Tips and tricks: George Apsion

Kore Studios has just started a small eponymous record label, and House of Lions are the first signings. George Apsion, who runs the studio and manages the band, produced and engineered their first single, Uncruel.

What was the setup in the live room?

In the past we’d relied on overdubbing, building it up. When they were younger players we would get a tidier sound on it if we did them one by one, and for [Uncruel], because it had this soulful, almost Motowny element, I was keen to make sure it was a live thing. It was really about reacting off each other, and experimentation, and capturing a moment. We made sure that the singer knew that the vocals were not a guide. He had to approach every vocal like it was the one. It was really exciting for them because that was the first time they’d recorded like that. Music as a band is all about reacting off each other, and you never know what you’re going to do because you don’t know what you’re going to feel or the way you’re going to react when you hear somebody else in the band do something in a certain way, and that will then inform the way that you play. So it was about getting that magic take to happen. The poor guys were in there for a whole day! And we probably did it about 30 times. We just hit a pocket somewhere in the mid-afternoon where there were two or three that were just magic, and then we lost it. A couple of percussion overdubs, and that was it. It’s interesting as well to listen to the stuff we’d done previously versus that. There’s a real energy, and soulfulness and feeling to it that wasn’t in the recordings we’d done before so that is now the way that we will be approaching the EP.

The other thing we’re very keen on is fairly minimal miking. We’ve got a great drum tech that we use, a guy called Martin Oldham, and he comes in and spends some time on the drums. So in the end it’s pretty basic miking; overheads, kick, snare, maybe a room. Likewise with the guitarist we spent a bit of time making sure the sound at source was right, and the sound in the room was right. So once all of that’s set, just let them do the work and sit back and drink coffee!

What was the main challenge during the session?

To keep the band excited, to keep their energy up. With young bands they have a limited window of attention span sometimes and it can be a long day. It’s easy for us because we’re in here having great fun fiddling with buttons and pressing things, but they’re the guys in there who have to do the work. It’s quite tiring doing the same song back-to-front for a day, so it’s keeping their energy up, keeping them excited, making them understand what it is that we’re reaching for.

House of Lions