In Search of...: The (not so) Secret Diary of a Band

Monday, 4 April 2011


Sorry for the delay in this blog reaching you all but so much has happened since our last entry we are quite not sure where to begin.

Let's start with this. We have a completed, mixed collection of 11 tracks that we are all amazingly proud of. 4 months after we entered the pre production rehearsals with producer Steve we have finished. I think we can confidently say that the album process is incredibly hard to document. It's a complete roller coster of emotions with some beautiful pure moments of euphoria and joy counter balanced by some equally low moments where you feel like your dwelling in the depths of creative despair, wondering if people will like it or not. Powerful stuff for sure!

Anyway...we did it.

Initially we had some rough mixes from Steve back in late Jan/early Feb. These sounded pretty damn good but they were early mixes and designed for us to listen to thoroughly and make notes on what we felt we would want changed. Needless to say, with five pairs of ears and five opinions to match (we are an odd bunch) there was lots of feedback. Again this is quite difficult to explain. Most people would think you just record an album and then someone mixes it and then it's done. It's definitely not that simple. We all knew that we wanted this record to be a 'sound'. We wanted every song to sit well alongside each other. However anybody who has seen us knows that we have varying songs, even though we have a 'Urusen' sound. Basically every song had to deliver the intended message as such. Therefore we had to go through each track with a fine toothed comb. What do we want the drums and bass to be doing on this track? How should the cello be used? Do we want huge vocals at this point or save them for later etc. It was a lot of work to do.

After a few band meetings and relaying lots of individual feedback to each other we were ready to go and do some mixing with Steve. For the first session Pete, Ben, Nick and Jay went back to Realworld to spend a day with Steve and of course Joe (his trusty assistant and all round top bloke). It had been nearly three months since we had seen Steve and Joe and it was great to be back. We all slipped back into the studio vibe very easily . One of the most enjoyable aspects of the month spent with these two was the constant banter we had. We instantly got back into that! It's always great when your'e working in a high pressured environment and it's accompanied by jokes and laughter. After a cup of tea (joe is officially the best tea (and coffee) maker in the west), it was time to get going.

What was interesting was that immediately Steve listened to something and said 'right I'm not happy with that come back in an hour'! The best thing about Steve O is that he is an absolute perfectionist. This was apparent in the recording process where he worked us very hard. Clearly he keeps to this work ethic when mixing too. We returned to find that he had 'tightened' up the track a lot and it was sounding amazing. We then went through other elements of the track and what we wanted from it until we felt it was complete. In fact the entire mixing process took this approach from start to finish with every track, picking them apart. Some required more work then others. We finished this first day of mixing at 2am! A couple of us arrived back in London at 5am!

The second day with Steve was a few days later. Following the same process. However this day started with Jay re-recording the double bass to a track in Steve's room. This was because we wanted a bigger, tighter bass sound and as we had recorded everything live there had been spill from the drums onto the original bass part. This meant that if we turned the bass up a lot we got more drums than we wanted. These are all part of the pros and cons of recording live as a band. Why would there be drums on the recording on the bass mic you may think? Well for this particular track we wanted a nice roomy sound to the drum kit, so we left the drum room door open. We never wanted every track to sound the same so to get the right timbre for this particular track we took this approach. Jay re-recorded the bass which meant we could whack it up on the mix to get the desired effect. The rest of the day was again spent mixing tracks and trying out different effects, reverbs, compressors etc. On one tune for example we wanted the eq of a particular instrument to be quite bright at the start of the track and then become more 'dull' in sound to blend in the mix better later on. To achieve these sort of effects something called automation needs to be used which is actually 'drawing' in the level of whatever you are changing, then the software 'reads' this and automatically adjusts the levels for you. Things like this can be either really quick or take ages. If you read our last blog you will know we dubbed Steve 'ninja ears'. Well he is also 'ninja editor' as well, so actually it was very speedy.

Jay had to head back to London later that day, and Nick later that evening, leaving Pete and Ben to continue with Steve and Joe into the early hours again. The last day of mixing was the next day, where there was one more track that needed a lot of work to it, involving a bit of impromptu guitar and piano recorded that day in Steve's studio, which seemed to make a big difference. Especially with the use of an old 'space echo' unit Steve owned - totally sorted the end of the track out. With the last track done and dusted, there's was time for one last listen through everything, before another long day was over, Steve went home declaring 'I'm taking tomorrow off!', and Joe, Pete and Ben drove into Bath for a late night celebratory drink!

Right now, we don't want to go into more detail regarding the individual tunes as we really don't want to give anything away! But we can safely say that we're all blown away with the results and that we have at last captured the 'Urusen Sound'. We feel that we have created a body of work that all of us are incredibly proud of and one that we hope will connect with people and take them on a whole sonic journey from sparse landscapes to colossal oceans of sound! There's definitely lots of the textures and sounds present that you might know if you are already familiar with us, but there are also some sounds and approaches that venture into new territories for us, with different instrumentation and effects. The main thing is that we feel have completely encapsulated the sound we have been striving to achieve for some time.

So all that remains to be said is a massive huge thank you to the inspiring and dedicated talents of Steve Osborne as well as the indispensable Joe and all the lovely peoples at Realworld studios. Now we just need to get it out there!

We'll be back soon with more...

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