Banner Pilot | Studio Diaries
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Useful Information About The New Album

Hey-
Our new full length album is now complete! That’s pretty cool, huh? It’s not “done done”; we mix it this monday through wednesday, and then master it later in the week. But as far as the actual music goes, it’s all wrapped up.

Here, while you wait for it to come out, are some Factoids about the new record:

Number of songs: 11

Number of songs longer than 4 minutes: 1

Number of songs in drop d tuning: 2

Number of songs with piano: 1

(I’m probably freaking some people already, but don’t worry)

Number of minutes the full album is: click here

Number of songs that, in my opinion, sound like Jawbreaker: 1

Number of songs a random person in a suit and tie you stopped on the street would think sound like Jawbreaker if you played them Jawbreaker and then this album back to back: 11

Number of songs ideas written in the first 12 months or so after Collapser wrapped up: 50+, although many of these are just riffs i stitched together, not “songs”

Number of people who would think “This album is…. kinda not so good” if we had used nothing but those songs: everyone

Number of songs written in the last 10 or 11 months that ended up on the record: 9

Number of lessons we can learn from the last 3 factoids: At least one, “It’s a good thing we didn’t rush this album”

Number of days we spent in the studio: 21, once mixing and mastering are done

Number of days Jacques, the engineer, worked from noon to 6AM or later: at least four

Number of songs Zack from Dear Landlord sings backups on: three

Number of times I ate a Con Uovo pizza, which is a pizza with egg, cheese, and black pepper on it, from a nearby restaurant for dinner: some crazy number

Number of times someone made the boneheaded decision to purchase White Castle despite the plethora of outstanding food establishments within a short walk from the studio: Only 1, I think!

Number of days I biked to the studio: 17 so far, with 4 days left

Number of days I was stoked to be biking to the studio, and not shivering my way home in sub-zero stupidity, staring at the ice beneath my feet, like I did last January when recording In Desolation at the same studio: Every Single Day

Number of album covers I designed before we finally found one everyone liked: 15+

Number of album titles we had before settling on one everyone liked: 1

So there you have it! Now you have a pretty good understanding of this album. Look for more info — the album cover, tracklisting, some MP3s, a release date, etc etc — in the weeks and months to come. For now, i’m stoked to get this mixed/mastered!

-Nate

Studio Blog #3: Pianos, Saxophones & Guitar Leads

One song left! That’s right, we’ve recorded 10 songs and are hitting the last one later tonight. Very excited. Now, it’s not like those ten songs are “done”; in fact, not even close. We still have to fix a few things, add vocals, I gotta record guitar leads, we need to figure out and add backup vocals, gotta record a piano part (don’t worry, it’s a four note part in one song. That’s it. We might make it rad and have each of us play one of the four notes) (not joking), sweet saxophone part must be added (is saxophone the worst instrument ever? I think it might be. It’s always goofy and it ruins otherwise good songs. Go check out that one Green Day song on Warning; I think it’s Jackass. Decent song and then, suddenly…. the sax kicks in and it sounds like the theme song from a court room comedy out of the 80s. Not Night Court specifically, just that kind of show. The only cool thing involving a saxophone, ever, is the image included in this post. Is it a clip art-looking dude playing a sax…. or is it a woman’s face? OH DAMN!), etc etc etc. But it’s still a nice landmark because after we track the 11th song, the fun part begins and these start to actually sound like songs. The good thing is, we’re already pretty stoked on how these are sounding, even in their exceedingly raw and stripped down current form.

Right now I’m at home sifting through the original demos on my computer, making sure nothing was forgotten. I’ve already found one missing lead! I don’t think we’ve used it since this original Garageband demo (looks like I wrote it way back in November 2009), so maybe it sucks; i have no idea. But i’m glad I found it now rather than after the album is done.

After going through all the practice space demos I’ve discovered there are 68 guitar leads I need to record. That sounds kind of crazy/ridiculous but I guess it’s accurate. Don’t worry, these aren’t wanky shred fests, just dopey little leads that, in some cases, you won’t even notice.

OK, back to it!

-Nate

Studio Blog #1 : Deadly Towers

Here’s an interesting thing about being in the studio: the first couple days of being in a studio aren’t very interesting. I’m not sure how I can convey any intriguing updates; “Hey, guys, quick update: we nailed that one fill!” or “After trying a few different options we decided the ping cymbal works best because of the outro section”…… not really that mind-blowing. So I guess I’ll just talk about what we’re doing between songs for now.

