Here’s the third part of our band interview, where we talk about our experiences in Take Root Recording (sadly now closed) and around San Francisco at the time. —Keir

What’s your most vivid memory from recording or from that time period?

BRYN: Watching old VHS recordings of The Simpsons in between takes in the little in-studio lounge definitely ranks up there. But I think the whole process of going out of town, of staying somewhere new, the road-trip aspect of recording the album up in San Francisco when I lived in Santa Barbara, gave it a special feeling too. A totally new experience, pushed a bit farther outside my comfort zone, made it an imperfect but extremely important thing to have done.

BRIAN: “Dead Man.” Holy shit that was fun. And loud. Very, very loud.

KEIR: Yeah, definitely Brian overdubbing his guitar for “Dead Man.” It’s the first story I tell anyone when I talk about this project: how it was so loud that Brian and Jon had to wear rifle range headphones, how you can hear the entire space of that room because of how Jon set up the microphones and amps, and how the guy in the motorcycle body shop next door wouldn’t stop gunning the bikes’ engines. I remember Jon saying, “I told him we were recording today,” annoyed, as he turned up the volume. “Let’s hope he has an extra pair of clean underwear.” And then Brian opened up the whoop-ass, and it was good. So good in fact that Bryn was goosed enough to try a round on the loud setup—so he did a take, and when he finished Jon very tactfully, very understatedly said that Bryn didn’t quite get to where Brian did.

BILL: Strangely enough there is one thing that has stayed with me forever and it has nothing to do with recording really. I remember the shower at Brian’s parents’ house where we stayed. The awesome grey black stone (was it unfinished basalt?) was gorgeous and having to spray it down after. I remember the breakfast his mother made us and seeing the amazing photos from Germany his parents had on the wall overlooking the table. I don’t know why, but those things have really stuck with me. I remember thinking that Brian’s parents were really cool for hosting us at their home like that.

What were 1) the most easy/fun experiences in the studio, or conversely 2) the most frustrating/challenging? 

BRIAN: For most fun, “Dead Man” again. Also the recording of the deep vocals and monkey noises (and dying giraffe sound?) in “Sean Goes To Africa.” As for most challenging, that would be my first try at recording backing vocals for “Sweet Oblivion.” I was nervous and couldn’t hit any notes.


BILL: I’m going to take this for the either/or statement that I see written. I have to be honest when I say that I really didn’t have much fun doing this recording. None of the times I’ve recorded have really been all that fun. There is so much stress. Time is money and you have to hurry, but you want to make the money worthwhile and give the best possible performance. You have to create something that will last and you SHOULD have fun doing it. I have always tried to approach the studio in 2 ways simultaneously and perhaps that’s the problem. I always wanted to be relaxed and upbeat and have fun, so that would come across in the recording. I also wanted to be professional and try not to waste time or cause the engineer or technicians undue work.

In the end I have pulled some fun moments out of recording but overall they have always been an extremely stressful activity. I think it could be very different if you had a huge budget and could afford to become intimate with the setting, the acoustics, the equipment and the engineer. Of course that is ideal and being a studio musician is an amazing and insane profession for a reason. The worst thing about this recording experience by far was playing in separate rooms and in a room that was vastly different acoustically than what we were used to in the past.

KEIR: Most fun: taking advantage of the arsenal of fun little extras at Take Root for overdubs, like the bells and “best sound ever” keyboard on “Keep Moving,” the piano on “Let Go,” and the galaxy of craziness that was “Sean Goes to Africa”—effects loops, goofy vocals, and that theremin! Plus being able to put some of my trademark echo-bass in the background of “Island Fever” and “Mercy Rule.” Least fun: the sudden spasm of suck that happened to me when it was time to do the main bass line for “Island Fever.” I hadn’t really defined the part yet, because we’d only jammed it before and I hadn’t practiced a workable, simpler version. I was dangerously close to a confidence crisis and completely choking it, but Jon was extremely patient with me and suggested we track it in the control room, direct-line. That did the trick, but things got pretty dicey for a few hours. I think that was also the night Brian skipped off to a Pixies show with Mike Bingen, so he left Jon alone to record “Island” with two divas named Keir and Bryn.

What was your best experience outside of the studio?

BRIAN: Making Bryn and Keir climb up one of the steeper hills in San Francisco. Mwa ha ha ha! 

BILL: Well I know it sounds weird and probably stupid, but definitely Brian’s parents’ house.


KEIR: I have lots of little memory snippets tucked away: starting at 10am and finishing around midnight, Giants baseball on the radio, Bryn “breaking the control room rules,” everyone griping about the 2004 election, Jon driving us to great Indian food and greater Vietnamese food, Simpsons on videotape, struggling up and down the hills by Brian’s apartment on foot, flying over them in his car while blasting Flaming Lips at 2am, breakfast with Sara Ferracone, and melting down when my Volvo wagon died in San Jose on the 101 during a rainy drive home.