Nashville life: recording, gear, and hot chicken

Hello from Nashville, TN, a lovely southern city that barely felt the polar vortex. If you were dealing with awful winter weather, I hope you were safe. And at the same time, there’s a horrible voice in the back of my head that says…

We’ve been in Nashville full-time since August. I miss family and friends, but not the Michigan winter. We relocated our studio, Pharaoh’s House, from the great white north to its current home studio-style space, which we fondly refer to as “Pharaoh’s South.” We record music every single day.

As a song goes that some self-proclaimed surf-disco band from Michigan once wrote, we’ve “come full circle.” In the beginning, Sean would come over every day and he and Nick would make music together.

Recording Technology class – Grand Rapids Community College, circa 2003

Years have flown by since I joined the band and the three of us have been steering the S.S. TOV ship together… ever since we were all sitting in the back row of freshman music theory class, driving the professor nuts. Not much has changed, except now we drive our roommate nuts instead. And we’re old enough to drink.

When we were in Michigan for Christmas recently, one of my cousins asked, “So what exactly do you do all day?” Ahh, the intriguing lifestyle of a rock musician. We realize our social media may make it seem like we just sit in our studio, drink beer, eat popcorn, and record the sound of a fried egg. Those things are all very important parts of the process, but believe it or not, there’s more to it than that.

This is your brain on drugs.

Most days of the week, we get together after lunch and we work until 9 or 10pm. Our favorite drug is coffee. When we’re deep in the middle of a song, we go hard on the coffee for a few days, until we feel the burn of guilt and acid reflux and have to cut back. But aside from that, we all try to maintain some form of healthy balanced lifestyle that involves time management, meditation, exercise, and cats. Actually, I’m the only one who likes cats. Especially this one that lives in our neighborhood and comes to visit.

Our writing/recording process is like throwing an old fashioned rock and roll power trio into a VitaMix, adding the funkiest sound effects and samples we can get our hands on, and churning it into a refreshing and delicious treat that’s chock full of things that make you feel good.

We have been focusing on songwriting and building music around the vocals. We’ve been working with a producer in NYC and are very excited about this collection of songs. We are just finishing up our 5th single with him, and there may be more to come. We promise that you’ll get to hear them soon enough. 🙂

One of the most important things for us has been capturing the energy and chemistry that the three of us share. Sean and I both recently read the Beastie Boys book – fun stories about the band’s career, their love of music, and their passion for making something fresh and creative. It was inspiring, and if you’re in a band, you’d probably like it. It’s band shenanigans to the max.

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Warning – you might only find this next section interesting if you’re into music gear. Proceed at your own risk, or skim ahead if you’re not a fellow gear head.

Sometimes gadgets can really inspire your creation process. Nick has spent weeks rebuilding his pedal board, taking advantage of the opportunity to redefine his guitar tone and create something really special.

His current favorites are the Boss DD-500 and the Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing. We’ve also been enjoying the wild sounds of the Boss SY-300 on pretty much every instrument.

Sean has been splitting his time between developing his bass skills and developing his vocal cords. These days he’s rocking an Aguilar Tonehammer amp and a Fender Jazz Bass. He is always on a quest for finding the very best tones for our recordings.

And me? I’ve always wanted to play drums, and my parents wouldn’t let me get a kit in high school. In college I would sneak into the percussion studio and play the kit until I got dirty looks from faculty, and then I joined this band called The Outer Vibe, who let me play the kit anytime I wanted and didn’t give me dirty looks.

Rockin’ out with our friends Handgrenades in Ferndale, MI

One day I went to Forks Drum Closet here in Nashville because they had a grand re-opening party with lots of sales, and I was looking to replace the band’s old cymbals with something that inspired me.

I’m a real sucker for giant washy dark cymbals, and the Paiste selection sounded amazing. I picked out the John Bonham 15″ hi-hats for obvious reasons. Also, Forks was promoting a package of signature cymbals for soul-hop drummer/producer Daru Jones (he’s from Michigan!). They were some of the more unique sounding cymbals I’ve ever heard.

While I’m talking about gear… we recently went to a StealthSonics in-ear monitor listening party via Artist Relations. StealthSonics are a brand new company, and we happened to be in the market for upgrading our IEMs. They sound great!

Okay… gear talk is done.

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When we’re not making music together, we all squeeze in some form of side work here and there, such as teaching lessons or graphic design or recording/mixing for other artists. I’ve gotten involved with the rad folks at YEAH!, a non-profit that hosts music programs such as Southern Girls Rock Camp. It reminds me of the good ol’ days of running our own rock camps in Michigan.

Beginning drums class – Southern Girls Rock Camp, July 2018

Also, Amy Ray of The Indigo Girls is on the road supporting her new “Holler” album, and I got to join the horn section for 2 shows in Nashville and Atlanta… which was another rad group of people.

Aside from acquiring gear and constantly recording, we’ve had plenty of reasons to leave the house. Music City does music right, and we’ve seen some great shows. My ignorant rhythm section ego was thrown into the street and ran over by a semi truck after we saw Ghost Note perform at Exit/In. The Nashville Symphony sounds like a recording. I’ve liked most of the shows I’ve seen at a listening room called 3rd and Lindsley, such as Ruby Amanfu’s MusiCares benefit show, and Katie Herzig‘s band. And we saw Peter Frampton for free on New Year’s Eve downtown, where instead of a ball drop, they have a music note drop. Ain’t that cute, y’all?

It’s not a blog about Nashville if I don’t mention hot chicken. If you like to torture yourself like I do, it’s fun to seek out local places that serve this deep-fried, cayenne-drenched, pickle-topped meal that makes you cry both while you eat it and also later.

Hot chicken & waffles at Subculture Urban Cuisine… right down the street from where we live.

Last but not least, we are going on tour again in 2019. To our #VibeTribe across the country… those of you who asked for more TOV, ye shall receive! Keep an eye on our SHOWS page for the latest additions.

Lisa Kacos
lisa.kacos@gmail.com
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