Junip on Sparse Textures

Jose Gonzalez’s leisurely-paced, mournful vocal delivery is his specialized, familiar acoustic sound.

Jose Gonzalez’s leisurely-paced, mournful vocal delivery is his specialized, familiar acoustic sound. Prior to the attention the Swedish folk troubadour garnered with his solo releases and with electronica band Zero 7, Gonzalez had his group, Junip. Now, in a perfectly timed move, the singer-songwriter rejoins Junip for its debut full-length album, Fields.

Within Junip’s traditional drums, keys, and Gonzalez’s signature nylon-stringed guitar setup, there is a lot of breathing room on Fields. This is something Gonzalez had to be convinced of by producer and mixing engineer, Don Alsterberg. “I wanted a little bit denser of a sound,” admits Gonzalez. “[Alsterberg] convinced me afterwards that it sounds better when it’s not so packed.”

Gonzalez has only one Neumann U87 microphone directly on the 12-fret of his guitar running through a Universal Audio SOLO/610 preamp. “I have been playing the same classical guitar for seven years, but it’s not so much the guitar as the Fishman pickup. I’ve tried out many different pickups. This one is cheap and it works,” he says. “It’s easier, especially when there are a lot of instruments in the music.”

Junip (left to right)—Tobias Winterkorn, Elias Araya, and Jose González.

The foggy, lo-fidelity sound of Tobias Winterkorn’s keys comes from a Philips Philicordas tube organ, Moog, or a Rhodes. While everything is miked with a U87, the Philips is amplified with a Yamaha Leslie and the other two with a Fender. Elias Araya’s subtle, yet impactful, percussive touches are closely miked with Shure SM57s, excluding the toms, which are miked with Sennheiser MD-421s. Two ambient microphones sit further away in the room in order to capture more of the bass drum and less of the hi-hat and cymbals.

“[Araya] uses composite drumsticks that vibrate on the cymbals,” says Gonzalez. “You don’t have to play as loud to get a sound from the cymbals. It’s been an issue for us ever since we started. The guitars were difficult to bring up in volume so we always tried to figure out ways to make the drums sound natural without playing too softly.”

For Gonzalez’s distinctive vocals, he uses tube distortion while recording. Additionally, during the mixing stage, Alsterberg selectively employs Dynacord’s tape delay to give the song at hand its old character. Something to note that Alsterberg always tries to avoid is too much compression during recording, or compression on the whole mix, in order to retain a natural sound and to “keep the music alive as long as possible before the mastering.”