White Rabbits (left to right): Jamie Levinson, Gregory Roberts, Stephen Patterson, Matthew Clark and Alexander Even. (Not pictured: Adam Russell.)
Brooklyn six-piece White Rabbits has had a busy 2009 thus far: mixing and mastering in January; rehearsing through spring; and now, in May, kicking off their first tour leg of the year. But it was autumn 2008—spent at Rare Book Room Studio in Greenpoint, N.Y.—that White Rabbits really got down to business on their sophomore release, It''s Frightening (TBD Records, 2009).
At the helm of Rare Book Room''s 1979 MCI 536-D console was Nicolas Vernhes, along with producer Britt Daniel of Spoon.
“Britt insisted they track and overdub all on the 3M M79 2-inch, 24-track tape machine," Vernhes explains. “It sounds amazing for a 40-year-old beast.”
White Rabbits'' Stephen Patterson agrees. “This was our first time recording on tape; it was a good thing,” he says. “We have so many people in the band, it helped us self-edit to make sure every little part counted.”
After the band recorded all parts to 2-inch tape, the team transferred everything to Apple Logic Studio for editing.
“We''re not very tech-oriented, so I just used GarageBand on my laptop when we demoed the songs at our practice space,” Patterson says. “With Logic, we could drop the GarageBand sessions right in, so we could use a lot of our demos in the actual songs. It made the process so much faster.”
The band chose Daniel''s Neumann U 67 for vocals and Fender Twins for guitar and bass, and Patterson used a Helpinstill Roadmaster 64 for the piano parts. Alexander Even played his vintage Epiphone Casino (“like the kind Lennon played on The White Album,” Patterson enthuses); Matthew Clark and Jamie Levinson used a vintage Ludwig ''60s-era drum kit; Adam Russell played a Fender bass; and Gregory Roberts rocked a Gretsch Anniversary model from 1964.
Daniel also brought in his late-''60s Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar, which the band relied on throughout the sessions—avoiding effects as much as possible.
“Yeah, very little effects,” Patterson confirms. “Instead, we made weird noises with our voices or doubled things in strange places. In ‘Company I Keep,'' we clipped the ends of the ‘oh-oh'' backing tracks off on purpose, which sounds cool. That''s one of my favorite songs, as is ‘The Lioness,'' on which we focus more on textures, and ‘Midnight and I,'' which is our first successful attempt at doing something more subdued.”
The band may have integrated some old-school techniques, but behind the scenes, Vernhes used quite a bit of gear to get the band''s roughly polished indie sound, including API preamps and EQs, Universal Audio compressors, a Manley ELOP limiter and an old distorted TEAC-Tascam mixer called upon when the studio pres sounded too pristine.
This vintage approach tied in well with Daniel''s insistence on analog; his consistency proved itself, in spite of the fact that this will be the first full album he''s produced outside of his own band.
“I think the new batch of songs are the band''s finest to date. And the recording experience was cool—like summer camp,” Daniel says with a chuckle, “only in Brooklyn, in the dead of winter, with a bunch of chain-smokers.”