With a look at their influences and the material they used on the record
The second album by Hobart-born four-piece Bitumen band “Cleareye Shining” was released on November 26th and we had the chance to chat with them about all recording, equipment and production matters at the light from Melbourne blockages.
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They will continue to produce their industrial, electronic and metallic music, combining guitars with synths, samples, electronic drums and alternately conflicting and melancholic voices. Bitumen is known for its expansive sound, with the result of 80s maximalism meeting 90s electro-industrial.
Read our full discussion below.
First of all, how are you at the moment?
Thank you for asking the question and for your interest in our file!
As I write this, we are a few weeks away from lockdown in Melbourne, and I’m surprised how quickly I’ve gotten used to getting out and about. Pretty happy to be now at a stage where we can release a record and play a launch alongside it in front of, hopefully a standing crowd, so I’m looking forward to that.
Has your check-in process changed in light of the blockages?
I think COVID really allowed us to reevaluate what we wanted from the album, it forced us to take a lot of a step back from him… lots of extended breaks. At no point did we work on things remotely, we weren’t interested in this route – we all had to be in the same room.
The crashes always seemed to happen just as we were about to take the next step… we had completed the demos by early 2020 so we started recording in a small space that we set up in a storage shed. . I remember vividly we had just finished tracing our kicks, individually processed samples recorded via a designer EQ valve, and had only switched to hi-hats, you know, pedantic stuff, and then mid-march rolled around.
We were fortunate enough to be commissioned for recording by Flash Forward, so we were able to keep the studio throughout 2020 and this year, with locks on the door and dust collecting, and at various times in between. the locks, we went through our drums, our bass, guitars and a few synths.
Once we finished our bed tracks, we asked Alex Akers to work on our drum tracks giving a little more percussive variation and giving extra impact if needed.
We set aside a few dates at The Aviary for vocals, piano, various other tracks just to be in a beautiful space well equipped to polish the follow-up and force ourselves to work on it for a condensed period of time.
We spent our completed sessions with Mike Deslandes, a fantastic engineer, and at this point we had sessions with sometimes over 100 tracks in each… ridiculous. It was after a bunch of session management and cleanup too. Coming back to the record at different times with fresh ears just meant we could push more and more into each track. I don’t think that would have been the case if we had mounted this record without COVID circulating.
Mike did a crazy job of squeezing some clarity and crispness out of our excesses, and it was great to pass the record on to someone else after over two years of working on it and driving us a little crazy. .
Where do you and the band get your influences from?
Ooof, that’s difficult… we all listened to a bunch of different stuff back then, but certainly with some commonalities in it.
Myself, I’m a huge fan of Justin Broderick: Godflesh, JK Flesh, Curse of the Golden Vampire. It might be a bit of inspiration in my bass, but it also allowed me to listen to a bunch of old breakbeat, jungle, techno and sour: 808 State, Aphrodite, LFO, Goldie – a bit of the Metalheadz stuff.
Before COVID, we were always going in a more electronic direction, but maybe it was darker, and more in line with industrial electronics, or more ethereal after anything: Clock DVA, The Invincible Spirit, Pink Industry. COVID shed a little more light on what we were strangely listening to… maybe it was an urge to go to a club.
Anna Domino’s East & West was also pretty important, I remember listening to that a lot when we were writing a bunch of songs. Dead Can Dance is another big event for me personally.
However, we are still a rock band. There’s a little bit of Primal Scream in there, maybe Oasis, a bunch of metal. We don’t intentionally try to refer to eras or genres really, but if it does come out, we’re not going to stray from it.
What pieces of equipment used in the recording of your new album helped create your sound?
We wanted to take our time a little more, to produce something more shiny, luminous and direct, a little more aesthetic 90’s. We set up a small studio in a storage shed where we could spend a lot of time not only rehearsing but doing decent demos of the songs, honing ourselves a bit more, and then starting to record. We barely scratched the surface expanding into synths and looking at the depth of our production last time around, acoustic guitars, pianos, synth orchestras, that sort of thing, so we can have it all there and ready to go this time around.
