From our first conversations with Filthybird, it was clear to us that they were more than great musicians—they were also wonderful, genuine people.
When they arrived at Miner Street Recordings with loads of custom gear, an oversized antique drum kit, and enough MoonPies and Cheerwine to share, we knew that recording their single, "I'd Like to Know," would be a blast.
The magic of these North Carolina natives starts with Renee Mendoza's voice. At once heartfelt yet imperfect, it swoops and swerves through her graceful songs above the thoughtful, textured guitar work of her husband, Brian Haran, a professional luthier who builds his own guitars (as well as his bandmates'). Filling out the sound with engaging rhythm players Chris Girard, Nick Jaegar, and drummer James Wallace (standing in for Jim Bob Aiken) and the result is a band that knows how to play to its strengths in engaging and unexpected ways.
By the time tracking was completed, we were as charmed by the band as we were by the song, a three minute pop gem
The episode was curated by music writer Grayson Currin (Independent Weekly, IFC, Pitchfork), thought by many to be one of the great emerging critics of the past several years. "What's not to like about something that's both instantly likable and infinitely explorable?" says Currin, "When I hear Filthybird's songs for the first time, they strike me as somewhat simple pop songs I know I'll love. But the more I listen, there are always five, eight, a dozen things that make the term "pop song" feel inadequate; whether it's Renee's voice or how that voice runs with a melody or how the drums and guitars shift just so to catch that voice."
"I have been told before that I do not have a pretty voice," says Mendoza, "but some of my favorite voices are the ones that aren't pretty. And when you hear them you're like, 'Holy shit, that's Nina Simone,' or 'Holy shit, that's Kate Bush.' Those aren't pretty voices, but they're powerful. Not to compare myself to Nina Simone or anything," she laughs, "but you know..."
This session was our first of the year, and we decided to take full advantage of the limitless night. We eased into the day, spending the afternoon arranging "I'd Like to Know" and getting to know each other. By the time tracking was completed, we were as charmed by the band as we were by the song: a three minute pop gem, with just the right mix of expected and unexpected, just the right amount of ambience and texture. We hope you'll agree. If the joy we had recording it is any measure, this is a great one.
Sometimes it's just fun to record a straight-up
"Sometimes it's just fun to record a straight-up rock-n-roll band," says producer and Weathervane founder, Brian McTear, "especially in this day of home production and 'unlimited tracks.'" Guitar, Guitar, Drums, Bass, Vocals: that time honored ensemble. But the thing about Filthybird is that their gear, again customized by guitarist Brian Haran, is so unique to them alone, so cleverly used, that it lifts their songs right off the page. Engineering this band was a joy, both easy and unusual, straightforward and stimulating.
From the start, "I'd Like to Know" gave off an almost Phil Spectre-Girl Group vibe, which meant mixing would have its own set of really fun rules and guidelines. It meant there would be a higher premium placed on "glue" than "separation"—something we love around here—though it also seemed there was space to tweak the arrangement a little first. Initially, the song was a single ascent: from first note to last, a steady progression upward. To producer Brian McTear,
it seemed to need a couple peaks and valleys along the way. So everyone put their heads together, and it wasn't long before we had something.
James' drum set sounded unreal in the live room, but as engineer Jonathan Low set up the standard drum micing... we noticed it wasn't fully translating.
As dusk settled in, we got down to tracking. James' drum set sounded unreal in the live room, but as engineer Jonathan Low set up his and McTear's standard drum micing (Telefunken ELAM 260s as overheads, a Coles 4038 ribbon mic, and a Beyer M130 ribbon in the room), he noticed it wasn't fully translating. We tweaked it until we got what we liked. Once rolling, the evening went smoothly, and things were done before we knew it.
When we woke up the next day, Jonathan set up for mixing, inserting much of the bands' gear into the mix chain. Haran's custom-built spring reverb and a handful of boutique guitar pedals were used to create Filthybird's own little wall-of-sound. We wanted to place the song in its own, unplaceable setting, so we utilized tremelo and reverb on everything. Check out the stems to get the full picture, and join the conversation.
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