CDs take a lot of time to make. From song conception, to recording, to producing, the process of creating a finished record is painstaking and exhaustive. It requires careful precision and patience. Lots and lots of patience.
Three of the College’s a cappella groups are recording CDs this year: the Paradiddles, the Dissipated Eight and the Middlebury Mamajamas. The Paradiddles and Dissipated Eight are recording in the spring, while the Mamajamas are recording this J-term.
The Paradiddles, one of the College’s female a cappella groups, will be recording an album from April 21 to 23 using JBS Recording from Brooklyn. Since JBS has a “mobile recording studio,” they will be able to record right on campus.
“We last recorded fall 2013,” Emma Picardi ’17.5 said, “and we’ve been raising funds through paid shows and through MiddStart.”
The group also raised money in the fall when they spent a day singing in parks in Burlington — otherwise known as “busking” — and sold copies of their last CD to passersbys. Come April, the group plans to record some of their more recent material.
“We’re trying to get a lot of the newer songs that have been arranged for us onto a CD,” Laurel Rand-Lewis ’20 said. “A lot of our usual repertoire has not been recorded yet.”
Rand-Lewis joined the group during the fall semester. This will be her first CD recording with the Paradiddles.
“I think it’s going to be very different going into this semester, like really trying to grind and get everything perfect for the CD,” she added. “But I’m up for it.”
The Dissipated Eight is also up to the challenge, and will be recording in the spring. Colloquially called D8, the all-male group is the College’s oldest a cappella group.
“We will be recording hopefully right after graduation, at a studio in town called LionTone studio,” Erick Masias ’18 said. Masias is the group’s music director. “[The studio] is run by a D8 alum, Clint Bierman ’97. We will be using the funds from our fall shows, Feb Break Tour and spring shows.”
So how might a Middlebury student have time for such an ambitious endeavor? I mulled over the question as I geared up this past Friday for two busy weekends chock-full of 28 hours total of recording with my a cappella group, the Middlebury Mamajamas. We spent the preceding week preparing a total of 11 songs, most of which had been previously unrecorded by our group. The songs covered a wide range of styles, from Pentatonix’s made-for-a-cappella original “Run to You” to a cover of Alt-J’s “Breezeblocks”.
Our upcoming CD, the name of which is to be determined, will be recorded over the course of two J-Term weekends. During the first weekend, we recorded the backing tracks to many of the songs. For the second weekend, we plan on finishing the backing-tracks in addition to adding in the soloists’ tracks and body percussion (such as stomps and claps). While at first it felt strange singing the songs without their respective soloists, we soon became used to the format.
We recorded with Mr. Lane Gibson, a Vermonter who runs a full-scale music recording and mastering business on his property in Charlotte, Vt. (a 35-minute drive from the College). In the live room, we were set up with microphones for each member of the group, and Mr. Gibson adjusted each mic to fit our individual voices. We recorded each track multiple times and listened to the tracks as a group, deciding which were best to use for the final copy.
This deliberation was not always so easy — each track had parts that were good and bad, and we would sometimes have to decide whether the not-so-great sections were good enough for the final cut. Some songs were only recorded in two to three tries, while others took many more attempts. Mr. Gibson gave us lots of advice along the way, telling us which parts he could dub over and edit and which parts he thought we should re-record.
So far, the recording process has been a positive one. According to some members of the Mamajamas, this year’s process has been a stark contrast from the recording process of three years ago. This is because the Mamajamas worked with a different producer to create their last CD, “Winter.”
“For the last CD we recorded all the parts individually, which was disjointed, and it felt like I was performing for the producer rather than the producer working for us,” Harry Cramer ’16.5 said. “The recording process this year has been a lot less painful because we recorded as a group instead of individually, which allowed us to gel in the recording studio and has been more authentic and more musical.”
As a group, we definitely were able to “gel” in the studio, and singing together allowed us to feed off each other’s energy. This made the process less of a chore. However, it was still a lot of hard work.
“It’s kind of like basting a turkey,” Cody Cintrón ’17 mused. “It takes a lot more juice to get it basted than you think.”
Raising funds for this project was no small task; recording a CD is more expensive than one might think. Much funding came from paid gigs that the Mamajamas did last spring, as well as the tour that we went on this fall. During our fall tour, we traveled to Boston, New York City and many places in between, raising money along the way and staying with members’ families. We sung at various schools and taught workshops to earn money, and even sang on the Highline in New York City.
Midd a cappella fans can start getting excited about the upcoming CDs. There is a lot of new music coming out, so make sure you keep your eyes and ears peeled.