Emily Lazar and The Lodge

23 December 2009

I awoke at 7:30am. These are not rock and roll hours, but, under the circumstances, this being the day of the cut and all, I made the exception. It’s cold in New York City. The cut is the last stage of the recording process. It’s the delivery of the baby and the cutting engineer is the midewife. Our midwife today is Emily Lazar. I have never cut a record with a girl before. Greg Calby had a sweet feminine heart yes, Bob Ludwig could tap into his inner woman but this was the real thing and she’s one of the best.  The Lodge is located on Broadway  around 8th street.

When I arrived, she was just saying goodbye to Rostam of Vampire Weekend. They just cut their record. Hanging on the walls were discs from many great records. Bowie , The Shins, Lou Reed… Emily’s place is set up to make you feel like you are hanging out at her apartment. There was a very cute terrapin in his tank. I introduced myself, got some coffee and a beagle and cream cheese and then we began cutting.

When you cut a record, you give them the tracks and they put them into their system. Then they go through each song with a fine tooth sonic comb, pushing and pulling frequencies, matching volumes, creating spaces between each track. Emily’s technique involves the use of stems. Stems are groups of tracks in your session which are consolidated into single tracks. A drum stem, for instance, would be a stereo track with the mixed balanced drums on it. Then you might have a guitar stem. The bass might sit on its own stem…when all these stems are laid out it gives the cutting engineer more control. I had never cut like this before but  the difference from our mixes to the stems was huge…

We started at 11 and finished at 2.30am… the longest cut in my career. The record sounds massive.

Untitled from Fran Healy on Vimeo.

After saying goodbye, emery and I walked to the corner of his street and after hugs, we went our ways. I am leaving tomorrow 4pm taxi. I get the record at 2pm.

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22 December 2009

It’s nearly Christmas. The finish line is in sight. We met in the breakfast room this morning. I tried to make a waffle, forgetting to coat the waffle griddle in spray oil. I ate a muffin with egg and cheese after spending 10 minutes scraping the cooked waffle mix out of deep, roasting hot grooves. Being a vegetarian is working out though. I haven’t had any longing for meat or fish yet.  Will that happen?

The drive back was another marathon 6 hour journey . We learned some new things about eachother, some wholesome, some downright gnarly. I shan’t, however, break our vow of secrecy. What is said in the Ford Explorer, stays in the Ford Explorer.

It was so good to get back to New York. We drove to Emery’s studio in Hoboken. Hoboken is over the river. It is an Italian borough I hear. It’s most famous son is Frank Sinatra. Emery’s place is excellent. They just had a new desk installed. It’s called an Electrodyne. These desks are to be heard on alot of motown records. This particular desk recorded sessions for Who’s Next by The Who and Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix… you know…Motown classics… This evening though it would be mixing Fran Healy and Neko Case.

We left the studio at midnight or 1am . It was nice to get home. Still some little bits to do. It’s nearly done.



22 December 2009

Emery came round today at 8.30 am. We got our shit together and headed to Hertz. Miraculously, the main roads had been ploughed and gritted overnight and were clear. The drive to vermont was beautiful. Terror Twilight played us out of the city into open counrty. The journey was long.

With 100 miles to drive I was doing a checklist in my head when my heart skipped. I had left the lead that connects the computer to the recording desk lying on the table at our apartment. I drove afew more miles before telling Emery. He took the news calmly and immediately began fiddling with his blackberry. “There’s a Radioshack near” he said. We were in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday so this was good news. He called them and the lady said they maybe had something so we drove up the freeway another 25 miles and peeled off toward Springfield. They didn’t have it. Shit! We drove to a Staples near where we were heading. Nothing. We hit Walmart. Nothing. Then Emery called his friend who lived 30 minutes from Neko. His friend is a sound engineer and is always on tour so he wasn’t even sure if his friend would be in, nevermind have this lead. But he was there and he had the lead.

NEKO (no sound) from Fran Healy on Vimeo.

