Under the State Trooper’s Radar

I’ve spent the last two years just about in the chair of my production studio, figuring out Protools and testing mics and preamps and trying to get good sounds. Vocal takes, guitar takes, all that stuff…it’s pretty good practice actually, spending that much time on nine songs.

Now, finally, I have some spare time to play other songs and get inspired to write some new ones. I’d been subletting my jamspace for the past year to save money for the recording…now I’ve got it back and I’m playing drums and guitar and jamming with some great musicians. I went through my voice memo recording and took five days to organize them all…there’s an accumulation of 3 years of ideas I haven’t properly gone through.

So my boyfriend Linus has been encouraging me to do Youtube videos, get used to being in front of a video camera. I used to love that stuff when I was younger…my childhood friends Dan and Adam Brown and I used to make tapes of us joking around when I was living back in Michigan. Well, now I’ve got a sweet little production studio and I’m hopefully going to stick to my new years resolution of doing covers of songs by artists I like, and maybe a few of my own tunes. Linus is the cameraman and video editor, I’m the sound engineer. It’s a little sonic and visual tour of the room where I’ve spent the past two years editing and doing takes.

So without further ado, here’s my cover of Bruce Springsteen’s State Trooper, my favorite tune from his album Nebraska. It’s an excellent tune and really fun to play. A little vocal frye and overtones in there for effect.

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I had a great end of summer trip to the pastoral Gaspésie Region of Quebec playing some shows in front of the ocean with seals honking in the background. We traveled to Gaspé with Blood and Glass and played the Shigawake Music Festival with Patrick Watson and The Barr Brothers. The highlight for me was staying up till sunrise in a barn the last night with Sarah and Joe and singing Will Oldham songs, and finding a bottle of terrible whisky partway through the night before the others had retired.

Shigawake is a very special place and a special festival.

After a return to Montreal, having had my summer fill of “squeaky cheese” (i.e. artisanal poutine cheese), I started preparing to go back to another beautiful landscape in Quebec to shoot the music video for my first new single, Under the Radar. I haven’t done much art since high school…but thanks to my internet research and stumbling upon Jonni Good’s website, I’ve built some beautiful antlers and a mask to outfit my friend Maica Mia. Her costume is sublime; my partner Linus had the vision in a dream and we’re nearly close to completing it. I’ll be layering paper maché and varnishing throughout the rest of the week while we finish the storyboard. We’ll be shooting the video north of Montreal. It’s cold enough now not to have to worry about insects tormenting us, but I’m praying it doesn’t rain.

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As a self-produced artist, mixing has always been such a beautifully stressful process for me.  It usually takes place as the budget is running out, so each decision counts because there’s usually not enough funds to remix.  And if you don’t love the result, then the song has to be remixed or you won’t love your album.  This would be easy-peasy if I was willing to mix “in-the-box” as they say, but my ears always prefer an analog mix. No last-minute tweaking for me.  I prefer the pressure and excitement that an analog mix offers.  I also did most of my first records at the Hotel2Tango, and this is how Radwan works.

It’s been a while since Radwan Moumneh and I mixed Gold Rings and Fur Pelts so I forgot just how much pressure I feel when making concrete decisions for the album.  Mixing an album typically takes over a week…Gold Rings was mixed in 3 days.

Radwan is a monster mixer in his ability to work under pressure.  We did 14 hour days, and then Radwan left for a month-long sojourn to Lebanon on a 5 am flight the next morning. This guy knows how to get things done and make every song shine.   And his project Jerusalem in My Heart is amazing.  He’s got a really beautiful voice.

I recorded a lot of the Gold Rings vocals at home on my Audio Technica 4047 (which Radwan had recommended…and I still love this mic) and a Mackie sound card.  I focused less on the sound and more on the performance.  Looking back, I had no idea about using class-A  preamps or fancy converters.  I learned about those aspects of production for this new record, and the sounds I was able to capture really paid off.  This time around, I got both the vocal performances and the sounds to shine.

I had a few friends give me excellent production advice along the way:  Bob Oliver, Martin Rodriguez and James Finnerty. Not to mention Dimitri Condax, who continues to help me in these final stages.

I’m mixing A Golden Grin with Mark Lawson.  I first heard of Mark through Montreal bands like The Unicorns, Black Feelings and Saltlands, and when I heard Basia Bulat’s Long Tall Shadow and Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creeping On, the mixes floored me.  They were as noticeably beautiful as the music.  So when we decided to work together, I was pretty excited.  He’s a heavy hitter.

