South Florida rock n’ roll duo The Von are sticklers for high quality sound. When you listen to their new single ‘Nothing To Fear’ it’s one of the first things to stick out. And it’s not just because we’re comparing it other local bands who are typically less inclined to worry about the production quality (nothing wrong with that, to each their own). Their recordings are on par with a lot of established rock music you hear on satellite radio.
The members of The Von, Luis and Marek, are publicly unleashing the single ‘Nothing To Fear’ very shortly. To get more insight into what it took to produce the new single, we decided to ask them about their studio setup and overall recording process (plus some other stuff towards the end). Here were our questions.
The sound quality on ‘Nothing To Fear’ is great. Tell us about your recording studio.
We’re a DIY band, not by choice but by pure necessity like most bands. We took the whole DIY thing way further than most bands though when we decided to record this entire album by ourselves in a studio that we found and further improved. We did it with obsessive attention to detail and borderline OCD behavior. We took the utmost care– something we know is impossible to get when you go into a studio on a budget. We had complete free range and access. It was our space.
Was it just you guys doing the recording and production? Did you bring anyone else in?
We recorded everything in our studio in Boca Raton without an external sound engineer. When we first started producing our own stuff, we were a trio. I was the sound engineer. I’m a self taught sound engineer enthusiast. I picked it up from personal trial-and-error, research, and learning from more accomplished producers and engineers that worked on my Diestra albums– my first band. I was always asking questions and even playing the role of the assistant’s assistant, just for the sake of learning.
How big is your studio?
Everything was recorded in the studio’s main live room: drums, guitars, bass, some percussion, and crystal bowls. The room is a pretty decent size. I think it’s approximately the size of a 2 car garage with 16 foot ceilings– all with wood flooring. It’s nice.
Now for the technical stuff. What equipment do you guys use to make it sound so good?
We used a Toft ATB 16 console to record, which is a redesign of a very famous rock n’ roll console from the 70’s called the Trident Series 80B. The Toft ATB is kinda deep, kinda thick, and far more “expensive” sounding than the price of the unit would imply. The headroom is sufficient, the EQ is musical, and the mic-pre’s are far more competent than the price would suggest. Overall, it’s a really solid, full-sounding console. Just the sound I was going for with The Von. I believe Arcade Fire tracked one of their latest album on a Toft ATB. We also used other outboard gear like UAD 4710, which we sprinkled on some mics for the drum kit and the bass cabinet mic setup. We recorded vocals using a Focusrite ISA 220 and a Blue Mouse mic– a very clean sounding preamp and mic combo. We collectively own all of the gear.
As far as microphones, the bass had a pretty wild setup. I mic’d the cabinet with 5 different mics, why not? The one that made it on the album was the Shure SM7B. It really nailed my live bass sound.
Watch the video below to see the setup.
For guitars, we used a stereo setup– one Orange amp and a Mesa amp. We mic’d Marek’s guitar with 3 sets of mic per amp, why not? More colors to choose from. I love having lots of options for the mix.
Watch the video below to see the guitar setup.
And for drums, well we ran out of channels, we used all 16 channels.
To capture all this program information we used an UAD Apollo 16 interface which I really enjoy using. What a piece of equipment! It is great, and the UAD plugins– a delight to listen to how they emulate classic outboard gear. We used Logic as our DAW.
On a different note….what’s the best part about the South Florida music scene? What could be better?
South Florida has a very eclectic range of bands, you got your washboard bands, indie bands, latin rock bands, country, singer songwriters, and of course hip hop. There is a lot of variety, and then you got your other Floridian music staples like punk rock, hard core, death metal, and bluesy hillbilly bands. You can satisfy your live music cravings any time.
In terms of what could be better, one thing that really needs to be collectively worked out among a lot of venues is the quality or setup of PA systems.
What was the most interesting show you guys played? Tell us about it.
A show that satisfied the ego was one we played at Revolution. It was a benefit event so they had the budget to have proper band green room “refreshments” and things like that. It felt good to play on a real proper PA that would rumble beneath your feet with every kick drum hit. The people responded very well, and we had a good time.
