Remix Project #3: I Gave It All

Written by Christina Horn and Performed by Hudson K

Recorded by the Kelly Bros. at FLRS in 2010, Remixed and MFI 2016

Fred Kelly:

For "I Gave It All" we recorded similarly to how we recorded several of the other songs on Hudson K's "Shine": we cut scratch vocals and fake piano at FLRS, overdubbed real drums onto that form/scaffolding, then Christina went home to record several passes of grand piano. Then we overdubbed strings, a lot of Jeff Christmas guitar, and then Jonathan and I added odds and ends (percussion, horns, more guitars and keyboards, etc) here and there.
We put a lot of overdubs on "Gave", and we had trouble getting a mix to work. Track after track of really cool ideas did not equal a sum greater than its parts. We ran many rough "in progress" mixes, and none of them really worked. So in the end, we went with a stripped-down version of the song---pretty much just Christina playing piano and singing, with a backward guitar solo played by Jonathan.
Recently we began playing with different variations on the arrangement of "Gave" and we hit upon a combination of parts that we think works really well. This new version uses only about half of the overdubs we originally attempted, but this particular combination of sounds sits and plays together nicely. Nate and Jeff's backing vocals are great, as are Nate's drums (two different passes of it, one Left and one Right), and the strings. I'm really enjoying everyone's parts in this mix.

Jonathan Kelly:

This was one of those songs that, as you added new elements, the older elements just kept sounding worse.  It happens from time to time.  The arrangement was just getting more and more complicated, but not in a cool way.  By the end of the project, we were tired, and we just couldn't find clarity with this song.  We would have figured SOMEthing out, but as luck would have it, about two weeks before were were due to be finished with the recording, Christina wrote "Fade."  It was a strong song, and we really wanted to include it on the album.
So a deal was struck: we'd strip "I Gave it All" down to its essence (which worked better than anything we could come up with at the time), and use all the extra time, energy, and sanity we'd save by not having to wade through that mix to record and mix "Fade."  We knew we could do it.  In the course of a recording project, if it's going well, you develop a shared language and understanding what everyone needs to do.  By the end, we had a shorthand for putting it all together, and "Fade" went from zero to done in about two weeks.
We always felt there was a cool arrangement of "I Gave it All" in there somewhere, and the remix project happened to be a good time to revisit with some fresh ears and see what we could do.  I think it came out really great.

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. 

Remix Project #0: An Explanation

Jonathan Kelly:

Fred never forgets.  Songs at least.  Fred never forgets a song, or a demo of a song, or an idea of a song, no matter how old.  He's like a fireman going back into a burning building again and again: no song left behind!
On its surface, the Remix Project might appear to be just a revisiting of old material that we've worked on over the years, but what it really is is a song reclamation project.  Some of our oldest stuff we were very limited in the mixing.  Some songs never made it to a CD (as quaint as that sounds), and were stuck in half-finished limbo.  Some songs we radically stripped down before their release, only to have the specter of the original arrangement hanging in the air...what if?
We've acquired so much know-how and equipment over the years, and now just seemed like a good time to go back and try to remix some of these songs.  We'll try to write a little bit about the history and the process on them as we go, but ultimately we're just excited and happy to get to put them in people's ears so finally they may rest.  And the ranks of songs that Fred will lead us to save goes down by one.
Many of these are songs by clients or friends, and we've checked in with them to make sure they're cool with our doing these remixes.  So far, everyone is on board.  First up: Travel Analogy by Tommy Bateman.  Enjoy!