Pictured at San Francisco's Popscene are (l-r) engineer Steve Jarvis; Bright Antennae Entertainment co-founder Sep V; FM Recorders intern Erik Tharalsen; head of production for 330 Ritch/Popscene Josh Bluth; and FM Recorders engineer Mike Walti.San Francisco, CA (July 18, 2008)--There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding Liverpool natives the Wombats these days for the debut album, so Sep V, co-owner of the band's US label, Bright Antenna Entertainment, thought it would be a good idea to capture the band’s first show at San Francisco's Popscene club with fidelity worthy of a future release.
"Seeing a great show at Popscene is an awesome experience that's a little hard to describe," says Sep V. "It's what I imagine it would have felt like to be in Seattle at a Soundgarden or Nirvana show--like there's a movement happening. The lights go down, the music kicks up, and the kids start going nuts and pogo-ing all over the place. So I felt like this would be a monumental show for the Wombats, and I wanted to capture that raw energy."
Sep V contacted Stephen Jarvis, whose remote recording equipment has been making recordings throughout the Bay Area and abroad since 1987. Jarvis bought his first bank of George Massenburg Labs mic pres as the sun set on the 1970s and "never looked back." His current inventory includes 48 channels of GML 8300 pres, an equal complement of Genex converters, and a road-ready Pro Tools|HD rig.
Sep V entrusted Mike Walti, chief engineer at Bright Antenna's sister studio, FM Recorders, to execute the recording. Walti miked the drum kit with a Shure SM 91 and an Audix D6 on bass, two 57s on snare, Sennheiser e604s on toms, and AKG C451s for hi-hats and overheads. The band's deliberately dirty collection of old Fender amps received Blue Ball mics, as did the bass cabinet. Walti used a Shure Beta 56A on one keyboard amp and DI'd the other two. Finally, the three musicians sang into Shure 58A, 57A, and 56A mics, with the first number of the night sung a cappella into lead singer Matthew Murphy's 58.
All of the mic signals passed through Jarvis' GML 8300 pres before hitting the Genex converters and the Pro Tools rig. "The GML pres have the fastest transient response of any pre I know of," remarked Jarvis. "They convey clarity, punch, and fullness with musicality. I also love them for remotes because the gain is set in 5dB steps. So you don't over-think it. You set your levels and forget about it. Let your brain worry about issues that are, in reality, of greater consequence than a few dBs here or there!" In all the decades that Jarvis has had dozens of GML mic pres on hand, he has never once had one fail.
"The recording went down so easily--almost too easily," said Walti. "I was especially impressed by those things that normally sound harsh in Pro Tools, like overheads. They were smooth and pleasant. The kick was nice and fat, and the vocals have the sort of clarity and presence that will sit nicely in just about any mix."
Although Sep V was deliberately vague about the future release of the recording, he wasn't vague about his pleasure with the way it turned out. "For reasons that I haven't figured out," he says, "the industry seems to have moved away from high fidelity. I guess they suppose there's some kind of trade-off between worrying too much about the technical side of things and letting the music happen authentically. But I don't think that's right. I think that for the music to be portrayed correctly--especially of a band as obviously talented as the Wombats--you have to capture the reality of what they're doing. That's what I love about the GML pres and Jarvis's rig: you come away with a recording that you can take to the bank."
GML is distributed TransAudio Group.