Sonic Circumstances: The Max Tribe on Recording in a Former Masonic Temple

June 23, 2017 | by Jon Simmons

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Courtesy of The Max Tribe

 

Today, musicians can record music pretty much anywhere. Sonic Circumstances is an interview series that features musicians talking about unique places they’ve recorded and how location influenced their experience. In this chapter, lead singer and guitarist Austin Max of blues-rock band The Max Tribe talks about recording at 1867 Studio, a former Masonic temple.

“It was dimly lit, massive, and looked like a storage unit for an early 1900s world circus tour.”

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Live Room at 1867 Recording Studio

How the location affected their recording process:

1867 is tucked behind a secret door on an unsuspecting street, ten minutes northeast of downtown Boston. It features a massive 50 x 50 x 30 foot live room that was once a temple, originally constructed in 1867. They don't give out their number or address online so you only hear about it through word of mouth. We were lucky that Rafa (Bass) recorded some projects with James Bridges (studio manager/main engineer) there in the past, and he helped bridge our connection.

We were surprised making our way into the studio. You go through this small door next to a bakery, up a wide flight of stairs (no elevator), and through large, eerie hallways. You'd think the building was abandoned. Once I entered the studio doors, my jaw dropped. It was dimly lit, massive, and looked like a storage unit for an early 1900s world circus tour. Circus in the sense that there are so many bizarre and funky instruments scattered along the walls: all types of old pianos, keyboards, vintage amps, a massive old church pipe organ on the back wall, timpani, out of the ordinary guitars, sound effect keychains, a pump organ, and more. We loved the temple's mic collection as well.

The studio had a mysterious vibe, yet it was very inviting and creative. The walls have old masonic symbols on them, and the whole place is very old. It didn’t feel like we were in a conventional studio, and it allowed us to create more freely.

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Live Room at 1867 Recording Studio

What the location added to their sound:

The sound was extremely dark with a long, almost gated-sounding reverb. It is the kind of room that you can hit a snare drum in and it will sound awesome tuned or untuned, which is a gift and a curse because even shit instruments sound awesome. Conner (drums) had to go into the control room to tune the snare because the character of the room was almost too overwhelming. It’s the kind of place that does "When the Levee Breaks" justice. You just have to watch out for ambiance on the tracks you want to stay punchy.

What we ended up doing on the record was dampening the drums heavily with cloth and using high rooms to sort of "emulate" resonance. It came out awesome. Definitely worth checking out if creative engineering is your thing. We did two lockout sessions—probably just shy of thirty hours. Seven of the ten tracks on the record were recorded at 1867. We had such a great time recording there. Great vibes all around and James was nothing short of excellent to work with. We're glad we got to join the club.

Look out for The Max Tribe’s upcoming 2017 album, Retrofit, and learn more about The Max Tribe on their official website.

Be ready to record your song ideas wherever you are. Download the Spire app, a free, multi-track recording app for iPhone.

Sonic Circumstances: The Max Tribe on Recording in a Former Masonic Temple