Going Grimy with Sounds
With “Play What You Know”, Flint and I wanted to do some more experimenting. We ditched the junkyard percussion, and introduced a drum set. We just wanted to have fun with it and do whatever we wanted.
Just like the attitude of the song, we decided that we would break a few rules and see what happened. The acoustic guitar is recorded with a M88 dynamic microphone. For this we said, “Yeah, that works good enough…why not!”. Then for vocal we said, “hey, let’s try this old 70’s TV broadcasting microphone. For bass we had a good laugh when, to our amazement, the spiderwebs in the back of his amp were moving well over a couple inches with each pluck of the bass guitar. We weren’t worried about sounds, or what people thought.
The take that became the final mix was our 3rd take of the song. We hadn’t played the song before the recording day, and we both were trying to learn it as we recorded it. So the song was super fresh to our ears, and certain moments would catch us off guard and we’d laugh in amazement as how “something worked out” in the middle of a take. The big build halfway through on the snare drum wasn’t planned, and these types of things make recording sessions so much fun. You never know what a song will sound like before you record it.
The vocal is actually that microphone (Electrovoice 635a) through a small harmonica amp from the 1950s (Harmony H303-a). This is my go-to amp for gritty vocal sounds, and I’ve used it equally well on male and female vocals.
It’s especially good at making vocals sound really loud. In the choruses of the song you can hear a delayed room microphone that helps amplify this effect. In the verse, you’re hearing just the vocal coming out the guitar amp, but in the choruses I brought in a room microphone to lift that section. The delay is about 100 ms.