Grandfather: How to Record and Release an Album in 7 Days (with Steve Albini)

We are really proud to bring you an update on a band really close to our hearts – Grandfather. Mike Kirsch, the band’s guitarist, used to work in here for us at ProAudioStar and is now hitting the road touring behind Grandfather’s debut album – recorded with Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana).

You may have also read his classic, still-relevant early 90’s article The Problem with Music an extra popular piece about the state of the music industry, it’s a read if you haven’t checked it out.)

Grandfather has been getting a lot of buzz lately. Both for their their amazing music (download their album at the Grandfather Website) and for the innovative way they are going about releasing their album. Steve Albini just mentioned them in his recent interview with GQ magazine when they asked him “Is there a young artist with integrity who inspires you today?”

I have an unusual perspective in that I make records every day for a living. I see a lot of bands on a weekly basis. I see little
bits and pieces of behavior that are encouraging. There was a band that came into the studio a while back called Grandfather. They were an art rock band that organized the funding of their record through Kickstarter. They were really well rehearsed and came into the studio and knocked the record out in a couple of days. Because they didn’t have a record label or any promotion schedule to adhere to, they were able to get their record manufactured and distributed within a couple of months. That’s the kind of nimble, efficient behavior that was previously impossible when there was a corporate structure involved. It gives me confidence other bands will figure it out. The last time Shellac put out a record, we finished it in June 2006. It wasn’t actually in the stores until June of the following year. It took an entire calendar year for that record to inch its way through the production, manufacturing and distribution steps and get into the store. I’m impressed when I see bands taking advantage of these efficiencies that we’re allowed now. That’s something that gives me great confidence about the way bands are going to function in the future.

Read More http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-q/2010/09/steve-albini.html#ixzz12Ry5rqwm

Their album “Why I’d Try” is currently available in high quality audio formats for free online downloads. They are also selling a limited edition run of 12″ vinyl of Why I’d Try with awesome artwork from Brooklyn artist Kendra Elliot.

A while back we post about their Kickstarter page which they used to raise the funds to press their vinyl. This was a great way to have their fans pre-order the album so the costs of the pressing didn’t come out of their own pockets. We definitely recommend checking out Kickstarter.com if you haven’t yet – it’s an exceptionally simple yet far reaching platform.

To promote their album Mike took to popular gear forums to document and outline their entire recording process with Steve Albini. Their forum thread has become one of the most popular of the year on the popular site

Gearslutz. (Check out the Grandfather thread on Gearslutz here.). The band goes into details of mic placement, and how they approached the recording. This type of documentation is extremely fascinating for all the gear heads out there. It’s amazing to get a peek on such a micro level of Steve Albini’s recording process. To top it off Albini himself even left some posts in their thread. This helped them to find a bunch of fans who were excited to buy their vinyl to hear it for themselves.

Additionally, the back story behind their decision to record with a professional engineer also adds intrigue to their album. For about a year they were attempting to record and mix their album on their own. However, because Grandfather’s sound is so stripped down – guitar, bass, drums, and vocals and with minmal electronic effects – getting a great raw recording was paramount. They played around in Logic for a while, never quite being satisfied with the results. They even tried outsourcing the mix to some freelancers, but again the results were not what their music needed.

The members of Grandfather decided to basically sell all their worldly possessions and go for broke by dropping every last nickel they had on the chance to record with Albini in his studio in Chicago. Once they got the funds together Mike gave us his two weeks notice, and we said goodbye to him as he set off to finally get his band’s debut record completed.

I must say we were all impressed with the balls it took to do this. If the album didn’t come out well it would be like throwing everything away. But, I think they made the right choice because their record really does sound great.

With only 3 days to record with Albini Grandfather opted to record each track ‘live’, meaning one take to get it right. Also, because they were recording to tape there wasn’t room to do tons of takes. The pressure was on. Luckily they devoted months to intense rehearsal and their preparation paid off. Five of the nine tracks on the album were recording in just one take – amazing, really.

If you interested in learning more about their recording process, Mike has a featured 4 part blog series over at Sonic Scoop:
Part I
Part II

Part III and IV are coming soon. This series is a seriously great read.

Needless to say we are super proud of a ProAudioStar alumni doing great things in the music world. We really like Grandfather’s methodology and approach to releasing music as a new band. It is an inspiring and great model for other bands to follow. Be sure to check out their music. You should like Grandfather’s Facebook Page. Whether you like their music or not following their progress as a band will certainly be very educational.

Some Grandfather treats below….

Grandfather – AWOL (Live in Williamsburg) from Big Ass Lens on Vimeo.

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