So far we’ve mixed 7 out of 9 songs. We’re working on Who Can I Run To, which Sam Shalabi did an amazing string arrangement for.  Some of the string players from Warhol Dervish played on it.  The vocal is so present and the instrumentation so moody and sparse, this is a far trickier song to mix than I had anticipated.  Once we finish that, there’s just one more to go. I just can’t wait to get everything mixed, and then I can finally hear this lbum.  I’m going to (hopefully) master them in June as well as filming a music video for Under the Radar.

This June is going to be a musical month. Aside from mastering and music videos, I’ll be attending the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival as much as possible.  There’s an insane lineup this year, check out the program here.

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A Golden Grin


Hello all and happy 2014! I realize it’s been a while since my last post…but with very good reason. I’ve neglected my friends and family, set up in my home studio listening, editing, doing test mixes and spending hours writing emails in both French and English (try writing in French on an English PC…it takes hours to use all those alt+ codes…I even accidentally learned some weird symbols like musical notes in the process) trying to get things together for this release.  Probably wasted some time updating my facebook as well if I’m being perfectly honest.

I would like to announce that I was extremely thrilled to work with engineer Mark Lawson on a recent test mix and we have plans to complete the mixing in early March. He’s mixed some really amazing records…which was how I became a fan initially (he produced Basia Bulat’s Tall Tall Shadow…a really sonically beautiful record…and I instantly looked up who the producer was). So being able to work with him is a pretty huge thing for my album. The working title is A Golden Grin which comes from a line in my tune O Pioneer: “Well you can steal something yourself/ Or you can buy it from a thief/ Who seals his lips to hide his teeth / A golden grin underneath.”

I definitely appear to have an obsession with having “Gold” in my album titles, but then again maybe this stems from my obsession with Greek myths–the golden apples of discord, the golden apples of Hippolyte, the golden fleece.  Originally I was planning on naming my record company “Golden Apple Records” instead of “Syren Songs” but my sister reminded me how litigious Apple Records was with Apple Computers in the late 70s (their court order stipulated that Apple Computers stay out of the music business, which is why the Beatles only made it to iTunes a few years ago). I did eventually redirect my obsession with gold to North America; I wrote O Pioneer after visiting Dawson City in the Yukon, which is still surrounded by tailings ponds and gold claims. A Golden Grin has a lot less to do with Greek myths than Gold Rings and Fur Pelts did.

I wrote a bunch of this material with the help of CALQ last year. I never would have been able to take the time to write these songs without them. I really appreciate their support. I’ll be publishing some of my lyrics to the upcoming record on my blog over the coming months, stay tuned!

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I just spent the past three weeks in and out of the studio and editing vocal takes. At this point in the year, it’s been just over 7 months of recording.  I got some really amazing stuff at my friend Bob’s place, using his vintage McCurdy mixer and tube pres in combination with some glorious ribbon mics. I rented the SE RNR1 from Economik as well as a Coles. Ended up using the Coles for main vocals on one song and back vocals on most. I’m hoping that out of 23 takes I did for “So Sad” I have the definitive one. Oddly enough, I think I’m leaning towards one of the first ones I did.

I’m definitely in love with the sound of the SE (for those of you who know who Rupert Neve is, it’s his first collaboration on a mic design) and it sounded amazing at Bob’s studio. I have been flirting with the idea of owning it…but only if i can resolve the fact that it picks up RF (Radio Frequencies) when I use it at home in the inexplicably saturated Plateau here in Montreal. I don’t understand why every powerful tube amp I’ve owned plus this mic sound great elsewhere…take ‘em home to the Plateau and they’re unusable…but some fellas have attributed it to the fact that Montreal buildings weren’t properly grounded to begin with. It seems every sound engineer has their own theory, I’m getting more involved with gear and production as each year goes by so I find myself shooting the bull about these theories more and more often. Maybe one day soon I can beat that notorious bugger RF…and then the SE and I can be reunited.

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Happy 2013

I just played a beautiful show with my band and one of my biggest influences, Josephine Foster, as part of the Suoni Per Il Popolo Off Festival on April 29. Check out the video below for a taste of our live sound and new tunes:

Check out m video section for more footage from this performance.

I have three upcoming shows, a Montreal fundraiser on June 8 for my guitar player/producer Martin Rodriguez featuring Akua, Le Trouble, Emma Frank and Zhozhoblue. See the event details HERE. I’ll be playing with the same band as in the above video.

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