Ableton Live + NI Maschine
” The Voyager opened up a new sound palette for us to work with, and we like knobs! “
You shouldn’t let go of an ideal band mate: Katy Gunn and Anna Lidell found each other, and not even an ocean in between is slowing down their collaboration, that goes under the name of Teenage Love: the Brooklyn/Copenhagen based duo’s beautifully textural ‘Gold’ EP is out today (July 7th, 2015), and, besides bright musical talent, it showcases a playful approach to gear and musical technology, which is surely also crucial in keeping this long distance relationship alive. We asked Katy and Anna a few questions about their gear and creative process.
What motivated you to start making music?
After both of us having a rough year we decided to forget it all and have some fun. Our friendship went from talking about music to becoming a musical project and Teenage Love was born.
What’s motivating you to keep making music?
It’s always fun and it keeps getting better.
Is inspiration some kind of random blessing, or is it possible to set it in motion?
Recipe for inspiration: Two teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 cup pleasure, a dash of disaster, sprinkled with open ears.
What comes first: music or lyrics?
Sometimes one or the other, sometimes both at the same time.
What’s been inspiring your music for your debut album?
Friendship, lust, Jenny Wilson’s album ‘Love and Youth’, Chrome Sparks, uncomfortable moments and the weirdness of being human.
Do chemical substances of any kind have a role in your band’s creativity?
We stick to home-made cocktails served in the proper manner, but actually, when we are writing/working we are mostly sober.
- CREATIVE PROCESS
You two are separated by an ocean. How is this collaboration technically possible considering the distance?
Well dropbox is our friend and even though there’s distance, Katy often comes to Europe, so we do spend a lot of time together. When we work, it’s very compact – we’ll be together for a few weeks, write 2-3 songs and finish them up either via dropbox, or on the road if we are doing shows.
Does the songwriting start directly on the DAW or do you sketch ideas with a real instrument first?
We work simultaneously between instruments and the DAW (mostly). So a sketch may start with one of us playing the Moog Voyager or violin, but it goes directly to Ableton. The DAW is our home and from there we nest little sketches so they can grow into full-blown songs.
How does the chemistry in the band work, do you specialize in different things or do you wear different hats depending on the song?
It’s definitely multiple interchangeable hats (we both play the role as writer and producer), although Katy plays the violin and Anna is the Master in Ableton. It’s a pingpong of songwriting and producing.
Do you work on the samples/sounds during the compositional process or do you have sound design sessions during which you just focus on creating new sounds/patches that can then be used in future tracks?
A big part of the fun is coming up with new sounds while creating a song. Everything happens in the moment.
- MUSICAL TOYS
What is your DAW/Sequencer of choice and why do you prefer it to others?
Ableton, because it’s intuitive, and Maschine (Native Instruments) because the hardware and operation is genius.
Are there any pieces of gear or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?
Moog Voyager, the Pocket Piano, Maschine.
What are the plug ins and “in the box” tools you abuse of?
We use Maschine and FM8. We make our beats from scratch and often use the Voyager for keyboard sounds (along with tweaking sounds in Ableton after recording audio).
What synths/samplers (real or virtual) do you use in your music and why do you love them? What are your favorite guitar pedals?
RECORDING SET UP AND MIXING
I’ll assume you do all the recording in DIY fashion… what’s your Mic – Preamp – A/D converter chain?
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?
When we record in our living room we get that vibe of making fun, light and playful songs in the moment when they happen. Of course the flipside of that is that a studio recording session would be more hi-fi. You can hear the inspiration but the frustration comes from possibly not being able to keep that take due to poor sound quality. But we put creativity before gear.
Many recording musicians find mixing extremely frustrating, do you deal with it or do you rely on a “fresh set of ears” (i.e. external mixing engineer)?
We do basic mixing, and then we dump it on a trusted source for a third ear – in the case of our EP, it was Flemming Bloch (Massive Attack & Under Byen).
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup?
- THE LIVE SHOW
It’s often challenging to translate programmed music to a live setting, what’s your approach to it?
It’s true – using programmed sounds in live performance is always a challenge, so we interchange live instrumental playing with those samples to give energy to the performance.
Do you consider the live show as a faithful translation of your recorded material or simply an opportunity to let your songs free to follow new directions?
It’s pretty faithful, but it still has moments for live spontaneity as we are playing live instruments.
What pieces of equipment do you find particularly useful on stage?