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MIX FIX: STONEFOX – “ALL I WANT”

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Introducing our brand new section  … MIX FIX!

What is MIX FIX?
Mix Fix is your chance to have your song critiqued and remixed by acclaimed producer and mixer Simon Paul (a.k.a Simon Moro).

How do I submit my song for Mix Fix?
Simply follow this link
http://ninetynine100.com/australian-musician-mix-fix-application/
Fill out the application form and wait to see if you’re one of the lucky entrants.

What happens to my song once Simon has remixed it?
We’ll upload the before and after mixes to the Mix Fix section, along with Simon’s critique, then you’re free to do whatever you like with the new mix audio file.

simon-paul-profileAbout Simon Paul
Simon Paul (A.k.a Simon Moro) is a music producer and mixer. Graduating from RMIT’s audio production course in 2000, he has worked solidly in the industry ever since. In 2014, Simon attended an advanced music production course in France with David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Imogen Heap, Lana Del Ray, Jeff Buckley) and Michael Brauer (Coldplay, Grizzly Bear, The Rolling Stones), learning new methods and techniques from the world’s best.
Simon has recorded two ARIA nominated works, as well as tracks charting highly on the ARIA Charts and JJJ’s Hottest 100.
He has worked with a diverse range of artists including Anthony Callea, Taylor Henderson, Silvie Paladino, James Keogh (Vance Joy), Joel Quatermain (Eskimo Joe) and Chris Lilley on the popular TV series Ja’mie: Private School Girl and Jonah From Tonga.

Here’s our first ‘before and after’ MIX FIX artist. It’s Stonefox with their track ‘All I Want’

Artist: Stonefox
Genre: Ambient Indie/Pop
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Song Title: All I Want
Members: Jenna Russo (vocals/guitar/synths), Tim Carroll (vocals/guitar/synths) and Monica Spasaro (drums/pad)
Website: www.stonefoxmusic.com

stonefox

 

Simon’s Mix Fix notes:
I met Tim at a venue in Melbourne late 2014 where he told me about his band, Stonefox. He had me at “Ambient Indie/Pop with reverb-drenched guitars”! The band have been playing together for a short while and have already made a name for themselves in the indie world, with favorable reviews on music blogs such as Indie Shuffle. The band’s blend of warm, melodic guitar parts with electronic grooves, backed up with punchy drums, brooding synth lines and of course, captivating vocals, has set this 3 piece off on a great trajectory. This month we’ll be listening to ‘All I Want’, one of the band’s songs from their forthcoming EP.

Why remix the song?
“We wanted to refine our ‘ambient’ sound, add lush reverbs and a consistent feel for all of the five tracks on our debut EP with a studio finish. Something we really love doing is creating space in our arrangements and we needed someone to help us make this translate to the recording and mixing process.”

It was quite clear to me that the key to this mix would be creating a lush and inviting atmosphere to emphasise the emotion of the song. A big part of this would be done using reverb!

Reverb can be a tricky beast and in the case of Stonefox, the ambience is so important that it even forms part of their genre. I knew that designing the “space” in this track was going to be key to bringing this song in line with the band’s vision.

Let’s quickly discuss reverb. Reverb, or “verb” can be used for many purposes but put simply, we can use reverb to place a sound in a different room to that which it was recorded in. For example, maybe you recorded your vocals in a dead sounding, homemade vocal booth… but the song needs that “Bon Iver” surreal space around it. We can create the sound of that space using reverb. It emulates the effects of sound bouncing off of the walls within a space. The different reverb parameters such as type, size, shape, material, colour, etc. allow you to ‘design’ the space. Scrolling through presets can be a good starting point if you’re teaching yourself.

Different reverbs have different qualities in terms of sound and mood. Sometimes a cheap, grainy reverb is the perfect solution, especially for 80s sounding drums! Sometimes we need a natural sounding reverb that sounds and feels like a real room or concert hall. And other times we need larger than life, warm sounding verbs. For ‘All I Want’, I used a combination of plugin reverbs: A Lexicon 224 and EMT 240 Plate – Both on the Universal Audio UAD-2 platform.

I had listened to Stonefox’s mix online before getting the Pro Tools session. I was actually surprised at how few tracks there were in the session when I opened it. Even though it’s a simple song with only a couple of instrument tracks, I thought the original mix was sounding quite full. I loved the sense of intimacy they had created, and the subtle builds. I really just wanted to take their mix to the next level, rather than trying to push it in a different direction. What I often notice with self-produced mixes, is that the mood of the songs are usually spot on. The artist listens to the mood. However, often as mixers, we can get caught up in the technical stuff – But the mood is what carries a song! So I wanted to stick close to that.

So the goal was to take the feeling of the original mix, and bring it in line with the ‘ambient indie/pop’ sound the band create live. There were several things I did in the mix, so I’ll just discuss a few of the key elements.

Stereo Image
The original mix is very mono. When everything is in mono, it fights for space – Kind of like trying to put all of your clothes into one draw. I created a wide reverb with the Lexicon 224, and sent the guitar to it. This helped to spread the guitar across the stereo image, as well as to push it backward in the mix. If you imagine a stage, no reverb is at the front, and LOTS of reverb is at the back… You can bring things forward, or push them back by changing the amount of reverb. I also panned some of the subtle, extra guitars to add some width.

The other thing I did to widen the mix was to use some stereo delays. Ping Pong delays, and slap echoes (with different left/right delay times) can help to add width to a mix.

Vocals
Jenna’s voice is so captivating in this song and it immediately drew me in. In the original mix, I felt the vocal was missing that ‘magic’ that amplifies the emotion created by a singer. I wanted to create a vocal that floated on guitars like a sleepy head on a soft, puffy pillow. The three key elements to this were compression, eq and reverb.

I bussed Jenna’s vocal out to an Amek Channel In A Box (analog channel strip), which has compression, EQ and filters. I cut some low frequencies, added some presence and air. Every voice will have different qualities and each mix will call for a different sound, so rather than writing down numbers, just think about the different components of a vocal sound and find the frequencies that connect with those components of the voice you’re working with.

I set up the compressor with a fairly slow attack and fast release. On average it was providing about 4db of gain reduction. The compression was pre EQ.

The final touch for Jenna’s vocals was the contrasting reverb. For this, I used the EMT 240 Plate reverb, with a short decay. It created a nice ambience around the vocal and disappeared quite quickly, to reveal the lush decay of the guitar reverb.

With all of the sounds sculpted and fx created, it was time to balance the levels to keep Jenna’s vocal floating on that pillow! The final mix was processed through an Avalon 747 for some gentle compression and subtle EQ to add presence.

Stonefox’s reaction to the new mix
“Absolutely loved the new mix, we’re so happy with the overall vibe and feel. Simon took our original track that was recorded on a laptop and turned the home recorded song into a professionally sounding piece of work, while still staying true to the emotion and honesty in the original.”

A great mix can really affect the emotion of a song and how it connects with its audience. I loved the simplicity in ‘All I Want’, and always enjoy the transformation a song can undertake during a mix. On hearing the original, it was obvious that the song had been performed with emotion, from Jenna’s touching lead vocal, to Tim’s backing vocals and effortlessly played and delicate guitar riffs – As mixers, it’s simply our job to bring it out!

For more info on Stonefox: www.stonefoxmusic.com

For more info on Simon and his studio: http://ninetynine100.com/

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