“We realized our heroes became so good because they played so many shows,” says Barrie Cadogan, the London trio’s guitarist and vocalist, and an admirer of Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Hubert Sumlin, Neil Young, and Nick Drake. “There is no substitute for the experience you get by playing live.”
The band’s full-length debut, We Are Little Barrie [Artemis], was tracked with minimal overdubs and no effects at producer Edwyn Collins’ West Heath Studios in London over a series of 23 Wednesdays.
What was your production concept for the album?
We wanted to evolve the sound of our previous records, which was like 45s from the late ’60s. When we played our raggedy demos for Edwyn, he understood what we wanted to do.
What was Edwyn’s major contribution to the sessions?
Edwyn has a really youthful energy, and he doesn’t allow rules to constrict whatever an artist is trying to achieve. As a result, we feel the album was allowed to find its own personality.
Why did you choose to remove effects from your guitar palette?
I’m a ragged mess of self-taught rhythm and blues, and I find that a guitar plugged right into an amp is a really exciting sound. I’ve always felt that effects diluted the sound. Also, the lack of signal processing actually forces me to be more creative as a player.
What gear was used in the studio?
I primarily used my cherry-red, ’62 Gibson ES-330. But there were a lot of guitars lying around Edwyn’s studio, and I’d randomly grab one of them for a small part here and there. For amps, I used a Traynor Studio Mate, a Gretsch Chet Atkins, and a Fender ’69 Vibralux 2x10. All of the amps were chosen for their unique sounds. I loved the Traynor’s weird, dry sound—it sounded much like the ’59 reissue Fender Bassman that I play live. The mics were mostly old Neumanns—although the odd [Shure] SM57 was used, as well. We varied the mic placement to capture the sound we wanted: in front, in back, sometimes close, sometimes far.
What studio techniques were used that you’d define as “old school”?
Playing straight into the amps, playing all the backing tracks live, and doing no more than three takes.
Did you use baffles to diminish signal leakage between the instruments?
There wasn’t much signal bleed between the drums, guitar, and bass, because Edwyn has two live rooms right next to each other. Wayne and Lewis would track in one room, and I’d be set up in the other.
In your view, what are the critical elements needed to produce a great album?
Well, it’s not about vintage or high-tech gear. It really comes down to the player’s ideas, passion, and spirit. A number of those great old blues guys had guitars that were unplayable, and they just made them sing. You have to document a brilliant performance any way you can—that’s the thing that you can’t put a price on.