Following on from the release of their new album 'You Never Know', shoegazers Flyying Colours sat down with Mixdown to chat about the tools behind their sound.
As far as shoegaze goes in Down Under, Flyying Colours are the act. The band’s last record Fantasy Country set the indie-guitar spaca abuzz – a global and domestic success, the LP received feature records spots from publications and outlets all across the country. Flyying colours have also seen a great deal of success in North America, and the birthplace of shoegaze itself, the UK, with KEXP and BBC6 having consistently sung the praises of their euphoric, honey-sweet riffage over the past few years.
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Following on from the release of their fantastic new album You Never Know, Flyying Colours sat down with Mixdown to chat all about the tools behind their blissful, reverb laden sound.
How has the band’s writing and recording process evolved from the release of the last LP up to this new album, was there a conscious effort to expand the band’s sound this time around or do you folks work more intuitively and see how things shake out?
I think going into making this record we consciously knew we wanted to expand our sound in a production sense, which led us to working with Woody Annison again, who produced, recorded and mixed You Never Know. We’ve worked with Woody pretty extensively so he’s super familiar with us, what we’re chasing and how to get the best out of us. Having him with us throughout the whole recording process was great and he very much steered the ship, expanding and refining arrangements, letting us know when something was definitely working or was, well, shit. There were certainly many moments which we knew there was perhaps something missing in a track, be it a feel based thing, an instrumental or vocal part, and we’d work on that until it felt right intuitively. But I guess that’s nothing unusual and really a typical part of making a record.
As a multi-vocal band, what is the FC writing process like? Is it entirely collaborative, or do individual members tinker alone and then present to the group?
It’s a pretty simple process for us really. Brodie will typically have a collection of songs he’s been working on and present them to the rest of the band as demos. Then we’ll either hash them out in the studio and refine as we go, or work on them in pre production then really flesh things out in the studio. As for the multi vocal aspect, that’s generally figured out between Brodie and Gemma when recording and is kept pretty lucid and free flowing, getting ideas, harmonies etc down as they come about.
Talk me through your workflow from demo to track completion.
As alluded to in the previous question, typically Brodie will have a collection of songs in demo form. As in the case of You Never Know we were fortunate enough to be able to spend a couple of days in a studio dedicated to pre production in which we recorded all the tracks live then used them as a reference point to then take to the studio and work on with Woody. This allowed us to have a slightly clearer idea as to what our rough parts were going to be when getting the beds down and refining those parts with Woody as we went. With previous records though, it’s been all levels of patching pieces together to land on a finished track, so making this latest album was a bit of a breeze in comparison.
Which pieces of equipment are integral to each of you when it comes to translating FC’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Any sure-fire tricks that allow you to recreate that rich and densely layered shoegaze distortion without muddying things?
There’s no real trade secrets to reveal or keep under wraps here, what you see is what you get really. Most of our pedal boards remain more or less the same from studio to live, just different combinations of pedals and/or switching out a guitar here and there to get the right vibe for the part in the studio. Then we just work with our live setups to get as close as we can to what we’re made in the studio, and hope it translates! We’ll occasionally run some samples via a (Roland) SPDSX depending on the song and use this for transitions between songs; cause silence on stage is deafening! The only other thing we do from time to time is run an extra guitar amp live to help fill out the stage sound and give Woody something extra to work with on his end at FOH.
Whenever I can be it in the studio or live, I’ll always try and use my vintage Ludwig kit. It’s a beautiful champagne sparkle, which looks great on stage and sounds amazing! Other than that, my Zildjian Constantinople 22” medium thin low ride has really influenced my cymbal sound and my snare is a one in million Pearl Sensitone snare that actually sounds fantastic. It sounds more like a Ludwig… than a cheap, crappy snare that it should be.
Brodie has a couple of main stayers on his pedalboard which he’s really made his own. One being the Electro Harmonix Super Ego, which he uses in a really unique way and sounds incredible. The other is an Australian made pedal called the Sunday Driver. As you might have guessed it’s an overdrive but has a really interesting breakup and pairs particularly well with his Fender Jag. And speaking of, his guitar sound just wouldn’t be the same without THAT guitar, it rules!
Gem has a beautiful Japanese Fender Strat that she’s had for years now, great tone, awesome for feedback and a dream to play. Pedal wise, her Musket (a souped up Big Muff) is a big part of her dirty electric guitar sound. We’ve recently added in one of the Xotic Effects EP Boosters which is always on. Really fills out the Strat and has this nice compression thing going on, without being a compressor. Go figure.
We sometimes tour with a synth, which is a MicroKorg XL, which some custom patches and with a delay pedal running in line. Nothing specific, just anything that can be mangled.
As for studio, we’ll generally tinker on whatever we can get our mitts on. The Juno 6 at Red Door Sounds got a good workout on this latest album.
Mel’s setup is genius and wonderfully simple. A Fender Musicmaster bass (from the 70’s I believe), which is a dream to play and sounds incredible. An Elk Viking 120 tube bass head, which is a really cool vintage amp from the 70’s and made in Japan I believe. Super round and punchy sounding, which pairs great with her Fender bass. And an Ampeg 8×10” fridge when we have one available. No pedals, just bass and amp. Why complicate the bass, right?!
For live, a Shure Beta 57a for Brodie (because who needs bottom end in a vocal in a shoegaze band) and Gem uses a (Shure) Beta 58a. As for effects we usually leave that up to Woody to work his magic but if we find ourselves not with Woody as our engineer we sometimes use a Death By Audio Echo Master unit, which is a really cool echo/delay box which can get pretty crazy! Oliver and the legends at DBA are absolute wizards! We love their pedals!
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