The Silent Kids' debut album, Tomorrow Waits(Two Sheds Music, 2003), unleashes the Atlanta-based quartet'ssupercharged, psychedelic brand of indie pop-rock. The band consists ofJeff Holt (bass); Beth Kargel (keyboards and samples); Michael Oakley(vocals, guitars, keyboards, and samples); and Scott Rowe (drums).Holt, Oakley, and Rowe tracked the album in their homes and in theband's rehearsal space.
Oakley recorded everything on his 8-track Tascam Portastudio 488mkII cassette recorder. He used room acoustics to his advantage andrelied on a minimal amount of gear, accurately capturing the SilentKids' raw, garage-band aesthetics. “Recording magazines alwayssay you have to have a nice preamp and outboard effects to get a goodvocal sound,” says Oakley. “I think you can do just finewith a couple of guitar pedals as long as you set it upcorrectly.”
Production began in Oakley's house. “We set up thedrums in a spare room and ran the guitar and bass through a 4-track andjust listened on headphones,” Oakley says. “We wanted touse all four inputs on my 8-track for the drums. We experimented withmic placement.” Oakley uses three Shure SM57s, two SM58s, and aSony ECM-MS907 stereo condenser mic.
“For a different sound, we'd record at our drummer's house— which has carpet, whereas mine has wood floors.” Oakleyused his laundry room as a reverb chamber. “It has a nice tilefloor,” he says. “Sometimes I'd put the guitar amp in abathroom and mic it from far away. But most guitar tracks were donewith an SM57 right on the speaker.
“After we did the drums, the bass player would lay down ascratch track, then I'd do the guitar and vocal tracks, and then he'ddo the bass parts last,” Oakley says. “I had only twotracks for guitars, so I had to have all of my effects ready andeverything mapped out. I did most of that stuff live through trial anderror. A lot of these textures had to go on part of a vocal track. Ihad to make sure I wasn't accidentally taping over a vocal or a guitar.We didn't bounce anything down.”
The band augmented its basic power-trio sound with homemade samplesand loops. “I have a Sony MiniDisc that I use for fieldrecordings,” Oakley says, “and I have [Sonic Foundry] Acidsoftware. For ‘Lost in the Petrified Forest,’ I recorded adrum pattern with just one mic, threw it in Acid, looped it, slowed itdown, and used that as the basis for the track. I used some oreganofrom our spice rack as a maraca, and recorded the guitarsdirect.” At times, he triggered drum samples from a laptop. Theband's thrift-shop keyboards include a late- 1970s model RealisticConcertmate MG-1.
Tomorrow Waits was mixed and mastered at Atlanta's Glow inthe Dark Studios. “I know you're not supposed to have the sameguy mix and master [your album], but we did it anyway,” Oakleysays. “We had to do some creative equalizing because I had totrack everything through a set of bass-heavy headphones.
“The engineer was amazed when I told him we didn't use anypreamps,” Oakley adds. “You don't need a ton of money tothrow away to make something sound decent. If you're into recording,you can get caught up in buying new stuff all the time, because you cannever have the perfect setup. I'm just trying not to fall into thattrap.”