Fuzzed-out rockers Switchfoot may have taken a new path for their latest, Hello Hurricane — a new studio HQ, new label and a return to their San Diego roots — but onstage, they are as effervescent and crowd-pleasing as they were the first time they stepped under the stage lights 10 years ago. Mix caught up with the multimillion-selling rock band at San Francisco's sold-out gig at the Regency Ballroom.
Ryan Nichols, front-of-house engineer/production manager, mixes on a Digidesign Show Profile, citing its small footprint and compatibility with Pro Tools for recording as perks. “You can't knock the variety of plug-ins,” he adds. “We play the new album, Hello Hurricane, in its entirety for the band's first set and [the board] makes my job a lot easier to be able to duplicate the exact plug-ins used in the studio. I have my FOH setup on files for just about every digital console. We travel overseas quite a bit and it isn't always practical to demand a specific desk. As long as I can load my file, I'm good to go. It's nice to know that I can carry multiple consoles on an airplane in my backpack.”
For effects, Nichols taps a Fairchild 660 on the bass and acoustic, Digidesign Smack! on vocals and Crane Song Phoenix Luster on a variety of channels, “mostly to add warmth in this digital domain,” he says. “I stick with pretty basic 'verbs and choruses for the vocals and drums, with the Line 6 Echo Farm delay for specials.”
The P.A. is house-provided (all other gear is provided by 8TwentyFour Productions in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.). “Having a different P.A. every day definitely makes it a challenge to have consistency with my mixes, but that is what keeps me young! The band only uses in-ears and a single 18-inch sub for the drummer that we carry. In a lot of venues, I use house wedges for fills for the fans down front. Not having wedges leaves a hole in the coverage for the vocals and direct instruments, and those are the biggest fans so you have to take care of them.”
As for Nichols' mixing style, keeping vocalist/guitarist Jon Foreman's voice on top is a crucial element. “I have never been a mixer that tries to emulate the album; I always felt that the fans can go home and listen to the record; let's make the live show its own event.”
Monitor engineer Michael “Miggs” Liuzzi (who also does double-duty as drum and keyboard tech, as well as stage manager) mans a Yamaha M7CL, using few plug-ins — mostly light compression on a few vocals and the snare drum. “The guys don't like a lot of processing,” he explains. “They like everything wide open and ‘live’-sounding in their ears. We use Ultimate Ears UE11s; they sound amazing.”