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Monday, May 24, 2010

McLovins Monday - On the making of music

The Mclovins are releasing their second album, GOOD CATCH this Memorial Day weekend. Jake Huffman handles percussion and lead vocals, Jason Ott is on bass while covering back-up vocals and Jeff Howard is their guitarist. The band’s new album is called GOOD CATCH, and it’s a collection of 11 songs, 8 of which were culled from their recent live performances and 3 making their debut on this album. I recently had a chance to ask the band some questions about the recording process and the creation of music.

To start off, you’ve finished your second album now and you play in a genre, whether you call it progressive jam or jam funk, where the benchmark of success is the quality of the live performance. Where do you think the studio album fits now in today’s jam music scene?

Jeff - This new studio album is definitely closer to what a current studio album is today. There are several sections in the album where there are multiple guitar and drum tracks. These days, you don't often stumble upon an album that is solely three musicians recording live together with no overdubs (which was what Conundrum was). So, while this album was recorded mostly live, the overdubbing makes it sound more current.

Is the job of the album to give a quick snapshot of the live act, or is it a jumping off point for expansion in the live show?

Jake - I think that the album is a sample of the Artist’s work and using the studio to your advantage is crucial.

Sophomore albums are notoriously hard for a band, after defining themselves through a first album, many artists choose to use the second album as a chance to either define their sound or to take it in another direction, which way do you feel this album is going to pull you?

Jason - I feel that "Good Catch" was not a direction change, but rather a maturing in sound. Our first album showed that we could write songs that got people interested and that we could really jam out to live. On our second release, we expanded on this sound, not creating something drastically different, but just added more elements to our songs that make our sound even more distinct and CATCHY ;)

The majority of songs on this album have come from your live performance; do you think this makes it easier going into the studio with pocketful of fleshed out tunes rather than starting from scratch with the germ of a song one of you brings in?

Jeff - It is definitely easier. With our songs, they evolve and mature the more we play them live. Even when we think we have them all done, each time we play them in a show we learn what works well and what doesn't. This could be little things like "I'm not gonna put on distortion on this part" or something like "let's make this section shorter/longer". Because of this, it's essential that we go into the studio with a good sense of what works in the song. It's kind of like getting to know the song as a "person".

You’ve just released Couch Tour Vol. 1 which has to be your most polished live show yet, and again, a number of the songs off you new album are performed live on this set. Will the studio versions of these songs differ from their live counterparts, and if so what will be the major difference?

Jake - The Live show songs show more of what we sound like live (of course) with longer jams and more spontaneity. On the other hand, our studio songs have some extra tracks including acoustic guitar, steel pan, percussion, etc. Although they have shorter jams, and area little slower, we think the studio makes your personal McLovins listening experience very special too.

Your first album, Conundrum, was a tour-de-force, really showing the depth of your musical influences; have you guys narrowed your focus a bit on this new album, or are you still looking to create cross-genre music?

Jason - The range on our new album is very expansive, from the white boy reggae sound of Milktoast Man to the prog rock, Rush sound of Bead Head Crystal Bugger, to the dance vibe of Deep Monster Trance. We were able to incorporate a wide variety of genres without making the album confusing to listen to, or too sporadic. After listening, I believe the album flows quite seamlessly!

The flow on the new album is phenomenal, on Conundrum, you had a song-cycle that drew it’s inspiration from the novel, “The Phantom Tollbooth”; this added an over-arching theme to the album. Your new songs though actually seem to be more connected thematically than your earlier songs. I assume this is a benefit from being able to work them out live?

Jake - Being able to play the songs for months before we record them helps us polish them and get crowd reactions from people early on their preferences and passions.

Jason - Putting together a live show and playing our originals before we recorded them is what made recording and creating the album so much easier for us. Playing live brings out the true potential of every song, and brings unity to what otherwise may seem like very different and separate songs.

Jeff - I think what makes them sound more connected is the fact that we have found our "sound" more on this album. With Good Catch, because we've had more time to play our music live, we have found the certain areas that we really thrive in. I think its things like this that make Good Catch very unified.

Musically you’ve grown into a tight power trio, this was your third recording session counting your EP last fall, so is there a blasé feeling going into the studio or is the excitement still there, the desire to tinker and twist the knobs and see what happens next?

Jake - I personally still felt more excited because we knew the ropes so we could expand more on the possibilities of the studio tracks.

Jason - Going into the studio for the third time, we definitely felt more at ease and at home in a way while recording. We were in a more relaxed mood and this helped the creative juices to flow. This produced a much fuller and exciting album that we are all proud of and feel great about.

Jeff - There was plenty of excitement going into the studio. The first album was very raw and basic: three tracks per song, all recorded live. With Good Catch, we felt there was so much new territory to explore, and new things to try in the studio the second and third time we went in, such as, as I've mentioned before, adding in overdubs and vocal harmonies. And, overdubs and vocal harmonies aside, we were just plain psyched to record Good Catch. I think it's safe to say we're all very proud of these 11 songs we've written, and couldn’t wait to record them.

You can order GOOD CATCH now at THE MCLOVINS website store,
HERE! , and you can catch the band live at StrangeCreek festival in Greenfield Mass on May 30th and June 6th at Mountain Jam in Hunter, New York.

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