For their third full-length
release, Daybreaker, Nashville-based
rock 'n' roll band Moon Taxi has expanded their sound palette and their view of
the recording process. Working with producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon,
Modest Mouse, Tom Waits) in Music City's high-end Blackbird Studios, the
Terndrup, guitarist Spencer Thomson, bass player Tommy Putnam, keyboardist Wes
Bailey, and drummer Tyler Ritter—blew up their sound with synths and percussive
elements that they found immensely inspiring.
Keyboardist Wes Bailey took
time out to tell Keyboard about Moon
Taxi's process and instruments in the studio.
What was it like working with Jacquire King at
It was amazing. We'd never
really worked with a studio-minded producer. In the past we worked with people who
weren't as hands-on and knowledgeable about the gear. Jacquire not only
produced the record, he also mixed it. He's so knowledgeable about every aspect
of recording and working with a band. That really appealed to us—the ultimate
package that he offered. We loved the records he'd done before with Kings of
Leon, and the James Bay record that he put out. The whole time we were in the
studio, he got us even more excited about his ear for recording live bands.
How was working with him different from making your
In the past we'd done most
of the tracking—guitar, vocals, keyboards—in an apartment, for budgeting sake.
We wanted the freedom with our schedule to knock out a lot of that stuff, and then
we'd go track in a studio for just two or three days and get drums and bass and
some more guitar. So this was an interesting transition for us, because
Jacquire doesn't do things like that. He's more into recording a song a day.
What was a typical day like when you were in
He had an interesting
system. He wouldn't tell us what song we were doing that day. But it was cool.
We were able to have a sense of spontaneity and an element of surprise. We had
prepared—we practiced with Jacquire there—but we left things very open. At
first all of this terrified us, because studios are very expensive. You want to
have everything pretty air-tight. But he wasn't like that. He's very: "How
are we feeling today? How does the flow of the record feel? What elements are
we using in other songs that might change the course of how we're going to
One of his best friends and
colleagues is Eric Darken; for many years he has been the percussion player for
Jimmy Buffett. Jacquire would sometimes record us in practice to a click, and he'd
send those practice recordings to Eric, who would come up with percussion parts
on top of our practice recordings. We would get back to the studio and listen
to those [percussion tracks] first thing in the morning, and they were amazing.
Eric has a really fresh sense of sound and groove, and it changed the course of
the record, and inspired so many new parts of the songs.
That was just one of many
amazing things Jacquire brought to the project. His engineer Lowell Reynolds
was amazing— just incredibly quick and helpful and has had such good ears.
What keyboards did you play on this album?
Blackbird has an amazing
collection of gear and Jacquire rents a room in Blackbird to mix and do some
vocal tracking. In that room is also a slew of old keyboards.
One of them is a Lo Duca
from Lo Duca Brothers in Milwaukie. Jacquire said that those keyboards were made
for students to take piano lessons, and he bought his in 1997. It was something
you could fit on a desk, and it has a sort of accordion sound—a really cool
neutral sound that we ended up putting a TC Electronic bass pedal on, and that
gave it more of a modern pad with some reverb.
Then we'd add different
effects to songs that Jacquire would toy with. You can hear it on "Always,"
and it's the pad on the song "Run Right Back." It was just perfect—a
modern pad sound that still had this old tone to it. It was very analog—not too
I also played an old Juno 60
that Jacquire had bought years ago. There's a song "All Day, All
Night" where there's a low, growly synth bass. I took just a synth lead
and put some distortion on it and added a sub offset pedal to that, to give it a
bass-doubling effect that was really crunchy. That really made that song.
I also provided my MicroKorg
on "All Day All Night" during the verse, and on the song
"Savannah," I used the same MicroKorg patch, which was an electronic
organ sound with a bunch of reverb on it.
We didn't want to make a
classic rock record in the sense that there was piano and organ on every song.
We wanted the sounds to be interesting. We wanted to tastefully slip in
acoustic instruments and mix in our own electronic tinges.
What did give you the more conventional piano and
There was a Hammond B-3
organ, and a Yamaha C3, and I think the piano was a Baldwin upright.
We recorded live, but I
didn't play any of the acoustic instruments while we were live tracking. Those
parts were overdubbed. When we were tracking live, I would actually be in the
control room playing the Juno or the MicroKorg; a lot of what I played live, I
thought would probably be fixed later. Typically, you would overdub a pad or
overdub some of that synth bass stuff. But I figured, I'm not going to just sit
here. I might as well use the energy that we've got going on and be a part of
the conversation and performance. And when we got into the overdub phase, we
found that and a lot of my synth stuff was done. We just had to pick the best