From a top-secret location in Southern Ontario, the players of Durham County Band are hard at work.
“What do you say again – Oh Oh Oh Oh Yeah? Or is it Ew Ew Ew Oh Yeah? I keep messing that up!”
James Downham, also of the James Downham Band, maps out the lyrics and melody on a whiteboard, set out in front of him in the recording booth. He strums an air guitar as he records various versions of his background vocals.
“It helps me find the pocket,” he adds, hanging the imaginary guitar up on the studio wall, already studded with real guitars of all makes and models.
Kip Walker steps up next, singing as much with his hands as his vocal cords. He maps his harmony with incremental hand gestures, conducting a tiny symphony of voices just for himself. Eyes closed, hoodie down, he moves quickly through the harmony lines, layering take after take before retreating to the studio couch.
Finally, Bronson Brown steps to the microphone to deliver his rumbling bass vocals, adding a smooth texture to the cascade of harmonies. The band affectionately refers to his vocal stylings as “brown butter.” He pulls the whole blend of voices together and keeps it cohesive and slick. As he steps back from the microphone, it’s practically dripping with awesome.
At the helm of the ship, guiding the players with a running commentary and suggestions, is Pete “Hawaii” Wheeler. His eyes latched to the computer screen with his ears open to the performances, Pete is juggling so many balls, he might as well be in the circus. Ensuring the quality of each take alongside capturing that perfect acoustic moment, he has his hands full.
“My brain is mush,” Pete laughs, during a break in the recording. “There’s so much going on in there that I get lost all the time – so many songs, so many riffs, so many hooks. Sometimes, one of the guys starts talking about a song by the title and I have no idea which one he’s talking about. That’s why I have the big board. Have you seen the big board?”
We go outside the studio doors to see the big board in all its majesty – a colour-coded track listing for Durham County Band’s first album. Besides the titles themselves, each track contains notes and points of completion, such as “needs BG’s” or “retrack slide guitars.” It’s impressive to see, and one can understand how easy it would be to get lost inside this monumental task.
“The guys and I, we always try to refocus each other on the most immediate tasks. We’re musicians who love singing, playing, and creating together, so thank God at least one of us usually has the presence of mind to say ‘Do we really need another six layers of harmonies on this one? Let’s get back to what’s really important.’”
And what’s really important is releasing the best damn country album of 2018. One track at a time. Through their website, and in association with SD Tunes. An album focused on country staples, with killer guitar riffs, vocal hooks, sing-a-long choruses, and four-on-the-floor dance-abilty. After today’s session, another flurry of colourful checkmarks has graced the big board, taking the project that much closer to reality, and Pete writes an exciting new phrase on the board next to the title” “Ready to mix.”
Their first single, the quirky “Valentine’s Day” has recently been released to radio, while the follow-up, the punchy and infectious “Baby, Are You Ready For Me?” is already featured on the band’s website in a limited edition “Demo” form.
Stay tuned for more stunning new country music from Durham County Band in 2018.