L-R: Studio partners Lester Estelle and Robert Venable, bassist Henry Ebarb, drummer Frankie Muniz and lead vocalist Aaron Brown
Producer/engineer Robert Venable spent the month of January in his Off the Wall Studios (Nashville, co-owned by drummer/engineer Lester Estelle) tracking alternative rockers You Hang Up. Based in Phoenix, the band is fronted by singer/songwriter/musician Aaron Brown, and features a famous drummer: Frankie Muniz, the actor/musician best known for his role as the star of the hit TV show Malcolm in the Middle.
Venable had recorded Brown’s previous You Hang Up project when the “band” was simply Brown playing every instrument and singing every vocal part. When those recordings generated some buzz, Brown and Venable recruited actual bandmembers (Henry Ebarb on bass; Aaron’s brother, Chris Brown, on lead guitar; and Muniz) so that You Hang Up would be able to play live. Now, with a few labels interested in new recordings, they’re making their first full-length album with Venable and co-producer Joe Fitz.
Off the Wall has been online since November of ’09; Venable and Estelle built it out in an existing 1914 house. Most of their equipment came had been accumulated throughout the years (outboard from Vintech, API, Focusrite, UA and others; KRK E8 monitors, Pro Tools 8 and lots more), but the owners did acquire their Trident Series 24 board for the new studio. “We love the way they sound, and the EQs are really clean,” Venable says. “It’s punchy on drums. We had it recapped and the master section modded a little bit; it sounds great.”
Venable had the band lay down tracks one part at a time, working from drums and rhythm guitars to bass to vocals, and actually adding guitar solos last. He also brought in a string quartet made up of music students from nearby Belmont University. “We’re going to use some library strings for thickening,” he says, “but we have the quartet pushed forward in the mix for that timbre and feeling that real strings have; you can’t get that with plug-ins or emulators.”
As this issue went to press, Venable and Fitz were getting ready to mix. “Aaron is such a great songwriter,” Venable says. “Wait till you hear this stuff.”