Truly Gritty

Kevin and Anita Robinson, who constitute the Portland, Oregon-based guitar-drum duo Viva Voce, like to keep their fans guessing.

Viva Voce

Kevin and Anita Robinson, who constitute the Portland, Oregon-based guitar-drum duo Viva Voce, like to keep their fans guessing. Their previous three CDs have each had their own individual stylistic bent. On their latest, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk, 2006), the pair combined stripped-down, dirty material with radical recording techniques to create an album rooted in classic rock, yet rich with modern sonic -elements.

Darkness and light do battle on Get Yr Blood Sucked Out. “A lot of the themes in these songs were about revenge, vengeance, and darker topics,” says Kevin. “Anita and I both liked the idea of juxtaposing a lot of themes. So if there are really dark lyrics about cutting people's heads off, we'll put them in a song where the music is really upbeat, so that it feels a little wrong, or vice versa.”

The Robinsons recorded the CD in their home studio, which has gradually taken over almost every room of their house. “When you record at home digitally, there's a threshold for the fidelity you're going to get,” says Kevin. “So we made a conscious effort to keep the tones really dirty.”

Except for trumpet parts from Cory Gray on “So Many Miles,” a bowed bass track from Seth Lorinczi, and background vocals and handclaps from Kim Baxter, Kevin and Anita played every instrument. Anita handled electric guitar, and Kevin played drums, keyboards, acoustic guitar, and other random instruments. The couple shared vocal, bass, and percussion duties. “We fight over who gets to play bass,” laughs Anita.

Kevin manned the control room (the spare bedroom), which contains a 1970s “no-name” mixing board, a five-year-old PC that's been up-graded with a TerraTec sound card, Joemeek and Millennia mic pres, and other select outboard gear. After recording their previous three albums using Nuendo, they switched to Steinberg Cubase SX. “SX uses the same audio engine as Nuendo, so we get all the benefits of both.”

Get Yr Blood Sucked Out

Kevin usually records Anita's guitars with an Audix D3 mic into a Millennia HV-3 preamp straight into Cubase. He mixes with a number of PSP and Waves plug-ins. “Those plugs are world class and not unbearably expensive, so you can actually come out with a -really good-sounding record and not have to spend $40,000 on outboard gear.”

To create a thick rhythm-guitar sound, Kevin ran Anita's Gibson through a tiny 1965 Gibson Skylark amp miked with the D3. A Shure 520DX Green Bullet served as room mic. “Planets” was recorded in the kitchen, with Anita playing a Rickenbacker guitar through a Sears Silvertone amp stashed in the oven. Kevin miked the outside of the stove to create a “strange plate-reverb effect.”

They mixed the album at home, taking time to distort tracks that sounded too clean and douse everything with spring reverb. They reamplified the vocals, sending them out of Cubase into a guitar amp and back into the computer. On “Believer,” they bused out the drums through a fuzz box, and then mixed the fuzzed-out drum tracks with the original takes.

Despite the unconventional recording tactics, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is Viva Voce's most sophisticated release to date. “On the first record, we completely let loose of restraint,” says Kevin. “One song had 300 tracks. On our previous record, we used Arturia software and VSTi plug-ins pretty heavily. Now we've refined our abilities. In any art form, hopefully, you progress as you go along.”


Viva Voce

Home base: Portland, Oregon

Sequencer of choice: Steinberg Cubase SX

Guitar-amp mic: Audix D3

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