More and more producers are going mobile.
Local rocker Shawn Kyle (AMFMS, Florida Kilos) has operated this way under his Warm and Alive moniker for a few years now. His Tampa base of operations is Willow Avenue Studios, a sleek video production facility with audio recording capabilities. The spacious room has excellent acoustics, and when Kyle takes on a local project, he sets up the bands and monitors what’s happening through a picture window from the adjacent control room, adding his own sonic magic to the mix when needed. That’s what he did last fall when Have Gun, Will Travel recorded its fourth full-length, Science from an Easy Chair, there. He’s currently working on the new solo outing from Groves primary JT Brown. Via Warm and Alive, Kyle’s offerings include analog and digital music and sound recording, session work, songwriting collaboration, track production and engineering. He has an impressive arsenal of vintage gear (including the same model of reel-to-reel used to record Amy Winehouse), the best analog-to-digital conversion technology, and a portable 24-track recording rig, compact enough “that I can put it in a fly case and carry it on a plane and go up to Washington D.C. and produce a band in a basement.”
He agrees you can make music anywhere — and he has; the Beauvilles’ 2004 debut EP was recorded in an abandoned house, and its sound got the band into a Florida Grammy Foundation showcase. However, it took a long time to finish because he didn’t know what he was doing and was basically flying blind. “There’s a lot of time involved in trial and error.”
He’s learned in his experience with Warm and Alive that to achieve a great recording, you need the right room, one that makes the artist feel both comfortable and inspired, since it’s hard to translate live dynamics to a cooler studio setting. How to engage the artists and create a situation where they can channel that live energy into a perfect “in the moment” performance, that one magical take, is the trick. “It takes a lot of perspective to try to figure out when that happens, and if it’s not happening, how to make it happen.”
Part of that is getting the right sounds to begin with. “You can literally sit down and spend hours just working with EQ-ing frequencies, when in reality all you needed to do was put the right mic in front of the right piece of equipment.” Increasing the volume while maintaining the dynamics, making the music sound complex while not muddling it up with sonic clutter — those are the biggest production challenges.
“That’s the art of mixing. You want your music to be big and beautiful, but you don’t want it to sound like all the air is being sucked out of the room, or like a complete compressed wall-of-sound mess.”