“Some of the tunes were written in Perth on a clunky upright in my parents front room [and] some were written in an underground studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn.”, explains Little Birdy vocalist Katy Steele of the long creative process behind her forthcoming debut album. She adds that the LP — writing of which started around 2009 when Steele migrated to New York — “really is a snapshot of the last few years of [her] life.”
While now living back in Melbourne, Steele recently returned to her hometown of Perth to record the album, which was prominently drawn from experiences of her time living and gigging in New York. Matt Gio (Rudimental, Troy Sivan) took the production reigns, manning the boards at his Rada Studios.
“It’s a really homely looking studio equipped with every type of toy you could ever need,” Steele says of Rada. “Seeing a mellotron in [Matt’s] collection was a game changer for me, as it’s [definitely] one of my favorite instruments. There’s also a collection of analog vintage synths. There were three or so different upright pianos.”
The first taste from the as-yet-untitled debut is lead single “Where’s the Laughter”, scheduled for release later this month, with the album set to follow in October. A special preview show for the new material is also scheduled for Saturday, August 13th at Badlands in Perth.
Ahead of which, Steele has shared with us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the recording process, collating some of her favourite diary photos from the time at Rada Studios.
All captions by Katy Steele.
I actually wrote ‘Where’s the Laughter’ on an omni-chord so it was great to get some of this instrument on the record. The omni-chord is a great way to write songs as it takes you out of your normal chordal comfort zone of what you are used to. Such a brilliant instrument.
This a picture of [Matt] Gio and myself assuming a pretty common position during the recording process. We spent a lot of time on fun things like Crystalizer (plugin which we used loads on the vocals). So after tracking vocals, percussion or drum loops we would spend a lot of time messing around with certain plugs to try and get things sounding wild.
This is a pic of me demoing in my parents underground studio called the dungeon. A lot of the tracks from the album were demoed up in this spot and a few were actually written down there too. Funnily enough, a track called ‘lonely’ was written down there, as it’s like a little cave down there. It’s almost like your miles away when you are down there, feels a little like a bunker.
A record is not a record without a whiteboard…
Gio is a multi instrumentlist and specifically a drummer, so a lot of the time I had to undertake some very basic engineering on pro-tools. It was just the two of us the whole time in the studio whilst making the record so it was a very intimate, and at times intense record to make. But after a few months we collectively found such a strong vision that things were really easy to translate and it made the process quicker and easier to navigate. Our roles were easily defined so we realised we both had a job to do and we just got on with it.
This is another shot of my set up whilst demoing in the dungeon.
The drums and percussion were a huge part of this record so this required recording them in loads of different areas of the studio. We used the hallways a lot, sometimes the live room and sometimes even the control room. We used every corner of that studio. For one of the tracks ‘No Slave’ we had a huge pile of drum sticks, like twenty or so, and we clip clopped them into a rhythm and mic-ed it up. This became the backbone rhythm of the tune. So a lot of the percussion and drums were very organic and human in aesthetic. It became our sound.
Tracking some vocals in my favourite t-shirt!!
I was performing in the city somewhere this night, so Jarrad Seng snapped this after a full day at the studio. Photo by Jarrad Seng.
Here’s a fun selfie in the middle of a long day of recording with my favourite mic, an RCA.
A lot of the record was written on an upright piano, usually late at night. So we combined quite a few different upright pianos on the record to get it sounding grandiose and usually different on each song. Photo by Jarrad Seng.
There isn’t actually any guitar on the new album, funnily enough, but that didn’t stop me from trying to get a little in there. Photo by Jarrad Seng.