Another gig that stands out was one in Delray Beach. We played on a hip hop bill at an now-closed club Delux. We definitely were the fly in the soup. We turned heads like the hottest chick walking down the street, but for the wrong reason. So we set up, and we get ready to do our thing… everyone is looking at us, not even dancing while the hip hop blasted out the club speakers. We start playing, and by the end of the first song to our amazement we could see the crowd loosen up and enjoy it. It turned out to be a great gig. People got into what we were playing. Totally unexpected, really. The vibe was incredibly good. The people were receptive. It was a very good night. As a bonus, there were lots of hot chicks there too.
You have an entertaining YouTube channel with all kinds of videos. How important is video to the band? What’s the thought process when you decide to film?
Video content on the web is essential, and YouTube is king. We know that, and embrace it. Video is a way to let the world known who we are and what we are all about. We do these videos to give an insight into what’s going on with the band, and share with people our experience in this journey to spread our music and have it be enjoyed by many. We are not going after the image of the typical hard ass bad ass rock/metal band. Our mission is to give viewers a hole in the wall from which they can peek from.
The thought process is very simple. We always want to keep it short and engaging. This same principle of simplicity transpired into the lyric video that we will release for Nothing To Fear. This one is totally DIY. Marek and I shot it, no one else helped out. It’s like one fancy selfie video. We are really proud of it because it’s more like a hybrid– kind of a music video, but with kinetic typography . The entire video is one continuous shot with a few jump cuts.
Tell us about the meaning behind your new single ‘Nothing To Fear’.
It’s a creative mindset– an empowerment to breakthrough any fear based self-limitations. That one can fear something, and let it control their life OR to choose not to allow any kind of fear and live in their true potential of creativity. You have the choice to control your life and not allow external circumstances to control it.
Besides the new song, what is another song you guys are most proud of?
Truthfully, we like all our songs equally since each of them touches different emotions and feelings. Some songs are deeper in intellect, while others might project more energetic musical expressions. Pride is a relative word imposing limits, so instead of one song we feel that there are 3 others after ‘Nothing To Fear’ of the same magnitude:
Love Supreme, Let It Out and Atomic Sun.
Some while back, I had submitted to play at the One Man Band Festival in Montreal throughSonicBids, an online booking and marketing tool for bands. Their electronic press kit is good to have, but it can cost up to $30 to submit to some festivals, which smelled scammy to me.And if I, Boxwood, couldn’t get into a one-man band fest then my suspicions would be confirmed. Not the case here.
“Congratulations, you’ve been selected!” Crap… That’s a long drive.
On Monday, May 20th, my girlfriend packed my musket and some sandwiches, our driver packed all my music gear into the carriage, and we were off to Canada. Three days later, on a wet and stormy Wednesday night, we arrived in the old city of Montreal, a long and uncomfortable ride to say the least. Along the way, one of our horses fell ill. Janette spent a good part of the ride tending to our driver’s arrow wound and we were almost rejected at the Canadian border. Apparently, and this is important, you need a work permit to play at a bar outside the U.S. No, you can’t just go in and take a Canadian’s job. Luckily, a work permit was not necessary because the festival was renting out the bar. A loophole… wow, epic fail averted.
So here we were, the day before the festival, shoes and socks soaked with rain, checking in to a 100 year old converted hotel. I was scheduled to play tomorrow, day one of this four-day festival at a place called Barfly. 10 venues scattered in-and-around Montreal’s St. Laurent district were hosting 50 one-man bands from around the world. Yes, 50 one-man bands from all over had congregated to this city for this bizarre festival, and I was one of them. I could feel them out there in their tiny rooms, calmly settling within the spectacle of this raucous weather. Any anxieties now defused to a mere giddy anticipation. A strange feeling was setting in, one of kindred-ship with the unknown because, really, that’s what we were, the unknown result of a brain left to itself. Different variations of the same species left to evolve on islands miles apart. We were a Darwinian experiment brought together, and soon we were going to display our plumes, our quirky mating dances, a curious posture. I hope my shoes dry by the time I wake up tomorrow.
