What happens when you take a talented young band with minimal studio experience, two superstar names in professional music production, an array of the finest hi-fi speakers on the market, and throw them all together for an impromptu recording session in one of the best-equipped studios in New York City?
In February, KEF America did just that, jetting emerging indie rockers Staying for the Weekend from their hometown of Nashville for a unique “Masters of Sound” press event at MSR Studios on Manhattan’s 48th Street. There, with the assistance of legendary producer Ken Scott and award-winning engineer Derik Lee, the band recorded two songs live and under the watchful eyes (and discerning ears) of a select gathering of the New York media.
The ambitious evening of music, discussion and hands-on demonstration explored how recordings are made, how what is heard live is translated into recorded form, and how the results benefit from being played back on high-end equipment like the KEF M500 headphones that band members used to monitor their performance, the KEF LS50 speakers employed in the studio’s Control Room, and KEF’s signature Blade loudspeakers, which were used to play the final recording back to the group.
“The idea was to allow the media to experience a genuine, full-circle recording session,” says KEF America’s Jack Sharkey, who coordinated the event. “They could see and hear what the band sounded like while in the Live Room, then move to the Control Room with Ken and Derik to repeat that experience but in their working environment, and then hear the recording played back through the Blade speakers.”
Sharkey also relates how the pressure was on for the fresh-faced but gifted young men of Staying for the Weekend. “These guys had to come in and cut these two songs flawlessly – one take each – with the New York media watching them,” he recalls admiringly. “They actually pulled it off in about 12 minutes, and then we took a couple of minutes to mix the tracks down and burn a CD. That whole portion of the programme was just 15-18 minutes long. The band dealt with it like seasoned pros; like champs.”
Fortunately, the support that KEF had assembled to chaperone the band through their challenge was among the most admired in the business. Big Apple-based musician, composer and engineer Lee recently won a Grammy for the cast album of Broadway extravaganza Kinky Boots, while British-born Scott is revered for his work on seminal albums by the Beatles in the 1960s, as well as on landmark recordings by Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Duran Duran, among many others.
“Having Ken and Derik there, to spend the day with the band and guide them, was of immense help,” Sharkey says. “That’s what a producer and an engineer do: make sure the talent is performing at their best. When you take a band that’s been out there playing live dates, and is really comfortable with their material, and then add the likes of Ken and Derik to the mix, you’ve got a winning combination.”
Ultimately, however, the Masters of Sound event was for the media, each attending member of which trudged home through the Manhattan snow with a hot-off-the-press CD of the Staying for the Weekend recording, as well as an in-depth understanding of how the music-lover experience is maximized when musicians, studio, engineer, producer and the manufacturer of high-end speakers are all pulling together as a team.
“We then all trooped back into the studio and listened to the evening’s work on the KEF Blade speakers. Oh my! These no-compromise speakers allowed the great white magic of rock’n’roll to flow freely!”