Attention Deficit Disorder
Hi, I’m Vince Cimo, guitarist, singer and keyboard player from Mannequins By Day. Like so many in this generation, I have severe ADD. Rather than see this as a hinderance, I feel that the more recent generations are just operating at a different pace. So Many Colors is an attempt to keep the attention of a person with a short attention span. It’s arranged around vastly different sonic landscapes, with short hooky sections and a lean, tight presentation. You intentionally will not find much fat on these songs, rather, the album is arranged so that each song is concise and contrasts enough to maintain interest from even the most distractible of millennials.
So Many Colors: Soundscape
The founding idea for Mannequins by Day is to blend hard hitting, modern dance beats with 60’s & early 70’s production. In execution, this ends up looking like some fucked up mish mash of Skrillix and CSNY. The idea of ‘song’ (to me, a strong concept which expresses an idea or an emotion concisely and lyrically), is still strong, as it was in 60’s music, but the overall soundscape, rather than being comprised of the good old standard rock band arrangement is made up of sub-kicks, strange snare samples, trap-style hat patterns and 808 low end. On top of this cold electronic bedrock are placed soothing, sparsely processed vocal harmonies, shimmering guitars and vintage keyboards. The ethos with So Many Colors is to blend the old and the new and try to make sense of it all.
Tech Mumbo Jumbo for the Nerds
First off, it’s my strong opinion that you can make music with anything from a spoon to a poly synth, and that both things can sound amazing if you know what’s up. That being said, the tools we use to create undoubtedly leave their mark and can add color to the sonic painting which can act as a ‘sonic stamp’ of sorts. This album was more or less pieced together like a house.
Most of the drum programming was done using a combination of the Ableton Drum Rack with a bunch of custom samples, the Arturia DrumBrute and the Korg Volca Beats. The DrumBrute has a kind of ‘crappy, but awesome’ thing going on; the Volca Beats is reminiscent of a toy version of an 808 and the Ableton Drum Rack can be anything you want it to be. Much of the synth work was done with the Ableton MiniBrute, DSI Prophet 08 and Korg MS2000R. For more sterile, modern sounds, XFer Records Serum (a soft synth) was used.
There is a pretty stark contrast between the analog and digital sounds on this album. Vocally, most stuff was tracked using a dynamic mic, specifically the EV 666 (devils mic “ψ(｀∇´)ψ); it just has this high-end roll off which sounds really cool. We recorded the guitars mostly through a vintage Super Reverb; bass was pretty much all DI if done by a bass guitar. Honestly, this album could have been done with very little actual equipment… you don’t need much these days to make music.
This may sound harsh, but I can’t stand falling in love with a record only to see a bland live performance by the band. It cheapens the whole thing! This is especially true with electronic music. Producers will release this “epic!!!” sounding album, but their performance is essentially them standing in front of a pair of decks (essentially being used as an iPod), playing back their music and practicing their acting skills. Every time I see this I die inside a little bit.
How can all this creativity go into the music and then nothing into the performance! To me, live music is the energy swirling around and being called up from the universal inkwell that pushes and pulls in between a dancing audience and a group of performers; the performers ability to respond and be dynamic relative to a crowds energy level is paramount to a positive musical experience. Thus, Mannequins by Day is a band first, producer/DJ second. In order to recreate So Many Colors live, there’s a lot of technology involved and also a ton of good old rock and roll.
The Live Rig
First, songs are split into sections depending on instrumentation. Take “Blinding Light” for example; that song features something like 4 different drum kits, 5 keyboard sounds and 2 bass tones. The sounds are all reproduced using soft synths (thank you Arturia) and setup using a scene/dummy clip system in Ableton. Essentially, we trigger instrument changes throughout the songs, allowing us to get fairly close to the produced sound of the album. Some songs have a few things that are impossible to do live; in these cases, we are either playing along with a backing track (that has been made as sparse as possible), or have chosen to have the live iteration just be different from the recording. In addition to the underlying tech we arrange and practice vocal harmony; which is the main thread that ties the whole album together.
Holy crap, I didn’t think anyone would read this far. Congratulations. I sincerely hope you enjoy So Many Colors; it’s been a labor of love and the intention behind it is nothing more than to create a piece of art to share with the world and make people smile (and dance). Come check us out live! We throw a dope show 🙂 Thanks for reading, and this is Vince from In The Stu and The Sauce Pot Studios checking out.