Day 1 of One Man Band Festival
Barlfy is a dingy little spot that the locals hold in high regard, sort of like a Churchill’s but a third of the size. There were already a few scraggly bar patrons curled over the bar when I arrived at 5pm for my sound check. They appeared to be the loner/territorial kind, but were quick to lend a hand to my driver as he unloaded my heavy amps into the bar. After a quick sound check, I met up with a young French documentarian, Anne-Charlotte Gellez, in the back courtyard. She had flown in with a small crew to shoot some footage and to interview some of the acts in the festival. The documentary they were making was called We Are A One Man Band. A small excerpt of that can be seen here.
I regret drawing a blank on the last question, which was “if you could give a name to this documentary, what would it be?” I figure the answers will be compiled at the end of the film, displaying the varied personalities of each artist. They’ll have a shot of me staring at the wall for a long minute.
And it’s go time. This was one of three shows happening that night, and the turnout is looking pretty good. A mixture of Fest goers, regulars, and fellow OMB’s are trickling in. First up isDevin Friesen, AKA Bitter Fictions, from Calgary. He flew in with a bunch of pedals and rented a guitar and amp at a local music store. He turned on his gear and began layering fuzz, swells, and feedback, the kind of sounds that would float over a Sonic Youth track. Calgary is a few hours drive north of the Montana border. I don’t know anything about it, but it’s probably the exact opposite from South Florida. Through conversation, Devin and I seemed to be cut from the same cloth, and I couldn’t help but think I’d sound more like this if I lived in Calgary. As a result of his set, I imagine the place to be beautiful, vast and haunting. I’ll refuse any more knowledge on this city to retain this picturesque image for now.
Next up is the scene veteran, Evan Symons, an eccentric specimen from, I think, the Vancouver area. This was one of the stops on his seemingly eternal Canadian tour. Both Devin and Evan spoke of the dreaded drive through the barren wasteland that stretches between east and west Canada, usually breaking the few bands that attempt to cross. But Evan didn’t give a shit; he was a bad ass, a migrating road beast, more in common with the Canadian wildlife than it’s people. He played his set off to the side putting the main focus on a giant screen projecting videos of native birds pecking away at the soil or eating seeds off his hand, him ice skating on a frozen lake, footage of boats in a coastal village. He was like a nature guide speaking in code. The sound track was quirky 90’s pop rock. Maybe like Luna doing Captain Beefheart, if that’s possible. The man plays and records every instrument at home, then plays it back through a laptop on stage. He accompanies it with guitar and vocals and all the life lessons you’ll ever need in the lyrics.
My turn. Part of me was eager to show any skeptical rock purists that watched as my gear clogged up the little bar, that I wasn’t a diva for bringing in an overkill of equipment. It all served a purpose and it’ll all make sense in a minute. The other part of me was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to sing. I had been battling a cough and sore throat the whole way up, and knew that any attempts at a falsetto would be greeted by a squeal or silence, hopefully the latter. With a cough drop in mouth, I made sure to cake on the reverb, and to pull away from the mic when approaching questionable notes. Not bad. The crowd liked it, and I had no sound issues.
Danny Lutz, a local, was headlining the night. His load-in and set up was about as intense as mine. Where as I bring in an arsenal of amps, he sets up a cockpit of samplers, mixers, synths, guitar, laptop, more stuff, and shakers– essentially, a mini recording studio. I was very psyched to see his set after watching the live vid on his profile page via the festival’s website. He writes music for a living, and can whip up a catchy pop hit like it’s nothing. In fact, he wrote all new songs to perform specifically for this festival, and they were all solid. It was a great night overall. Got a great response after the show, sold some CD’s, got to chat with my own species, very nice people.
Finding Jesus, An Adventure With Couch Surfing
Jesus lived in a quiet, gentrifying, blue-collar neighborhood in southern Montreal. Our driver stayed outside to tend to the horses as Jesus welcomed Janette and I into his third floor apartment at around 1 AM. He was a thin olive skinned man of about 40 years or so. He was built with sharp edges and looked like an artsy Devo-type nerd. He cracked open some strange beers, and we talked a bit on his balcony. It turned out this man had no idea about the festival, of who I was, or what I was doing in Montreal, despite the whole OMB artist-hosting program. “So how is it we ended up here”, I wondered. Apparently, someone from the OMB staff went to CouchSurfing.com, found the profile of someone who seemed “normal” and voilà. I could have done this myself, I suppose.
