I was floored the first time I clicked play to hear the music of Big Nice, a recent solo EP by Bradford Krieger. I’m constantly listening to music and it’s become rare for me to jarringly halt mid-step, akin to car crashing into a wall of awesome, and exclaim, “Who the fuck is this?!?” but that’s exactly what I did upon hearing Big Nice’s EP 1. There’s a fantastic mix of skill, looseness, & fun melded together in this short but ambitious EP.
Visions of the Unexcused:
You’re the Chief Engineer and Co-Owner at Hanging Horse Studio in Norwood, MA. Was there any inherit difficulty in recording your own material as opposed to others?
I like to be super hands on when I’m working with bands in the studio. I find we get the best results when we’re all working together as a team, fully focused and immersed in the project. When I’m working on my own stuff, I prefer to be a little more free flowing and relaxed. It can definitely be more difficult when you don’t have a whole crew collaborating and backing each other up, so I need to be really self motivated when recording my own material. The logistics are a bit of a challenge as well, running back and forth from room to room, adjusting levels and recording takes.
Two questions – were there others whom helped you record on EP1? You play in a bunch of different bands (Soft Fangs, magic magic, Holiday Music, and 14 Foot 1) were any of these tracks potentially slated to be played with one of them? What made you decide to pursue Big Nice as an additional outlet? Ok, I lied, that was like four questions, lol.
I don’t do a ton of writing in a lot of the bands I play in, so I wanted to focus on my own work with this project. All of the tracks on this record were written and recorded (with a few overdubs added later) in one day studio sessions, solo. I would book a day out, go in, and kind of run around like a mad man from one instrument to the next. Big Nice is really rewarding for me as someone who constantly produces and engineers other folks’ work. I get to play music with all my talented buds, then retreat back into the studio with their influence on me in mind, and churn something out.
Wow, that’s impressive – I can barely put vocals over a guitar, let alone create the layers you have here. What was the process like for a song like “Vino”? In three and a half minutes there’s quiet the journey – it sounds like a refined jam. Was there indeed some wine involved?
Wine, of any kind, is the most essential tool in the studio. After corking, I laid down the initial guitar track and worked from there. I usually start with guitar and layer upon it, and lyrics are always last (or in this case nonexistent). I left the room mics on as I tracked all the instruments, and mixed them high, particularly for the bass part. I’m really crazy about the bass lines on this song – I thought it was a little too wanky at first, but I kept listening to my initial mix that I made that day and decided to just go for it. I was listening to Hot Rats that day and really digging Frank’s solo section on Peaches En Regalia; he played back the track at half speed and recorded his part, then sped the whole thing up. It gets this tinny, crystal sound that’s fantastic, so I copied the technique. My friend had his timbales at the studio, so I figured I would toss them on as well. I think the jammy feel comes from the fact that I did everything so quickly with the intention of chopping and altering things later but then just decided to keep everything the way it was. The only overdubs on this song are the key parts which I added weeks later.
Wow, I consider myself something of a “Zappa Head” and did not realize that. Super cool technique. Two performers whom I kept referencing when listening to EP1 were Cornelius and Nigo – both of whom happen to be Japanese musicians and producers.On tracks like “Ta Dum” the gorgeous sunshined Beach Boys vibe over those drums really remind me of those two cats. Is that just a coincidence with my ears – or are you a fan of their work?
I’ve never heard of them but I’m super excited to check them out! I think for aspiring engineer guys my age this may be a cliché, but Phil Elvrum’s “keep the mistakes in” style of recording has really been my biggest influence in writing and production. The sound of an ambulance in the background in the opening of Sand (Eric’s Trip) was a moment of epiphany that’s always stuck with me.
Any plans to play out as Big Nice? What’s Next?
I have some things cooking for a live version of Big Nice. I’ve run the songs with a few pals and I think I’ll start playing out in early 2016. More importantly, I’m just looking towards being locked up in the studio working on the next batch of tunes!
Last question, I’m starting to put together my Best of the Year podcast for 2015 – what are some albums that came out this year that readers shouldn’t miss?
Grape Blueprints Pour Spinach Olive Grape by Dilute is one of my absolute favorite records and it was reissued on vinyl this year and everyone needs to hear it. Besides that, this year I had the incredible honor of producing a record from the absolute best band in Boston, Horse Jumper of Love, but you’ll have to wait ’til 2016 to hear that masterpiece.
