June 15, 2012

Ambassadors and the PreSonus StudioLive

This past spring we were deep in the planning stages of the MobileStudio trip to SXSW and WMC/Ultra music week.  Since we were going to be headed to SXSW anyway our marketing team suggested that we look for a band that was also headed towards Austin and see if they would be interested in recording a track with us on the way down.  The plan was to stop at the cities they were playing in and record a track from start to finish on the road.  The band we linked up with was a group out of Brooklyn, New York called Ambassadors, a four piece indie rock band that made great music and was willing to put up with our shenanigans as we recorded their track.

PreSonus powers our MobileStudio with a 24 channel StudioLive.  They provided us with a StudioLive to take with us to use in venues to record the band and ultimately give them a finished fully mixed track.  We ended up taking the StudioLive into venues to record live sound alongside with video to compile with the finished track at the end of our trip.

When I first encountered the band it was at the Masquerade, a popular venue in Atlanta for touring bands, when I got there they were in the midst of a soundcheck tweaking and tuning the mix for the show.  After they had finished we made our introductions and prepared for spending the next week with each other.  The band members were really cool down to earth people and it was clear that it wouldn’t be hard to get along with them and soon they were doing their final pre show stretches when we dipped back out to catch the opening riffs.  I ran back to the sound booth and set up a tripod next to the permanently pissed off audio engineer and before I knew it, the ride was on.

Early the next day Ambassadors met us at the office where we had the bus parked and set up for the first recording session.  We wanted to track the drums first so we got Adam to sit at the kit and test out some drum tones, we were running Komplete with the Alesis DM 10 so he had literally thousands of kits and sounds to choose from.  After he finished his track I pulled him aside to film his interview as Casey and Sam finished their parts.  We would meet again in New Orleans outside of the House of Blues to finish up the guitar tracking and vocals.  Our last hurrah was in Austin for South by Southwest.  We put on all the finishing touches and we’re all happy to see our efforts come to fruition. The road trip was a blast and the track sound sweet.  Check out the video below to hear the final mix.

Until Next Time,
Zack Rocket


Adam:  My name is Adam Levin, I’m the drummer for Ambassadors. Were based  out of Brooklyn, New York and right now we’re in the uniquesquared warehouse this is the bus behind up  Today at the Moile studio we are recording a new  song called habits which we only very recently wrote and started playing on this tour and this is the first actual recording of the song.  I just want a preview, listen, play like that. if we could turn the snare up like big time, just for reference.  I’ve played on electronic kits in the past and a i played used to play a roland kit and I thought the alesis kit was really great and the sensitivity was awesome and a lot of times on electric kits there’s a big learning curve going over the sensitivities can be weird the cymbals can be weird but I thought the Alesis kit performed really really well and most importantly sounded awesome recorded.  So here we go, cool.  

Paul:  You’ll have two count in and you’ll be going. Everyone ready? And rolling.  

Adam:  Usually when recording its best to record drums first because they keep the time and overall feel of the song I like to think so at least.  If we don’t finish the entire track today we’ll finish the track on the road, thank god the studio’s mobile.  Over the next month or so we;re gonna be touring with Lights who’s awesome and we’ll see you guys in New Orleans we can’t wait to catch up with the bus, were gonna be in oir little cramped van so it will be a good break to get to hang in this beautiful mobile studio that uniquesquared hooked us up with for this tour.
Uh I guess we are somewhere in the wilds of New Orleans, I was standing both in the sun and in the rain and it was pretty cool. We are in New Orleans right now and I’ve only been here for about an hour but so far its pretty amazing.  Amazing architecture and I am excited to go out and explore a little bit.

Paul:  I’m Paul Nunn, I’m the engineer for the UniqueSquared MobileStudio and we’re recording Ambassadors with their track Habits, we did the basic tracks in Atlanta and we are finishing up the rest of it today in beautiful New Orleans.  Where it is apparently pissing on the bus outside so. . . we’re winning.  you ready?

Adam:  Yeah, im ready to go.

Adam:  The process of recording my guitar was I waited around for everyone else to be done and then paul and I came in here plugged in a simple rig my pedals I always use and just banged it out.  It was very easy and one of the most easy recording processes Ive ever had and most fun.  how does it compare to a real studio?  its a little bit smaller aI guess and you’re working with different space but a lot of its pretty similar.  I guess paul and I are a lot closer than i would be to a normal engineer in a booth but its great.

Paul:  It should be I think.  This is good.  The switches need to come over, instruments inputs so I should be bypassing everybody.

Casey:  The bus was pretty cool, that was just cool in general because it was an ACd place where we could retreat from the madness, you know a cool little set up.  All soundproofed, we plugged them in, i turned them on and played a couple notes and that was about it.  it was a smooth and streamlined operation so I was impressed.  My brother, he does all of the song writing.  Uh, I’ll throw a little thing here and there like the crying seagull sounds on Habits you know that kind of thing but its mostly sam.

Sam:  I am Sam Harris, I am the lead singer of Ambassadors.  we went in there and recorded this song in four hour sessions each and uh you know we’re all such perfectionists with our stuff it was just so great to um go into a studio after having been on the road for so long where these songs are ingrained in us and then actually putting it down on tape.  It’s funny because you don’t actually realise until you do that how well you know these songs.  And you know im in the studio and im listening to stuff that Noah is doing on guitar that I had no idea he was playing live becasue the monitoring on stage is always kind of crazy.  I’ve dont eh majority of our demoing process as a band at home on my laptop with nothing other than you know a MIDI keyboard and a microphone.  For me its not a big departure at all, I think for Adam playing drums it was a little strange playing on V-Drums but then again you know obviously it would be great to go into a studio and record real drums to tape and mess around with different tones and be in there tuning your drums for days on end but you know the reality of it is that it’s expensive and you can i think ultimately be a little more creative when you have the ability to just change your sound with a click of a button.  i for a while was areally resistant to the digital music era but now I think we are all fully embracing it as something that can be used as a really good tool.  Those headphones sat on my head like a feather pillow, it was beautiful.  I could hear everything crystal clear.  About to send it to you, woah woah woah woah computer, you wait until I tell you to do that.  So many things inspire the songwriting process I think uh you know at the end of the day its really an accidental thing. There was a time when I had just gotten out of school and was out every night drinking with my friends and doing stupid things and you know having these little flings these little moments.  And they are pretty amazing but you dont want to stop but you know that eventually you have to.  And that’s sorta what its about.