THE DEVIL AND THE DETAILS SESSION 3: ROCK AND RAILS
Boxcar Sound Recording Studio 468 Cumberland Avenue
To continue our chronicle of the making of a record at Boxcar Sound Recording Studio, I got to visit the studio for a third time to sit in on another recording session for the new Ghosts of Memphis album (comprised of musicians Trevor Howard and Gerry Finn). For more details on Boxcar and the record, be sure to read our previous entries. Boxcar is also now on Twitter @boxcarsound.
Accompanied by my friend Danielle Vann of the band Xo.Ex.Oh’s (check out my entry on their recent EP Release, we arrived at the studio right at the same time as Gerry, as well as our friend and musician Amberley B (we also made a tour stop of her CD Release). We were all pleasantly surprised to find each other at the studio that day. We walked up the creaky stairs and paused before barging in because we could hear the sounds of drumming coming from inside the studio. A quick phone call was made by Gerry to producer Matt Montour to make sure we wouldn’t be interrupting any recording, and the source of that music, Max Wray, then greeted us at the door. Now, this makes for Max’s sixth appearance on the blog. The man is on a roll.
One of the main focuses of the day was the track “Rails”. Max had already laid down the drum tracking for this song and two others, and was at Boxcar this day to redo the drums for “Rails”. It was my first time witnessing the recording of drums, so that was interesting to watch. I can only imagine what it must be like to have to play the same song over and over again. From my untrained ear, it was difficult to tell much of a difference between takes, but Matt was spot on, carefully picking out what worked and what needed to be changed, guiding Max’s performance. Gerry and Trevor were of course listening with the same critical attentiveness and gave their feedback. Trevor spoke about the sound they are going for with the drums – they want simple drumming, so it is not the focus, but its presence is still obviously essential. Max delivered the sound they wanted and it was neat to get to hear the song played back with drums added to it. With his task done for the day, Max then got to relax and I got to sit and chat with him about the studio experience.
If you’re following along with our last two tour stops at Boxcar, I noted how Avishka and I were amused by some of the connections we made between some of the themes that have come up over the course of our tour and some of Trevor’s songs. With “J’entend Ton Coeur,” we have our French and heart motifs and with “Water” we have our nautical theme. Now with “Rails,” we have a train. Not to mention Boxcar is right by some train tracks! I realize the song is not about a train (Trevor and I even joked about this) but on our tour we have a thing for different modes of transportation. The day before, the four of us Tour Girls had eaten at The Express, which is named after the train in Italy. Some of the décor in the restaurant depicted a train, so naturally we had a mini photo shoot inside. Sitting in the studio, all the talk of tracks and trains made me think of the other girls, which just goes to show, even when we’re not all together, we kind of are.
Back to the recording – when “Rails” is complete, it will also feature vocals from former I Mother Earth frontman Brian Byrne. I was not in the studio on the day Brian laid down his vocals, but Trevor said it was an amazing time and got I to hear some samples played back. It is still to be determined where Brian’s vocals will appear in the song, but it’s going to be good.
After a little while, Danielle had to get going, which left me as the only girl in the studio. I would say that it was like being a fly on the wall, but I think my presence was duly noted. I’m sure the guys didn’t hold very much of their boy talk back on my account and, if they did, who knows what they say when I’m not there! Ben Somer and Sean Pearson stopped in to hang out, which is always fun, and it’s great to see the personal and working relationship between Ben, Sean, and Matt, the three Boxcar producers and friends. I’m also slowly picking up some of technical studio jargon, but most flew over my head. I’ll leave it to the professionals.
From there the attention turned to “Water”. This is one of Trevor’s older songs, from about three albums ago, but Trevor noted that re-recording it has restored his love for the song. It is being completely redone, and he revealed that it now feels like an entirely new song. The track is also a fan favourite, Avishka and I, included! Gerry took his turn at the mic to record some guitar for “Water,” and his technical ability and experience was apparent. It was a pleasure to get to witness such a talented and seasoned musician at work. It was also great to once again see the partnership of Trevor and Gerry. It really shows the respect they have for each other as musicians and as people.
After spending about five hours in the studio, it was time for me to call it a day. Boxcar Round 3, complete!