What: The Congress
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Dickens Opera House, 300 Main St., Longmont, 720-297-6397
More info: dickensoperahouse.com
Denver rock trio The Congress released a new EP, The Loft Tapes, yesterday, and it shows a more stripped down and soulful side of the band that was relegated to the band's small room sets until now. We talked to guitarist Scott Lane about the recording process, song selection and the value of soul over sonic perfection.
The Loft Tapes sounds so much like the stripped down sound I've heard from you in small, quiet venues. Is that what prompted this?
Yeah, yeah. It's a couple things. We don't do it anymore, but we were doing this friends jam thing in a Denver restaurant called Lola ... We were just getting together and playing a bunch of old tunes. We got this reel-to-reel machine and we figured this would be a good way to learn how to use it.
Had you been wanting to do that or did you just stumble on it?
I'd been looking for it for a long time. It's a called a Tascam 388 and a lot of great records are recorded on it. Rubber Factory, I think, the second Black Keys album, is on it and I think Dr. Dog recorded on it. A lot of the grungier stuff I like uses it.
Speaking of, everyone is talking about who mastered the record -- Brian Lucey, who has worked with the Black Keys?
I was still looking for the person who was going to complete the picture, specifically for this tape machine, and be a little more lo-fi than everything else we've done, so I contacted him ... I sent him a track that we'd finished and he basically said, 'It looks like I'm what you're looking for.'
Tell me about the recording setup.
Our manager Brian works in this old Masonic lodge with an upstairs loft. It's like a huge meeting room. It's the size of a music venue in there. The ceilings are so enormous and arched. The acoustics in there are absolutely amazing. He's also a painter, and we were using the paintings as baffling. We got some paintings, cool stuff lying around everywhere, eight channels straight into reel-to-reel quarter-inch tape and we didn't use any outboarding gear. Everything is just us controlling ourselves. You can hear the vocals are pretty dirty. I like that sound a lot. I like dirty sounds.
Let's talk about the song selection. You certainly weren't restricted by gender.
We do a couple tunes that are sung from the perspective of women and, yeah, it's a song. I don't see why you wouldn't do that.
And you went with a popular Van Morrison song.
All of the songs are hits, you know. The only exception being "Fool For You." I don't really care what stigma there is against covering a really popular song. When we started playing these songs it wasn't with the intent of, 'Oh man we're going to cover the most popular tunes we can cover so people will love it.' These are tunes that we like and mean a lot to us. There are third generation covers, like "You've Got a Friend," that was covered on the Donny Hathaway live record. "Que Cera," the Doris Day tune, Sly and the Family Stone covered. Whatever, to questions covering that sort of stuff.
I get the impression that you're all really feeling it. Not just playing through it.
We kind of spent the time rearranging the tunes before we recorded them. We'd do a couple takes in the studio. We did it all live except the vocals, which we couldn't do live because of the vocal bleed. Jonathan really nailed the vocals. So, we rearranged he tunes beforehand and kind of made it our own and we were focused really heavily on making it our own. If someone makes a little mistake, it's honest to the take, and you can hear that stuff all over the record, but what matters is that we got a good take as an ensemble and you feel it.