“That was great… Now do it again please”: In the studio with The Hotel Lobbyists
Imagine stepping into an elevator and pushing the button for your floor. The elevator begins to ascend. It’s a pleasant ride. When you reach your chosen floor, the door opens. But before you can exit, the door slams shut and you go back to the ground floor, only to go through this again and again and again and again. When it finally appears that the ride has ended, you receive a bill in the thousands. Welcome to studio recording.
Any person who went through this exercise and remained sane would never again complain when they hear how much a musician makes after he/she has finally “made it.”
There are moments of sheer genius and exhilaration in the studio but they are often hidden in long periods of pedantic perfection seeking. But those periods can so often pay off with an album you can be proud of.
This afternoon, I am embedded with The Hotel Lobbyists at The Factory. They seem to be holding up well. A marathon recording session can do in the sanest of psyches. The repetition tends to wear heavy on people. Repetition can bum you out or allow you to finally find that one, little thing you’ve been missing. Like a surfer riding a wave, the object is not to fall off.
Jordie Dammet (bass) crashes on the couch while Mike Gurr (drums) and Jim Legacy (vocals, guitar) sit up at the mixing board, relentlessly teasing Jordan Isaacs (guitar), who stands in the studio putting down guitar tracks.
Bad jokes tend to take on a life of their own in the studio. When my band first recorded, it was creepy Hannibal Lector and Buffalo Bill impersonations that kept the mood light. Today, for reasons I don’t even try to understand (outsiders never get the joke two days into its life), Mutt Lange is being put through the wringer (along with Isaacs). I am reminded of the schoolmaster from “The Wall” screaming, “Wrong! Do it again!” Except this time, it’s, “Yeah, that was really cool. Now do it again!”
When Isaacs is finished, the playback begins. Something in the music hearkens back to a time, twenty or thirty years ago, before rock music started to suck en masse. Pumping through the speakers in the control room is 70s guitar music with new energy, a new perspective, and with none of the pretentiousness of the “Arena Rock” fucktards. The Hotel Lobbyists care greatly about how they sound but never forget exactly what it is that they are doing.
This is how rock and roll should sound and The Hotel Lobbyists are one of the Vancouver bands that are splitting rock and new wave back into their respective corners again, attempting to draw rock and roll away from the edge of wishy-washy, emo shit.
As I listen to the playback of Isaacs’ lead on “Antelopes and Snakes”, I think to myself, “That is a rock guitar.”
There is a real art to producing something that people can go back and check and when they get into the real nitty-gritty, “producer stuff”, I retire quietly to the kitchenette in the studio’s foyer. Studio recording is cool but it can try the patience of a stone. Besides, I don’t need to be in there; I know what’s happening. I’ve been here and this is where the band and the producer dig in and go inch by inch through the tracks, the place where “tone” no longer means sound, but borders on atmosphere.
From what I’ve heard, The Hotel Lobbyists have a winner on their hands. As I leave, they are still slugging it out with the tracks in the control room. Walking down Main towards Pat’s Pub, I smile at how cool it is to hang out in a recording studio and how glad I am that I’m not still trapped in there.