Monthly Archives: April 2014

Picking the Packaging

Making an album isn’t just about fancy studios, awesome tunes, and line after line of premium-blend cocaine! The sophisticated modern musician must negotiate complex decisions from the amp modelling on the electric guitar on track 5 to the appropriate number insightful blogposts to release before everyone gets dizzy and goes home. But of all the nasty choices an aspiring alb├║mier (I just made that word up) is faced with, none is more involved and disgusting than the packaging.

In this digital world, the first question is whether even to have packaging at all. But I learned my lesson from Last Days in the Capital, which like three people bought – overwhelmingly, FaceOmeter fans prefer physical media. Plus, I’ve discovered that it’s better have to have tangible things (rather than download codes) to sell at shows. Speculative gig-goers want to see that they’re buying the manifestation of a huge creative process, and that means that we need what four years’ work in any case demands – a record that looks at least as good as it sounds.

Followers of this project will know that I’m ahead here, thanks to my collaboration with Freya Hartas, the best artist in town. But even with great art in the bag, there are decisions to make. Jewel case or digipak? Matte or gloss finish? And what about the inlay – a booklet or a poster? To staple or not? All of these choices have financial as well as aesthetic consequences, so I’ve been racking my brains.

2014-04-20 12.05.46ART IS DIFFICULT

I promised myself on the release of the last album in 2009 that the next one would be a digipak. Digipaks look cool and don’t break, and the particular design we have for the inside of this one will work a treat! On the inlay, though, I’ve been forced to compromise: a booklet proved excessively costly from the printer I’m using, so I’m down to a six-panel foldout, although I’m hoping that the format will allow some cooler tricks with the art. I’m also heading down Matte Alley after a lifetime of gloss-scepticism.

Though it seems a bit premature before the record is even engineered, it’s important to make these sorts of decisions early. I’m using an American printer who specialize in independent bands because the company for the last project I did massively screwed us over and left us without discs to sell on the launch day. This means allowing plenty of delivery and production time this time around.

But it’s also good that the disc’s appearance and sound are evolving alongside each other, because it means that it really won’t be a question of decorating a pre-existing audio project, but of allowing sound and appearance to really talk to each other and create (hopefully) a more coherent end product. There are two vocal takes, some drum sessions, and a few other tiny frills to finish in the studio, and then we can get to the engineering. Progress!

Sessions Resumed

Last weekend, I attempted to prove I could look cool with an electric guitar:

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I don’t play the electric enough, which is a shame! I have a lovely thinline telecaster from the days of my teenage whimsy, and it’s a shame I don’t have more opportunities to get it out. It’s not a heavy presence on the album, but I think you will like the moments where it turns up! Sound engineer Dean “Are You Still Here?” McCarthy provides a video preview of the “coolness”.

Anyway, we tracked those guitar parts and then did a lot of basslines – every bassline on the album, in fact – before some slightly less successful attempts at polishing off the vocals. There are only a couple of vocals takes left, but my voice just wasn’t there on Sunday, so they’ve had to be deferred until the next session.

Not to worry! The next session also includes James Bell, who will be coming in to help with a track called ‘The Singular Adventures of Sally the Tumbleweed’. It’s now the only unrecorded song of the 14 on the record, and once some drums, a few vocal parts, and some miscellaneous other ornamentation have been added to the rest, this album will be recorded! Stay tuned.