To celebrate the release of Sly Withers' new album, 'Overgrown' (out now), we go behind the scenes to see the madness behind the magic.
Throughout Overgrown, you’ll hear a lot of acoustic guitar layering. We first tracked acoustics for Passing Through and after that, it felt like a no-brainer to include them more in the other songs.
We had three or four acoustics in the studio with us, and whenever someone was busy tracking, you would normally hear someone else strumming along in the background, trying to find the next part. As the weeks went by, we started taking more and more breaks from what we were supposed to be doing to quickly run in and track the acoustic before we forgot it. It was a really good way to keep everyone engaged at a time when you would normally be sitting on your phone or something.
We used a lot of different guitars across the record, and this one especially was such a privilege to play. It’s an old Epiphone Casino owned by our producer Dave Parkin, and he said it's from like the 1800s or something. This guitar has such a golden tone that we just couldn’t find in anything else, Sam tracked Sundays on this guitar, and it had such a cool effect on the overall tone of that song. Both clocks on the wall are set to 4:20, and Joel didn’t know what that meant.
This little whiteboard sat by the wall in the main studio chill space, and we spent a lot of time staring at it. Sam absolutely loves a good whiteboard, and it really helped us see the album as a whole when making decisions. There are some working titles on there and some tracks we never even got to recording. A lot of conversations happened around this whiteboard, and not once did we play darts.
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Shea has an unparalleled ability to sleep anywhere at any time in any position, regardless of what’s going on around him. This photo was taken while Joel was in the next room tracking drums for Something, which is arguably the heaviest drum sound on the record, and it didn’t phase him at all.
Directly opposite the studio is a giant concrete wall. We took regular breaks out here where Joel would kick a footy as hard as he could against this wall, yet he could not bring it down. We were in the studio from 10am to 6pm most days, so it was really lovely to have this quiet carpark to get that fresh air and kick a ball against a wall.
Friday marked the start of our week when we would lay down the scratch tracks for three songs. On Saturday, Joel would track drums over those scratchies and then Tuesday to Thursday was spent layering guitars, vocals and whatever else we decided to try during the week. Shea would come in for the afternoons to hear what Sam and I had done that day and track his bass parts.
It felt like a really efficient process and gave us lots of room to experiment with different ideas, which was cool. I think the scratchy day was everyone's favourite because we got to rip each song apart one by one and find the best way possible to put them back together before getting in the tracking room playing them like that for the first time, which was always fun and exciting.
This is the main chill spot in the studio where all the big thinking and discussions around the record happened. We would listen to the songs off of Parko’s Ipad because it was nice and easy to walk around with and sounds great. Sometimes we would do this outside but not often. Blackbird Studio was such a comfortable place to make a record, and that’s something very essential for us when making music.
This is Shea sitting in the tracking room, figuring out some bass lines or something. Just behind him is the Traynor amp Parko got in 1993, which is three years before we were even born. I tracked a lot of my guitar parts on this amp because it had the prettiest clean tone I’d ever heard but turned into an absolute monster when pushed with a fuzz pedal.
This is where we would sit in the control room and track all our guitar and bass parts, and there was often a big pile of tangled cables and loose pedals on the floor in front of us. We had a lot of fun throwing different things on our pedal boards and experimenting with different sounds. From the looks of things, Shea’s about to track some stuff on the bass we got him on tour while we were in Melbourne because the old one was a little busted and sounding a little sad.
Sly Withers will be touring throughout November. Find dates and ticketing information here.