Live Sound

Silversun Pickups 2013 Tour

Los Angeles–based alternative rock band Silversun Pickups—Brian Aubert (singer/guitarist/songwriter), Nikki Monninger (bass), Joe Lester (keyboard) and Christopher Guanlao (drums)—have been tou 10/01/2013 5:00 AM Eastern

Silversun Pickups onstage at The Paramount in Huntington, N.Y.

The Silversun Pickups—Brian Aubert (singer/guitarist/songwriter), Nikki Monninger (bass), Joe Lester (keyboard) and Christopher Guanlao (drums)—have been touring the U.S. in support of their 2012 release Neck of the Woods (Dangerbird Records), which was produced by Jacknife Lee (U2, Weezer, REM, Snow Patrol). This past summer, the band visited festivals, amphitheaters and mid-sized venues, supported by Delicate Productions, based in Camarillo, Calif. Mix caught up with the quartet in August when they visited The Paramount in Huntington, N.Y.

Front-of-house engineer Fritz Michaud first met the band members in Los Angeles’ Silverlake neighborhood, where they all live. "We've known each other for years," Michaud says. "I worked with an amazing band called Autolux and Brian [Aubert] came to all their shows. He would often ask me about doing sound for Silversun Pickups and eventually it worked out. I started working with them during the last few legs of their Carnavas tour."

photo of Fritz Michaud

FOH engineer Fritz Michaud at an Avid Profile console

Michaud says that the NOTW tour is carrying the most production the band has ever carried, including audio and lighting packages. FOH and monitors each have matching Avid Profile consoles. The tour is also carrying a two-way split, sub snakes, microphones (the band endorses Shure products), stands and cabling. P.A. and power systems are house provided.

"I chose the Profile for FOH mainly for the plug-ins and the power that the scenes can provide, along with its ease of setup," Michaud says. "I'm using the Eventide plug-ins and I love them. We've been doing a lot of one-offs and fly-in dates and it's so great to just roll up with a USB stick and an iLok rather than dragging a heavy rack through airports and festival crowds."

Silversun's Neck of the Woods album showcases a range of subtle studio production techniques, including ambient effects, numerous overdubs, vocal mixing and panning techniques, and acoustic instruments blended with electronic sounds; this poses certain challenges to the band and the engineers when performing the recorded songs live.

"I think the band approaches the live version of their records in an honest way, accepting that they can't totally reproduce the sounds while embracing the challenge of trying to get as close as possible," Michaud says. "The four of them can make a lot of sound!"

photo of Jim Putnam

Jim Putnam, who oversees operations at Universal Audio in Scotts Valley, Calif., with his brother, Bill Putnam, Jr., often tours with Silversun Pickups as their monitor engineer. Putnam is pictured here at The Paramount in Huntington, N.Y.

When mixing Silversun Pickups live, Michaud says, "I follow the same concept with the vocal effects and mixing. This is where the Eventide plug-ins shine. Parts such as doubles and stacked guitars can't be totally re-created with effects but I move a lot of faders, including the master, to give the performance a more dynamic feel. I use the Factory plug-in for widening, doubling, chorusing and more, while the Eventide Reverb handles Christopher's kit as well as vocal reverb duties.

"On Brian's guitars I use Shure 313 ribbon mics through the [Universal Audio] LA-3A plug-ins," Michaud continues. "They're mostly hard panned to varying degrees on different songs. He has an incredible Switchblade switching system that I helped set up. It's a bit like having all your pedals on a mixing desk where you can route your signal in parallel, serial and any combination you can imagine. Imagine six different distortions at six different volumes panned to six different places. All of this and much more is possible. His guitar can cover so much ground it's more about me making sure it sits in the mix when it needs to and melts faces when the time comes."

photo of Silversun Pickups

Michaud also uses McDSP's MC2000 Multi-Band Compressor, Serato's Rane Series Compressor and Rane Series Gate, and Universal Audio's 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-In Collection.

Michaud notes that seeing a variety of indoor and outdoor venues on this current tour has required him to make certain adjustments: “The way you mix in a shed or festival is so different from the approach you have to take in a theater with a balcony. For instance, today’s venue [The Paramount] is all exposed brick and concrete with a flat back wall. Lots of reflections! Getting to a place where you trust your mix and change your house EQ and overall levels, rather than adjusting individual channels, was a big breakthrough for me. I also feel that most venues have an optimal SPL—the sweet spot. Any louder and you lose clarity and definition, while lesser volumes lose that visceral live rock experience.”