Fem Maggots

Maximum Fem Maggots!

The Notorious Fem Maggots occupied a rehearsal space a few weeks back, and took CKUT and TVM along for the ride.

As always, I was there keeping the sounds (at least reasonably) under control.

The band operates as a collective hive mind, rejecting all forms of hierarchy and making all decision both aesthetic and managerial as a single consensus based unit. It is truly a thing to behold.

They are also, as it turns out, quite a fearsome and mighty punk rock ensemble: spewing vicious sonics from the usual instrumental suspects (guitar, bass, drums) as well as keyboards, accordion and a hydra headed duelling lead vocal assault.

Squeezing all that energy and zeal into a single room (and then a single mix!) was a bit of a challenge, but one that was most certainly overcome.

Circle Pit

When prepping for a live off the floor session, the layout of all the musicians, instruments, and amplifiers is incredibly important for the overall level of sonic clarity. Since bleed is a completely unavoidable reality in these situations, you really end up making a lot of important mix decision before the band even begins to play. By keeping both the directionality of sound sources and of microphones clearly in mind, you can solve a lot of problems before they occur.

Another thing we had to keep in mind was how 3 camera people were going to navigate through the space without tripping over cables or obstructing the ability of the Maggots to “Bring The Noise,” as it were.

Of prime importance in most situations is obviously the lead vocal, or in this case, vocals.

Instead of a classic “on stage” style set up, I prefer to arrange musicians in more of a circle, trying to place the loudest sound sources (usually the drums, or electric guitar) in the nulls.

Another key arrangement to pay attention to is the placement of the bass amp and the kick drum. Getting those two to play nice is essential for a hard hitting rock mix, and getting it right in the room makes all the difference. Bass frequencies are often the most unruly in untreated rooms, so you’ve gotta be prepared to do a little tweaking.

I find that for both the Kick Drum and the Bass Amp, far more sound comes from the front and back rather than the sides. I set them up side by side, and try to get the mic for each in a spot where they hear a little as possible of each other.

Accordion Wrangling

Another major challenge of the Fem Maggots session was their use of Accordion. I’d never tried to record one before, and it was a rather interesting, if slightly difficult task. For one, it was an acoustic instrument in the middle of a loud, amplified rock band. Second, it’s technically a stereo instrument, with sounds coming from both sides. It’s pretty difficult to mic both sides of something which expands and contracts by as much as three feet throughout the course of a performance!

Since I didn’t have any clip-on mic’s with me, I ended up deciding to cut my losses and only mic one (mostly stationary) side of the instrument. The bleed from the other instruments was totally overpowering my second mic anyway: the room was too small, and we didn’t have any proper baffles at all.

I still managed to capture enough of the accordion’s tone to make sure it had a solid place in the mix, but it was an interesting challenge, and one I’m looking forward to tackling again in the future.

Anyone out there have any Accordion Advice?

The videos from the session are still locked up tight in the editing phase, but for now you can enjoy the delicious auditory fruits of the Maggot’s labours.

Dig in!