“Mr Pretender” The Lights Fluorescent

Careful microphone and preamp selection allowed Tavaglione to largely avoid the use of outboard EQ, but a hearty helping of post-tracking dynamics control was in order.
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“Mr. Pretender” | The Lights, Fluorescent
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Single: “Mr. Pretender”

Albums:Neoteny EP (self-released) and Collage 2008 (Muzak Corp.), an annual compilation album.

Date Recorded: Recorded, overdubbed and mixed in three days, October/November 2007, at Catalyst Recording in Charlotte, NC

Executive Producer: Bruce McKagan for Muzak Corp.

Single Producer, Enginner, Mixer: Rob Tavaglione

Mastering: Dave Harris for Studio B Mastering, Charlotte, NC

Single Songwriters: The Lights, Fluorescent

Console/Mixer: Soundcraft Ghost analog console, MOTU Digital Performer v5.12

Recorders: MOTU Digital Performer v5.12, Alesis Masterlink

Monitors: JBL LSR4326 monitors, LSR4312SP sub, Grado SR-125 headphones

Select Microphones: Violet Design Amethyst Vintage and EV 649 (L VOX); Shure SM57, Audio-Technica 4033, Heil PR30 (E GTR); Neumann KM 184 pair (ORTF drum OH); AEA R92 (drum room)

Select Pre-amplifiers: Manley TNT tube side (lead vocals); True Precision 8, Manley TNT tube and “cool” (E GTR); Earthworks 1024 (E GTR, kick, drum OH); Sytek MPX4A (drum room)

Select Processing/Outboard: Focusrite Liquid Mix; Universal Audio UAD-1 plug-ins; Empirical Labs Fatso; Drawmer MX30; FMR Audio RNLA and RNC.Engineer’s Diary

Late last year, the Lights, Fluorescent — a buzzed-about indie band from the Charlotte metro area — approached producer/engineer (and regular PAR Contributor) Rob Tavaglione about producing Neoteny, a five-song EP featuring the single “Mr. Pretender.” Having seen the quintet’s live show, and knowing its members as accomplished musicians and writers, Tavaglione was happy to accept the largely live recording and mixing gig.

“They would borrow some aesthetic from what you would call ‘indie’ today, but they also have a bit more of a rock edge,” Tavaglione explains. “We wanted something that would capture their tension and release; they really play with listeners’ emotions through fine musicianship and emotive vocals. So, we went all out. The group recorded completely live, except for the vocals and acoustic guitar of Erika [Blatnik, lead vox]. It went really quick — in total, it was a three-day project. We tracked all five songs in one day, did vocal and incidental guitar overdubs on the second, and mixed on the third.”

(click thumbnail)Producer/engineer/PAR contributor Rob TavaglioneAccording to Tavaglione, his approach was solely based on staying as transparent, yet as cleanly loud, as possible. “I also wanted to stay out of the way of their signals and let their tones come through,” he explains. “The project demanded a very loud recording, so from the beginning I went about making something very un-dynamic, to be perfectly honest.”

Careful microphone and preamp selection allowed Tavaglione to largely avoid the use of outboard EQ, but a hearty helping of post-tracking dynamics control was in order. “The guitars were one performance each,” he recalls. “We double-miked their amps to get some texture, but I didn’t have a lot of that buildup around 200Hz that would be so common in a rock production. Even though I knew we were going to have to squeeze the dynamics later, I wanted to be sure to capture it as dynamically as possible, just to have flexibility. There was no compression or limiting during tracking, but quite a bit thereafter.”

The mix was finally presented to mastering engineer Dave Harris, where Tavaglione discovered the proof of some of his most accomplished mixes to date. “I have to give a lot of credit to these JBL LSR 4326 monitors I’ve been using,” he offers. “Their accuracy was so stable and immediately trustable; this was one of my best mixes and required very little effort. The JBLs really keyed me into what I needed to do.”