We brought back in the same hacked X-Box we used for Collapser and have started revisiting some truly awful NES games. As of right now we’re playing the game Deadly Towers while waiting to record the next song, which has the dummy title ‘Neon’. Perhaps some of the game will slightly influence our playing of the song, and months from now you’ll be like, “That one drum fill reminds me of a guy trying to kill a weird blue slime.”

Yesterday we ordered pizza from this place that specializes in weird toppings (Mac and Cheese Pizza, Burrito Pizza, etc), and came up with a great idea: Gum Pizza! Instead of sauce and cheese, it’s all gum. Your pizza would last forever.

OK, you must be getting pretty stoked to hear this album by now. I’ll keep the updates coming. Within a couple days they’ll be sounding more like actual songs and I’ll have more relevant info to report!

-Nate

Studio Blog Days 5 through 11 or 12: The Lost Chronicles

Originally posted 5/17/09 on Myspace

Current mood:knighted (awesome Myspace emoticon unavailable)

Well, I sorta forgot about this, huh? Oh well! Here’s a brief rundown on what’s happened in the 6 or 7 studio days since the last update:

–All of the basic tracking is done. Drums, guitars, bass, leads, etc.

–Basic vocals for all 12 songs are done too, but i think we’re going to re-do one of them.

–We played probably 75 different crappy old-school video games on a modified Xbox. Stuff like baseball games from 1987, weird religious games, obscure stuff like Barbie and Day Dreamin’ Davey…. you name it. My level of nostalgia for the original NES system has been cut down by about 75% now.

–Ate some good food and some bad food. I didn’t partake but Danny and Corey went across the street to White Castle and attempted to order “one of every thing on your menu.” The employee was annoyed and didn’t quite give them everything (no Pulled Pork Sliders, no Clams, etc), but they returned a few minutes later with $13 worth of food, covering most of the menu. They even got something that would be OK for me (“here, it’s a bun with cheese, and we had them add a pickle”) but I took a pass. I believe someone said “It feels like I’m eating a bag of garbage” as they dined.

–Nearly destroyed my ears recording feedback for the intro to this one song. Small amps can get really loud when they’re cranked and you’re pointing a guitar at them.

More stuff happened than just that, but that’s a sufficient summary. We head back into the studio in a couple hours and then have a full day Monday and maybe a half day Wednesday. Hopefully that’ll cover what’s left (backup vocals, a few drum fixes, a bass solo I gotta re-do, etc), and then we’ll mix shortly after we get back from tour. We’re getting there, and it’s sounding pretty awesome!

-Nate

Studio Blog Day 4: Jason Takes Manhattan

Originally Posted 4/20/09 on Myspace

Current mood: breezy (awesome Myspace emoticon unavailable)

On day four we got two more songs done, started doing some vocals, and began picking away at guitar tracks. We’re getting there. We have to (like, Have To) do the basic tracking for three more songs on Day Five because that’s the last day we have booked for this first block. We’re back in next weekend for two days, maybe three, and then whatever else is still needed after that.

One of the two songs we finished up was the hardest one of the 12, so that’s nice to get that bad boy in the bag. One (1) drum part took about 90 minutes to record. Ack! Sounds pretty cool though. It’s this really complicated triangle solo. No, just kidding, it’s some kind of long snare roll buildup thing that I don’t really understand.

We also watched some badass metal videos on public access at about 2 in the morning and got inspired. The first Banner Pilot video will now feature:

–us playing in the woods. Spooky looking woods

–cuts that last no longer than one third of a second

–a sad and mysterious girl wearing a cloak and walking through the woods alone, occasionally staring into the camera

–liberal usage of the “lawnmower being run over gravel” vocal filter

and so on.

What else…. uh, the boxed wine i got was pretty good but the consensus from everyone else was that it was too “tart.”

I think that about covers it. Today, Day Five, will mostly be getting those last three songs tracked but hopefully we can knock out a couple more vocals too. And then we’re back in next Friday or Saturday to play all the leads, fix up all the rhythm guitars, and plug away at the vocals. It’ll start sounding like an album around that point. Should be fun!

-Nate

Studio Blog Day 3: Judgment Day

Originally Posted 4/20/09 on Myspace

Current mood: rockin (awesome Myspace emoticon unavailable)

Let’s see… day three saw the completion of four more songs (on drums, at least). Not bad. It’s not that we’re moving slower than expected (though we are), but that we’re spending more time on each thing than we thought we would. And that’s cool.

