drums and James Armbrust on bass — work primarily through both Pro Tools and the old BBC Neve console that Hill scrounged up, complete with 53 and 54 Series modules. Some of the vocal reverb work was done in the bathroom of the Japanese-engine import store next door, with a shut door and a single microphone.

Louis XIV has acquired a full complement of “funky old mics,” including a pair of matching 1969 Neumann U 47s. And they also rely on an old Studer A80 console that Hill bought on a whim from the PBS station at San Diego State. “I got that one for 125 bucks,” he says with a laugh. “I'm sure it's worth a lot more now.” Indeed, gear is part of what gets this band psyched to record.

“We started on a Tascam 4-track, then the 8-track, then an Akai 12-track, then up to Pro Tools,” Hill says. “That's just how it evolved. We acquired gear a little at a time, and now we have a lot. We do it all organically; we're not big on plug-ins. You'll find us doing random things like sticking mics in light cans to get weird metallic sounds.”

They also worked with string composer David “Beck's dad” Campbell, who brought in a 12-piece string ensemble for such tracks as “Hopesick” and “Air Traffic Control.” “We thought he was too big-time to work with us,” Hill muses, “so it was incredible to hear his thing, his style.”

Campbell was also apparently just as intrigued with the band. After their string sessions, which were recorded at Hollywood's famed Capitol Studios, Campbell stuck around to watch. Thrilled to be in such a prestigious facility, the guys gleefully dragged in a bunch of tape machines and played around for hours, using the studio's echo chamber and crafting a D.I.Y. flange effect for the end of “Air Traffic Control.”

The precise string work from Campbell contrasts perfectly with Hill's sassed-up vocals and the band's guitar-heavy sound. Hill plays his ‘67 Epiphone Casino through an old Silvertone amp, and Karscig runs his Gibson SG through his Fender Bassman 10. But they'll often trade rigs for the sake of convenience. Piano parts are played on an old Knabe upright from the turn of the century, “even though it's out of tune half of the time,” Karscig says. [Laughs]

Campbell's engineer recently dropped off another toy for the band to play with — an old Eventide phaser, “like what you hear on Queen and Cars records,” Karscig says. Appropriately, they promptly put it to use on their cover of Queen's “Flash's Theme,” their campy version used for the new Sci Fi Channel TV series, Flash Gordon. “We messed with that one for quite a while,” Hill says. “It became a real phase-fest.”

But “tour-fest” is more what the band's next year sounds like it's going to be. They're preparing to be on the road for the bulk of 12 months, recording as much as they can in between. “We're constantly recording,” Hill says. “We have a lot of songs. It does feel good to finish something, like this album, but it's also really easy to say, ‘Hey, let's go and remix this again.’”