It turned out Jesus was Venezuelan, and we switched to talking in Spanish. He tells us about a hand-gliding accident and his slow recovery, his boring work as a programmer, his love of music, etc. So whatever. We’re here, this guy seems normal, and all is good, let’s get some sleep. Yes…? No.
No, no and no. Something is very, very wrong here… not in my world, but in the narrative that’s been playing out in Janette’s head from the second she heard “Couch surfing”. A horror movie is unraveling within her brain and the plot thickens with every word that comes out of his mouth. Does anybody know this guy? This man was going to kill us and nobody knows we’re here. Did he put something in our beers? Woah, that’s weird, why would he say that? This entire time her casual conversation had been the proxy tip of a terror iceberg. She’d been planning escape routes, locating objects she could use as weapons and it’s getting worse. He shows us the bathroom. He warns us that the inside doorknob had fallen off earlier that day. Closing the door fully would lock us inside. How convenient. We stayed in a small, messy room that he uses as an office when not hosting a couch surfer. The slated thin accordion doors on the far wall seemed to be to a large closet but with the lights off it presented her with a more sinister revelation. It was his bedroom. This explained why we could hear him breathing, as if he were standing at the foot of the bed. We could see him moving around in there through the gaps in these flimsy doors. Had he been watching us? Were there cameras set up? Had we walked onto the set of a snuff film?
I slept like a baby. Janette stayed up all night with her iPhone in hand. The mans address followed by the word “Help!” was typed into her Facebook status box with her finger stiff over the send button. He had gotten up to use the bathroom twice that night and Janette was on high alert. She heard every detail of his morning routine. She recalls hearing a zipper that seemed to go on forever. Was that a body bag? No backpack is that big. When he finally left for work the nightmare was over… for now. We had time to escape before he returned. She woke me up. “We gotta get out of here.”
As the day progressed I tried convincing Janette that Jesus was not a serial killer, and that we should stay there the extra night like we first planned. We’ll invite him to this next round of OMB shows and get to know him a little more. In the sunlight and in the security of our carriage she seemed more at ease.
Day 2 of One-Man Band Festival
Our plans for the night were to check out guitar virtuoso and fellow looper, Emanuel Paquetteat l’Escrogriffe, who we had met at the bar the night before. Emanuel had flown in from a beautiful island off the coast of Portugal to be at this drizzly fest. Then we’d shoot over to Barfly to catch Shake it Like a Caveman from Tennessee. He was of the modern old school variety. A what…?
Ok, lets break down the different types of one-man bands:
The Old School Variety: When one hears one-man band they usually picture something like Dick Van Dyke in Marry Poppins. These individuals still exist and there were a few of these at the festival, one of which, Washboard Hank, we caught at l’Escrogriffe … Awesome.
The Modern Old School Variety: These individuals usually sit behind a minimal drum kit played by their feet while they play guitar or some other hand held instrument and sing. I say old school because it’s pretty stripped down with no technology needed. Shake it Like a Caveman or Florida’s own Ben Prestige are good examples of this.
The Looper Variety: These folks, myself included, rely on a loop or delay pedal to keep things going, usually building layers upon layers to create a song. There are a lot of beat boxers in this category.
The Laptop Variety: Here, the musician uses samplers and midi devises to trigger off and loop sounds on their laptops. Most of these people don’t realize they are OMB’s because they are more akin to the cooler electronic artist title, unless, of course, they show up to this festival.
People who play every instrument on their album (Prince, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, etc.) can also be referred to as OMB’s but I have no category for them, they just are.
