Pro/File: Long-Distance Operators

THE MEMBERS OF 46BLISS FIND MUSICAL JOY WORKING IN PARALLEL STUDIOS
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You could describe 46bliss as an electronica outfit, but the trio — which consists of keyboardist-vocalist David Cooper, drummer-programmer Jack Freudenheim, and vocalist Clare Veniot — might just as easily be thought of as songwriters who happen to express their ideas with digital gear. The band's shimmering production and often-processed instrumentation are employed in service of memorable tunes and artful lyrics.

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46bliss
Photo: Robert Caldarone

Part of the group's bliss is born from a highly interactive songwriting and production process. “Sometimes Clare brings in a melody she's been singing, and David starts comping on the piano, and we start jamming,” Freudenheim says. “Or they write together, and I come up with stuff to help out. Sometimes David has full songs in his head, and we build around that. I tend to come up with grooves — little loopy things [often generated with Ableton Live] with a couple of chords or a bass line — and we start jamming, three of us in a room. We record that and start building on it.”

Having more than one work process, says Cooper, keeps them from falling into the same habits, which can stifle creativity. The band's collaborative process yields a final product that is better than the sum of its parts, he says. Their interaction was easy when all three lived in New York City. But for their third CD, Wish Me Away (Pistachio Records, 2008), the band often had to collaborate long-distance — something they also did with guest musicians from as far away as Paris.

So coproducers Freudenheim (a software developer and the author of the music program Sounder) and Cooper (who recently left Brooklyn for Vermont) developed a system that would allow production they did in their own studios to translate in both. They agreed to use only software instruments and plug-ins that were installed on each other's PCs. Steinberg Cubase SX3 and Propellerhead Reason were their primary tools, but they also worked in Live and Sony Acid. For monitoring, both used Yamaha NS10M monitors and the same model power amplifier.

As the tracks moved back and forth, often on removable hard drives, the band used a program called GoodSync to keep file versions in order, and a Web-based project-management tool, Basecamp, to exchange notes, manage versions, and post lyrics. Sometimes both studios were active in parallel. “There were times when Clare was over at [my studio] doing vocals, and we'd be sending things back to Jack [electronically]. He'd be fixing drums and sending them back to us,” Cooper says.

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To cut clutter, “we decided to make stems and mix from that — get the golden comp of drums, vocals, keys, etc. and bring those into a new project and go from there,” Freudenheim says. “When we mixed with [Westchester-based producer and mastering engineer] Scott Creswell, we gave him the stems that made up our final mix. He set up a mastering chain, so we mixed and mastered at the same time, and we were able to hear a ‘final’ as we mixed. He could bring down specific sounds — compress, say, the vocals separately. If we heard something that needed fixing after the mastering, David was able to slip him a new stem, and Scott could rerun the master.”

Technology has allowed the band members to continue to draw on one another's creativity despite the distance between them. “The mix lives between us,” Cooper says. “It evolves as time goes on and moves from place to place.”

46BLISS

Home bases: Brooklyn and Katonah, New York; Burlington, Vermont

Sequencer of choice: Steinberg Cubase SX3

Other key software: Ableton Live, Propellerhead Reason, Sony Acid

Web site: 46bliss.com

[Links for Web]

http://www.46bliss.com
46bliss's Web site

http://www.goodsync.com
The GoodSync Web site

http://basecamp.com
The site for the project-management tool Basecamp

http://sounder.com
The Sounder Web site