Dan Webb and the Spiders

11021238_10153054045424435_7902210495525780348_n
All photos are courtesy

by Amanda Beland

Dan Webb and the Spiders is a four-piece rock/punk group. They’ve been playing with different iterations of members since 2009.

Front man and namesake Dan Webb answered a few questions for Spiral Bound about the band’s history and what’s next.

When and why did you start playing music?

I started playing music when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I did it because it appealed to me more than sports and it was slightly cooler than reading comics, (at the time). My first instrument was bass in a band called PROD (PunkRockOverDose) and the first songs I remember learning were Waiting Room by Fugazi, Hawaii by the Queers and D7 by the Wipers, (but we knew it because Nirvana covered it).

11043263_10153061605759435_1422695008737349321_n

Were you involved in other projects before the Spiders?

I sang and wrote songs in a hardcore-punk-kinda band called the Opposed in college. Afterward, when I first moved to Boston, I was in a post-hardcore band called inblackandwhite that I feel still holds up quite well. I also played drums in a band called The Cold Beat that eventually became Nonpareils.

When did Dan Webb and the Spiders start and how has the lineup changed since the project began?

I made the first record all by my lonesome just for kicks and then I recruited Chris Amaral, Dan Wallace and Matt Kenney to bring the songs to life for a live show. We maintained that lineup for a couple years and through the next two LP’s and the first couple tours to Europe. Marc Valois (Blinders) joined the band after Wallace left for parts unknown. We were fortunate to be able to bring Stephen Benson into the fold to play drums when Matt moved out of the picture. Finally, when a wrist injury sidelined Valois for a good chunk of time, Sean McAllister stepped in and has been playing the bass for us ever since. Mike Vera also filled in on bass for a tour before Sean’s time with us.

11024627_10153061605489435_5978221288566836398_n

What’s your discography and how has the band’s sound evolved and changed over time?

LP’s / Compilations

    2009 – S/T – Self-Released

    2010 – Oh Sure – Self-Released

    2011 – Much Obliged – Gunner Records

    2012 – Oh Sure Redux – Gunner Records

    2014 – Now It Can Be Told (Compilation) – Self-Released

    2014 – Einekleineakustischmuzik – Self-Released

    2015 – Perfect Problem – Gunner Records

(Perfect Problem tracks recorded with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, Elio DeLuca at the Soul Shop and Marc Valois at Starlab Studios.)

EP’s / Splits

    2012 – Beach Party Split 7″ – Self-Released

    2013 – Irish Handcuffs Split 7″ – Flix Records

    2013 – Gunner Records Singles Club – Gunner Records

    2016 – Modern Saints Split 7″ – Gunner Records (upcoming)

10408972_10153061605634435_9105486680701156677_n

The sound of the material has changed a lot based on who has contributed to making it. The early records are characterized by a quick and dirty nonchalance. We often would record and mix entire 12 song LP’s over three or four days. After Much Obliged we started to break the recording sessions into smaller sessions and releases and would only tackle two or three songs in as many days. We also became more in control of our actual sound. Especially now, we are very dialed in and use a wide range of pedals to create a vaster sonic landscape. In the old days, we would just get a good sound in a few minutes before hitting record and just use that for the duration of the record. Now we practice changing tones as much as we do chords. So the newest stuff has a lot more depth and dynamics to it. I am really happy with how we’ve grown and what the band has recently coalesced into, although some critics prefer the older material.

11024755_10153061605464435_5814354068628655149_n

Touring seems to be a big thing with the band, can you talk about where you’ve been over the years?

We’ve been very fortunate to work with Gunner Records out of Bremen, Germany. They have put out many records for us and have had us over to Europe five times with a sixth trip set for March of 2016. We’ve played Berlin, Zurich, London, Antwerp, Vienna and every small German town there is. Our annual trip over there is what we work towards as a band. In the states we struggle to draw anyone, but over there we do much better. Plus tiny bands on our level are treated with care over there, so touring is much more comfortable than it is here in the states. Inside the US, we’ve only done one tour and have played a sporadic show here or there outside of Massachusetts. For instance, we have played Chicago a couple times and even made it out to Portland, Oregon once.

