Plastic Mermaids: Why We Built Our Own Studio

Their Drømtorp E.P is rooted in the kind of crackling cinematic sweeps that just can't be replicated digitally. Here lead singer Jamie RIchards reveals why and how the band decided to fully embrace the analogue age...
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Their Drømtorp E.P is rooted in the kind of crackling cinematic sweeps that just can't be replicated digitally. Here lead singer Jamie RIchards reveals why and how the band decided to fully embrace the analogue age...

dreamtorp

Don't believe what anyone tells you, making music in the digital age is hard.

Don't panic, I'm not going to sit here hypocritically typing on my iPad about how the mp3 killed music and the analogue era was better and the soul has gone from everything and we should all burn our iPods and only listen to songs on vinyl played on acoustic guitars by men with beards. Because it's not entirely true.

Yes mp3s sound like crap,yes I hold on to the folorn hope one day everybody will realise this. But for those of us trying to make music, computers are generally a good thing.

It's easy to take it too far. In the past you played a song and recorded it and that was that. Now you can go as far as your imagination or willpower will allow, which isn't necessarily a good thing. If you're not careful, your song which worked nicely with just an acoustic guitar and vocals will be buried under a choir of gregorian monks, a timpani section, a quintet of pitch shifted sitars and a techno beat. It's usually about this point you find yourself questioning whether you even liked it in the first place, before relegating it to your hard drive of unfinished songs to start on something else, whereupon the entire process begins again.

It's taken us a long time to get out of this cycle. Some bands never do. Our E.P. took forever to finish and for every song on it there are countless folders of unfinished alternate versions. I'm sure it probably came out better for it, but if I play one of the old versions to my girlfriend, no matter how obscure it is or how many different instruments are on there, she doesn't hear the difference. It's still the same song, and sometimes it takes a non-musician to point that out.

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As a band today, the real challenge is to finish songs while you still like them and not get too hung up on any of it, and this is why digital recording will always be rubbish compared to analogue. Nothing will ever beat having the controls at your fingertips and being able to mix with your ears not your mouse to make a song come together quickly.

The down side of course is that nobody can actually afford it unless they're comfortable parting with all of their worldly possessions and selling their family into slavery. The only solution I've found is to build my own. I've made all sorts of analogue gear and I'm half way through building myself a huge mixing desk. You can pretty much find out how to do anything on the internet if you look long enough. It's been hard though. There's a big learning curve for a complete amateur like me. Some stuff still doesn't work no matter how long I mess with it. Some stuff sets on fire. On more than one occasion I've gone to make a cup of tea only to return to a room full of smoke.

I've got a list on my wall of stuff I want to build, and as soon as I get through it all I'll stop - any more and I'll probably lose my mind. Sometimes when I'm half way through a job that requires 1200 solder joins I wonder if I've lost my mind already. I know it's a stupid idea, but I'm too far down the line to stop now, and every time I plug something in and hear how great it sounds I'm reminded to persevere: I'm building myself the studio I could never afford, and I haven't electrocuted myself. Yet.



Plastic Mermaids' debut
E.P is out now on Cross Keys Records.  Check them out here

studio