MP3 Icares - In Good Company
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11 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Modern Rock, POP: Power Pop
Icares started working on our second album, In Good Company, in the summer of 2006, approximately two years after the release of our self-titled freshman effort. I never imagined it would take us close to three years to release another CD after the first one's debut. I think I took for granted all the hard work that went into our first disc and thought a second CD would just come naturally. It also took us a little longer because we finally took the step of adding another guitar player to the band. Icares was never supposed to be a 3 piece band; it just always ended up that way. We went through guitarists like water after the release of our first CD because we could never really develop chemistry with any of them. Just around the time Mike (bass), Tim (drums), and I were finally accepting the fact that maybe we should just remain a 3 piece, John James Rueben Shepherd searched us out. We had known John for awhile and after just one practice, we knew we had something going on with him. While it took us a short time to build the right chemistry with him, we knew we were well on the way to releasing our second CD. John brought an entire new element to our songs that our first album was missing, and brought a new writer and writing process to the band that we desperately needed.
We initially forced ourselves to go back into the studio that summer because we volunteered to be an artist on the Homeless for the Holidays compilation disc. SlamOmaha regular, Guru (who was always a strong supporter of Icares), approached us about writing a Christmas song for his compilation project. There was a due date that ushered us back to the Warehouse in Omaha, NE. We had worked with Jim Homan on our last album and were eager to work with him again. We booked three full days and the plan was to get four songs recorded. We underestimated the amount of time we actually needed to record, something we did several other times throughout this recording process. Before our first session at the Warehouse, we did most of the preproduction at Gdub's (another Slam regular profile) studio, 16-bit Studios. We recorded five songs with Gary that we knew we would be recording for our new album. We always find it's a good idea to record everything at least once before going into a "big money" studio. In the case of some of the songs on "In Good Company", we recorded them two or three times before we tracked them for the album.
Our first Warehouse sessions went great. We focused mainly on "Christmas Scar", our Christmas song which will also be included on the new album. We also included "Something about You", "Falling to Pieces", and the first song we completely wrote with John, "It's Up to You". The first day we spent most of the time laying down the drums and bass. We are always happy with the drum sounds we get from the Warehouse. That has always been the draw we had to that particular studio. That and the production that Jim provides is about as good as it gets locally, in my opinion. Day two was all guitars and day three was vocals. Pretty simple, really. The first songs went down one after another but we had hoped to at least get "Christmas Scar" mixed on day three. It became more and more apparent that we would have to schedule another day to do this. Some of the highlights from the first session? Definitely us all trying to do hand claps for "Falling to Pieces". With the exception of Tim, we all realized that we didn't have the rhythm we thought we did. Jim got in on the claps, as well as helped John with mastering a "pick slide". We also brought in Damon Marvin to help sing on "Christmas Scar", which was a first for Icares. We had never had any other outside musician on anything Icares had ever done.
So, four songs were recorded but no mixing was accomplished. We were up against the clock on the Christmas song deadline. We went in for another half day session to finish up "Christmas Scar". We were able to mix that, as well as "Something about You" in that session. We were extremely happy with the end result but by that time we were flat broke. We had plans of releasing our CD by Thanksgiving and it was the end of August already. There was no way, not with our current expenses. We had to take a break from recording and re-evaluate the way we were budgeting the album. We had to figure out ways to come up with cash without over-saturating ourselves by playing too much in the Omaha market. In the early days of Icares, we were extremely guilty of playing in town way too often but it was our only source of band income. This is where our album took Icares out of Omaha for the first time.
