My first concert was at a club called The Squeeze in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The club was as tiny as the name suggested and the stage sat a short 1.5 feet above the floor, accessible to anyone with the guts to step onto it to make their music heard.
Fast forward past a few years of small shows at crappy (beloved) venues, I began engineering & recording friend’s bands in what was a very healthy underground noise/ metal/ punk/ hardcore scene in Miami.
One noisecore/ screamo band in particular — Tunes for Bears to Dance to — was extremely influential on me during my late teenage years. They taught me about creation, performance, and collaboration when I was just starting to formalize my creative process and articulate my approach to music and art.
After attending many of their live shows and recording their first demo, full length album and self-titled 7" for them, I noticed an evolution in my thinking, my music, my practice and the energy I brought to all of my creative pursuits. Engineering and producing bands is ultimately what set me on a path towards design. #sameEnergyDifferentMedium
Below are a few points I took away from watching/recording them.
There is no us, there is no them.
When Tunes played out, they didn’t set up on stage. They set up in the center of the audience. They were the pit. You could jump in and sing or scream with David (P-Dub) & Mike if you felt compelled to. Rick (drums) would often get up and play his drum set from multiple angles while singing along (see video below at 00:55 seconds in). It was raw, inclusive, honest, humbling.
There are no rules.
I recorded 3 of their albums in Colin’s (guitar) bedroom with a portable studio and a few mics. It was scrappy and tough to capture since I was still learning how to best capture sounds and balance a mix. (Hell, I was just learning how to use the portable studio.)
Tunes blew up what I thought I was supposed to do, before I ever learned the “right” way — the 2 singers needed to be balanced like instruments (ala Blood Brothers) and not lead the tracks. There was a lot of random screaming. Rick’s kick drum had to sound like a trigger, since there were random blast beats and anything too bassy would muddy the sound. Mixing took a certain focus to play the board like an instrument and bring out the nuances that might have gotten overshadowed otherwise.
It was frenetic and loud — tough to sustain from an aural perspective but by throwing out preconceived notions of what a mix should sound like, I made it work.
There are no second chances.
My job was to capture the energy of their explosive live sets. Unfortunately, live shows are always more forgiving than a studio session, which is forever.
Recording Tunes live meant I had one chance to capture it, warts and all. But that first take got us 95% of the way there. Truthfully though, there were barely any mistakes. Rick, Mike, Eric, Colin, and David were killer musicians. They were extremely tight as a band, cared about what they were making together and had a great time while they were at it.
The only times someone did a second take was if I asked them to, so I’d have some additional material to accentuate details or to try it a different way. I’d hit record and they just played the way they wanted it to sound (and it always sounded right).
Paint multiple canvases at once.
These guys were prolific musicians. They played in many other bands before/ during/ after Tunes, in each other’s bands, and always had multiple side projects going on.
I love ordering things; it’s a way I pretend I’m actually in control of life. Classification, categorization, imposing structure in a universe that tends towards chaos. It’s why I loved being in front of a mixing board.
Working with Tunes was one of the first times I learned to embrace change, discord, ambiguity, randomness, and chance in the creative process. It was structured, but in a very different way I had known until that point.
Background on Tunes for Bears
- Official T4B2D2 Biography
- Musically, Tunes landed somewhere between Blood Brothers, Braid, Spirit Of Versailles, Jeromes Dream, and the best grind core bands I’ve never heard of.
- Discography: Demos* / Asking in Askance* / Somberlain #2* and some others for download
*Recorded by me