1546101_10153061605629435_2242172392088354748_n

What’s next for the band? Are you recording any new songs?

We are planning a split 7″ with a great band from Germany called Modern Saints. That split is timed to be released when we return to Germany for a 17 date tour in March 2016. Half of the tour will have Modern Saints as support and the other half will feature our dear friends, Irish Handcuffs. We also have another eight songs already recorded that we may release on our own as an EP. We are always working on new material as well and hope to get another batch of songs recorded when we get back from tour. We find it’s best to stay busy because bands, like all things, are super fragile. The period of time where all four of us run in tandem could be well shorter than we realize, so best to make the most of the time we have.

 

Advertisements

Bellwire (part two)

(if you missed part one)

by Amanda Beland

On Aug. 21, Bellwire, a 4-piece power pop band from Somerville, walked into Medford’s the Soul Shop with instruments and arrangements. Over the next four days, Guitarist/vocalist Tyler Burdwood, bassist Jack Holland, guitarist Michael Holland and drummer Matt Freake (Oaks Brine) tracked four new songs with help from engineer and producer Elio DeLuca (Titus Andronicus, Wilder Maker, Bent Shapes). This was Bellwire‘s third time recording at the Shop. The most recent trip was in May of this year where the band – with drummer Andy Fordyce – recorded four songs and a spoken poem, including the band’s newest single Time Out.

Bellwire and DeLuca spent Friday night deep in pre-production: sorting out arrangements and choosing the desired sounding amplifiers and instruments for each song. On Saturday, the band tracked all four songs live to 16-track tape. The band played all together, all at once in the Shop’s custom-built live room. On Sunday, background vocalists provided their ranges to “Grace Stay” and “Dreamin'” while legendary pedalsteel guitar player Jonnee Earthquake provided soothing sounds to all four tracks. Brothers Michael and Jack Holland also recorded bass and guitar overdubs and Burdwood laid down his lead vocals for all four tracks. The band returned on Monday afternoon to finish overdubs on all the tracks. Bellwire and DeLuca have plans to mix the tracks in mid-October once DeLuca returns from a national headlining tour with Titus Andronicus.

Over 600 photos were taken from Friday until Sunday; what you see here is just a snippet of the recording process. All photos were taken with an iPhone and processed with Snapseed. No filters were used on any of these photos, unlike in part one where each picture was processed and edited with VSCOcam. Close to 3gb of audio was taken over the course of the same time period using a Tascam mini recorder. Audio will be edited and released as an audio documentary later this month.

Each morning, drummer Matt Freake provided pour over coffee for everyone in the studio. However, sound and photos of the pour over process were only taken on Saturday morning.

The Soul Shop is a special place – not only because of its palatable sparkle and vibe, but its equipment as well. The Shop was founded and built in 2007 by DeLuca and co-owner Patrick Grenham. While DeLuca took on the engineering role, Grenham began designing and building gear to not only use at the Shop, but to sell as well. The results are control and live rooms packed with custom gear. Pieces of this gear are featured heavily throughout this essay.

This post should be viewed as a photo essay documenting progress. When you hear a record, it was once pieces of the whole you’re consuming. These photos are aligned and included to show the building of a song – the decision making, the struggles, the successes, the passage of time and the layering of elements.

.

IMG_2038

Saturday morning began with pour over coffee and breakfast sandwiches before the band began tracking.

49_IMG_1545

54_IMG_1559

IMG_2090

Sunday was dedicated almost entirely to vocals (lead and background) and instrument overdubs, including pedal steel guitar performances on all four songs by Jonnee Earthquake

the Soul Shop

by Amanda Beland

It’s the middle of summer in 2007 and Elio DeLuca and Patrick Grenham are on their knees cleaning a console with toothbrushes. The console, constructed in March 1986, is a Pisces – just like DeLuca and Grenham. Their newly acquired ‘bro’ is about to become the centerpiece for something much bigger than the basement it once hung out in, untouched for years.

