She & Him Tour ProfileLUSH RECORDINGS COME TO LIFE ONSTAGE 8/01/2013 5:00 AM Eastern
She & Him—the musical union of singer, songwriter and actress Zooey Deschanel and artist/producer M. (Matt) Ward—are on the road this summer, sharing songs from Volume 3, their latest album of Deschanel-penned vintage-inspired pop. At the show Mix caught, on a warm summer night at the Greek Theatre (Berkeley, Calif.), She & Him & band delighted fans with joyous, faithful live versions of their recordings.
Front-of-house engineer Shelly Steffens creates a clean, detailed mix despite the sheer numbers of musicians onstage. In addition to Deschanel and Ward, there are core bandmembers: Scott McPherson on drums, and bassist/multi-string player Mike Coykendall; plus, violinist/multi-instrumentalist Tom Hagerman (also of the group DeVotchKa); Chris Scruggs, who plays violin, pedal steel, guitar or bass, depending on the song; and the Chapin sisters, Lily and Abigail, who sing backup and help Deschanel to realize onstage the lush, beautiful harmonies that she overdubs herself on records. For shows in major markets (New York, San Francisco, L.A.), more strings—another violin and a pair of violas—build the wall of sound even higher.
“I use Snapshots to quickly mute anything that we can, to limit things to mics that actually need to be open,” says Steffens about the feature of her Sound Image-provided Avid D-Show Profile console. “That helps you hear everything clearly, and helps avoid handling noise as people are changing out instruments or changing positions.”
Deschanel moves between three different positions onstage, sometimes standing at a mic on a stand to sing with or without tambourine or ukulele, other times moving over to sing and play Wurlitzer or piano. Wherever she is, her vocal mic (like all the vocal mics on the tour) is a Sennheiser 935. Steffens uses the ReVibe reverbs within the Profile to emulate the vocal sounds on the records. “I’m using two or three different reverbs at all times on vocals, and broadening the instruments as well, using halls and medium-sized room [settings] and blending a shorter reverb with a longer one.
“On Matt’s vocal, I use a slap delay, and that’s consistent with what he likes when he appears as M. Ward, too,” explains Steffens, who has also toured with the M. Ward band. “On his guitar, we have a [Sennheiser] 421 on his amp, and I just compress that very lightly with a Joemeek and a little touch of an onboard compressor.”
On She & Him’s previous tour, Steffens was only able to carry a mic package and backline, so the addition of the Profile boards—at FOH and monitors—is a welcome expansion. They’re using house-provided P.A.s; at the Greek they made use of the L-Acoustics V-DOSC system (20 V-DOSC and six DV-DOSC speakers, six ARCS, and 18 SB218 subs, provided by Sound on Stage).
“I brought along two Avalon 737SPs for some outboard processing on the left/right mix,” Steffens says. “I also have one Summit Audio CDL200 compressor for front-fill and subs. Any additional sends will most likely come from the matrix.”
On the monitor side, however, mixer/production manager Ryan Doordan is carrying a full package: console, Sound Image’s proprietary single 12-inch wedges, and in-ear systems for Deschanel, Hagerman and McPherson.
“Zooey’s using Sensaphonics, and she tunes her vocal to the bass guitar, so I’ve been putting a lot of bass and a little bit of guitar in her ears, but it’s mainly her vocal with lots of [ReVibe] reverb to mimic what’s on the records; different songs require different reverbs.”
Hagerman’s in-ears are Westone. “He likes a more general mix—as much like a front-of-house mix as artists will ask for,” says Doordan. “He needs to hear some of everything because his violin ties the stage together; it fills an important space in the music.
“Then the drummer [McPherson] is on Ultimate Ears; he mainly wants drums and guitars, just for timing and pacing onstage, because while he plays to a click on a couple songs, he really needs to take his cues from what Zooey’s doing. When she’s playing ukulele, for example, that becomes the driving force for the pace of the song, and he needs to hear it clearly.” Doordan is also an Ultimate Ears user. He’s on UE-18s and notes that he endorses the company.
“Everybody also has a wedge with their own mix, in case someone needs to pop out their in-ears,” Doordan continues. “I have seven different reverbs lined up for the instruments, for the way people want to hear things differently. I try to route them just as inserts or to a direct out on the instrument itself, and it changes by song, so I might have a channel that’s only used once. I think I’m using 70 channels on my console, even though it’s only 40 inputs.”
Doordan has a challenging job, doing double-duty for such a large ensemble. Assistance by monitor tech Matthew Anderson from Sound Image has been a great asset, he says. It also helps that the tour is so rewarding musically—something Doordan says he knew from day one.
“The first few rehearsal days, we were doing six-plus hours straight with Zooey singing the whole time, and she would sing every song at full volume,” he concludes. “I’ve worked with other artists who can only sing solid for an hour and a half, and then they need to take it down a little bit. She would go full on every time and always sound great, which is pretty remarkable.”