Musicians will say that there's a marked difference between the concert stage and the recording studio and KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin caught up with one group recently that had a lot to say about those differences.
Wichita’s The Travel Guide has spent the last few years in the studio honing eleven songs for its new album Trading A Dream. The band’s guitarist and vocalist Thayne Coleman says that the band wanted to create something that improved upon the group’s acclaimed live shows and made many songs that were already longtime fan favorites even better.
“That was kind of the plan from the get-go,” says Coleman. “Take the songs, get the bare bones of them down and then figure out how to re-arrange them and mess with them and make them even better than what we had done before.”
The time spent in the studio also meant that the band could rework some material that fans weren’t overly familiar with. Songs that Coleman says he and his bandmates knew were good but didn’t yet know how to present on stage.
“There're songs like ‘Folk Devil,’ or ‘Everybody’s An Expert,’ they didn’t necessarily come across live the way that some of the other songs did,” Coleman says. “I thought that they were songs that would come alive on a recording. I think they make a lot more sense on the album and, as a result, I think they make more sense live too.”
Drummer Will Erickson says that he heard some of the material in a new light after spending time in the studio with it.
“It’s easier, I think, to be loud,” he says. “So some of the more nuanced songs were hard to pull off live but then once we were able to do it in the studio, [it becomes a case of how] you can hear [it would be possible]. But you had to kind of be able to remove yourself from it to say, ‘OK. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.'”
Everyone in the band agrees that producer Micajah Ryan, whose credits include albums with Guns N’ Roses, Bob Dylan and Megadeth, helped make the record and the band itself better.
“Micaiah made us more aware of all the tiny difference between somebody who’s playing well and somebody’s who’s playing great,” Coleman says.
“He’s like a dad,” Erickson adds. “He is a dad.”
“A nice dad,” Coleman adds. “He can phrase the feedback in the perfect way to tell you to do something differently without making you feel terrible. If something’s wrong, he gives you a really, really concrete, practical way to change it to make it better. If you’re singing something and it’s kind of crap, he’ll be, like, ‘Sing from these muscles, focus on these words and lay back on the tempo a little bit and sing a little bit behind the beat.’ And then you adjust, and it’s better instead of him just saying, ‘You kind of suck.’”
Erickson finished his drum parts in only four days but the rest of the album—guitars, bass and vocals—took months and months. And the drummer says that as much as he likes his bandmates, Coleman and guitarist Kristyn Chapman, he didn’t spend much time in the studio after his work was over.
“When I got the drums done, I was, like, I’m done. But I’m pretty much like that with every album I do,” he says. “As a drummer, I like to be removed and let the guitar players and the singers do what they want to do because the melody and harmony is coming from them. I’m just there to lay a good foundation, and I always like letting Thayne and Kristyn go nuts with guitar and then listening to it [and saying], ‘This is cool.’ I wasn’t sitting there every day. I like to be there when I can, but I also get really bored. I just sit there. I’m on Twitter. Trying to figure out what I should do. I’m, like, ‘I feel like I should be here but…’”
“I don’t like when anybody’s there when I’m doing vocals,” Coleman says. “I think Krystn was there like once or twice, and that was alright, but I get kind of crazy on the vocals.”
“I kept correcting him on the lyrics,” Chapman says.
“But you were wrong, though,” Coleman adds. “I had made some edits to lyrics. I sat down with the lyrics to all the songs before I went in and did vocals and was, like, ‘Alright. Any cringe-inducing things, I gotta edit those and re-work it. So, all those edits, she’d say, ‘Isn’t the lyric this?’’ ‘No! I’m changing ‘em!’”
The Travel Guide releases Trading A Dream this weekend and will spend some time touring in early 2016 with new bassist Caleb Drummond. Drummond is a Wichita music scene veteran who is the fourth bassist to join the band and, the other three say, maybe the most ambitious member the band has ever had.
“I love all the other bass players, but Caleb is the first one to book shows,” Coleman says.
“He’s actually been sending emails about booking tours and he’s, like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been working 20 hours on this,’ and we’re, like, ‘Yeah, well, we haven’t even [done anything yet],” Erickson says.
“He’s probably been doing more, actually, right now,” Coleman says.
The Travel Guide celebrates the release of Trading A Dream Saturday evening at Barleycorn’s.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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