“It’s happened occasionally where people have brought in records to mix off Pro Tools and they park the computer here for a couple of days and I think it makes the tape machines kinda nervous … you walk into the control room and see that big flat screen and you think ‘man, this is not the way,'” said DeLuca.

DeLuca and Grenham, both of Somerville, are co-owners of the Soul Shop, an all analog recording studio in Medford, Massachusetts. Their console, among other analog gear, make up an almost 10-year-old business with a focus on sound quality.

“Do it right the first time,” reads a review of the studio on Facebook.

DeLuca and Grenham knew each other in high school, but lost touch after graduation. They met back up and became friends during the mid-2000’s after seeing each other at various “weird noise” shows around the Boston area. Grenham also had a regular DJing gig at The Cellar in Cambridge. DeLuca eventually started bringing records to play on the nights Grenham was DJing. It was here the two started talking seriously about music and decided to start the band Keys to the Streets of Fear.

Grenham and DeLuca wanted to record live to 2-track tape for the first Keys record, but couldn’t find a place in Boston that had the capabilities (or the desire) to enable the process. That’s when the two men turned to Marcata Recording, then in Harlem NY. Marcata was started by the band the Walkmen.

“They (the Walkmen) were like, ‘well in a studio, you need a tape machine, four or five good microphones and that’s it,'” said Grenham.

“And a decent console and that’s it,” said DeLuca.

“Yeah, so they were like let’s build our own studio so we never have to pay for another studio again,” said Grenham.

_____

Analog vs. Digital Recording

In technical terms, the difference between analog and digital recording has to do with the distinction in signal paths and the way sound is recorded and stored. (Science!) Without inching into modern jackass territory here -almost everything done in the digital sphere can be done in the analog sphere – except it probably takes more time and more gear. Obviously in analog recording, there are no presets and nothing can be automatically applied or filtered like you can do in a digital editing program like Pro Tools.

In analog, if you want to amplify a track or add an effect, you have to physically turn a knob or press a button or adjust a setting on a real life droid. There are no drop down menus with physical hardware. Also, in digital recording, you can totally use that backspace key and undo in less than two seconds. In analog recording, you can delete something from a tape – but once you do – you can’t take it back. You have to rerecord. (Danger!)

In digital recording, you essentially have unlimited tracks – you could have 100’s of tracks of just shakers or vocals if you so dared – but in analog recording, tracks are limited based on the studio. At the Soul Shop, you have 16 tracks to fill and if you fill those 16 tracks and wanna add more stuff to a song, you gotta be creative and finagle a way to do with your resources.

The Soul Shop is an all analog recording studio simply because that’s the way DeLuca and Grenham like to work when it comes to recording. They like tubes and physically touching things – they aren’t big fans of using a mouse and a couple arrow keys to T-Pain audio tune the heck out of your voice.

“It’s because he wants to push faders on a console and run stuff through tubes and compressors or whatever,” said Grenham, talking about DeLuca. “All that kinda stuff you have to do the old fashioned way and not sit there and point click ‘mix’.”

_____

The Marcata studio and practice space were located in a former Nash Rambler production factory in Harlem where different parts of the cars were installed on different floors of the building and the car was moved by ramps when each floor’s work was completed. The studio was located on one of the ramps.

“The walls and ceiling were curved – nothing was parallel to anything, which is the first indicator of a good acoustic space because then you don’t get weird like being in the shower, back and forth reflections,” said DeLuca.

The guys spent three days recording at Marcata before bringing those recordings back to Massachusetts to a couple other studios in the area. However, Grenham and DeLuca couldn’t shake the Marcata feeling.

“These experiences (in Boston) were expensive and then we were like – maybe the Walkmen were right,” said Grenham.

