BY PHIL HOOD
Audio-Technica, the legendary microphone company, has been talking about their unique relationship with Snarky Puppy, the Brooklyn-based instrumental fusion band led by Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer and producer Michael League and featuring drummer Robert Seawright II.
Since joining with the Snarky Puppy crew around 2007, engineer/mixer Eric Hartman has been behind the console for several acclaimed albums from the ensemble, including We Like It Here, which the band released this year. A key element of these albums’ success has been the band working with Hartman and his extensive use of Audio-Technica microphones in the band’s recording process, which generally blurs the lines between live recording and studio production.
“We record live with no overdubs,” states Hartman. “They’ll travel to the recording session, sometimes still writing the songs, and rehearse for a short span of time. Then we will have a number of sets scheduled, two per night for multiple nights, with a live audience in the room, and we will record them all for possible release. They will play a set down, like it’s a concert, and after the four days we may have several cuts to choose from, so Michael League figure out which ones he likes best based on the performance and the video quality, and proceed to the mixing stage from there. No overdubs, and close to no editing, and with an eager live audience and spontaneous antics from the band. We break a lot of rules, and many times I think the records are better because of it.”
Hartman’s arsenal of A-T tools includes the following models: ATM450 Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone; ATM350 Cardioid Condenser Clip-On Microphone; ATM250 Hypercardioid Dynamic Instrument Microphone; ATM650 Hypercardioid Dynamic Instrument Microphone; AT4050 Multi-pattern Condenser Microphone; AT4060 Cardioid Condenser Tube Microphone; AE3000 Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone; AE4100 Cardioid Dynamic Handheld Microphone; AE5100 Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone; AE2500 Dual-element Cardioid Instrument Microphone; AT4051b Cardioid Condenser Microphone; and AT4080 Phantom-powered Bidirectional Ribbon Microphone. He has put these microphones to use in dozens of configurations, but a few favorites include using the ATM450 (right) for snare and hi-hat (“It’s really good at taking a ‘snapshot’ of an area,” he remarks); ATM350’s as clip-ons throughout the ensemble; AT4051b’s as drum overheads; AE2500 on kick drum; AT4080 on guitar cabinets and certain horn solos; AE3000 on toms; and ATM250’s on deep snares, organ bottom, and a variety of other uses.
Aside from serving the in-studio audience and the listener at home, the band has to consider a third type of audience: the online viewer. Since these sessions are almost always filmed and end up on YouTube or as video releases, they must be visually pleasing. To add some flash, a decision was made to try out a new set of A-T headphones, the ATH-M50RD Professional Studio Monitor Headphones (red color). Hartman recalls, “They are bright red, and they really popped on camera, adding a very cool aesthetic. And I’m a bit of a headphone snob, and the ATH-M50’s really provide the hi-fi reference that I need in a lot of situations. So they’re what we need sonically, with that extra bit of visual flair. Perfect for this last set of sessions we did.”
“It’s been a great ride so far,” adds Hartman. “I’m glad I answered that call from the band in 2007, because I almost didn’t! I’ve gotten to see this band grow their fanbase and budgets and get better as an ensemble. Sometimes we walk into a situation with very little and just make it work somehow. And A-T products have been a cornerstone of my workflow through it all.”
Snarky Puppy in the studio recording “Shofukan.”