News Studio Diary: I Like Trains (Part One)

I Like Trains are currently holed up with Richard Formby working on their as yet untitled third album. With Formby’s previous efforts attracting a Mercury Prize nomination (Wild Beasts - ‘Two Dancers’) and a Mercury miss-out (Wild Beasts - ‘Smother’), the outcome of his input on the Leeds band’s latest record could make for interesting listening. Given that the band self-produced their two previous releases, DIY thought it didn’t seem fair them relinquishing some of their workload this time around so we’ve asked the lads to keep us a studio diary (complete with photographic evidence, of course) of how things are coming along.

This is the first time we have worked with a producer for an album project and as such, this is the first time we have done pre production properly. It gives us four days to make sure that the arrangements of the songs are in order and we’re ready to hit the ground running when we get to the studio.

Pre-production took place in Richard Formby’s Leeds studio, which is a small treasure trove of dusty instruments and microphones. The bakery next door lends the place a very pleasant aroma. This is also the first time our live member Ian will be joining us in the studio. Working on a record with two new faces certainly brings a new energy to proceedings. This can only be a good thing.

Once we have set up our instruments and a few microphones about the place, Richard hits record and we run through a track. When we’re done he comes through to tell us that he isn’t sure what we will do for 4 days because it is already sounding great. I imagine he says that to all the bands, but its good to know that he isn’t despairing at this stage. The gestation period for this record has been much shorter than for our previous albums, and everything isn’t as locked down as it usually is when we hit the studio. This could go one of two ways I guess, but we’re hoping that it will give the recordings an air of spontaneity and force us to work in a slightly different way.

After a day or so, we ascertain that most of the tracks are in pretty good order. Having self produced our records for so long it seems that our arrangements are fairly sound, and a few tweaks do the trick. The final track written for the record dominates proceedings, it being the least ready. We throw everything at it, and then take things away to leave what we feel is important. Without giving too much away it ends up in a very different place to where it started. We’re left feeling pretty satisfied with its evolution.

As Richard points out all bands like to start experimenting with synthesizers on their third record, so it should come as no surprise that we dedicated a fair amount of pre production time on some serious synth abuse. Richard built a modular synth wall across the control room and we spent one of the mornings patching a particularly dark pulsing arpeggiator together.

Reassuringly, one thing that hasn’t changed about the I LIKE TRAINS recording practice is the amount of bacon and tea ingested. Riffs don’t come easy if they aren’t lubricated correctly.
Feeling more confident about everything, we’re looking forward to getting to the studio in North Wales, to really get our teeth into recording… and some more bacon.

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