New York, NY—NBC’s long-running Late Night with Seth Meyers has always taken a creative approach to the familiar talk show format, and the same can be said for how its resident musical group, The 8G Band, provides music every night. Rather than playing cover songs like many talk show combos, the group writes, records and performs eight new pieces of music each day.
Recording is key to how the band works; with the fast pace of producing 32 pieces of music a week, there’s no time to transcribe or even rehearse in the traditional sense before the band performs live on camera every night.
“We come in around 1 o’clock or so and we write for an hour or two, depending on how many songs we need,” says associate music director Eli Janney, who plays keyboards and handles the daily recording process. “There are three ‘walk-ons’ for the guests—music that they come out to—and we also do five commercial breaks, which are basically two-part instrumental songs. Seth says, ‘We’ll be right back with more Late Night,’ and we start playing and they go out to commercial, but we keep playing for the audience to keep the energy up in the studio.”
Inside the band’s small recording space backstage, Janney records each song for reference during the show. “I mix them down, and then on set, while Seth is interviewing a guest, I play the next song off my laptop into everyone’s in-ear monitors,” says Janney. “With eight pieces of music every day, the easiest way to handle [knowing the songs] is with a recording. It reminds everyone, ‘Here’s the tempo, here’s the vibe,’ and as long as we’re in that framework, then we can all improv within those keys. It’s a real musical conversation on stage. The recordings just make it a lot more efficient.”
The daily recording process is intertwined with writing. Given the band’s small workspace and the need to be quiet given the offices, TV studios and more next door, an electronic drum kit is used, and the guitars and bass go direct into the recording setup. Centered around Ableton on a Mac (“I’ve used Pro Tools since it was Sound Tools, but the way that Ableton set up their composing tools is very artist-friendly.”), the setup also includes Universal Audio Apollo x8p and Apollo 8p interfaces and a UAD-2 Satellite DSP accelerator. “We’ve got so many chips going on,” says Janney. “I’m always shocked at how much we end up using, but it’s been rock-solid—and for us, reliability and speed of use are the top priorities.”
Coming from a studio background—in addition to founding indie rock act Girls Against Boys, he has been an engineer and producer since the ’90s—Janney leans toward using emulations of classic gear, and happily rattles off a string of UAD simulations that get used daily: Neve 1073 on drums, 1073s and Teletronix LA-3As on guitars, UA 610-B on vocals, API Vision Channel Strip on the Cascade x15 stereo ribbon mic used as an overhead to capture live cymbals, and so on.
“I’ve been working with UA since the early 2000s when I had cards inside my computer,” says Janney. “When I got this job in 2012, I reached out to them. I love their stuff, so I wanted to integrate them into our workflow.”
That workflow is all about speed. When it comes to mixing, time is of the essence, he says. “If I spend more than 10 minutes on a mix, that’s going to just slow down the whole process.” The mixes are heard via a pair of Genelec studio monitors at Janney’s keyboard/recording station and get checked via Sony MDR-750 headphones for an idea of how they’ll sound in the band’s Ultimate Ears IEMs on stage. The latest addition to the room is a pair of Dynaudio LYD speakers, hung at the ceiling: “We wanted to have something that would fill the room a little bit more so we could all listen to a song and get excited about it.”
It’s a lot of work to make so many recordings that the world will never hear, but the process has its benefits. While the 8G Band resolutely writes new material every day, Janney can reach back into a song catalog developed across 900-plus shows and pull out musical examples to aim for in terms of vibe and mood. By 3:30 p.m., the group has written, recorded and mixed the day’s music. Three hours later, the band breaks into the show’s theme song to kick off another episode taping. An hour later, they call it a day though they’ll return to face the same challenge less than 24 hours later. “It’s a little bit like Groundhog Day,” laughs Janney, “because you do the same thing every day—but the show must go on!”
Eli Janney • www.elijanney.com
Late Night with Seth Meyers • www.nbc.com/late-night-with-seth-meyers
Universal Audio • www.uaudio.com