All Is As All Should Be
Inside the making of our new house recording EP.
I had just put the final touches on our most recent LP, Act V, when I started working on All Is As All Should Be.
We were working on the routing for the first tour in support of Act V, and with the acquisition of a new front of house system, as well as the knowledge of this being our first bus tour, I wanted to try and take advantage of our days off.
The plan began as a series of house performances. We would set up in a friend’s/fan’s house, and perform a song they requested off of either Act IV or Act V. We would be able to multitrack it with our front of house system, and release videos to promote the albums. For whatever reason, at the time, this didn’t really appeal to me.
I thought on it a little more, arriving at something I felt to be more challenging, and so (hopefully) more rewarding in the end.
I would reach out to 6 people I had known through the band for a long time — people I had the pleasure of coming to know beyond the context of a performance. They would pick a general musical vibe, as well as the lyrical theme — then, we would write a song, and record it (instrumentally) in their home on an off day from tour.
I wasn’t sure how that idea would be received by anyone. For one, it seemed like the most unnecessarily stressful writing/recording scenario. Not only were we writing toward one person specifically, but we would then record it in front of them — exposing mistakes, frustration, spats, and all the other potentially embarrassing moments that arise in a regular recording session.
Additionally, there was no promise that the creative exchange would be fruitful — for either side. We could receive a theme that felt totally unnatural, or, we could receive a wonderful idea and absolutely miss the mark.
Then, there were the logistical issues. This is nothing we haven’t previously encountered, having always been a slightly larger group, with a good deal of equipment, squeezing onto whatever stage will have us… but we blindly agreed to every space. There weren’t any conversations of square footage, or acoustic treatment. The most technical conversation that took place was probably “Do you think the neighbors will mind?”
There were countless ways things could go wrong, across a gradient from “that was uncomfortable” to “I don’t know if they’ll ever be attending another show”.
Spoiler: It was an amazing experience.
The first person I spoke with was Cody Clark. Like everyone in the group, we had known each other a long time. From time to time, Cody is someone I share ideas with, demos, etc… but mostly, we just talk nonsense with each other. I still wasn’t sure about the idea, so I ran it by him.
Having passed Cody’s seal of approval, we started to talk about who would be good to include. The list was very long. Unmanageably so. If there was the time to do so, I would have opted to write and record a song for every fan we have… but I needed some criteria that would make the decision less emotional. That isn’t to say I don’t consider this group to be special… just to say they are part of a larger group of people who we consider so as well.
Looking back at our routing, the geography of the EP started to make itself clear — what locations would be physically impossible — what locations would be a stretch, but doable. In short time, we had the tour, and the EP plotted out.
In the end, the list was: Antone Bartolotta, Chris Lund, Eddie Schillo, Kim Tran, Kevin Pereira, and Cody Clark & Kari Raos (the duo had been attending shows together for years, as well as housing the band any time we came through San Francisco).
Now, the actual work had to be done.
First came the prompts themselves. I hadn’t considered how much pressure this would be. I’m not sure I would have had good answer, if the tables were turned. But, everyone involved brought genuine and thoughtful ideas to the table. Everything from the desire to escape the monotony of every day life, to the philosophical questions that arise upon a recognition of time as a loop… and maybe as a result of my obvious conceptual leanings, I started to recognize a trend that bound the EP together- honing in on a lyric I was sharing between two tracks: All is as all should be.
There was something about this group of ideas that summed up an idea of life being a result of what we make it. That’s an obvious thing to say — and presumably, a bit of an anticlimax to the description of the EP… but what seems obvious, for me, was a simple thread I wanted to pull.
Through each idea, in some way, there was an element of life through the lens of our choices. Not only the choices we make for ourselves, but the choices others make that can stack in our favor, or against us — whether it’s through pinning your current triumphs against your past mistakes, trudging through a sea of misinformation, the relationship of a (non religious) creation and creator, a longing for a break from the constant churning of day to day life, the disparate relationship between your self and your public identity, or facing your infant self, armed with a lifetime of knowledge you can’t pass on.
After spending some time with the concepts, I began writing a few tracks before tour. I didn’t want to overthink it at that early stage, so I kept to mostly broad sketches of songs, and melodies — leaving enough room for spontaneity and improvisation both on the road, and in the recordings themselves.
Once on the road, we kept a relatively standard schedule on recording days. First, Rob and I would take an Uber to an U-haul location that we had rented a cargo van through. Next, we would meet the rest of the guys back at the bus to load our equipment into the cargo van. Then, between the cargo van, and any additional transportation we had at our disposal, we would meet at the house we were directed to and unload the van.
Enter our front of house engineer, Anthony Potente. I have to take a moment and send some serious love his way, as he almost singlehandedly set up every mic, at every session, running every cable — while we set up our instruments, and finalized ideas for each track.
After we were set up and ready, we tracked the song live, multiple times. The fewest, if I can remember, was five… while the most was closer to 10–12. The hope was to use one take, rather than assemble each snippets of each take per track. We wanted this to feel as live as possible — and loved the challenge, as we had never released a live ‘studio’ release (not counting our live album, as that was previously released material).
At every session, we ran the gamut of emotions — from the anxious excitement of recording, to the stress watching the clock tick by when you feel like you’re still hours from the right take… but at the end of every day, we walked away feeling inspired.
Once off tour, the EP sat for a while. The constant pace of the previous few years, starting with the recording of Acts IV and V, on to the promotion of Act IV, further recording on Act V, and a full US tour that doubled as a mobile EP recording session… I needed a little time — and the EP disappeared, momentarily.
After a few months, Max pulled up the tracks from the session to clean them up, before handing them off so I could track my vocals to the EP, and with exponential acceleration, the record was finished in a matter of weeks.
All Is As All Should Be represents more than the theme of its title. This EP represents the love and gratitude the band, and I feel for each and every person who has ever supported us in any context.
I know how lucky I am to be where I am. I know that I don’t deserve it. I know no one deserves it. I know that sometimes, accessibility, and a lack of mystery, can hurt your identity as an artist. Sure, I could play the game and develop some useful persona that wakes up at 2:00 pm behind ironically big shades and some hip lifted fashion sense… I could try and push forward any myth I see about myself — hoping to trick myself into climbing up on a pedestal… or, I could take a step back, and recognize the real reason anyone knows my name, or my band, and that’s due entirely to everyone except me.
Pre-order our new EP now at www.thedearhunter.com and come see us this fall on our headlining tour!