|Stone Cold Fox’s Gear : Apogee Duet 2|
There are some records you bring along for a hike through your day, and a precious few that grab you by the hand and lead you down their own path for the time it takes to listen through. For new(ish) group Stone Cold Fox, ‘The Young EP’ possesses such a power. From the moment you’ll hear Kevin Olken Henthorn’s screaming tenor over the hook in opener ‘Pictures,’ you’ll be in it for the album’s duration. Like folksy powerhouses Arcade Fire and local wunderkids The Freelance Whales, this duo’s energy sneaks up from behind and overtakes you, and pretty soon you’re covered in sweat and have forgotten once again to do the dishes. We had a chat with Kevin and Ariel to discuss their recording process.
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
Ariel: We do all of our demos and pre-production at home and then record in a studio. I find investing the time and effort preparing in pre-production makes for a more enjoyable recording experience once you get into the studio with a better final product.
If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?
Ariel: Depending on budget, we’ll do some of the guitar, vocal, bass tracks in a project studio or at home, but we will always invest in a fully equipped studio with a good sounding live room for drums. For this record, we recorded everything in the studio.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when
recording at home?
Kevin: We have a Violet Amethyst microphone that I really dig. As far as guitars go I usually go with my Gibson Studio Les Paul for the home studio recordings.
Ariel: I’ve started stripping down my home setup to a bare bones Pro Tools set up with an Apogee Duet 2. I find that with plugins I can pretty much accomplish what I need to and still find inspiring sounds.
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
Ariel: A small Neve console like a Melbourne or a sidecar for tracking and summing.
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?
Kevin: In the past, Ariel has done all the producing and engineering. We worked with Joel Hamilton for “Seventeen” because we really wanted to get a new take on the song. I think our next record will be a mix of both. We absolutely loved working with Joel and it was an amazing experience, but it really depends song by song.
Ariel: I enjoy doing a lot of the production, it helps with budgeting and also sometimes it’s easier just to do things yourself when you know how you want it. There are things when working with a producer such as experience and a different angle of objectivity that cannot be imitated or DIY.
Ariel: I think our sound comes from the songwriting and arrangements more than effects. Our sounds are not too experimental so we tend to stick with pretty traditional stuff, though I am a big fan of Sound Toys Decapitator, I tend to use it a lot while tracking and mixing. I enjoy the saturation it gives the signal and helps give a transparent in-the-box recording some character. A lot of times I prefer plugins over pedals or effects, it’s faster and more convenient during the demo and songwriting process and also easily recallable. Waves GTR gets a lot of use for it’s amp simulation and stomp boxes. During the recording process, we’ll go with the real stuff.
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
Ariel: I don’t have a specific recording style that I go for. I studied production in school and have done internships where I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on Steve Albini sessions to sessions with Flood producing and James Brown engineering. That combined with my own trial and errors and habits I’ve developed, my recording style and techniques are a collective of all that I’ve soaked in being around many different engineers and producers with varying styles and backgrounds. There are some things you learn that just work and some that won’t. You’ll never go wrong with a 57 on a snare.
Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
K- If Ariel is producing it he will really direct that outcome, but it is always a lot of back and forth. Ariel and I tend to disagree a lot, which is actually great because by doing so we realize what the song needs and what it doesn’t need. In a situation with an outside producer though, Ariel and I may do that process at the demo level, but the final say goes to the producer.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
K- Not really.
A: We are pretty self sufficient but we always love hearing criticism and feedback from our close friends and family about out demo’s, unreleased versions of recordings, and our live show.
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
Ariel: Radiohead. Kevin and I both draw heavy influences from them in songwriting and arrangement but their recordings are also amazing. A lot of the classics such as the creativity and pioneering in Beatles recordings, the clarity and beauty in Dark Side of the Moon, and Zeppelin drum sounds are all great recording influences.
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
K- It really depends on the song. For our last EP, The Young, the recording process totally dictated our live show because we had not even formed a full band yet. We built our live sound around our recordings. But there are other songs that we have been playing live as a band for awhile now and by doing so it has totally determined the outcome of the recordings. We recently record a song called “Know Myself” at Converse’s Rubber Track Studio in Brooklyn and I found that because we had been playing it live for so long it limited our creative outlook on it because we were unable to see it with a fresh lens. I personally love to take a new song and at least get it in demo form immediately so we can really craft and perfect it before bringing it to live performance.
Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?
Ariel: I use Apple MainStage for my live rig. It is extremely useful and convenient, I can fully customize patches and pull samples from the recordings to use in our live set. I lets me have unlimited sounds without having to gig with a couple different keyboards. However, I would love to have the luxury to one day gig with my Juno 60.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band –
fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?
K- We do the vast majority of these things ourselves. We are lucky in the fact that we all come from different backgrounds. I was a film major in school so I tend to take care of things on that end. We also have a handful of friends that are amazing photographers.
A- I do a large amount of the miscellaneous graphic design for the web, show posters, etc. I enjoy doing design and typography as a hobby so it’s pleasant and useful to be able to do some of that for the band. We’ll get outside help on our bigger, more important design jobs. I also do a lot of our social media and oversee general image and branding.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
Ariel: The preproduction is the most challenging part, because you have no idea what you’re doing yet. Once that’s all done everything is in context and recording is enjoyable. The most rewarding part is when you’re printing the final mix.