St. Albans, UK (October 27, 2009)–Friendly Fires, the act behind the summer cult dance hit, “Skeleton Boy,” recently played a homecoming gig in its native St. Albans. The sold-out gig found FOH sound engineer Richard ‘Bars’ Barling and monitor man Colm ‘Meado’ Meade each using a Soundcraft Vi6 desk.
The two Vi6s were supplied by SSE Audio Group, which has supported the band since Bars’ introduction to the rental company by sound engineer Rampton. Harman’s UK distributor, Sound Technology Ltd., sold the Vi6s to SSE Audio Group.
It was an emotional return for the trio, led by Ed Macfarlane, and their rare brand of dance-oriented music with an indie pop feel, featuring tracks from their eponymous, Barclaycard Mercury Prize-nominated 2008 debut album. The band mix up the dynamics within a ‘retro disco’ lighting stage environment created by Mark Video – swapping instruments and ensuring Bars would be busy using the Vi6’s surface.
Like a number of sound engineers, his first exposure was to the prototype version of the desk at the Mean Fiddler three years ago. “Although it didn’t have the Lexicon and BSS FX loaded on at that time, I was urged by the resident engineer to try it out and could see then how easy it was to understand after just a ten-minute run through. Instantly I could also hear how good the preamps were – and wherever I have used this desk since I have known I could depend on that warm preamp sound. The FX are great; the gates are accurate, the reverbs fantastic and the compression is great – really transparent. I have three reverbs going on – including a Drum Plate and Vocal Plate – a long tap delay and sax delay.”
Bars also works extensively with stereo groups. “I find using stereo compression on groups on other digital desks a pain because you have to cycle through pages to get to the compressor parameters; in fact on some digital desks you can’t actually do stereo group compression at all. I also love how there is a graphic and parametric EQ on all outputs of the Vi6 and I save loads of time not having to programme everything.”
With Friendly Fires, the standard channel list is around 28 inputs – but this can rise to 35 when they get into their Brazilian vibe (with carnival dancers and percussionists). All the backing tracks are run off a Pioneer CDJ – but Bars hopes to convert to hard disk in the future. AES-EBU dual/split inputs and channel sharing are available, saving a lot of the surface space, as is his use of board’s last screen. “I can select what I want from the eight banks of faders; I have all my channels on the first layer and FX on the second layer down but by touching the last screen can flip my FX up with my channels. You can then see what every channel is doing at a glance without filtering through layers.”
Barling has been working with Friendly Fires since coming across the band while mixing Fear of Flying (now White Lies) and a one-off with the Noisettes during a War Child benefit at KOKO just over two years ago. A few weeks later he was recommended to the band. A feature of the next production tour will be the multitracking of every show. “I have already done a recording with the 64-channel optical MADI out on the Local Rack and it’s so easy.” He will also be using Virtual Soundcheck having seen it used successfully by another band during the Lollapalooza festival in the States.
Lead singer Ed Macfarlane, says: ‘It puts my mind at ease knowing that Bars has the ability to attain a great sound efficiently and rapidly – especially in festival situations. The Vi6 gives him the freedom to be creative with effects without wasting time scrolling through menus. It has become an essential part of our live show.’
And Richard Barling sums up by saying, “I’m so happy with this desk that it’s the only console on my Friendly Fires tech rider. It just seems to make me mix so much better.”
SSE Audio Group