Brand New

Often hailed as the “American Radiohead,” the New Jersey foursome known as Brand New have done little to ward off such comparisons, though still managing somehow to interject their own style in the “big, dynamic, emotional” rock game. With their latest album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me, they broaden their palette even more, effectively shedding the “just another Emo band” tag for something much grander, much more effective. Catching up with frontman Jesse Lacey and engineer Claudius Mittendorfer shortly before the band embarked on a European tour, we squeezed a quick Q&A in and tried to get to the bottom of what allows Brand New to sound fresh in a rather crowded room.

EQ: Where did you end up recording this time around?
Jesse Lacey: We did a lot of the basic tracks at Long View Studios in Massachusetts, and then did the overdubs at our friend Mike Sapone’s [Taking Back Sunday, Public Enemy] studio [Sapone Trax].

EQ: There are a lot of big-sounding guitars on this record. What did you play on this album?
JL: That was one of the main goals when we went into the studio. We never have much of a fixed plan, but we definitely wanted this one to be loud and noisy.
I’ve been playing [Fender] Jazzmasters for about three years, and I can’t live without them [laughs]. Even when we had all our guitars in the studio, I’d always use that one.
Claudius Mittendorfer: We had really different approaches for recording different guitar parts. Being at Long View meant we had all these different spaces and nice-sounding rooms, and we didn’t have to close mic everything. We could let things breathe a little bit. Whereas when we tracked down in the basement, we experimented with DI’ing guitars, and making them sound as obnoxious and as “close” as possible.

EQ: There is a very intimate vocal sound on a lot of the tracks, how did you achieve that?
CM: It’s nice to take the time and find the mic and chain that works with the vocal, but obviously you need a patient vocalist for that, and Jesse was always willing to put up with it. We had the usual SM7 for the screaming bits, for use where other mics would collapse. We had this Brauner VM1 that worked well on the low, breathy-type vocals, as well. Sapone brought along a Gefell UM92 and a [Neumann] M149, which were the main “go to” mics.

EQ: Was there anything really crazy, really outlandish that you tried during the recording?
JL: Claudius’ grounding technique! We have old amps with bits broken off them, guitars that buzz, so if there was a bit of hum when we played, Claudius went around putting a spoon in our socks.

EQ: A spoon?
JL: Then he would tie a guitar string from the headstock to the spoon!
CM: Sometimes it works. . . .
JL: We used it so much we forgot the spoons were there. You were going to use it later, so why take it out? It became kind of comfortable.