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Austin News & Notes

Austin-based band Royal Forest likes to fly in the face of limitations and laugh. Sometimes literally. So far, the band has recorded four songs under what one would normally consider bizarre conditions.

Royal Forest guitarist Justin Douglas during the recording of “Everyone Who Knows You.” Note the small amp inside the torpedo tube.

Royal Forest in the Field, With iPhone

By Lori Kennedy

Austin-based band Royal Forest likes to fly in the face of limitations and laugh. Sometimes literally. So far, the band has recorded four songs under what one would normally consider bizarre conditions.

“Civilwarland” was recorded in the desert and tracked to a Tascam Porta 04—powered by a car battery—buried in the sand beside the band (the cables weren’t long enough to get it out of the shot); “John Denver” was tracked inside a Piper Arrow II single-propeller airplane in flight (it took five flights in total, with two musicians per flight, save the guitar recording as there wasn’t space); “Everyone Who Knows You” was tracked inside a WWII submarine (Douglas got permission from the Parks Board; after making a contribution, he’s now a lifetime member of the American Undersea Warfare Center); and finally, the band’s latest, “Keeping Time,” was shot entirely on iPhones using the Vine app, which allows for six seconds of video and audio recording, then loops it.

Guitarist Justin Douglas says it was nearly impossible to get a loop just right using Vine, so the band did more than 1,000 takes. “We did the math: six seconds equals eight bars at 150 bpm, and we performed individually to an in-ear click track. We shot a ton of drum beats and fills in different spaces, then edited them back into a song structure at the studio. We wrote some basic parts in the studio, but most of it was written on the spot.”

Once the songs were tracked, Douglas arranged and mixed in Steinberg Nuendo. The iPhone-based track was kept intentionally spare, with very few effects. “The only filter that happened was when I had my thumb over the iPhone’s mic,” Douglas says. “It wound up sounding cool, so we kept it. We tracked the song in a park that has large cement drains, so we used the natural reverb and slapback as much as was tasteful.

“Surprisingly, the mixes [overall] tend to take about half the time of regular studio mixes,” he says. “I attribute this again to the tracks already being very focused and the feeling or intent of each recording predetermined, so there’s not much hunting around in the mix.

“I really believe limitations spawn creativity,” he continues. “We’ve got a great little studio here [Douglas’ Austin-based studio, Shine], and can do just about anything we want in it, but so what? So does the guy down the street. It can be easy to get bogged down in options and decisions when time, track count, microphone options and so forth are essentially open-ended. So as a way of getting ourselves out of a little production rut, we decided to go someplace and do just the opposite, and see what happened. For example, small airplanes are extremely noisy in flight, so let’s make a noisy version of this song. The submarine is one big mechanical filter and reverb chamber, so let’s record the drums and guitars in periscope shafts and torpedo tubes. By taking this approach, everything sounds like it’s supposed to be there, instead of fighting inherent acoustic abnormalities.”

Arlyn Studios Completes Redesign

By Barbara Schultz

Last summer, Arlyn Studios ( put the finishing touches on this refurbished A room (pictured). Redesigned by Steven Durr (who designed the studio originally in 1984), the studio features a unique hybrid console.

“After many months of ideas and designs by Freddy [Fletcher, co-owner] and our chief engineer Jacob Sciba, and Harley Baker of Audioelectronics in Dallas, and many, many months of intricate hard work by Audioelectronics and Jacob, we have completely ‘married’ our vintage Neve and vintage API with a custom center section by Fred Hill of Nashville,” says studio co-owner Lisa Fletcher.

The 7,000-square-foot Arlyn occupies the historic Austin Opera House building and now offers expanded facilities, including an SSL 4048 G+-equipped B room that the owners and Durr completed just before SXSW 2013.

The 1972 EMI MF10 console at 5th Street Studios.

5th Street Studios Commissions 1972 EMI Console

As part of a successful effort to lure local rock gods White Denim (Downtown Records) back to Austin to record their sixth record, Corsicana Lemonade, 5th Street Studios acquired a rare example of a Carl Lindstrom 1972 EMI MF10 console. The board was secured from Hamburg, Germany, and under the direction of producer Jim Vollentine brought to a secluded Lake Austin waterfront home that was converted into a vintage analog studio for six weeks.

“There’s a lot of history with the console; for example, the V376 amplifiers were pulled from the broadcast equipment used at 1972 Munich Olympics,” says studio owner Ryan Joseph. “Additionally, the console is responsible for the vast majority of late Austrian composer Herbert von Karajan’s post-1972 recordings.”

Currently residing in a room now dubbed “Studio Ronjo,” the console complements 5th Street’s 8058 MkII and custom SBC 80 Series Neve consoles. The studio also features one of the finer collections of vintage analog equipment in town, and has become a mainstay for Vollentine, who, since finishing White Denim’s Corsicana, has also mixed artist Trey Rosenkampff’s upcoming release, as well as White Denim vocalist/guitarist James Petralli’s solo debut as Bop English.