Hard-Fi were formed in 2003, and the band's third single Hard to Beat brought them to the nation's attention and set the band's characteristic post-punk-meets-indie style. Richard has also frequently stated that the sound is also laced in dance, ska and soul themes. Their 2005 debut album Stars of CCTV was a slow-burner, but eventually topped the UK charts. The 2007 follow-up Once Upon a Time in the West was an instant success, making it to the Number 1 slot in its first week of release.
The Cherry Lips studio itself has grown from one small nicotine-stained room where the band recorded much of their early material – and the taxi controller would chain-smoke through endless night shifts. The new version 2.0 Cherry Lips has expanded to include a live room, gear storage, kitchen and control room. The single rack contains a Universal Audio 6176 channel strip and 2-1176 limiting amplifier. On top of the rack lie two Universal Audio Solo-610 preamps.
“The Universal Audio 6176 is so easy to use,” says Richard of the channel strip that combines a 610 preamp with an 1176 compressor. “You can just plug in and it sounds great. Almost everything goes through it, vocals, drums you can even plug in a guitar and get a good sound without an amp.”
This same ethos carries over to software, hence their studio Logic rig is equipped with a Universal Audio UAD-1 card with a full complement of plug-ins. “We use the Pultec EQ plug-in on just about everything,” says Wolsey. “When mixing, it's just a case of deciding when I drop it in.” Some of the other UAD plug-ins are becoming favourites of Hard-Fi too. The Roland RE-201, for example, specifically suits their sound. “You can clock it, so you don't have to spend time finding the right time setting, not to mention the fact that you don't have to pull the back off it when it goes wrong!” says Wolsey.
The desire to keep things simple and not over-complicate matters with too many choices also extends to the mic cupboard. Early recordings were made with the Røde NT-2, with the band later switching to their current favourite Røde Classic II. "Halfway through the recording of the first album we got the Classic, so the vocals on the second half of the record were recorded entirely with that mic.” Wolsey is keen to point out that the lift in the high-end response of the Classic particularly suits Richard's voice.
As well as the Røde NT-2 and Classic II, Hard-Fi have a pair of Røde NT-5 pencil mics, dubbed 'the twins' by the band. Wolsey is effusive in his affection for these mics, which he claims are “always standing by” and “rarely put back in the box”. The NT-5s were used whenever Wolsey or the band felt something needed extra detail, such as capturing the fret scrapes on the guitar tracks, or for adding in extra room ambience.