Now that the EP is out, I’ve been reading some blog posts from the past 2,5 years and revisiting photos and videos we made during visits to Moskou and DSS. It’s interesting to see that plans changed quite a bit during the process; inevitable, I suppose, when you take this long with anything. It’s good that the goals themselves never changed. The ‘artistic vision’, if you will, remained intact. It helped to know what we were working towards, to have that clear idea which at times seemed unattainable and is now very much a reality, at last. If the entire production process, including preparation, seeking musicians, rehearsing etc. was metaphorically comprised of small steps, then each studio recording session signified a big leap forward. It was after each ‘leap’ that the result became a bit more tangible. I thought it would be cool to put together some kind of gallery to collect those moments, these leaps of progress.
I was lucky to work with really cool people who were willing to do their best at putting the pieces together, so this is about them as much as it is about the record. The order will be chronological. Photos courtesy of Wouter, Silvia and Misha.
June 2019 – grand piano @ Studio Moskou
It’s strange when you think about it, but the first thing we recorded for the EP was in fact grand piano. Aline played over a guide track with an early version of the song (basically chords and beats) and we had to figure out what sounded best. We tried various parts in different ways and Silvia edited the recordings into a working track. Most of the piano melodies were based on guitar parts from demos of the song but we rewrote a lot of sections and added chords for which Aline gets most of the credit. I’ve known Aline for close to fourteen years yet this was the first time we worked on music together. You could say that the EP is born in part from our friendship.
October 2019 – violin @ Studio Moskou
Julia was mentioned by Akelei’s co-founder Ward when I told him I was looking for a violinist. They had jammed before in Wageningen. As it turned out, Julia is an online violin teacher with lots of content on Youtube. It became quite clear that she is a proficient player! As I was already writing sheet music for violin, I asked her help in adding accentuations and generally ‘proof-reading’ the parts with me. That way, we were well prepared when it was time to enter the studio. As you can see in the photo, Silvia recorded Julia through several microphones: two nearby and two more (not on photo) for room acoustics.
November 2019 – viola @ Studio Moskou
It took a while to find a violist. None of my friends knew anyone who plays viola so I had to expand my search methods. When ads at the music academy gave no results, I resorted to emailing student ensembles to see if they could help. This turned out to be a great strategy because of their big network. I think the message was forwarded a couple a of times until eventually Ronja saw it and responded. This was her first time recording in a studio and she did a great job. She didn’t even stress when I decided – in between sessions – to rewrite a section at the end of the song. As you can see, we used the same mic set up as with Julia.
July 2020 – bass guitar @ Studio Moskou
It was great to hear Harm’s enthusiasm when we first discussed recording plans over a phone call. But that was at the end of 2017 and a whole lot of things happened that kept pushing the project further back. The outbreak of the Corona virus was actually but a minor factor in this delay. We were still welcome to record at Moskou, a spacious studio, where Silvia arranged for us all to keep distance during sessions. It was really nice to see Harm again, we hadn’t met in years. Still as relaxed and easy to work with as always. Awesome guy. I’m happy to say that Akelei finally has a record with him playing bass on it!
May 2021 – drums @ DSStudio
To work with Josha again after so many years of us minding our own projects was perhaps the best thing that happened with this EP. I got off to a false start with the recordings back in ’17/’18 and had to re-record drums after the bass had already been tracked. Anyone who’s ever recorded a rock band knows that this is not the preferred order of things! But Josha is not only my brother but also a total professional and he tackled the challenge head on. At home, we discussed song dynamics and made changes to every song after he suggested some different appoaches and grooves. We used one day to record everything with Dave (on the left in the photos) and I really didn’t have to do much. When the drums already sound great without anyone touching the controls, you know it’s going to be a good day. Probably the only session where I got to mostly sit back and relax.
May 2021 – guitars @ Studio Moskou & DSStudio
Ahh, guitar days. Always plural, because there’s so much of them. Even when you think you’re done, it turns out you forgot something and you add another day because why not take the opportunity to redo some other parts? On the left photo you can see Matthijs and his kick-ass collection of effect pedals, trying out various sounds for the clean guitar parts. On the right is me frowning over a JCM 2000 and probably reconsidering the settings again while listening to a take. I got to admire Matthijs’ knowledge of his gear. He knows how to fix things when something doesn’t sound quite right. Together, we created a 5-minute spaced out, ambient interlude that glues two songs together. I think it’s the most experimental thing I’ve ever done on record. For Matthijs it was probably very much on the safe side. He will throw a dissonant wall of noise your way if given half the chance.
Picture left: the amps used at Moskou. Fender and Hiwatt for clean and effects guitars (Matthijs), Orange and Marshall for the rhythm parts (Misha). Picture right: Engl Powerball and me at DSS, tracking additional guitars (leads and more ambient stuff).
July 2021 – vocals @ Studio Moskou
I wish I had more photos of the vocal recordings but I guess we were too busy to think of that at the time. There’s more singing on this EP than on Akelei’s older songs, so it only made sense to invite some friends to help me out. On the picture to the right, L-R: Lisette,
Lenin, Aline and Ørnulf. Lisette is the singer for Scarlet Stories and their debut album impressed me quite a bit. She has a very recognisable voice which I like so the idea of having her sing on the title track with me was an exciting one. Very cool that she accepted! Aline needs no further introduction. Ørnulf and I have known each other since 2007, I think. It’s always interesting to talk about music with him. He has a band called Exit Bloom in which he sings and plays guitar. The mood on this day was very creative and fun, I have fond memories of working with everyone. A few of us got beers and food afterwards and enjoyed the sunny weather outside at dB’s.
I stayed over in Utrecht that night because there was more vocal work to do. Aline also came back to sing her parts on the third song of the EP: Hierna (van binnenuit). She would soon after travel to the US for a year so it was going to be the last we would see of each other for some time. This reason made working on the music together extra meaningful. If you listen to the song, you’ll hear that our voices sound very different but also very strong together. I consider it most likely that we’ll collaborate on an Akelei song again 🙂
Lenin, Silvia and me Dave and me
That goes for the studio personnel as well! Both Silvia and Dave are skilled audio engineers and friendly people. I looked forward to every session with them and always felt confident that it was going to be a productive day. Now I’m looking forward to working with them again, also with other bands/projects (Josha and I have been talking of another Bastaard recording…)
Alright, it’s a wrap. I hope you enjoyed this gallery! If you haven’t yet, check out the finished EP here: https://akelei.bandcamp.com