After laying down the tracks for four songs at the Warehouse in July and August, we took a small break from recording. I attended Lollapalooza in Chicago at the beginning of August with some friends from college. This is where our album took a complete turn that none of us expected. While at the three day concert in Illinois, I ran into an old acquaintance I had known for some time but had not really spoken to in years. Chris Harden was the singer/songwriter for a band that I grew up watching in college called Stil Gravy. We got the chance to catch up over the next few days and while I always knew he was working as an engineer in Chicago, I really didn't know to what extent. On the final day of our trip in Chi-town, Chris gave me a tour of the studio he was working for, IV Labs. I was really impressed from the minute I stepped inside IVL. They had a lot of room, which was something I didn't expect, as well as great equipment. I was kind of pissed at myself for waiting so long to rekindle ties with Chris. They record in analog, something I have never had the chance to do, but I knew a lot of my favorite albums were done this way. He showed me some tunes of bands that were currently recording there. He let me get a sneak preview of the new Hush Sound album, as well as some stuff Umphries McGee had been working on. I was sold on IV Labs; now I had to get the rest of the guys to get on board without even visiting the studio. Icares did not have the financial luxury for all of us to take a tour; all I had were tracks from other acts that had recorded there.
Once back in Omaha, it did not take long for us to get the ball rolling on our Chicago venture. John was in immediately, Tim wasn't far behind, and Mike was...well, Mike just likes to go against the grind but he eventually caved. I brought back some impressive mixes for everyone to listen to and before long, I was booking us time in December to record at IV Labs. We made reservations at the studio about two months in advance so we knew we had some idle time to get ready. What we did over the next two months completely transformed our songs. We dissected every song we were going to record and basically re-wrote them. A lot of the songs we had were songs that Tim, Mike, and I had played for sometime and John was able to bring a fresh new outlook to that material. We added versus, bridges, solos, and new vocal parts to every song. We all really felt that the songs, which were pretty good, were now great. They were all complete. I still look back on this as being one of the main reasons I love this album more than our debut.
On to Chicago! We left late afternoon to embark on an all-night road trip. We literally packed every possible thing we could into my Blazer. We had already agreed to use the studio's drum set, so really, we just had our guitars, heads, and a few drums that Tim needed. Also, our bags packed for five straight days in Chicago. We have a great band van but I had just bought the truck and I was determined to cram everything in it for our road trip. We were packed in as tight as I have ever seen a vehicle. We had luggage strapped down to the roof and it took all of us to close the hatchback door. But we were in and all that matter to us was this record. The trip took just short of eight hours and with Tim's GPS on his phone, we pulled up directly to IV Labs. It was late, around 1 am when we got into the city, and to our amazement, there was a 4 am bar right across the street. NICE! A bar that stays open until 4 am could probably cause a lot of bands trouble but since I am the only real fish in the band, the others were able to keep me in check. We had a few drinks with my friend, the engineer, Chris and then hit the sack.
Day one started around noon. We all got a good night's sleep... oh wait, I think I may have missed a very important selling point of IV Lab Studios...they have an apartment in the upstairs! Being that I knew Chris, we were able to stay the entire time in the studio. This was awesome! We got to spend several days together in a creative environment. Again, day one was all about the drums. Tim was a little leery about not being able to use his own set but we soon realized that the set they provided was definitely adequate. Tim got to use Matt Walker's snare, the same one used on two Filter albums and a Smashing Pumpkins album (Ava Adore). The rest of the set had been used on the last Hawthorne Heights album as well. I am a big fan of Filter, Smashing Pumpkins, and HH so this was totally sweet. Tim knocked the shit out of the park. For those of you that don't know the legend of Tim Blair...let me tell ya...the guy does a large majority of his takes in one or two takes. He's had many nicknames, most recently Poppa Blair, but the one that sticks is One Take Blair. Well, One Take Blair rode again in Chicago. He really layed down some stellar tracks.
While I am name dropping, I might as well drop a few more. The mixing booth had speakers that were given to the owner by Billy Corgan and the studio had rooms of instruments for us to use. One to note was that Patrick Stump, from Fall Out Boy, stored some of his guitars and basses here. Mike found Patrick's 5-string Gibson Explorer and immediately wanted to include it on the album. Over in another room was a very old Hammond B3 and Leslie Cabinet. Next to it was a Wurlitzer 200-A and three or four vintage AC 30 guitar amps. I was in heaven. We all were; we were like kids in a candy shop. We all could easily see why this studio was attracting some of the nation's top bands. The Von Blondies just recently recorded their last album there this year.