Fresh from taking part in the always fantastic Outlaw Roadshow in NYC – The Longwall’s have released the first of a ten-song live video from their record release show back in March (due out in early December w/audio). Fittingly for this Halloween weekend the song they’ve chosen is “Zombies!” – one of my favorite tracks from their 2008 debut Field Guide for the Zombie Survivalist.
Filmed back in March at The Bridge Sound and Stage for the release of their absolutely stellar Gold Standard – an album which will be featured on Visions upcoming “Best Of The Year” podcast. I was lucky enough to be present for this show. Beer was packed at the front of the stage from the still too high snow banks outside – and the mood inside was positively captivated – something this video, and the upcoming video series encapsulate wonderfully.
Found Audio is led by guitarist John Bragg whom you’ve likely already listened to but just haven’t realized. John’s been a mainstay in the Boston music scene for the past decade; playing with acts like Ruby Rose Fox, Power Slut, amongst others – and on Locomotive Earth he’s stepping from shadow to limelight and we’re all better off for it. The album’s range is broad, however, its strength is in its deep seeded sense of Americana – which coincides with the changing of leaves quite well.
Recommended If You Like: Cracker, Son Volt, Drive-By Truckers
Exciting news for fans of cold beer & rock + roll – Psychic Dog will be releasing their second EP, Adios Huevos, this coming Halloween at Club Bohemia. The three track EP has significant punch which is a result of recording in one continuous take (w/some vocal overdubs). This bold approach allows the energy of their live shows to permeate what’s on tape, and to these trained ears, the end result could easily be snuck into SST’s early catalog. Shit is fantastic.
Recommended If You Like: Mudhoney, Meat Puppets, Tall Boys
I recently finished reading Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records – and it was an engaging read. Written by Amanda Petrusich, it chronicles well known collectors of 78 records, and in particular collectors who specialize in Pre-War Blues. Petrusich did an excellent job in connecting the music, history, fanaticism, and people who’ve saved this music from being lost to history. I wouldn’t read without a highlighter in hand as I wasn’t too versed in this era of music (outside of Robert Johnson) – and it was a fantastic way not only be entertained, but educated. The result of my dog-eared & Highlighted copy of Do Not Sell is this podcast.
- Buy Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records
2. Mississippi John Hurt – Spike Driver Blues
3. The Williamson Brothers & Curry – Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand (1927)
4. Skip James – Drunken Spree (1931)
5. Joe Bussard – R&B Stuff Now
6. Eddie Head & His Family – Down on Me (1930)
7. Charley Patton – Some These Days I’ll Be Gone (1929)
8. Blind Lemon Jefferson – Black Snake Moan (1927)
9. King Solomon Hill – My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon (1932)
10. Geeshie Wiley – Last Kind Words Blues (1930)
11. Bessie Smith – Down Hearted Blues (1923)
12. Sylvester Weaver – Guitar Blues (1923)
13. Blind Uncle Gaspard – Sur Le Borde De L’eau (1929)
14. Tommy Johnson – Alcohol and Jake Blues (1929)
15. Frank Hutchison – K.C.Blues (1927)
16. Long Cleve Reed and Little Harvey Hull – Original Stack O Lee Blues (1927)
17. Cincinnati Jug Band – Newport Blues (1929)
18. Arthur Miles – Lonesome Cowboy Pt. II (1928)
19. Lucie Bernardo / Otto Rathke – The Okeh Laughing Record (1922)
Rob Kelly, aka Man Called War, recently moved from Boston to Des Moines, Iowa – and this change seems to be reflected in his latest EP, Broken Circle. It’s been only six months since his fantastic Naked Animals LP, however, a definite progression can be heard. With the space a move to the middle of America allots, there’s an added expansiveness and a darker tilt to Broken Circle, making it an intriguing listen – perfect for late night visions or solitary car trips.
Recommended If You Like: Bon Iver, The National, Bummer Folk
Muler is a band my friends have championed for something like two decades – and with their latest LP, Unlikely Soldiers, it’s easy to see why. They’re the band that should have been. My main complaint with the record is that it’s only their third full length in 20 years – and from multiple listens it may very well be their best. Like all Muler albums & singles it’s an earnest, smart, & catchy guitar driven rocker – which gives me hope that these perpetual underdogs can turn should have into will.
Recommended If You Like: Teenage Fanclub, Buffalo Tom, Nada Surf