Stuart McCallum on recording The Breath’s ‘Carry Your Kin’

Stuart McCallum, guitarist and songwriter from The Breath, gives us a fascinating insight into the recording processes and equipment used in making the band's debut album 'Carry Your Kin'. The album was recorded at Real World Studios, as well as Rosehill Studios in Manchester and Stuart's own home studio, and was mixed by Tchad Blake.

The album is essentially an acoustic recording. Some of the acoustic instruments were modulated through electronic processors to closely integrate the electronic and acoustic sounds. After recording some initial demos in Manchester we spent a week at Real World Studios laying down the band tracks and lead vocals, before coming back to Manchester and recording the backing vocals in my home studio and the orchestral instruments at Rosehill Studios in Manchester.

Ríoghnach Connolly tracks vocals at Real World Studios. Photo credit: York Tillyer.

The amazing U47 microphone that we used on the vocals, which has been used to record Peter Gabriel, Tom Jones and Robert Plant to name but a few, really added character to the record.

The acoustic sound of the drums in The Wood Room also gave a lot of possibilities in the mix. We had two different overhead pairs— AKG C12s and Cole 4038s, as well as two different sets of room mics— Cole 4038s a few feet in front of the kit and DPA 4011 on the mezzanine above the kit.

There was also an old Mac laptop mic inside an old upright piano that gave a really trashy sound. Recording the backing vocals for the album took a long time as we would double track each harmony— on some tracks there were up to 30 backing vocal tracks. To record the BVs we used a Neumann U89 through a TLA PA1 preamp and to avoid building up lots of room sound we used an SE Electronics Reflexion Filter.

The Breath with Real World Studios engineer Patrick Phillips. Photo credit: York Tillyer.

The mix engineer, Tchad Blake, made a huge impact into the overall sound of the album. I would finish each track and consolidate all the files onto a USB stick and post it to Tchad. A couple of weeks later I would get an mp3 of the first mix emailed to me that would always blow me away. Tchad has an amazing skill to make everything sit around the vocal and sound so big. He would also add momentum to the arrangements by dropping instruments in and out of the mix. It was an exciting experience hearing such a master at work.

Featured Release

  • Carry Your Kin

    The Breath

    Released 07 July 2016

    Born out of Manchester's fertile music scene The Breath mix Irish folk influences with mesmerizing guitar riffs, anthemic themes and powerful hooks. In turns hypnotic, lush, powerfully raw and raucously punchy, their songs entrance, uplift and break your heart as The Breath conjure a kaleidoscope of sound that perfectly frames Connolly's raw songs and soul cleansing vocals.

By Stuart McCallum

Published on Thu, 19 May 16

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