Chris really brought a hands-on experience to recording. Jim, who had done our last album, knew what Icares sounded like. Chris, on the other hand, didn't. That helped us shape a new, rawer sound for the five tracks we were laying down. Jim was very hands-on as well, he always kept us straight. I really love working with engineers and producers in the studio. They can really help shape some ideas. Chris helped lead us down the avenue of using some Fender guitars for the first time, as well as using some sweet ass pedals we normally wouldn't have had access to.
We spent the next three days experimenting with different sounds, different tones, and laying down tracks for "Spaces In Between", "In Good Company", "Fake", "Everlasting Breath", and "The Things I Hate about You". It was a great experience because we spent about 12 hours a day tracking. We really had the freedom to do whatever the hell we wanted for as long as we wanted. I really felt like we got the chance to actually get our album right and the way we wanted without time constraints. Going to Chicago, in my mind, was one of the best things that could have ever happened for Icares. After four days, we were low on cash again and headed back to Omaha. We did not get to vocals, which was fine by me. It was going to give me more time to arrange what I wanted and I also knew it would give us another chance to come back to the studio.
Before we left, Tim and I checked out the convenience store next door. We noticed several times throughout the week that it was closed. Like in the middle of the afternoon. But, this particular Sunday, it was open for business. The first thing I noticed was that everything on the shelf was dusty as shit. When I got to the back of the store, I witnessed what this store was all about. It was a major head shop, nothing like the Retro back home, but a MAJOR...um, "tobacco" pipe retailer. This was NEXT door to the studio. Like the 4 am bar wasn't enough for bands to deal with on a daily basis. So I snagged a Gatorade and bought it from a dude running the counter who was a dead ringer for Benicio Del Torro. It was pretty surreal and a fitting end to our first trip to Chicago.
The last installment of The Making of In Good Company blog starts in the beginning of 2007. On the third week in January, Tim and I flew to Chicago to start the vocals for the five songs we layed down tracks to in December of 2006. I was excited for this trip. I had been working relentlessly on the vocals. I wanted to make sure I was prepared because I only had two days to go in and track them and the plan was to make this our last trip to Chicago. We flew out on a Friday night in a small commercial Southwest airliner. The weekend started out kinda weird from the get go. When we landed, we were told by the pilot that it was currently 5 degrees below zero and that we would be exiting the plane from the steps that lead outdoors rather than pulling into a terminal. Tim's eyes got big as I gave thanks to God above that I watched the weather channel and was decked out in thermal clothing. Ya see, Tim and my girlfriend both had to take shots at me before we took off from Omaha for basically looking like I was going on a polar expedition. I must admit that the plane ride was hotter than hell but who was laughing now, right?! So, we trekked about 40 yards to the terminal and waited for Chris to pick us up. Friday nights at O'Hare can be pretty nuts. Chris basically drove around in a circle for about an hour until we landed. Again, Tim was very cold...I was not.
We finally made our way to the studio. This was the first time noticing that the studio we had been invading was only four blocks from Wrigley Field. I am not a Cubs fan...but I have been to Wrigley when I was a kid...and more recently I have partied at the Cubby Bear a few times when visiting Chicago in the past. So it was pretty sweet to know that if we came back next summer to IV Labs, we might be able to catch a ball game. We headed for a pub that Chris knew the owner of and had a few drinks with some of his friends and hit the sack fairly early. Chris likes to entice me with straight shots of Jameson whiskey. The shit's terrible...nothing else can be said about that.
The first day tracking vocals was long, taxing and strenuous on my vocal chords. I started drinking tea and honey about an hour after starting. I had not been smoking for about a month before I went...and it was fucking -9 degrees out. I really didn't need any smokes. We started with "The Things I Hate about You". I layered the shit out of the choruses. My plan was to lay down as much vocally as humanly possible, even if I didn't think we were going to use it; that way we at least had it available when it came down to mixing. I had an isolated booth which I kept completely dark, allowing me to kind of get into my own element for the vocal process. I wasn't used to this. Every time I layed down vocals in the past, I had a room full of people in a control room watching me. I was definitely more comfortable this way. Chris was a huge help as well. He is a great singer and he brought a ton of suggestions my way.
