Mark McMillon: Amped Up About Upcoming Album by The Story Changes
Hey, it's Mark from the Story Changes.
Let me start this blog post by saying I don't think we've ever been more excited as a band as we were entering the studio to track this new album. I think the two biggest factors for this were how long we had waited since releasing our last album and how long we spent working on the songs this time around.
Shortly after we started writing for the album, we made a simple, yet hard-to-abide-by rule: no touring until we were finished writing and recording.
We had no idea how long it would take to finish writing the album. Two months? Two years? Being on tour is one of our favorite parts about being in a band; however, I started to feel like, between the constant scheduling and balancing the touring, along with our normal lives when home, the material we were coming up with on our little downtime felt forced and rushed. Basically, I thought it was just not as good as I knew we were capable of.
We've been an active and busy band for a long time, so it was extremely hard for us to get used to just sort of stopping the normal routine, but after we got used to it and got into the writing process for the album, it's was absolutely what we needed. I think in a lot of ways, I lost track of why we were doing it and how good it feels to just be a band and get together and jam for fun and write songs when you feel like it.
It's not that we think we've ever been a big band by any means at all, it's just that we have always had so much scheduled that everything felt forced and mapped out with little time to step back and really enjoy it sometimes. This was the first time we wrote songs for an album that didn't have a deadline, didn't have to be released for an already-planned upcoming tour, etc., and it felt so liberating. We got together to write and work on songs when we felt like it and when we had the time. When it felt forced, we simply didn't force it.
Fast forward to almost a year later, and we have written my favorite the Story Changes album to date, and we couldn't be more proud of it.
We entered the studio in November. We decided to track the album close to home this time around in Troy, Ohio, with longtime friend Micah Carli (Hawthorne Heights) at his studio, Popside Recording. We brought in something like 18 songs for the album and ended up narrowing it down to 14 to record. This was really the first time we were able to take so much time writing, reworking and fleshing out changes to the songs before entering the studio.
From the earliest conversations going into the record between myself and my bandmate Chris, or "Poppy" as most of us call him, we knew we wanted the overall feel of the album be a nod to the late-'90s alternative and punk scene that influenced us growing up.
Micah did a wonderful job producing and engineering the album. I have been playing guitar in Hawthorne Heights with Micah live for around three years, and I knew we worked well together. We had some pretty extensive talks about the the overall vibe and sound we were going for on the album over a a couple of the months leading up to recording. Micah really pushed us to try some new things on this record that I think we were a little too scared to try on our own.
Sometimes after being a band for so long, you feel almost stuck on how you are supposed to sound and what feels natural within the sound of your band. Taking some time off the road to get a new outlook creatively along with working with Micah's fresh prospective really helped with thinking outside our usual realm of things. I think the end result was honest and pure: Just playing music and writing songs for the love of it with someone you really enjoy playing with.
Things ran smooth and on schedule for the most part. Poppy knocked out all of his drum tracks in the first two days. He crushed it! We used a lot of room mics when tracking drums to fit the vibe and feel of the album. I was able to knock out all of the bass tracks on day three, and then it was on to guitars. We used a Gibson Grabber to track the bass on some of the more aggressive songs.
Tracking guitars is probably my personal favorite part of being in the studio. We used a wide variety of amps and guitars this time around, mostly made up from Micah's extensive collection of gear. I used my Framus Mayfield on a good number of the tracks. I experimented with quite a few different fuzz and distortion pedals throughout the album. The studio had just about any classic guitar effect you could think of on hand, literally hundreds of pedals. It was a lot of fun to play around and dig into what sounds suited each particular song best.
We were all about having some friends come in and lend us their talents for specific songs during recording. Having guests come in is something we haven't done much of in the past, but was a lot of fun for this album. About halfway through the recording, our friend Joanna Taylor came in and played cello and viola on the song "Nobody's Poet." It sounds so spooky, it gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it.
JT and Matt from Hawthorne Heights both came in on different days and sang on the album. Matt sang some harmonies with me throughout the album and JT dueted with me on the song "In Too Deep." Our friends Kris and Andy came in on the second to last day of recording to contribute some gang vocals with us. We have so many talented friends, we're so lucky to have some of them contribute to our album.
Recording my vocals was really stress free on the album. We experimented with some different microphones and tried out tracking in different spots in the studio. Overall, we tried to capture natural performances that had a lot of energy and sounded real as opposed to trying to get it perfect from a million stale and chopped up takes pieced together in the computer. I'm really proud of how it all sounds!
We are having Jamie Woolford mix the record out on his home turf in Arizona. Jamie has produced and recorded the biggest chunk of our back catalog; we were excited to have him involved on this album as well. After recording two previous full-lengths with him, as well as our tracks from the Analogies split, we've got a lot of love for working together.
I can't wait for all of you to hear how the album turned out! Please listen loudly!
Mark McMillon is the guitarist in the Story Changes.