Remix Project #2: Indirect Ways

Written and Performed by J.D. Reager

Recorded by J.D. Reager, Brendan Danley, and Justin Jordan in 2008, Remixed and MFI 2016

Fred Kelly:

An early project of ours was a real treat: our longtime friend and talented multi-instrumentalist J.D. Reager had finished recording his solo debut after years playing with several successful bands (including Pezz and Glossary), and he asked us to mix it. We did. I’m still happy with how that album (which J.D. named The Repechage) turned out.
One song that was radically different from its released form was the album’s final track, called “Indirect Ways”. We’d had trouble making the track work the way we wanted it to, and really struggled with it. It’s a strong rock track, with thick guitars and aggressive drums, and what we tend to do with tracks like that is to mute everything but a few elements (say, the vocals and a guitar) and see what works.
With this track, we liked how just the vocals, piano, tubular bells, and acoustic guitar sounded (with some horns at the end). And that version works! But this version is the full-on rock track, and we’re glad it’s finally seeing the light of day.

Jonathan Kelly:

In addition to playing with the bands Fred mentioned, J.D. was also a member of several of the FLRS House Projects.  These include the henrys, Bishop, and The Passport Again.  
The Repechage was our first big mixing project in Pro Tools, and "Indirect Ways" was just getting left behind the other tracks.  There were a lot of heavy rockers on the album, and this song was just looking worse in comparison.  Sometimes we'll look for an unconventional solution to a problem like that, and one solution is to just strip the arrangement down to its core.  Now the song had the distinction of being different from all the other songs on the album, and it took the listener to a different place.
Years later, with more know-how and more equipment, we thought we could make the original arrangement work better, and I absolutely think it does.  I still think we made a good decision at the time for the sake of the album, but I'm happy to be able to put this song out there with its original arrangement.  There's at least one other Remix Project song that went through a similar process.

Remix Project #1: Travel Analogy

Written and performed by Tommy Bateman 

Recorded in 2000 by the Kelly Bros. in Memphis, TN.  Remixed and MFI 2016. 

Fred Kelly:

Very early on in The Rockells’ recording sessions it became clear that despite the limitations of the Tascam 488 and its media (multitrack cassette tape), good recordings could be produced on it. After the release of Raise the Radio, Tommy Bateman got to talking to Jonathan about playing drums for a few of his songs, as well as using the Tascam to record them. In spring of 2000, Jonathan and Tommy (who had by then lived in Knoxville for a while) returned to Memphis to set up a recording session in the Kelly family playroom. Two tracks resulted; one was Travel Analogy.
On the two songs, Jonathan played drums and engineered, while Tommy sang and played the other instruments. The songs were eventually released as mixed on the Tascam on a release by The Passport Again, but in 2016 we decided to see if we could take the raw tracks and remix them in Pro Tools. We did, and we’re very happy with the results. We captured some good performances, but the mixing limitations of the Tascam were apparent. We think this new remixed version plays very well. 

Ah, the glorious Tascam 488.  We used the highest grade cassettes we could find, but it would work with cassettes you got at the gas station.  Love this thing.  We later upgraded to the MKII, which we'd push to its limits on mid-period Rockwells recordings.

Jonathan Kelly:

Around this time Tommy was experimenting with different, non-traditional song forms.  Travel Analogy might not be the first song he did this with, but you could call it prototypical of the work he'd go on to do with the Passport Again and Tommy Bateman and the Thunder Thieves.  Instead of a verse-chorus-verse format, he'd break songs off into larger chunks, sometimes at different tempos or in different keys, almost like shorter songs stuck together.  As someone who played drums on these songs, it could be tough to keep up with.
In the case of Travel Analogy, the structure of the song finally hit me while we were remixing it, where it's linking these two big chunks together as a sort of comparison.  Or an analogy.  One thing that helps is that I think in the remix we were able to bring his vocals more forward, so the lyrics are more heavily featured.