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Music Etc.: Blessed in the Studio

Since hitting the post-hardcore scene in 2007 and earning a spot on the Warped Tour that same year, Phoenix-based Blessthefall’s career has skyrocketed as its intensity and energy continues to earn it new audiences around the world.

Since hitting the post-hardcore scene in 2007 and earning a spot on the Warped Tour that same year, Phoenix-based Blessthefall’s career has skyrocketed as its intensity and energy continues to earn it new audiences around the world. The band’s latest album, Hollow Bodies, topped the Billboard Hard Rock chart on its release in August, and the band is about to launch headline tours in Australia and South America before returning to the states in April. Pro Sound News spoke with guitarist Eric Lambert about achieving a “huge” sound on Hollow Bodies with producer Joey Sturgis (Asking Alexandra, Of Mice & Men).

On making it real:

There was definitely a lot of work involved in recording this album and we actually recorded it three times. We started digging into it in our bedrooms last January when we recorded demos into Logic; then we completed pre-production scratch tracks in March and finished recording the full album in May. It was a hectic five months of our lives, but it was worth it. Now, we are playing five of these new songs live and they are probably the best part of our entire set. All the kids are just singing along and they already know all the words.

On finessing arrangements:

When we did pre-production, we were able to get a basic picture of all the songs and lay down the vocals. After we were finished with this, we were good to go and everything started to fall into place really fast. When it came time to go into the studio to record the final version, we were able to work on certain melodies and lyrics to shape them a little more. In fact, we were tweaking guitar parts right up until the final version. For example, if we’d been playing something for a long time and it seemed kind of boring to us, we’d say, “Let’s spice it up a bit.” The album went through a lot of changes like that and I’m really glad we took the time we needed because it really made a difference.

We put a lot of faith and trust in Joey because he’s really good at what he does. We would do some recording, and he would spit out an idea like, ‘Let’s try moving this verse around here and see how that goes.’ It kind of blows your mind at first, but once you see his vision, it makes sense. Sonically, the guy is a genius and his albums sound huge. He works in [Steinberg] Cubase and is especially great at finding guitar tones.

On tracking and overdubs:

We recorded the drums at Pearl Sound Studios in Canton, MI, which was awesome. Matt [Traynor, drummer] flew through about three or four songs a day and it was super smooth. The rest of the recording was done at Joey’s studio in Michigan, and he made us feel really welcome; there was no pressure to finish the album. It was more like we were there to hang out to do cool tunes, and that’s what we did. I recorded the majority of the guitars, and then Jarod [Warth] came in and did bass.

It always seems like recording is going to be so easy in the studio, and that you can hash it out in a couple of tries. Then you realize you’re not as good as you thought and you have to play something through a few times. My wrists certainly got a good work out in the studio, that’s for sure! Working at Joey’s place made things very comfortable though. I’d wake up, have a bowl of cereal and walk into the studio in [my] pajamas. It didn’t feel like I was doing a 9 to 5. Also, it was amazing weather in Michigan, so we’d spent a lot of time playing basketball outside during our free time just to let all our energy out. Being cooped up in a studio can take a lot out of you sometimes.

On instruments and patches:

We brought our guitars, rented a DW drum kit and Joey supplied everything else. As far as guitar equipment, my live and recording rig is pretty much the same. I am playing my ESP Eclipse through an EVH 5150 III, and using a Maxon Tube Screamer and a Boss Equalizer. Most of my effects were done using plugins. We also used a lot of patches on this record. If you take the time to hunt for the right patch, it’s like finding a hidden treasure and can really pay off. As an example, we did this one song called “Buried in These Walls” and we found a patch for the kick drum that sounded amazing.

On evolution of the band:

I think the instrumentation of our band has evolved dramatically. Everyone has just gotten a lot better at what they do. For example, the drums have become a little more technical, the songwriting is more solid, and Beau [Bokan, vocalist] really stepped it up on the vocals. It’s just nice seeing your band grow, and we have finally made the album we’ve always wanted to make and we’re super proud of it. It came out exactly the way we wanted it to and we couldn’t be happier.

Now that we’ve had a consistent lineup for a couple of albums, we know where everyone shines and where to push and pull. We are much more cohesive artistically and knew who to rely on, and where. For example, recording vocals can be very personal and often it’s like walking on eggshells, but Beau is such a champ about taking criticism. Recording this album was such a great team effort this time, which was nice. All of us were very open to change and criticism, and that’s a rare thing to find. I hope it is like that on every record.