We may be a uke band, but getting our awesome uke tones down on tape – well, crunched into the computer’s brain is the same process that your average metal or hipster pop band would follow, minus all the vomit and bedazzled prostitutes skulking about in the studio.
The Castaways are lucky. Not only is Mark our bassist extraordinaire, he is also the owner of one fine home studio giving him the unenviable task wearing the producer hat. Yes, he gets to try and corral us — his hell raising band mates — into finding a calm state while coaxing the musical tornado out of us and into the Castaways Audio Vault.
Each session begins with Mark assigning us a date and time on the band calendar. It is set: You show up. You rip. Done.
If only it were that simple. We are human and there are days where the right hand does not want to cooperate with the left. Tuning gremlins scamper in when your head is turned and pull an Old Number 7 on your tuning pegs, leaving you exasperated from your inability to keep four strings in tune. The inability to slip into a rhythm pocket — however brief — can spin a session into production stutter frenzy along the lines of Mel Tillis reading from a German phone book.
When the bad happens, there, like a safety net under flying acrobats, is Mark: Smile on his face, calm and encouraging. “OK, Ed, can you take that from the top of the bridge again and lay back on the pick attack a bit? Mellow it a bit. This baby has a swing to it.” Calm. Cool. Collected. Meanwhile I’m killing Care Bears in my mind because my spastic hand won’t jive with what my brain is telling it to do.
Navy pilots call it “A night in the box.” That’s how they refer to a pilot’s inability to land their plane on a pitching, rolling deck of an aircraft carrier at night. If the Castaways have “a night in the box” we thankfully, aren’t ditching a multi-million dollar aircraft into a black ocean. Nope. But we may impose the “woodshed” rule — go home and practice it some more — to save what time remains, moving onto the next task at hand.
For instance, I play a majority of the time with a medium pick. I have played a certain song a million times in practice and live, but when it came time to record the track, Fumble City. The rhythm was not happening. Mark smiled, and said “ why don’t you go home and woodshed it, and we’ll pick it up next week.”
Like a dejected starting pitcher leaving the mound at the bottom of the third, I headed home to figure out my rhythm conundrum. At home with no recording pressure, I discovered that my pick was hampering my string attack. Once I dropped the pick… Voila! Proper rhythm restored.
It’s Occam’s razor for sure: “All things being equal, a simple explanation is better than a complex one.”
Rhythm is restored. Mark keeps smiling and another Castaways track goes into the can. The remaining Care Bears in my head breathe a sigh of relief…for now.