Next up we did "Everlasting Breath". This was a sweet process. We used a very low-fi mic. I would describe it as one of those mics you imagine a school principal using to address his student body...and it was old as shit. We used that mic along with the megaphone to create a super low-fi effect on my vocals. I also layed down a new vocal part at the ending that no one in the band had heard yet. I was really happy with the way it turned out. "Spaces in Between" got knocked out pretty quickly as well. The harmonies I used on this song were fairly straight forward. The title track "In Good Company" brought some more difficult moments for me. This song held a special place in my heart. I really don't know why but it did; I just really liked it. Chris brought some sweet harmony ideas and I asked him to sing on the song. He did and he nailed it. Once again, it was great to have a great musician as an engineer.
We left "Fake" for last because that is a song that I really scream out. I knew that if I was going to wreck my voice, it was going to be on this track. It was also by far the one song I was worried about the most in regards to vocals. I just never felt there were enough vocals to keep it interesting. We used an awesome vocal processor called a space echo for "Fake". It really brought out the aggression in the song.
Sunday was gone before we knew it and, as we finished up, the studio was having its annual Super Bowl party. Did I forget to mention that we were in Chicago and the Bears were in the Super Bowl? I also am a huge Colts fan so we watched the game as we waited for the time to leave for the airport. We grabbed our hard drive worth of work and flew home. The album was so close to being finished we could taste it.
Once we got back, we knew that the next step was to go back to the Warehouse and finish up any loose ends. Days before we were to enter the studio, my mother had difficulties with a double lung transplant surgery. I had to fly to Cleveland, OH on an hours notice and it put the Warehouse date in jeopardy. Luckily, I arrived back in Omaha 30 minutes before our session time and all was okay again. I got there and layed down an acoustic song called "Channel 8 and Candy Bars" (a song I wrote many years ago). John layed down a couple essential guitar tracks he wanted on four songs and the album was officially recorded. We spent the rest of our time with Jim checking out the Chicago material. We wanted his input and we were still unsure of our next step.
Jim heard the IV Labs material and immediately was in to mix our CD. We took two more full days at the Warehouse to mix. Meanwhile, I was in contact with Eric Post (Postzilla) about our CD artwork. We gave Eric a concept and really didn't know what to expect. None of us really knew him; we just had seen his artwork on SlamOmaha over the years. After the mix down was complete, we took the final mixes to Doug VanSloun at Studio B. I had worked with Doug before when I was in the band Good Speed and he took a terribly recorded album then and turned it into something I could never imagine. We couldn't wait for him to get his hands on our album.
He did, and let me just say, that I really like Doug's work. After hearing what he did to this album, it really made me wish that we had brought our last album to him. Not that we were displeased with our last album; there was just a huge difference. I kind of would like to know what our last album would have sounded like had it gone through Doug. After an eleven hour day at Studio B, In Good Company was finally complete. Within days we got the artwork back from Eric and we were ecstatic with it, to say the least. He drew exactly what we wanted and we couldn't be happier with his vision.
Well, that's about it. I mean, I could go on for hours on the shit we had to do to make this album happen. We sold our gear, our plasma, and our livelihoods to make this album happen. Once the ball got rolling, there was no stopping it. While it did take us a year, a lot of travel, hard work, and a lot of money, we wouldn't change a thing. It was a sacrifice we were all willing to make to make the album we wanted. If you get the opportunity to pick up a disc, please do so, and if you can make our CD release on May 19th, we'd be humbled by your presence. This is going to sound cheesy but I will say it anyway...we each made this CD for ourselves, we each made this CD for each other, and we each made this CD for Omaha and everyone else. We're extremely proud of it and hope you enjoy it. Thank you to those of you who were kind enough to read about our experience.
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