For years, we have wanted to watch the recording process with a band we know. We asked a few bands and it never happened for a bunch of reasons until now. Hodera said yes and we jumped at the chance while they recorded their incredible new album, Dear Friend. After waiting many months, the album is finally out so we can share our photos and experiences here!
First, we headed down to Red Bank’s Retromedia Sound Studio where producer Doug Gallo and his intern, Kelly, worked with songwriter and vocalist Matthew Smith and guitarist Paul Singh for the day.
Not knowing these new songs yet, we could only appreciate the effort it took to work out each line. It was a fascinating glimpse into the process. As former guitarist for Hodera for quite a few years, Doug sometimes seemed to know what sound Matthew was looking for before he knew himself.
A little while later, we watched Matthew record the vocal tracks at his house.
Here, we got to hear more of the fuller versions of each song and get a sense of where each was going.
After watching two sessions, we came away with quite a few questions about the process.
Here’s what Matthew had to say:
When you’re recording, how much are you thinking about also having to play the finished song live? Or is it more important to get a good recorded sound and you just figure it out for the live performance?
i just try and get what’s in my head out and worry about performing it live after the fact
Some songs you said were written years ago. How do you decide what ones you will record?
usually when preparing for a record, I’ll show the band and my friends all the new songs I’ve written plus some old songs that never got recorded or released (for whatever reason). Mostly we just use the new songs but sometimes an old song that was pushed away will strike a chord (pun intended) and we’ll be like “why the fuck did we never use this song??”
At what point does the producer get to hear the song demos and how long does he get with them before the days of recording?
usually I send the producer demos a month before studio time. This time around it was hard to get the band together to record demos, so our producer got mostly half finished demos. We’ve been working with them for so long though that they know what we want!
Is there a different timeline for the band hearing the demos before recording?
usually the band helps round out the song and writes their own parts during band practices.
Since Doug played with you for a long time, how does that change the finished product and the recording process?
Working with Doug for over 5 years, in the studio and on stage, has made for such a beautiful working relationship. He just knows the sounds I am looking for and helps me achieve it. He also throws out amazing ideas that take the tunes to the next level!
What percentage of the songs are figured out ahead of time and what percentage is something you play around with in the studio to find the right sound?
every one is different in the studio. I try and show up 99.9% prepared. You can never be 100% prepared. Things will always change. Time is money in the studio and I’d rather have my shit together and not waste time.
At one point, you mentioned having “demo love.” Who breaks you out of that, or is it something you fight to keep even though others want to change the sound?
You get used to how the demos sound. You record them at home and listen for months. its hard when you hear the professional recorded mix for the first time and its different.
Is there a particular order that is best to record the different instruments? Are vocals usually some of the last parts to get down?
Drums, bass, guitars, everything besides vocals, and then vocals last. Thats how I like to do it. I record a scratch take of guitar and vocals before everything though so that the band has something to play along too.
Doug said that the “first vocal line is the most important.” When writing lyrics, is that something you think about. Or is it worked out more during recording?
I don’t really think about that when writing. Doug has a point but it’s never been my goal to try and grab the listener from the first line.
Hope you enjoy listening to this album as much as we enjoyed getting to see some of it being made. We have definitely been listening all day already!
And, very small side note… I got a chance to get behind the microphone for a few lines! Listen closely around 2:07 on Romanic Depressive and maybe you can pick out my voice with a couple other people screaming an outro lyric.
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