A Deeper Look into Big Tree's "Little EP" — San Francisco
 
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A Deeper Look into Big Tree's "Little EP"

You recorded the three studio tracks on the EP in just 10 hours, and on tape. What did this whirlwind, analog process afford you as artists, as opposed to the drawn-out, record-each-part-in-isolation way? 

Luke Bace: We've always recorded with more of a live approach than an isolated, track by track approach, so this felt pretty natural. It was mostly a matter of making sure the performances were spot-on. We had been playing these songs live for a while prior to entering the studio, so when we walked into New Improved, Recording, we all knew exactly what we were going to play on every song. Having done two Daytrotter sessions, we've been in that recording environment before. It’s very exciting!

Kaila McIntyre-Bader: I know that I can be such a perfectionist, so it was nice to throw my hands up in the air and give in to the momentum that this process created.  This is pretty much how we sound on the stage, and it was refreshing to just embrace the imperfections.  Kind of ironic, since the lyrics to our single are "We got time" over and over again.

Why tape? 

LB: I've wanted to track to 2" for a while. So many of our favorite records are recorded onto that medium, and they have a warmth and harmonic richness that we haven't yet been able to achieve recording digitally. After talking to Eli, it became clear that tape was the right medium for this ambitious session because it limited the number of tracks (24) we could lay down on each song. It was pretty trippy when we told Eli "OK, we want to put down tambourine in this section." And he asked our drummer, Matt, "Did you play the floor tom in that section? No. Ok, we'll put the tambo over the floor tom track there." Woah, that was something I'd never thought about!

Did you feel like you had to make sacrifices to preserve this type of process?

KMB: Definitely not.  The sound quality is wonderful, thanks to Eli, and while there are a few less than perfect moments, I think the human quality to the music we produce is really important.  We're not robots, and we're not playing machines.  We're real people playing real instruments in real time.

LB: Agreed. I was actually surprised to feel that there weren't any sacrifices made in this recording process. We could've put an orchestra on "Soldiers [of the Spring]" or marimba on "Runaways," but this process kept the songs distilled to their purest form. 

Was it exhausting or invigorating or something else to record this way? 

KMB: It was like a dream! It was FUN, and before we knew it, it was over! We play a lot together, so our live sound is pretty tight.  We didn't have to worry about messing up the takes or wasting time trying to get the songs right, so I don't think any of us felt any pressure.  It was a really good time.

LB: Definitely invigorating. The next day we woke up and were all bummed we weren't going back into the studio to record some more tracks in the same manner!

How did Eli Crews influence your recording style/process?

KMB: Eli is the best.  We really looked to him for in-the-moment judgement calls.  There were a couple times when I asked him if he thought I should try and overdub some vocal parts that I didn't think were "perfect," and he just kept encouraging me to keep them, even if they were flawed.  He really kept us on track.  It was also fun to watch his head boppin'.  That's when we knew it was the take!

LB: Eli made the whole thing possible. He truly is a studio wizard and without his prowess, we would not have been able to make this happen. As Kaila said, he definitely encouraged us to be realistic and embrace the performance. Also, he introduced a simple idea to me that, surprisingly, no one in the studio has ever said before: if you want something to sound a certain way, get the tone right from the source, then all you need to do is track it and it will sound just right. I love that purist mentality. There's no "fixing it in the mix", its all about getting it right from the start.

Did you write most of these songs in a small timeframe under the same source of inspiration? 

KMB: These songs were created in sort of the opposite way. I wrote these tunes over the last year, all over the country.  They were crafted slowly, and when I brought them into the band, they came together very naturally.  Our songwriting process is pretty organic; we just play everything until it feels right.  We do a lot of arranging, but we never say anything is "finished." A lot of our songs just keep evolving and turn into something we never expected.

LB: These were the first of a whole set of new songs we've been working on with our new lineup. We have a new drummer, Matt Schory, and our harmony singer, Anna Ghezzi, joined us right before our tour supporting This New Year in the fall of 2011, so we had been playing songs off that album for a while with her. These tracks showcase a sort of rebirth of our band and our sound, and I couldn't be happier with how everyone is contributing to it!

You're releasing your EP with sheet music, which is pretty unheard of. What are the implications of that?

LB: We really like the idea of encouraging people to play our songs, and have their own experience with them. A few months back, these two guys posted a cover of "One Hundred and Four" on our wall and we were so psyched about it! In the past few years, there have been a number of people who have emailed us asking for the chords to specific songs, so it made sense to provide people with the sheet music. Since this is a digital only release, we wanted to provide people with something beyond the music itself, so hopefully listeners are excited by the sheet music and digital artwork. I know we are. 

-Gracie Gutman

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