Anatomy of a Kickass First Album
Okay, so Roaring Noon isn’t SitDownTracy’s first album. They released a demo in the summer of 2008, but for an indie band, having a full-length EP to perform and tour with is essential. Recently, I spoke to band member Janelle Mailhot about what went into creating the album, and, not surprisingly, in the end it all came down to the basics: art, love, and analog.
AS: How did SitDownTracy come to the decision to record a full-length album, and what other professionals did youenlist to help you put Roaring Noon together? Did you have a lot of support?
JM: An old college instructor of mine was incredibly supportive of my musical aspirations, and suggested I see his friend, Dan Donahue, who has been performing and producing since he was in his 20s. Dan’s mentor was Daniel Lanois, and they share a preference for analog over digital recording, which lends itself wonderfully to the warm yet live sound we were going for. We purposely left tiny mistakes and talking in the final mix, because we wanted a true representation of our live performance.
Dan has produced most of Fred Penner‘s albums—and won a Juno for one of them—so it was kinda funny having multiple Fred Penners as our audience while recording. Dan’s basement studio is really cozy, which was a very nice introduction to the recording process, which can be very intimidating.
Dan tackled our project as a mentor, so he was very helpful with all of our silly questions and suggested we work with Scott Pinder for mastering and Polar Bear Productions for duplicating the record. We were so very lucky to have all these professionals working on our project, and now we have a piece which we’re incredibly proud of.
SitDownTracy is a very powerful live band. Can you comment on what it was like bringing that sound to the album? How much depended on the recording process, and how much depended on post-production?
Recording in analog helped a lot with keeping the power and energy in the album. It’s still tamer than our live performance, but the passion and energy translates well on the record. Really, the sound was left up to us. All the power and energy you hear is because we’ve been preparing for this for two years, so we really got into recording. Dan kept mixing at a minimum, and certainly, mastering beefs up the sound to be radio-worthy, but it all came down to our performances.
Based on some posts on your website, I get the impression that there was quite a long wait between when you finished recording and when you got the final master of Roaring Noon. What are some of the challenges involved, for an indie band, in waiting for that final product to be published?
Recording was quick. We were all very well practiced, so we didn’t need many takes. The delay was mostly because life gets in the way. Each of us were ill at different times, and then there was the fear of flooding [in SitDownTracy’s home province of Manitoba], so sandbagging took priority. Also, we weren’t sitting with Dan when he was tweaking the mixes, we were sending emails, which severely slowed the process.
We’d planned on finishing the project in only two months, so we could release it no later than the fall. By the time six months rolled around, we had grown incredibly impatient, but still, it’s better that it was done correctly instead of quickly. In the end, we’re very pleased with the final product.
You’ve got some music videos up on your YouTube page, and I hear that the cover art for Roaring Noon is pretty spectacular. How do you find visual artists to collaborate with on this level, and how much do these visual elements inspire your music?
Art is the easy part. Three members of SitDownTracy are avid filmmakers, and many of our friends are designers and writers. We didn’t even have to ask for poster or album designs. Our friends are such sincere fans that they offered long before we were in a position to need it. Scott Hutchinson has such a talent for design, we just gave him a few vague ideas. Actually, we gave him words like “dusty” and “blood red.” Can you believe this is what he came up with? Scott does incredible work for us for nothing more than the sincere pleasure of helping friends.
The music inspires the art. Scott already knew most of our songs, but listened to the album thoroughly to get the vibe before putting designs together. Also, “Under the Gun” is a love song I wrote for my darling Matthew, so one of the shots in the music video is the very first kiss ever recorded on film. You’ll know it once you see the man twist his mustache before leaning in for a smooch. The juxtaposition of antique, classic black and whites, blended with vibrant modern art is an accurate representation of our sound, I think.
There was a rumor that you were having a vinyl pressing done of the album. Is that happening, and why choose to put your sound on records?
The decision to press vinyl copies is completely selfish. We all still listen to records, perhaps more than CDs and mp3 players. It’s the soft pops and crackles that we love so much, and the sound is so much warmer than CDs. I can’t wait to hear the sweetness of “Under the Gun” with its own pops and crackles.
The Roaring Noon launch party is on January 16th at the Lo-Pub in Winnipeg, Manitoba. You’ve got the album, where do you take it from here, in terms of promotion and distribution?
We’ve been working for the last two years to get here, with an album in hand. It’s nearly impossible to promote your band without a sample of your sound, so we felt that not having an album was holding us back.
Now that it’s here, we’re not wasting any time getting it out there. We’re starting with a brief tour to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal at the end of February, then we get to work on touring Western Canada. We’re hunting for a distribution deal, but in the meantime, we’ll have to promote in music publications, radio, and in person at our shows.