Blog Entry #2: The Year of the Thief Recording Process

So we're about to release our first single, "Rise and Believe" this week.  The full album release will happen at a live show on Oct 15th at The Brauer House in Lombard.  Recording an album can be quite the process.  There are five steps really: writing, recording, mixing, mastering and packaging.  We feel like we took the longest route possible with all 5 steps.  If you're interested as to why, here's the story.

Step 1: Writing

In July of 2016, we released our 1st album, "Time for Kicking."  Within a week of finishing that project, we started working on the song, "A Liar in the Year of the Thief."  That was the first song written for this album.  What we tend to do is plan for live shows, practice to make sure we're ready for them, and add new songs as they come to us.  By the end of 2018, we had brought in Jeff Cali as our lead guitar player and spent a lot of time re-arranging all of the songs we play (covers and originals) to incorporate the lead guitar.  With the amount of songs we play, that took awhile.  By that time, we had 6 of the 10 songs on this album written and had been playing most of them on stage.  But with the Spring of 2019 came the departure of Mike Marshall from the band.  So for the rest of 2019, we needed to re-arrange the songs again, including the new original songs.  

During this process, we kept adding to the new material and playing shows.

Then, along came the pandemic.  At the outset, we all stayed home and missed out on practices for awhile.  But then, since we couldn't play anywhere live anyway, we decided we would get together and finish writing songs for the album.  For the record, the last two added were "Catch the Ride" and "Trying to Get a Win."  We spent months playing them to get a feel for them together: what kind of solos we wanted, re-thinking lyrics, adding parts, etc. 

Step 2: Recording

Finally, on a cold weekend in Feb of 2021, we went into Kiwi Audio Studio and started the recording.  Over two days, we tracked the instruments for all 10 songs.  Brad Showalter, who runs that studio, is a great guy and we had a great weekend recording this album.  He'll make you take at least one shot of Malort during the process.

Our next move was to record vocals and guitar solos at another studio, Sound Sculptor in Geneva.  Dan Yotz, who runs that studio is another great guy.  He's been mixing us live on stage when we play at a regular spot, Old Towne Pub in Wasco, and we always really like how it sounds there.  So we decided to have him record the vocals and solos and mix the album. 

Step 3: Mixing

We worked with Dan for months.  Well into the summer of 2021, we worked on the mixes of the songs, but we all agreed that there was something that wasn't sitting quite right.  None of us could really put our finger on why.  So we decided to give someone else a go at it.  We thanked Dan for his time and camaraderie, and moved on to a new acquaintance.  We still look forward to working with Dan at our next show at OTP.

Tony had reached out to some bands he knew when he lived in Milwaukee.  They all gave him the same name, Vinny Millevolte at Axis Studios in Wisconsin.  This was the match.  Another great guy.  In running into great people to work with, we have been really lucky.

And so we worked with Vinny on mixing until Early November of 2021.  The building where Vinny had been renting his studio space had gotten sold out from under him.  So our last session was in a church.  Vinny also does sound for a local church and they let him use the space for recording.  So technically, the last thing recorded for this album was an overdub for a guitar solo.  It was indeed performed in the aisle of a church.  No Malort that day.

Step 4: Mastering

The project then moved on to the mastering phase.  If you don't know what the mastering process is...neither do I.  But I do know this.  Part of it is making sure all of the songs have similar volumes and EQs throughout the album.  You stop focusing on individual songs and you focus on the entire project.  That's the best I have for you.  Anyway, we sent out a couple of songs to three different mastering studios.  As our luck would have it for this album, none of them felt quite right.  Vinny felt the same way and surprised us with a new option.  He had made contact with someone he had met years before and they were trying out some work together.  His name is Brian Scheuble (look him up and check out his resume!).  

So finally, in February of 2022, the album was done.  Recorded...mixed...and mastered.  Onto the artwork.

Step 5: Packaging

This is the part we probably could have planned better.  I'll take the blame on this one.  We could have been working on this the entire time, but I was too focused on the music part.  We also changed the name of the album a couple of times.  So we reached out to another couple of friends and former bandmates, Chad Hill and Tim Konn.  Chad is a great graphic designer and Tim takes great photos.  Those two guys really brought it home for us.  We can't wait for you guys to see and hear the results.

So just when we thought we had run into every obstacle we could, we tried to order vinyl albums.  And found out...that the wait time to have vinyl albums pressed   

Man, I'm really proud of this album, but I think we are all tired of working on it.  We are definitely looking forward to having you guys have the opportunity to have it in your hands.  

So, the expected delivery for the vinyl is Jan, 2023, believe it or not.  But we'll have CD's and other options this week.

And the Release

I'll finish this story with the reason we picked a release date of Oct 15th for the album.  In the first place, it's a middle ground for having CDs and USB's available in August and the vinyl available in January.  So on Oct 15th, we'll make the vinyl available as a presale item, and have CDs and USBs on hand.  Secondly, it's finally our 10th anniversary for the first show we ever played (Oct 26th, 2012).  And as the first show was a way to have a fun 40th birthday party, Oct 15th will be my 50th birthday party.

That's quite the story.  I'm exhausted from just telling it.  But it will all be worth it for us the day you get the opportunity to hold this album in your hand or to listen to it on Spotify, Youtube, or wherever else.  And by the way, On Oct 16th, we'll probably start working on the next one.

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