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Night Beats Discuss Vintage Recording Techniques On New Album ‘Sonic Bloom’

Jake Clifford

Seattle psych-rockers Night Beats take a classic approach to their music, delivering a ’70s-inspired garage sound and achieving that vintage feel in the simplest way possible. The trio recorded their recently released sophomore album, ‘Sonic Bloom,’ live in a warehouse studio space with only the basics. The decidedly lo-fi LP is even available on cassette tape, a format they’ve gone back to with all of their releases.

Shortly before ‘Sonic Bloom’ dropped, two-thirds of Night Beats — guitarist D. Lee Blackwell and drummer James Traeger — called Diffuser.fm from their Seattle headquarters to talk about the new record, their early days as a group and some all-star side projects they’ve got in the works.

Can you guys talk a little about how you started playing together?

DB: Me and James had played together before. We grew up in Texas and played together down there. When I first started writing the material for Night Beats, the music was kind of like a personal project with the intention of turning it into a band eventually. I tried out a couple of different outfits, but I ended up asking James to move up from Austin to Seattle to join. This is the music he wanted to play, so it worked out. We started as a two-piece for a while, then eventually [bassist] Tarek [Wegner], who was playing around Seattle, got involved.

Did you guys record the album in Seattle?

DB: Tacoma, Washington, actually. We recorded in a warehouse with our friend Kyle, with a pretty basic recording style. We did it all with a tape machine and really simple equipment. It actually took a long time to record because we were touring at the beginning and end of it, so we basically couldn’t stay in one place for about six months. We would record five or six songs and go on tour for a few months, then do maybe six more songs. It was really jumbled by our tour schedule, but we really like to record together. Even if one song was primarily written by one person, we like the process to be done as a unit.

What about using a tape machine and a simple equipment setup do you find so appealing?

DB: We generally like to record with just a tape machine and minimal post-production. I just sounds more natural to us compared to digital recordings. We do it all live, too, so it helps us capture that same kind of sound. My personal favorite records have a live element, which I really appreciate.

Recording altogether live is pretty difficult.

DB: Absolutely, but it’s worth it. In Motown recordings, they just put one mic and would record the whole thing. You get bleed-over and f—-ups, so you’re risking a lot when you do it and almost free falling.

Why is it important to release all your albums on cassette tape?

JT: Why not? [Laughs]

DB:  We really don’t oppose any medium that’s available, but it’s fun to do. The people at our label, Burger Records, are all fantastic people and a pleasure to work with, and they really support the spirit of what a record label is should be about. They’re very supportive, and we love what they do. But it really just fun to trade them if you have a tape player or a machine in your car.

After this current tour winds down, do you have any plans for more side projects?

DB: I’m involved in a project in Atlanta that revolves around my friend Curtis Harding, who is an amazing songwriter. It’s kind of a soul project, and we’ll be playing in Atlanta this fall with the Growlers, Cosmonauts, and some others. We’ll also be releasing a 7-inch called Night Sun, which includes myself and Curtis and our friends in Atlanta in Black Lips.

I do have some other projects in the works, but I’m not quite ready to announce anything just yet. There’s plenty coming up right now.

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