It’s certainly a tradition to watch Fireworks on 4th of July, but for my acoustic freak folk band “The Family of Man” it seems to be a growing tradition to record an album in the Mendocino forest. The organic nature of how the band formed has become something that has paved the way for how we deal with writing and recording music – and has informed me personally of the importance of spontaneity in art.
It was last year that the band formed simply by deciding to bring some musical instruments up to my close family friend Chris Campbell’s property where he lives with his longtime girlfriend / partner in all things weird – Blake More. The property is just an acre, but loaded with inspiration and history (Check out tons of pictures HERE). They’ve converted what used to be a tool shed into a small home painted from floor to ceiling in loud colors complete with a cozy deck, a rustic feel, and complete with 2 flush toilets and plenty of hot water for their outdoor shower (for those skeptical of the sophistication of these lovable hippies). Among the property you’re sure to spot a retro full-size school bus which has been gutted of its seats and converted into a living space complete with a couch, fridge, stove, fireplace, cabinets, and a full size bed. Another testament to creative use of space the entire property evokes. Parked next to it is Blake More’s biodiesel art car, and near that is a small trailer painted a loud pink with a painted on black picket fence which is Blake’s walk-in closet. Further down the road is what can only really be described as a “Space Pod” – which you can sleep in, and at night will glow with its glow in the dark stars stuck to the inside. Finally, there is a giant shipping container parked at the top of their short road. Inside hold Chris’ drum kit (he’s in a couple local bands) and is nicely sound-proofed with carpet on the walls. Needless to say, the property is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Throughout our 10 day stay last year – we constantly found musical inspiration and would quickly meet in the shipping container with a small digital recorder and work out the structure of a song – only to record a live take all together huddled around a well placed mic / recorder. It was unclear at the time if these were gonna be demos, just for fun, or simply a way to remember ideas, but the process continued day after day – to the point that we often would spend nearly the entire day inside – only to step out for food breaks. The songs we’re being written quickly with a focus on capturing the original energy from which they spawned. by the end of day 5 (when Aliyah had to leave to head back to civilization) Wilfred and I continued to patch some things up, mix the album, sort through the tons and tons of takes we had made, and finish a couple overdubs for the only track that would contain any overdubs – “For You“. We came out with 31 minutes of music and decided this was indeed an album. It was Family of Man’s first album which we decided to appropriately title “Inside The Box” referring to where it was all recorded.
You can listen and download our entire first album FREE below:
The spontaneity of the recordings is of course immediately apparent. several tracks were formed just from leaving the mic on during some late night jam sessions and later creating a structure by splicing things together on the laptop. Others were one time takes of songs we had only briefly planned out. And some were hammered out by simply doing takes over and over until we got one we were satisfied with. The common thread was these songs were never to be over-analyzed or too thought out. The motto became “just record it”.
Over the course of the last year – Wilfred and Aliyah would sprinkle my email inbox with acoustic songs they had crafted. The songs were rough GarageBand recorded demos that we would all share some brief thoughts on, and hope to one day record. Flash forward to just the beginning of this month, it was again time to go to Mendocino for our now annual trip. After 5 days of relaxing, we spent 5 days non-stop recording.
This currently untitled (but don’t be surprised if it ends up being called “Heads In The Sky” *hint hint*) album was a new approach of recording for us. Perhaps much more traditionally, we recorded base tracks that consisted of one but sometimes 2 or 3 elements of the song – and worked off that with overdubs much like how a more traditional in-studio album would be. Still using the same recorder in the same shipping container box with the same mindset – but these new techniques actually provided us with a way to offer a higher quality recording and a more well-mixed album.
Currently I’m still in the process of mixing the album, but in it’s current state it undoubtedly sounds like “The Family of Man” – just an evolved form. Perhaps the best way I can describe it is to use the words Wilfred used – it sounds like a old 50′s jukebox album dipped in acid. This batch of songs sound timeless in their arrangements and melodies but with a psychedelic edge that keeps things feeling fresh. Some draw from prohibition era music of the 20′s, while others from the doo-wop sounds of the 50′s. Formed primarily in our heads and through emails beforehand provided us with the ability to have a concrete feel of where these songs could go during the recording of them. Many took off to places we had not expected, while others stuck closely with their GarageBand demo counterparts. You will still find a couple of tracks on the album that are simply one live take with little to no overdubs, but fans of the first album I think will be in for a treat with the higher fidelity recordings contained on this album.
I know I speak for Wilfred and Aliyah when I say we cannot wait to release this album. It’s an exciting thing to be able to record an album and release it a month later – so the wait will not be long. If you want to keep up with all the announcements (title, tracklist, cover art, release date, etc.) as well as a short series of behind the scenes videos we took during recording – make sure to follow us on Facebook HERE!