Ang Bandang Shirley in retrospect

At the time of this writing, it will have been more than a year and a half since Ang Bandang Shirley first laid down their Christmas track entitled Christmas Lights, officially starting the recording period for their debut album under Sterno Recordings which is due out on October 2008. It’s pretty safe to say that Love One Another evolved along with the band to better accommodate their needs as time passed, which is evidenced by the upgrading of gear and even the DAW midway into the recording sessions which spanned the whole of 2007, making it a memorable year indeed for the studio and the band in particular.

I’m told that you’ll be watching footage of those early recording sessions during the album launch; a treat which evidences the time that has lapsed since then because of the changes in hairstyles, equipment and ultimately, body weight. It’s all in good fun, and you’ll see the ridiculous things that we do while manning the board like crafting lightsabers and making paper dolls.

All of us at LOA learned a lot during the recording of Theme Songs, specifically because throughout the entire process the band wanted to head in adventurous recording, producing and even mixing directions. From recording guitars detuned a few cents to capturing the kitsch practice room character of a tiny battery operated Pignose amplifier with 3-5 mics, we entered each Shirley session with full knowledge that we’d be doing things a bit differently each time around, and therefore we had to prepare ourselves for such tasks.

One event in particular had us scratching our heads for quite a while. It was for the recording of Ean’s song entitled Sasamahan Ka Parin. His smooth, manly 21st century crooner voice backed by stabs from the horn section of Radioactive Sago Project made for an interesting twist in the Shirley repertoire, and is one of the album’s testaments to the band’s penchant for creating musically sound tunes with great pop value that just seem to branch out in every direction and totally come from nowhere all at the same time. Aside from the usual tomfoolery that was abundant in Shirley sessions, Ean wanted us to capture the sound of someone getting slapped. And so, we set forth to determine what was the best way to capture the resounding impact of the perfect face slap landing on an unwitting victim’s cheek.

Initially, we recorded Ean slapping himself repeatedly using an AT2020 condenser microphone pointed directly at the surface with which he was to slap himself (i.e. his face). We recorded that a few times, but found that it was sounding rather thin. After layering a few slaps, it sounded too unnatural, and we decided that this wasn’t the way to go. After a few more failed attempts at artificially creating the slap sound (e.g. triggering a drum hit mixed in with the original slap, searching for a midi sound that approximated a slap when transposed, etc.) we started thinking about strange ways we could get a really large slap sound, like getting in 20 couples in the room who would slap each other at the same time while being recorded with an omnidirectional mic. This went on for quite a while, and we were actually about to throw in the towel and call it a day when Edu (Robert Android 2000 of Halik ni Gringo) arrived and showed us why he is the ultimate king of Physical Emotion.

After listening to what we recorded, he told us to record him slapping himself as hard as he could. Without questioning his intent, we set the mic up, armed the track, and hit record. Edu slapped himself perfectly hard, displacing the right amount of face flesh and applying the proper velocity that can only result in a satisfyingly realistic TV noon-time soap opera face slap. It was so solid, in fact, that we had to tone it down for the album release (you’ll hear it in the background of the second verse).

Other interesting Shirley moments was the recording for the noise washed ending of Bato. Owel managed to secure an E-Bow for the session (courtesy of Mong Alcaraz), and he told me that his idea was to have a wall of noise during the last part of the song, but not loud enough to the point that it takes over the entire instrumentation and vocals of the outro. He also wanted an acoustic guitar in there somewhere. Needless to say, I just setup an sm57 where it sounded good in front of the Marshall, hit record and waited for them to play their guitar parts. The feedback from the guitars created a natural harmony and the riffs fell on top of each other pretty well. I personally think this is the best part of the song, as the band dips to half time to a quieter temperament after each other measure, and a fitting closer for the entire album.

Geoff Emerick, the Beatles’ head engineer, started out as a tea boy at Abbey Road. He’d occasionally get to record some lesser known bands, but it was during the resignation of the Beatles’ former engineer that he had to step up, grow and expand musically to lead the charge for the aural revolution that the Beatles were planning for the greater half of their career, breaking audio engineering rules and barriers that were the realm of engineering purists at the same time. Though we will never, ever compare or even be in the same universe as these music greats, The Shirley sessions certainly helped Love One Another forcefully mold itself and grow to conform to their needs after having just been open for less than a year, and it’s safe to say that we’d be a much less developed studio had it not been for their decision to work with us.

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