We got to Neko’s place 30 minutes later. She had just arrived too. She’d driven from Arizona which was a massive 3 day drive. She was there with her dog Liza and Nate, who had helped me with directions all day. Neko bought an old Post Office building a year and a half ago and is in the middle of making into a workplace. It had been an arts centre. We set up the studio in the cinema section, amongst boxes and furniture some of which Neko had just delivered from Arizona. Then “the lead” arrived so after eating some food we started tracking. Neko sang amazing. She’s the best singer out there. We worked for 3 hours getting all the bits we needed and then packed up and that was that. Hugs and christmas wishes exchanged, we departed for the hotel. Sleep came quickly.

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Weather Update

20 December 2009

Car pick up at 9am.

Untitled from Fran Healy on Vimeo.

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The Cutting Room

19 December 2009

Snow is falling. We are at the Cutting Room on 4th Street laying Paul’s bassline into the song. Sounds cool.

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18 December 2009

Just booked the car we’ll be driving on Sunday.

After getting some food last night, I caught up with some friends at a bar on Avenue A. Everyone said “You’re driving to Vermont??” Apparently it’s quite a drive. Google maps said around 6 hours… that is quite a drive. Roadtrip!!

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Neu York

17 December 2009

Touched down in New York this afternoon as the sun was setting. The past three weeks have been tense. We left New York the day after our last Joes Pub gig and arrived in Berlin the following afternoon. Emery arrived the following day and we started tracking the day after that. I am making my first solo record. It’s called Wreckorder. Why is it called Wreckorder? I think i liked that it sounds like recorder but looks like wreckorder, meaning change the order, wreck the order, which, by virtue of making a record alone (almost alone) and it definitely feels a world away from making a Travis record, the order has been well and truly wrecked. Also I wanted to have a Holiday, a vacation from the band.

I love making demos. I would bring them to the band and we would re-record them and make them sound better/more professional but the thing which made the demo magic would always be lost in the final recordings. We would have demo-itis early on, trying to recapture that “thing”. It took a while to realise our time would be better spent trying to make new moments. I suppose that “thing” is just connected to the first time you do something. There is a certain cool carelessness which comes from not knowing where something is leading you. The usual procedure would be write songs-make demos-take demos to band-make album. Taking Travis out of the flow chart meant the recording process would stop at demo stage. But it would have to sound good too. It has to sound like a record yet have the  effervescence of a demo…

So I bought a nice old 10 channel recording desk and some beautiful microphones and began making new demos. Writing for something other than Travis was a great release. There was no baggage. No map. When I had enough cool moments, I asked the producer, Emery Dobyns, to come out to Berlin and we finished them together, adding overdubs and embellishing.

So now I’m back in New York. Emery and I are travelling up to Vermont on Sunday to record vocals with Neko Case. She’s a brilliant singer. I met her in Berlin at her show and asked if she would like to do something. “Sure” she said so I wrote a song for us to sing together.

We also had a visit from Tom Hobden from Noah And The Whale. He played violin on three of the songs. Two in the background and a solo on another.

Bass was tough. How hard could it be? It’s only got 4 strings. But it proved to be my Achilles heel. Dougie is a hard act to follow. So I asked some proper bassmen to help me out. Sam Dixon who plays with Sia and Tony Shanahan who plays with Patti came through with some great lines. I also had help from a guy in Berlin called Bjoern Werra. He played double bass.

One of the biggest coups was getting Paul McCartney to play bass on a song. I’m not sure what non McCartney songs he’s played bass on but I couldn’t think of many. Anyways his bassline is brilliant. Nora and I were sitting and were thinking of a thankyou present and I suggested going vegetarian. Our son is already one so it would mean we would all on the same boat. I met Paul at his show in Berlin and told him what we wanted to do. He was visibly flabbergasted. Three days later the Fed Ex man delivered three Linda McCartney cook books.  We LOVE Paul.

Apart from that, it’s just me. Emery helped tie up all the loose ends and made it sound amazing. Nora made cool breakfasts lunches and dinners, tea, cakes and generally took care of us. Clay was patient. Very patient. We cut it on Tuesday.

It’s nearly midnight in NYC. I am tired. I am hungry. Where can a man get veggie lasagne at midnight?