Emanuel Paquette (Old School Variety)
Jesus showed up during Emanuel’s set with a lovely young lady whose name I don’t recall. They seemed to be getting a kick out of the performances. Two rounds of Canadian beers later we decide it’s to far to try to make it out to Barfly to catch Shake It… Apparently, I had misjudged the distances on those over simplified festival maps. Instead, we ride out the rest of the l’Escrogriffe lineup, and head to a Jesus-endorsed bar afterwards. His friend does not join us. As we approach the bar, and I misstep into a giant pothole of rainwater, I realize I left my card and ID at l’Escrogriffe. This sucks AND may also be a good opportunity for Janette to get to know Jesus while I go get my card.
When I returned I was happy to see the two are hitting it off, and talking about something we can all relate to, relationships. The woman he was with earlier turned out to be his ex-wife who he hadn’t seen in a while but were starting to be friendly again. They had moved to Montreal together from Venezuela and had broken up shortly after the move. After another round of beers I started to piece together a more accurate narrative of this man. His ex wife seemed to be the free spirited type. She looked loose in that other bar, like she was of the city, fully integrated, reacting with the casual vibe of the place. He seemed awkward but introspective. He must have been uptight and rigid when he arrived to Canada. He spoke poorly of his nerdy coworkers, how they were no fun, rejecting his own kind, preferring the company of artists and vagabonds. Maybe he was controlling a few years back in their relationship but was now trying not to be, forcing himself to loosen up. What better way to break out of his rigid tendencies than to open his doors to complete strangers, to put himself in awkward situations, let an unknown situation sit on his impeccable couch, sift through his fridge, rummage through his cabinets for a new roll of toilet paper. Every couple months or so he would probably invite her out again to show her his new skin, a fluid gesture, and how he could laugh a little more. And she may be happy for him but equally sad because she knows that the only thing meant to be was her arrival to this city by some means necessary. And maybe he was meant to go back. But he was trying, maybe learning a valuable lesson for later on in life or maybe setting up for an irrevocable backlash.
Before we hit the hay, I thanked Jesus for his hospitality, and gave him 3 bottles of wine that I brought from Florida as gifts, one of which he opened to toast with. He served himself and I a glass of Malbec and served Janette, who didn’t want wine, a rock glass of some rare top shelf Venezuelan rum accompanied by a brand ambassador’s history and description. After a long-winded toast he excuses himself to use the bathroom. As soon as he is out of sight, Janette pours the fine rum into the sink. She had pretended to drink it. The terror continues. He has one last chance to kill us but not if we are vigilant.
Heading Back South
The next morning, sure enough, we wake up alive. Before we leave, and as my driver loads our luggage into our carriage, I shoot Jesus with my musket… just in case. Besides, we were crossing the border in a short while so it didn’t really matter what I did.
Our next destination was New York City. I was playing at a bar in Brooklyn called Bar4 in a few hours. I was more nervous about seeing my old friends and family, most of which have never seen me do this one-man loop pedal business. I hadn’t been back to NY in years, and I was happy to see the bar packed with familiar faces, many of whom I was not expecting to see. The show went great, and I think this is where the story telling reaches its end.
One More One-Man Band
On our way back to Florida we stopped at Richmond, VA, Raleigh, NC, and Charleston, SC out of curiosity and spur of the moment decisions, a lax return to make up for our speedy ride up. I must mention this: in Raleigh, we caught Lighting Bolts drummer, Brian Chippendale’s solo project, Black Pus at Kings Barcade which further hammered this one-man band theme into our travels. Black Pus is of the looper variety via rapid-fire drums, fuzzed out vocals, sounds by drum sensors and three Line 6 delays, a ridiculous experience and a fitting way to end this one-man band centered road trip.
If you want to check out more of Boxwood on FTL Collective, stream his song Sarah on our post about Block X Blog Festival in downtown Fort Lauderdale. If you’re a South Florida band with stories from the road to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Say what you will about this Saturday’s 2nd annual Dancegiving Festival, a tri-venue smorgasbord of some of the world’s top DJs held at Revolution Live, but some FTLC staffers are pretty excited about this year’s festivities. With the cancellation of Identity Festival for a bogus hurricane, this event couldn’t come at a better time. After this weekend’s party, we’ll have nearly 4 months to recover until Miami gets invaded by WMC and Ultra in mid-March. Upping the ante, this year’s version of the fest expands to 5 stages total, which includes 2 new outdoor stages.
