Roadkill Ghost Choir

Just about every outdoor shoot I’ve been on in the past two months has been a cross-your-fingers kind of day. What I’m referring to is the, ah, uncooperative weather we’ve been getting. And when I was hired by Ben Altarescu of Bows And Arrows – – to record an outdoor performance of Roadkill Ghost Choir, that day was no exception.

The original goal, for both sound and picture, was to capture a performance in a way that felt spontaneous and natural; more akin to an NPR Tiny Desk concert than to a traditional and formal LP-bound performance. For that kind of performance, they asked for no more than a boom mic for everyone and a lav mic for the lead singer. Normally a seasoned sound recordist would go much farther than than, but the simple and raw sound that the boom-and-lav approach yields is precisely the point.

However – when we had to move indoors, the word ‘simple’ went out the window.

I immediately had a pow-wow with Ben and told him that an indoor recording of a 6-person band in a Fort Greene apartment would necessitate lots of mics. (Specifically we ended up with 6 channels total, the maximum for my Tascam recorder.)

He was completely on board and had the crew van re-route to my apartment where I grabbed just about every mic I owned, along with cables and mic stands. (I also grabbed my self-painted psychadelic Yamaha acoustic, which has just been immortalized by this video.)

The rest of the day was basically me shifting gears to recording engineer mode. I was covering music, not dialogue, so I had to bring back some of the very early skills I picked up years ago at internships. For example, figuring out how to maximize only six tracks when you have to record vocals, two guitars, a low tom drum, bass guitar, organ, trumpet and banjo. (Oh, and the other songs we recorded, but didn’t make the final cut, had a pedal steel.)

Enjoy the video – I personally think it turned out great considering the curveball!

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