Tracking Backing Vocals and ‘Gang Vocals’
The final session involved the recording of backing vocals and gang vocals to a few of the tracks. ‘Gang Vocals’ are a popular technique used in ‘Streetpunk’ and ‘Oi’ styles of hardcore punk and essentially consist of a group of band members shouting along to the lead vocal line usually in the songs chorus. The bands bass player, Jimmy provides backing vocals on 4 tracks and gang vocals involving the whole band feature in 3 tracks. We had booked a 4hr session this time in Audient 8024 as we felt this smaller, brighter recording space could add to these extra elements. The boys all arrived on time and the set up was easy save an issue with the mic box. We grabbed a splitter box and this issue was sorted quickly. About half an hour was spent with the lads discussing what we needed to achieve in this session, replaying what we had so far and getting the bands feedback on what we had applied to Paul’s vocals re: compression/delay etc. A list was made of each song needing the additional vocals and whilst Paul was happy with the effects we had added, he once again mentioned that he believed we could get an angrier sound on some of the tracks given some extra time in the studio. We agreed with his observation and decided to use today to identify which songs in particular could be improved and confirmed that we were quite happy to give the songs in question more time in an additional tracking session.
By the time we had set up and the boys had downed a coffee and bacon and egg roll we had lost an hour, but knew given the small amount of additional vocals needing to be recorded were still well on track to have it all completed within the remaining 3 hours. The time we had spent reflecting on what we had and what they wanted was crucial and I know greatly appreciated by the band who I believe have been impressed by our level of communication and dedication to deliver the best possible outcome throughout this project.We began with the gang vocals, which went smoothly and only a couple of takes were required in each of the 4 songs.
An AT2050 Mic set to Omni was used for these vocal takes. Omni refers to the microphones polarity which in this case was omnidirectional meaning the microphone is equally sensitive on all sides (Fig.1). After each take we had the boys come into the control room to listen and give feedback on whether they felt they could do better by tracking and extra take. The gang vocals really added a new dimension to the songs by introducing an extra element and essentially ‘beefed’ them up. Certainly were key to achieving an angrier sound which is what the boys were looking for all along!
We then moved to the backing vocals which were basically a ‘call and response’ on 4 tracks where Jimmy was adding more energy to the main vocals. We were really happy with the results on these tracks and everyone agreed that they added a great deal of depth. The mic set up was straightforward using a SM58 for the close mic and an AT2050 for the distant (set to cardioid Fig. 2).
As with the gang vocals, the takes were quick and only a couple of attempts required on each one before Jimmy and the band were happy with the result. We spent the rest of the time allotted us in 8024 by running through the list of songs and identifying on which ones the band felt we should re-track the lead vocals. We came up with a few main tracks where we will go again and have booked another 4hr session in Audient B to this end.
All in all, this project has gone smoothly with no major disasters. Each session however has provided us with new learning’s and lessons on how we can improve in future projects. The band has been professional, punctual and humble enough to understand that this album was never going to sound like U2 (as one of the band members mused)! Our team has worked well together, communicated effectively and bounced off each other successfully. Now the fun begins (with the mixing), and whilst Paul continues to state that he only wants minimal effects applied to the tracks to retain the live, ‘rough and ready’ sound they are seeking, we believe a few subtle adjustments will deliver a debut album they will be truly stoked with…