We’d be kidding ourselves if we said we weren’t looking forward the most to catching the bigger national headliners (hello MSTRKRFT), but it’s worth noting that there are 35 Florida DJs on the lineup. For FTLC blogging purposes we’re only concerned with the DJs with 954, 754, 305, 786, & 561 area codes. We found 23, but I’m sure we missed a few because A) half the names are hard to Google (looking at you Elements), and B) a handful of potentially local DJs decided that they’d rather rep a fake city (“Schwagville”, really?). That being said, this is what I was able to round up (all my favorites are in the first 7, after that it’s random order). Check the festival schedule set times.
It’s early in the week and there’s already so much new local music circulating the web. Here is a summary of just a handful of local bands that released new music this week.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that Retrocities are big fans of Joy Division, Morrisey, and The Cure. The Pompano Beach trio channels these great bands in their newest EP. The FTLC has been anxiously waiting to hear some recordings from these guys; their latest release doesn’t disappoint. Stream 3 of the 5 tracks below:
HURRY! HURRY! HURRY! Until midnight tonight, you can download for free Young Circles’ newest album Jungle Habits from their Bandcamp. I’m a big fan of this album, and especially love their song 2012– it’s one of my favorite tracks of the year.
Worth mentioning, these experimental rockers are amazing live.
Lo-fi rock band Little Beard make fun, beach cruising music. Think of bands like Best Coast, Wavves, Tennis, or even a little of Jacuzzi Boys. Their latest song Me Too (download for FREE on Little Beard’s Bandcamp) is more of the same. I like everything this band has recorded thus far.
It’s that time of month again. Twilight Notes and Freedom Art are coming together to bring you another night of art and music- literally, this time. The theme for tonight’s Dialect will show various artists’ representations of their love for the two subjects. Additionally, Twilight Notes DJs will display some select album art from their collections. Artists include Joseph Baum, Greg Dubois, Sarah Duggan, Luzalma Gonzalez, Erik Michael K, and Jose Lopez. Eric Pamphile will be DJing, in addition to JAMS (DJs Esoteric and Damask) who will be handing out their new summer mixtape which is a work of art in itself. Check it out below.
Dialect is tonight, Thursday, July 7 from 8pm-12:30 at Brew 209 SW 2nd Ave FTL
In addition to our heartfelt list of Monday afternoon thanks, we’d like to also mention the band that graced the stage of our unofficial, not-so-advertised after party at the Green Room. Throughout the last year, we truly have tried to keep it local, but it’s tough, especially when it comes to bands that really get us riled up, like Miami Beach’s Deaf Poets.
Though we had heard of Deaf Poets before, we didn’t actually get a chance to catch them until this past May’s SW 3rd Ave Music Festival (if you missed out, you missed out, honestly). Obviously, we felt pretty excited to book them ourselves (on behalf of Mig, I suppose). And if you haven’t seen them yet, make sure to keep an eye on these guys as you’re about to find out what makes them so pretty cool.
For one, the duo (it’s a two man gig) has got quite some catchy tunes. Granted, they’ve got a few slower ones, but we’ll be damned if they don’t have you toe-tapping to all of them. Check out Cold Cold Thieves at the end of the post.
Secondly, it’s pretty hard to not be captivated when the passion between these guys is so evident. Not only do they look like they’re super into it, but they almost look like they’re rooting each other on (hey, I guess you gotta make up for a lack of members somehow, not that this band seems like they’re lacking anything). When Chillwave’s biggest critics argue the talent of one guy and his laptop it’s pretty difficult to defend two guys and two instruments.
Which leads us to our next point, how can only two guys make you forget you’re watching only two guys? Watching lead singer Sean Wouters’ amazing footwork is enough to keep you entertained not to mention the previously written catchy vocals or instrumentals. To explain, I have yet to see anyone outside of a major city ballet troupe showcase that kind of intensity and grace. It sounds cheesy, but it’s not. And once you see, you’ll get it.
If through our wayward writing we’ve lost you, give the below tracks a listen, or just take our word for it and check Deaf Poets out live.