SoundCheck: A Band, A Producer, An Album

Nov 6, 2018

Credit Carla DeSilva-Carver

Not every local band records with a producer, but Failing Minnesota has spent the last year and a half working with producer Kevin Gates at Reach Audio on their first full-length album. I sat down with the band to find out how working so closely with a producer has influenced them.

Vocalist and guitarist Michael Gandy remembers what it was like joining Failing Minnesota after they had already started recording.

“It was almost jarring for me to go into this type of recording process, to where Failing Minnesota had made a commitment for a year, year and a half, two years as to ‘We’re going to put out a quality, full-length CD,’” said Mike. 

And when it comes down to getting the quality you’re looking for, sometimes you have put yourself out there a little more than you might be used to.

Bassist Austin Robertson said, “Coming into a band that is openly inviting a producer to come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got these great ideas. Let’s stretch everybody a little bit beyond their comfort zone."

He remembers that discomfort the first time he was in the studio with Kevin.

“He says, ‘Ok, I like that…now let’s maybe try something a little bit different with that.’ In my brain, I’m thinking, ‘Ok, this is weird…’ but then to hear everything as he’s pieced it all together – Kevin’s a very big-picture kinda guy, as a producer should be. I am not. The song “Fuzzy Moments” on our recording was the first one that we did together and I just remember being so just taken aback at how everything came together in a way that was greater than the sum of our parts,” said Austin. 

When musicians tell a producer they’re allowed to suggest changes during the recording process, it’s important to keep an open mind. Guitarist Shawn Brockert knows you have to be flexible.

Credit Jessica Balisle / KSMU

“We always try to prepare ourselves going into the studio ahead of time, so that when we went in we knew that, ‘Don’t get too attached to anything,’” said Shawn. 

Austin echoes this sentiment, adding that, “He made me comfortable knowing that he wasn’t criticizing anything I was doing. He was trying to make everything better than what we could come up with on our own.”

Of course, as with any project, not everything is smooth sailing. Drummer Chris Carver wanted to add a real tambourine to a song, while producer Kevin insisted on using a digital sample.

“It turned into this big blow up, like, yelling at each other about a tambourine. What’s funny about it is my eleven year-old was sitting there and he texted my wife and says, ‘I don’t think they like each other anymore.’ And then we all went out to Mexican after that and had a great dinner and it was fine,” said Chris. 

Disagreements aside, the influence of a producer can help musicians see the big picture and realize their potential. I asked the band what it was like to finish such an important project that they had spent all this time on.

“It was very bittersweet,” said Austin.

“Spending a year and a half or so working on one thing and then kind of seeing it come to the end, it’s a sense of relief. It’s also kind of a sense of a void of ‘what’s next?’” said Chris.

“I am very excited about what we as a band are going to write together next and record next,” said Mike.

“My last day in the studio, I cut two songs and I remember when we wrapped up for the day, feeling like I was ready to cut another ten,” said Shawn. 

Those are the voices of the band Failing Minnesota.  Thanks for tuning into SoundCheck. I’m Jess Balisle.