To list a bunch of stuff we’ve used throughout: Soyuz 017 on cabin voices, SM7b on handheld, TC Mic Mechanic; Fender and Fernandez Strats, Gibson S1; bass Rickenbacker 4001; Waldorf Microwave XT, Korg TR-Rack, Juno, MicroKorg, Rare Waves Hydronium; Synthstrom Deluge, MPC 2000XL, Polyend Tracker.
At The Aviary, we also had a great time with the RE-201 Space Echo. We spent a lot of time piloting it live while Kate followed the vocals.
Any interesting recording techniques that you used on the new record that you would like to share?
We really didn’t try anything too crazy this time around.
Our last record, Discipline reaction, was recorded in four days in a large space called Magnet in Coburg North. We just wanted to try and bump (figuratively) against the huge concrete walls and set it up live, without headphones or folding monitors.
I was quite interested at the time in how much rejection we could achieve through clever placement of microphones relative to monitors, without using artificial reverberation and based only on space. It was a chance to experience a truly unique recording environment and see how far we could get it.
I think after some thought and these new songs, we were happy to leave it like that. This time around, it was more of an overdrive and a more standard pop production track.
We did a lot of reamping in The Aviary’s biggest room, especially the synths – you can hear it pretty loud on the track “Envelopes Full”. We obsessively recorded a DI track from all the guitars throughout the process to give us more options on the track, so there were times we re-stamped a take from a year ago.
With the drums, the first demo we used an Alesis SR-16; Discipline Reaction an MPC 2000XL with drum samples recorded in space played by our great friend Al Anglais; and this time we had so much more at our disposal and we used it all. We also took a few breaks here, playing on the MPC. Most of the sequencing was done with the Deluge, and whatever pitch variation stuff, like with the Hi-Hats we did with the Polyend Tracker.
How do you go about translating your recordings in the studio on stage?
When we first started playing many years ago, we were using the drum machine on live recording. Initially it was the SR-16, then the MPC 2000XL. I’ve always been a little afraid of having the MPC on stage, but especially on tour with it, because of its fragility. It also took a while to navigate and load different tracks, and we were limited to bringing in other samples and playing with our post-produced tracks.
I use these devices for exhibition sound installations, a ‘WavePlayer8’ made by Erik Schieweck in Germany. They are super compact, very simple, and allow you to play eight-channel interlaced WAV files. We had a friend, Rob from Cat Full of Ghosts Electronics, who relocated and modified one of these devices for us into a more stage-friendly device with balanced XLR outputs, a start and stop pedal, volume buttons for each track. We call it AL-X.
As a sound engineer myself, I felt the mixers would be happy if we could give them discrete channels for kick, snare, hats, other overdubs, etc. ask for eight XLRs at the front of the stage on our stage lot and run pink noise through them to balance our lines. Of course there are some fantastic sound mixers in Melbourne that also got what we were trying to do.
Now, however, we still use AL-X for our “backing tracks”, but we’re only pumping out a stereo signal. It also cuts down on a lot of work and makes it easier for us to mix our media knowing they will come out the way we want.
If you could own just one piece of equipment, what would it be and why?
This is a wild question and I have a lot of answers. To choose one, I would love a Fairlight CMI Series III. Maybe an EMT 250 too. I saw someone selling an EMT 140 some time ago really cheap, but I guess it’s also worth thinking about the practicalities.
Which track on the record are you particularly proud of?
The closing track, ‘Luxury Auto’, which we’re pretty proud of, I think I can speak for all of us with that.
It’s the most recent track on the album, and we got to spend some time playing with it in the studio. We did this by moving and looping different sections in Tools to come up with a structure that worked, while we structured the other songs while writing them.
The Crescendo of the track has a bunch of different breaks and sequenced drums that we put together, it’s probably the most complex rhythm. We have a cello-synth (using the Korg TR-Rack) coming in halfway, it’s a big shift to ’90s production, so maybe that’s a clue to what we could do with it. next time.
Finally, which song are you most looking forward to playing live?
Before I could rehearse again I would have said one of the heaviest tracks, but since I can be in the same room together again I still really enjoy ‘Colosseum’, so probably this one. Maybe it’s because I softened up a bit, or maybe because I’m singing on that one too.
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“Cleareye Shining” releases November 26 and is available for pre-order here.