Bankesters Recording Blog – Day 1

Phil Bankester, peré of the lovely and talented Bankester family, has agreed to provide a running blogumentary of their home recording sessions this week.

This is the first installment of a series of blogs that we hope will be informative and helpful to other folks considering recording, or simply interested in the process.

Being a do-it-yourselfer, our first three CDs were recorded and mixed in our own home with me serving as engineer. I think they were pretty good, all things considered. Over the years  friends/bands would talk about their recording experiences and associated costs, and I just smiled thinking about the money we were saving. Ever since we released The Bankesters last summer, we’ve wondered what it would be like to actually work with a producer and engineer.

We found both of those things in Stephen Mougin, or Mojo as he is commonly known. Stephen plays guitar and sings with the Sam Bush Band, and with banjoist Ned Luberecki as Nedski and Mojo. He also operates Dark Shadow Recording, teaches various instruments as well as voice, and coaches individuals and bands.

At the 2011 IBMA World of Bluegrass, Stephen and I discussed doing a recording together. We arranged a Skype meeting of our whole band with Stephen to discuss the concept as well as budget. We took a couple of days to think about it, and decided to go for it. Two important considerations were that due to school, the only time we could record would be spring break. And, we needed finished CDs by May for our summer tour schedule.

Stephen agreed and immediately began collecting songs. Eleven weeks later, we just finished our first day of tracking. What a difference having a real producer and engineer makes. One of the things we were after was someone who could pull the best out of each of us individually. Stephen is doing that. He can push hard, but also be very encouraging. It’s one thing for a sister, brother, mom or dad to say that a part needs to be redone, but hearing that from someone you’ve really put your trust in, and empowered to make such decisions, carries a lot more weight.

We had numerous rehearsals via Skype and FaceBook. Some were great – others were not. Being a family, we’ve had many distractions including the birth of a new grandson and building an addition on the house. A chief responsibility of a good producer is to be sure the band is prepared for recording. One of our online rehearsals with Stephen didn’t go well because we’d been too busy with life to practice. Following an appropriate, yet somewhat painful prodding, everyone kicked into high gear and today the hard work began to pay off. We managed to cut all the instruments for three tracks, and all the vocals on one in just under ten hours.

Tomorrow we’ll put on fresh strings (thanks, D’Addario!) and hit it again. Hopefully some of the other Bankesters will offer their perspectives in the next post. I’ll try to shoot some video as well.

For now, it’s late and time for sleep, but the bottom line after one day is that I don’t know how we ever got by trying to do this ourselves!