One of the most rewarding or scariest projects a local band can take on is recording their debut album.
In personal experience, it can make or break a group, depending on the outcome. It takes positive relationships within a group to ultimately make a good recording. Luckily for the Thrift Store Troubadours, they have this chemistry.
Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Peter McGuire and Drummer/Engineer “Diamond” Jeff Collier have been staples in the AV music scene for years and have just released a new album called “Bright Lights, Dark Nights” available online. I talked with both of them about the process of making this record.
Jesse Davidson: How long did it take to collectively record and mix everything?
Peter McGuire: We started tracking in October of 2018 and finished in late August. It took so long, because we had a line-up change about halfway in. We started with scratch guitars and vocals, just to get the song structures and timing down and mapped out. Jeff programed some basic drum parts and then I started tracking guitars. Shortly after all my guitar parts were down, that’s when we decided on a line-up change and brought Matthew Allen (bass) and Amanda Burk (keyboards) into the band.
JD: You’ve been involved in music since you were a teenager. Can you describe how your recording approach has changed since then?
PM: The biggest difference between my earliest recordings and my most recent, is just the amount of time they take. I’ve absolutely gotten a lot more efficient. Because I’ve been working with Jeff for so long, we’re really productive. We can leave our egos at the door and give open and honest feedback and criticisms knowing that neither of us are going to get our feelings hurt. Sometimes. The record took longer than it should have because of the line-up changes and a few other factors, but the time spent actually tracking was very short.
JD: Was there a specific sonic goal you were looking to achieve with this record?
PM: I was shooting for somewhere between Rock-heavy Blues and Alt-country/Americana, but still connected to my Punk Rock roots. I like layering guitars and tones, which is probably counterproductive of what I was aiming for. A lot of those records and bands that I love that really influenced the writing of these songs are pretty stripped down, especially compared to what we ended up doing with the guitar tracks.
Jesse Davidson: How did you capture the gritty guitar tones for this record?
Diamond Jeff: We only used one amp on the record, a 15-watt Fender Blues Jr. mic’d with an SM57 into a Slate Fox mic pre. It’s one of my favorites, cleans up nice, overdrives great and keeps it all at a reasonable volume and then Peter’s ever-evolving pedal board. We had multiple guitars with all different kinds of pickup combinations that we used all over the record. Our choice going in to the recording was variation. We just spent a whole day layering guitars.
JD: You and Peter have been friends since childhood. What is that relationship like in a recording setting?
DJ: There’s a lot of joking around. Even with the more serious nature of some of our songs. We’re also able to be honest without ego, I can tell him if his performance wasn’t great or he can tell me if I’m taking the song in a direction he doesn’t like. Overall, though, its just a nice hangout.
JD: Were there any unconventional recording tricks used in the making of the album? Or was it fairly straightforward?
DJ: We started tracking not long after I was in a car accident that left me too injured to track, so we used a studio drummer for most of the drum tracking. I wrote out the basic forms and beats for the songs and called upon our friend Matt Lindsey, a great session player, to play on the record.