On a Sunday afternoon in our kitchen, I set up my computer, Field Notes and fountain pen to Skype the duo that is Mighty Brother, Jake Ryan and Nick Huster. While they enjoyed flights at NOLA Brewery in downtown New Orleans, I sipped Tin Man's Alloy American pale ale.
NUVO: The band is in New Orleans now, but when you're in Bloomington what do you like to drink?
Huster: I like Upland Dragonfly. Being from Bloomington I gotta rep that.
Ryan: I really like Big Woods. I'm definitely a stout man.
Huster: Chocolate milk stouts.
NUVO: I like Sun King's Porter.
Huster: That's my winter beer. If I'm going to have a night of drinking, I'll get a six pack of pale ale. If I'm at The Tap I'll try their seasonal.
NUVO: How did the songs come together?
Ryan: Some of them go back a couple of years. "Yours and Mine" was from my repertoire about two years ago, [Huster] had "West" from a long time ago. Some of them we wrote in the fall, while we're putting together the track list. I'd have these two verses and Nick would say, "let's finish it."
Huster: We've only been a band a year. We basically became a band to make this album. We started living together and I was hearing his stuff, he was hearing mine. We thought, "this could go together." Here we are a year later and we're about to release it.
NUVO: The entire album flows together from start to finish, was that a part of your plan when writing?
Ryan: We went into it with our own list of songs, because we're both songwriters. We demoed each song to each other and picked which songs had a similar feel. Then we narrowed it down from there and started putting them in order. The second half of the album we would, "okay we need to end in this key so it'll make sense to start in this key, or an instrumental interlude to link them together."
Huster: The story arc of the album and track list we had written out last December. That was the first thing we did. The string quartet in the middle, "Reprise" which follows "Muscle to Bone," that was just them in the studio. We listened back to it, and said, "here's where it starts, and we're going to cut it here. We added some reverb; it was bare minimum... "Alright you guys just play and we'll figure out how that sounds on the album.
NUVO: What kind of instruments did you play on the album?
Ryan: I think there's six guitars on the album. I brought the ones I had and the studio had this really fantastic Gretsch with a Bigsby style tremolo system. [It was] the bread and butter on "Shake the Night" and the melodies and solo on "Blue Horizon." I brought in a
Gibson SG. We used our acoustics... [To Huster] What's your Ibanez?
Huster: I don't know.
Ryan: Mine's a really old Ibanez. My dad had it when he was my age. It's wizened, experienced. I also brought in [for "Broken Things"] a Gibson Blues Hawk, that was my dad's and it was the first guitar I learned on. I called it my "idea guitar."
NUVO: Where did you record?
Ryan: Sleepwalk Recording in Bloomington.
Huster: The studio was amazing. It was located in an old warehouse that he redid for his stuff.
NUVO: The vocals sound really rich, was that because of a certain mic or technique?
Ryan: Eric had a good selection of mics. [We recorded] with a Wunder CM7 into a UA610 with Avedis E27 EQ- Manley ELOP and Empirical Labs EL8X Disstressor.
Huster: We didn't want it to sound like we're in a booth, so we did [the vocals] in a big open space. Generally he put the mics above us so we had to sing up to them. He had a very specific way he wanted us to sing towards them and Jake was moving [the mic] and Eric was like, "are you moving my microphone?! That's exactly where I wanted it, stop touching it."
NUVO: Were you in the studio when the brass and strings were recorded?
Ryan: [Huster] was there for horn day, and I was there for strings. I got to see Diederik [Van Wassener] work. He's a great arranger.
Huster: It was kind of fun, but not purposefully that only one of us could be there. I missed strings day, so I didn't hear the parts until I went to record my vocals. On "Muscle to Bone" I forgot that we put strings. I did my vocals in one take because I was on this wave of energy because it was completely fresh.
NUVO: How did the horn section come together?
Huster: We worked with Lexie [Signor, Atomic Dog Brass Band].
Ryan: All her players are Jacobs [School of Music] students. Two trumpets, French horn, trombone and, interestingly, bass trombone, which adds those low swells you hear in "Elevator Man" and "Dearly Beloved."
Huster: We definitely believe in collaborating with the horn arranger and string quartet. How many people can we bring in to support what we're doing to fill out our vision?