Recording Adventures: “Smoking Gun” by Momma Holler — All Analog In New Orleans

A new record label today needs a standout artist, high aspirations, and a unique angle to get off the ground – Brooklyn’s Better Breakfast Records has all three.

Ally Pekins of Momma Holler enjoys her some mic time.

Ally Pekins of Momma Holler enjoys her some mic time.

An “analog recording company” founded in 2013 by Chris McFarland, Better Breakfast is debuting with the naturally appealing single “Smoking Gun” by the southern-tinged NYC rock band Momma Holler. “Smoking Gun” is a prime cut from Momma Holler’s full-length record You Got What You Wanted, slated for a September 7th release.

To make the record this past winter, McFarland – a young piano virtuoso who’s wise beyond his years – knew he would have to take the band out of the NYC cold to reach their comfort zone. Momma Holler’s singer, Ally Pekins, hails from Tallahassee, FL, which made a down-south sojourn a natural choice.

The chosen destination: New Orleans, where Momma Holler, McFarland, and his all-analog mobile recording rig decamped to the Oak Street home of engineer Turbo Tenev to make You Got What You Wanted. It’s a refreshing collection for ears in search of space and simply good Southern rock songs, cleanly delivered with just enough grit.

Check out the video for “Smoking Gun”, which features plenty of in-studio footage. Then be sure to read on for McFarland’s account of their old-school approach for laying down this toe-tapping track.

Chris McFarland:

This song was recorded with everything live except for the slide guitar and the backup vocals, which we did 10 minutes after the tracking of the tune was finished.  We work on an 8-track 1″ machine because I love the limitations it puts on the music.  I am not a fan of having 10 guitar tracks, or 10 guitar parts for that matter, and eight mics on the drums, it never sounds good to me.

The drums here have three mics: two Coles 4038’s — one over the drummers shoulder, one in front of the kick and snare — with an additional 57 underneath the snare for a good measure of cracklyness.  We were low on tracks so we dubbed the backup vocals and the slide on the same track (old school) just mixing the levels pre-take.  These are the best-sounding backups I’ve ever recorded, I love how they sit.

It is really my recording philosophy — and it may be cheesy to say but I mean it — that if it doesn’t sound good with the band all together in the room it isn’t going to sound good after the mix.  Well, maybe I should say it won’t “feel” right, because sounding “good” does not necessarily mean the vibe is right.

We work in time, meaning that we made snap decisions on what will be the “final” sound of the recordings right there in the studio, rather than multiple mics on everything to have options later.

We listened just to sounds for almost three weeks before we got any final takes! It took us three weeks for me to feel like our drum sound felt right, and also to get the band to play parts that really made the songs.  All of the music Momma Holler does come from lyrics and melodies first, then arrangement and riffs to add to the songs — this is very different than a lot of what I’m hearing these days.

We have a very open relationship with our productions, so we just work and work until everyone is happy with the sounds. That’s something that we usually can’t afford, but because we own our own gear, and record in outfitted houses we have the luxury to do it.

— David Weiss

  • J Harpring

    Love the sound.