Parade of Lights Guest Blog: L.A. Rockers Deliver Dispatch + Photos from the Studio
Some bands treat the studio like a necessary evil: You go in, set up some mics, plug in your guitars and bash out your tunes as quickly as possible. Parade of Lights are not one of these groups. The four members of this rising L.A. electro-rock outfit are producers as well as musicians, and in the following blog post, written amid sessions for PoL’s forthcoming EP, singer and guitarist Ryan Daly paints himself and his bandmates — Anthony Improgo (drums), Michelle Ashley (keyboards) and Randy Schulte (bass) — as sonic perfectionists. Their attention to detail can be heard in the hit single ‘We’re the Kids,’ the song that got them signed to Astralwerks, and it’s the reason they’ve opted to self-produce their latest release. Scroll down to read Daly’s studio update and see exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, and keep an eye out for the fruits of their labor.
Ryan Daly: Parade of Lights is a project that was born inside a studio. In addition to being musicians, we are producers, and our production techniques are an essential part of our sound. By learning to record and produce ourselves, we’ve managed to become more creative, more efficient, and most importantly, more prolific. That being said, taking on a task such as self-producing a record is no easy feat. But when all is said and done, it can be an incredibly rewarding process.
The decision to tackle our own productions came when we got tired of waiting. Depending on someone else to make our records sound great was getting tough — especially since we’ve always had a clear vision of how we want them to sound. Not many people were willing or even available to sit for 12 to 14 hours and take our songs exactly where we felt they should go. This led to us treating producers as conduits, as a means to translate our ideas and get them into a session in the proper fashion. It wasn’t fair to the producers, and it wasn’t the right workflow for us. So, we took the plunge and dove head-first into learning Pro Tools and Ableton.
All of our songs start and are fully realized in the studio. Whether it’s Anthony bringing in a drum loop, me (Ryan) bringing in a vocal or guitar riff, a bass riff courtesy of Randy, or one of Michelle’s synth sounds, they all begin with a single element or defining, recognizable characteristic. We focus on this particular sound until we feel it’s right, then move on to chords. A great melody set against the right chords can create such a definitive mood that the song rapidly takes shape and virtually writes itself. Others are more groove-based, and tend to require us to laser in a loop until it feels right. Sometimes we get lucky and pull together the best of both worlds.
Once we have a basic track built, we get straight to lyrics and vocal melodies. If a song isn’t inspiring any of the above, we move on to the next one and revisit the previous idea later. The best vocals come to us if we’re in the moment with the music we’re creating. When it feels like trying to finish an essay, it’s nearly impossible for us to capture a great performance. After the lyrics and melodies are written, we track them. This part of the process may be the most grueling, as we’re very particular about tone, sound and overall performance. Tracking vocals for one song can take up to three days, but I won’t bore you with the ins, outs and Red Bull-induced fits of rage that come along with it.
After vocals comes drums, additional production and editing. We work backwards in this regard, as live drums are recorded on top of electronic drums, then mixed together during additional production. Additional production can mean any number of things such as extra synths, guitars, bass, vocal samples, auxiliary drums and/or general sound design. These things differ depending on the vibe or sound of the song. Editing is essentially sorting through everything we’ve done, tightening it up and making sure every element is exactly where it needs to be. I get a little carried away at this stage, and the rest of the band sometimes resorts to physically dragging me away from the computer. Once the edits are finalized, it’s off to mixing. Hopefully, by this point, we have a great song on our hands.
It’s taken us a long time to streamline our writing/production process. Countless hours and tons of mistakes have only honed our skills, and for every record we finish, we learn something new.
We’re currently working on a new EP and feeling good about it.