“They were expensive and they were indicative,” said DeLuca.

“Maybe we should just stop paying other people to borrow their stuff and just buy it,” said Grenham.

We were also kind of foolish at the time, so we bought a bunch of gear,” said DeLuca.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

DeLuca and Grenham bought gear with the intention of using it to initially record live sets and then eventually, to open up their own space. In the winter of 2007, Keys had a week residency at PA’s Lounge in Somerville for this purpose.

“Sunday through Monday, we played every night of the week, different sets, one was all covers, one was all jazz tunes, one was new stuff and then we got other bands to play,” said DeLuca.

Grenham and DeLuca recorded every set of the residency.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2007, however, until the gear found a permanent home when DeLuca found the current location of the Shop in Medford.

“Luckiest I’ve ever been on Craigslist,” said DeLuca.

The building was separated into three spaces – a bridal shop in the front, a piano restoration shop owned by the landlord in the back and the space that would become the Soul Shop on the side. At first, the building’s landlord was hesitant to allow a recording studio to rent the space. After repeated attempts, he finally conceded.

“It took meeting him in person,” said Grenham.

“We all had the same weird crazy Italian vibe going around,” said DeLuca.

With the space acquired, Grenham and DeLuca began construction on the space, which was one room when construction began. Grenham has been a professional builder for years, so he brought people in to help separate out the control and live rooms, as well as to help with sound proofing.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

“That was wicked fun because I know how to build houses,” said Grenham. “Learning how to build all of the sound stuff was kind of awesome. If I was smart, I would make a lot of money doing that.”

The Shop’s live room has a couple unique aspects that aren’t immediately noticeable. First – drawing inspiration from Marcata – the walls were installed crooked on purpose. Second, none of the walls are actually touching each other.

“None of these walls are parallel – this one tilts back, they all have very little angles,” said Grenham. “You don’t notice it when you walk in, you’re not like ‘oh my God, this is a crazy house.'”

“You know, not like many degrees of an angle difference, just a tiny shimmy, just enough to make it sound the way it sounds,” said DeLuca.

The space wasn’t entirely finished until October 2007, though the first record was made in the uncompleted space in August 2007.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

“I remember we had holes in the ceiling and no tape machine,” said DeLuca. “We didn’t have the endless money of being able to throw it together at once, with the gear and everything else. You know, piece by piece.”

DeLuca and Grenham acquired the gear the studio through careful Craigslist and eBay searching. Grenham has also built (and is still building) many of the amplifiers in the studio, which the Shop either keeps in house or sells.

Before, during and after construction, the two men continued to collect equipment, including the Shop’s tape machine, Neotek console and Steinway piano, which belonged to DeLuca from childhood.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

“That was one of the main things – live room sound, have to have real pianos,” said Grenham.

Grenham and DeLuca are co-owners of the studio. DeLuca is also the head (and only) engineer. DeLuca is a conservatory-trained pianist who’s been working on both sides of a console in various forms since college. He plays guitar, bass, piano, organ and sings in various projects including Blinders, Faces on Film and Titus Andronicus. Grenham and DeLuca also both play in the New Lights.

_____

Titus Andronicus Live at the Soul Shop

The Shop is used as a recording space the majority of the time. However, the live room has also been used as a low-key show venue. DeLuca plays keyboard for the band Titus Andronicus and the Shop has hosted the band twice for secret shows for family and friends. The most recent show occurred in August 2014 while Titus was on their most recent Northeast tour. Blinders and Wicked Kind (members of Titus Andronicus) also played.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

_____

Since the Shop opened, it’s been witness to dozens of different artists and bands from a slew of genres.

Guitarist Will Graefe, of Brooklyn, recorded at the Shop for the first time in 2008 with his guitar, saxophone and drums trio Dikembe’s Mutombo. The trio recorded live to 2-track tape in four hours. Since then, Graefe estimates he’s recorded at the Shop between 10 and 20 times on various projects including Wilder Maker, Katie Von Schleicher, the Soul Shop’s 2013 Christmas Record and his own solo project. Graefe also currently plays guitar with his main project Star Rover.

