Hi folks. Neil here (drummer for the Vancouver band - The Long War). This blog entry is to coincide along with our brand new music video for "Ocean Below". I just wanted to share some memories on what it was like recording Ocean Below at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Okay… so backing up some…
Having had the great fortune of winning the CBC Searchlight competition in early April of 2017 (the only Vancouver band to date to do so), the band and I soon found ourselves surrounded by the most beautiful snowy peaks in Banff, Alberta. We were here as part of the amazing prize package that came with winning the competition, a 10 day residency in the centre, to write and record a song with singer-songwriter Royal Wood for Canada’s 150th anniversary. It was both such a great honour and a huge undertaking. The plan for the 10 days was to have six writing days, with the remaining four left for recording.
Lo and behold, we completed the Canada song within the time frame and we still had a day and a half of studio time to go. Personally I love the studio. I love the simplicity of creating something out of nothing. That only the members in your band, in that room, with that engineer / producer can produce that unique sound that only they can make. It was an amazing experience to say the least.
This was our first time in a studio together as a band, this was also our first time working with a true consummate professional, such as Royal Wood. It was also only 2 weeks since the CBC finale aired, which happened to be our fourth ever time playing in front of an audience. So there we were, a fairly new Vancouver band, left to our own devices in the Luscar studio, within the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, with our trustee new friend and studio engineer Shae Brossard….now what?! Well now we get to work. Having such a small time frame we decided to play and record live off the floor, meaning we’d record the backing tracks live and then overdub vocals, percussion and any extra guitars.
In the massive live room were myself on drums and Carson on bass, then we had Chad on acoustic guitar and Jarrett on electric hovering above us in the vocal booth. Now I should note that this was a month prior before our multi instrumentalist (and best looking band member) Jessica Lee joined us on keyboards.
For me, when I’m recording a drum take, there is always this battle of sticking to the click track like glue, versus trying to sound less robotic by playing with feel and dynamic. I often fine either side can suffer when focusing on one thing. I know that it is just part of my journey as a drummer. A skill that can and will be developed the more the band are recording. It really helped having Carson in the room with me. Having someone to bounce the energy of the song off of, making it feel more like a performance.
We ran the song a handful of times and we had the basic backing track finished. Later on in the day after our lunch break, Jarrett found himself alone, in this cavernous studio, laying down the lead vocal lines. There was something beautiful about the natural reverb of the large room, it made his vocals sound so warm and present. Carson and Shae revisited the bass and came up with a new idea. This spurred Jarrett on to record an onslaught of electric guitars for the last chorus of the song. With only 30 minutes left if studio time, and being cheered on by Shae and the band, he managed to complete the task, minus a few flubs along the way.
All in all we ended up recording three songs in the time we had at the Luscar studio, Ocean Below, Lightning and Thunder and Downtime. We initially recorded these songs because we found ourselves with extra studio time. Something that is quite a rare occurrence. We weren’t necessary recording them for the album per se, maybe a separate project. However, I am so glad that they ended up on the record. It was such a pleasure to work with Shae Brossard, another consummate professional and over all, a good hang. He made this Vancouver band feel right at home.
Lastly, I want to add that we spent more time on adding vocals and keyboards to the songs in a Vancouver studio, which is fitting, since it was in BC where the song was first conceived.
"Ocean Below" Release Teaser: