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A Live Session with Pearl Earl

So today's session was with Denton darlings Pearl Earl. I had to say I was very much looking forward to it and was definitely not disappointed. The ladies that make up the band, Ariel, Bailey, Chelsey, and Stefanie, are all great musicians and very easy to work with. They are a lot of fun, but at the same time they approach their musicianship and the sound they're going for very seriously.

Ariel's guitar tone is very complex, with a lot of modulation as well as delay on top of a pretty sweet distortion and octave pedal. It serves their songwriting well though as it creates a very psychedelic vibe, combined with Chelsey's trippy keyboard tones. Bailey (drums) and Stefanie (bass) are tight and very solid rhythmically and their parts complement each other well, which allows for a lot of airiness, experimentation and expressiveness in their melodies and vocals.

I tracked them all in the same room because the session was to be performed and recorded live, as it is part of the Shake Music TV series. Tracking a rock band all in the same room of course poses certain problems, most notably that of microphone bleed. Anytime you place a microphone in the same room with a drum kit, you're going to pick up the drum kit, I don't care how good the rejection is on that microphone or how many baffles you put between the two. Also, for this session visuals are very important since it's going to be a music video, so I couldn't exactly place tons of baffles between everybody because it would just look bad. The video producer also wanted everybody in the same room so isolating certain musicians was out.

The bass was run direct, and Ariel's guitar amp was in another room so there was not much issue with bleed there. The vocals were, however, in the same room as the drums. I was able to work around this potential problem more or less by using dynamic microphones on the vocals which rejected the drum kit, as well as allowed for the vocalist to get right up on the microphone and sing, thereby diminishing any background noise. Also, gating the vocals in this environment is essential, as it minimizes the bleed of what you don't want coming through the microphone by either lowering the volume or shutting it off completely. I didn't want the vocal mics to be cut off completely when the vocalists weren't singing because they also serve as kind of a room mic for the drums. If I gated them out completely it would sound weird, and you would hear it. All in all, as I begin to mix these songs it will be a negotiation back and forth between too much or too little gating, bleed, etc in order to maintain intelligibility but not lose the vibe, energy and well, yes, chaos of a live recording.

Just listening back to the roughs I can tell these songs are going to sound great. My job now is to capture the energy, spontaneity and humanity of the recording while accentuating and emphasizing everyone's strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. I typically don't spend hours and hours mixing these type of sessions because that's somewhat contradictory to their intent: to capture an authentic sonic photograph of a band on a given day in Denton in a hi-fi environment so that it can be enjoyed by all. Don't get me wrong; I will pay excruciating attention to detail, but only so that my efforts essentially get out of the way and allow for the band to shine through. Guess I'll get after it.

Stay tuned for the release to be featured on Shake Music TV's Facebook, Spotify and YouTube channel.

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