See, some of the stuff that’s being played over and over again won’t be noticed by anyone — no one is going to say “waaaaitaminute, the drummer hit that one snare hit slightly different that time,” or “damnit, the hi hat opened up for a second there, screw this album.” But, all those little things *add up* to a better listening experience. If we didn’t do all this stuff, you couldn’t pinpoint our mistakes but you’d think “Huh, this sounds kind of sloppy I guess.” It’s kind of like if someone took a quick leak (just, say, a dribble) in your large glass of apple juice without you knowing about it. You’re not going to necessarily go “Oh no! Urine!” and spit it out, but you’re going to sense that something’s up.

Essentially: right now we’re making sure the apple juice we’re brewing (is that how you make apple juice?) is free of urine.

I’m sure right now someone is going “Well, I like a little urine in my music,” which brings me to my next point: don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an overproduced album. We’re not going overboard on edits, not using auto tune, and mostly we’re not good enough musicians to pull that sort of thing off even if we wanted to.

So yeah: bottom line is that we’re taking our time and i’m pretty stoked about how stuff is sounding!

-Nate

Studio Blog Day Two: The Revenge

Originally Posted 4/18/09 on Myspace

Current mood: thirsty (awesome Myspace emoticon unavailable)

Well, we didn’t get seven songs done. We decided that three is a cooler sounding number and went with that instead. So, a little slower than planned, but it’s sounding really good! Yesterday I also re-learned that The Phantom Menace is the worst film of all time. Also, watching Jimmy Fallon interview Matthew Perry is sort of like having an incompetent dentist jab you with their tools– it’s annoying and painful but you also feel sort of bad that the guy doesn’t know what he’s doing. Yeah. Right now it’s day three and we’re working on a song called Farewell to Iron Bastards. Back to work! Look for a longer entry tomorrow.

-Nate

Studio Blog Day 1: It Begins

Originally Posted 4/17/09 on Myspace

Current mood: sneezy (awesome Myspace emoticon unavailable)

Just started off Day Two by shaving off my beard– originally I wanted a bit of beardiness in this record but this morning I had second thoughts. Let’s hope I made the right choice.

As for yesterday, it wasn’t actually a full day– we booked a half day for the sole purpose of getting sounds/tones/whatever down. See, usually what happens is you start the first day around noon by setting up the drums. This tends to take hours, and then you still have to pick out amps and set up mics and stuff, and before you know it you go “Ack! It’s 6:00 and we haven’t started recording yet!” You probably don’t actually say the word “Ack” but you know what I mean. Either way, what tends to happen (for us at least) is that you then feel like you’re behind and skimp on the getting-sounds stuff and rush right into recording. Days later when you’re mixing you realize you should have spent more time upfront but then it’s TOO LATE.

So, this time around we booked a half day devoted solely to setting up and getting things to sound good. I think this was a good call– it was way more relaxed, we spent more time on stuff then we usually do, and things are sounding really good. Of course, it was sort of tedious in parts– the vast majority of the time was spent on drums, and I know very little about drums so there were a lot of exchanges like:

“Which ride cymbal sounded better to you?”

“….is the ride cymbal the pingy thing?”

“Yeah”

“Well, I think they all sounded pretty good”

At the end of the day, though, the drums sounded pretty sweet– I think we have a better snare sound than we usually get, too.

Also, the bass is sounding awesome– I decided to use the studio Ampeg rather than my GK and we got something out of it that sounds pretty close to what my bass sounded like on the Off With Their Heads album. Kind of like….. a piano that’s come to life and is growling at you, you know?

Such technical details are probably boring to read about I suppose. What else did we do? I felt like boxed wine for some reason so I bought some boxed wine and will get cracking on that later today. I’ll report back on the flavor of it. I also bought a bag of Doritos called something like “Last Call Jalepeno Poppers”, the bag full of neon lights and stuff. There was also one called, uh, “Midnight Tacos” or something. Are the Dorito people running out of ideas? I don’t even like Doritos. It was an impulse buy as I stood in line. “You’re a sucker” Nick said as I grabbed a bag. But here’s the thing: based on the packaging they clearly want you to eat these new flavors late at night. But I’m not going to listen to their brain-washing advertising: I’m eating this today at around 3pm. Can’t get me, Doritos. I do what I want.

Ok, I gotta go meet the rest of the guys for bagels now– we’re starting at noon today. The plan is to get 7 songs done on drums today. Think we’ll do it?

Look for more interesting studio blogs than this one in the days to come, as we start actually recording music!

-Nate