_____

Soul Shop Christmas Records

For the past two years, the Soul Shop has produced and released a Christmas record. The 2014 record, titled “Christmas Alone With You” featured originals and covers from a number of Boston bands including Parks, Abadabad, Blinders, Quarterly, Faces on Film and the Low In Between.

Take a listen to this year’s production process:

_____

Graefe says recording at the Shop is unique because it offers a transparent and comfortable process for recording.

“Elio eliminates a lot of the typical barriers that can inhibit spontaneity and risk,” said Graefe. “Often times, (there’s) no isolation, no head phones, no computers- just capturing the people in the room with warmth and honesty and grit and cuts and bruises, too. There’s an accountability about that.”

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Musician Katie Von Schleicher is also a regular client and friend at the Shop. She’s recorded there with Wilder Maker, Sleepy Very Sleepy, and her own solo work, among other projects.

Von Schleicher says the vibe of the Shop is a huge part of the experience of recording there.

“Whenever I go into the shop, it’s hopefully for five days at least – whenever I leave the Shop, I have some sort of postpartum depression because its a full experience,” said Von Schleicher. “It’s a fantastic place where one by product of Elio and Patrick both being picky opinionated guys is that everyone who comes in when you’re there is someone you trust and someone that you want to work with. So it’s really a fully immersive experience – a lot of the time is spent on the couch listening to overdubs while someone else is in the live room and a whole lot of it is down time, so its exhausting and somehow even the downtime where you’re sitting on the couch is riveting though. It’s like Wayne (Whittaker) cracking a joke, or in the case of Wilder Maker – or my solo stuff, Will Graefe cracking a joke, and the chemistry between everyone who’s there is a huge part – at least to me – of what the Soul Shop embodies.”

Dan Webb, of Dan Webb and the Spiders, recorded five tracks from his newest LP Perfect Problem.at the Shop. Webb, who also plays drums in Blinders with DeLuca, said the Shop’s focus on sound quality, among other things, made the recording process more comfortable and more worthwhile for him and his band,

“My favorite part was that when we tracked there was no headphones involved,” said Webb. “At the Shop, Elio had us set up in such a way that we were able to track our parts live and without headphones so it sounded awesome as we were recording it, which only added to the comfort level of the experience. and in my experience, the more comfortable you are, the better the recording goes.”

The experience of recording live in an immediate atmosphere is a major focus at the Shop. According to Grenham and DeLuca, often times musicians head to a studio and record each instrument or part of a track separately and at different moments. The idea of working at the same time and in the same space while recording is part of what makes the sound and recording methodology unique to the Shop.

“People still come in and are surprised that it’s just one big room,” said Grenham.

DeLuca references this methodology as a cornerstone to the recording process for the band Eternals (formally Stephen Konrads and the Eternals when they recorded at the Shop).

“It also needed to be built up in a careful fashion where when they played the initial tracks, they played live, looking at each other, as opposed to everyone in a separate room with closed circuit tv camera action going on,” said DeLuca.

Musicians typically find out about the Shop through word of mouth, Facebook or through their website. Details for booking – price, dates etcs. – are typically discussed and determined based on need once you make initial contact.

“No one wants a ringing phone in a recording studio,” said DeLuca.

One of DeLuca and Grenham’s favorite parts of the Shop is the community that surrounds it – not just immediately with friends or friends of friends, but with anyone who comes into the space.

“It’s nice to give people the opportunity to check out the work and the methodology and see if it’s right for them – or right for something they’re involved with,” said DeLuca. “And it is great for us to be able to recommend – like Patrick’s saying – other players for certain things. If someone comes in and they want strings on their record, it’s not them playing a string part on a MIDI keyboard. It’s four or five musicians simultaneously set up in a circle reading off a piece of paper, the way it should be – you know?”

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset