Studio 11 Chicago : Recording, Mixing, Mastering, And Music Production
About Studio 11 Chicago
studio11 on 02/21/2017 at 12:53AM
By Dan Zorn
I remember when “KILYO” (Jared Bradley) first contacted Studio 11. He had moved to Chicago from Ohio early in 2016, and was eager to start recording his debut album, Harpoon. After sharing a recorded demo via out studio website chat, I was immediately impressed by the sound of his voice, even on my laptop speakers. One month later, KILYO recorded his first single,“Tetris,” at Studio 11. It wasn't very far in the session when I realized KILYO is a rare talent - and that this is only the beginning of an exciting career as an artist. Since recording “Tetris,” KILYO has spent months with Studio 11 creating his awaited album, Harpoon, expected to be released on December 16th.
What strikes me most about KILYO is his humbleness toward his craft -never once boasting the fact that he really is a one person band . While KILYO has nearly perfect (and I mean perfect) pitch, singing harmonies rivaling R. Kelly’s vocal coach, he is an equally talented producer. After I asked him what DAW he uses for music production, he told me, “Oh, I don’t have one”. At first, I was confused, but he then mentioned he uses a website called Soundation.com. I had never heard of the DAW website before. Intrigued, I began to ask him more questions:
“So, is it a drag-and-drop, loop-based program…(thinking how flexible can a website DAW really be)?”
“No, it's actually quite the opposite!” adding how he only uses stock sounds on the website, manually inserting each drum hit, and penciling in every note (including highly-syncopated , often times quite complex poly-rhythmic patterns). Interestingly enough, KILYO’s compositions are also created with little experience of music theory, primarily done by the training he’s taught himself.
As intricate as his chord progressions and composition skills are, what impresses me most is KILYO’s sonic palette and keen ear for creating unique, original sounds. As a music producer myself, it’s one thing to pencil in notes for a technically good song on paper, but choosing and designing the sounds is a whole other ball park. Many artists lack this creative element. However, KILYO has an in-depth understanding of utilizing exciting sounds: instruments pan around your head exponentially increasing in speed, distorted synth lines dance within the stereo field and shimmer throughout, percussion hits are constantly hand pitched up and down in various ways: all creating quite a dense wall of sound without ever feeling overproduced. The distinct array of timbre lies on top of heavily saturated, analog-sounding chords that one quickly realizes only KILYO could (and would!) compose.
Coming from a background in theater, KILYO is no novice to projecting and manipulating his voice. His vocal range is especially vast, from rumbling lows to ear-piercing high frequencies and everything in between. During one session, Jared was recording ad-libs for the background of a chorus, and he literally glided from a low rumble all the way up to the what sounded like the highest octave possible for the male voice. After recording, me and my assistant started laughing - because it was truly strange to hear this come from a humans voice.
Listening closer, another feature of KILYO’s music is the fact that nearly everything - verses, choruses, and bridges - are sung in harmonized chords. There are very few moments on Harpoon which do not feature four to six harmonies stacked on the lead. In the vocal booth, KILYO would simply sing an initial root note, then hum to figure out what we be the most interesting harmony for that particular part - sometimes a 3rd, 5th or 7th, but often times harmonies for very dissonant chords.
“But I know some artists that can do that,” you may be saying. Well, sure, there are a lot of great artists that can. Yet, KILYO’s harmonies aren’t perfect transposed mirrors of the root note. Many of his harmonies dance around notes nearby (above or below the root note), creating interesting often times jazzy chord textures. Considering KILYO’S limited background in music theory, it’s evident that his effortless chord construction is a natural talent. Undoubtedly, the skill separates his music, bringing it to another level of quality that most artist seem to lack without the help of a vocal coach or additional producer.
Upon listening to the album all together, it's clear that KILYO’s Harpoon has a deliberate mood and purpose. The album embodies an original sound, complimenting well-developed themes and motifs based on the content of the songs themselves. With regard to the title, “Harpoon,” the content highlights various symbols and metaphors of the sea. Pieces entitled “Bermuda,” “Fisherman,” and “Submarine” embark on a voyage through emotional waves. Songs embracing water themes tend to sound more underwater with delays and reverb, in aim to emphasize a deeper, submerged meaning. However as “sea themed” as the album is, it’s not intend to admire the actual sea. KILYO’s Harpoon is full of free-spirited stories, personal hardships, moving on, and self-actualizing. Point being, one learns a lot about himself while lost at sea.
All in all it becomes apparent that no genre can apply to Kilyo. Harpoon encourages an introspective, personal examination for listeners… so dive in!
Behind the Scenes: Recording, Mixing and Mastering Harpoon at Studio 11
We recorded all of Jared’s vocals using an Audio Technica AT 4060 vacuum tube microphone into a Manley VoxBox preamp, which was channeled into Pro tools HD. After initial tracking, I went through a couple session recordings to determine the best overall settings for vocals on the album, and after some experimentation, I finally settled on a plug-in chain that suited KILYO’s voice best. The primary ingredients that really made Harpoon’s vocals pop were the Waves Renaissance Axe, the Waves Lo-Fi saturation plug-in, and the Waves Kramer Tape (yes a lot of saturation and distortion!). I found these all added nice fullness to the vocals, and the Kramer Tape sculpted a smooth, rounded high end. Harpoon’s mastering was done in the box, using plug-ins from Waves.
KILYO Website: http://kilyomusic.wixsite.com/kilyo
KILYO Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kilyo_/