On The Making of Reform Follows Function

On The Making Of.
These tracks were recorded in my basement – a fairly common set up for working musicians.   On my last album, Becoming Liturgy, Justin Rimbo added some claps and vocals and by an oversight of my record label didn’t get his name in the liner notes.  I was pretty annoyed with my record label but have since forgiven myself.  And Justin has forgiven me as well.  All the same, I thought it a kind gesture to ask Justin to help me produce Reform Follows Function.  In fact, before I came up with this name I thought about naming the album Justin Rimbo.  Maybe that’ll be it’s nickname.  Either way it worked out great.  Justin accepted my offer to do a whole bunch of work for free.  And just think, that’s my way of saying sorry.
I recorded acoustic demo’s to a click track and sent them to Graham Peterson (drums) and Justin Rimbo (bass) then, on one of the last flip flop days of fall we set up the drums and a smattering of mics and added drums and bass to the click tracks. Bed tracks done.  For those of you who don’t know, Graham and Justin are both gigging musicians all over the Twin Cities and have spent years playing together as the Fuller Still rhythm section.  They work great together.  On a weird sidenote – 9 years ago I was playing in the Rachel Kurtz band in AZ and Graham’s band was also playing at the event and Graham sat in as the Rachel Kurtz drummer.  In AZ.  9 years ago.  Weird.  Both Graham and Justin are a joy to work with and brought incredible life to these songs.
Over the next couple of months I would go downstairs whenever I had a couple of hours (sometimes minutes) and add stuff to the tracks.  Take it away.  Put different stuff on.  And so on.  Jonathan Rundman came over and added the accordian tracks one day as our kids played ever so quietly upstairs.  (When I played on his Protestant Rock Ethic album our first round of kids played upstairs while we recorded in his basement)  A couple days later I took tracks over to his house and he added Wurlitzer and Hammond.  My friend Mari came over right before Christmas and added the catchy/trippy fiddle parts.  For ephemera I put out a call on facebook for anyone that had dated via letters and got a bunch of couples to come over and sing on Ephemera.  My seven year old was singing along too so I recorded a take of her.  And then my three year old didn’t want to be left out so I got her on it too.  Originally I didn’t think they’d make the final cut – but the more I listened to those voices the more perfect it became – a sort of passing on of the letter writing tradition.  It may be my favorite song on the album, especially when I’m on the road and away from home.  On take your time the clickety clack sound is my friend Matt playing typewriters.  One pass with fingers on the keys and one pass using rods.  Erin Deboer-Moran came in and did the harmonies.  I held her newborn (my goddaughter!) as she sang.  We took two takes just because one take seemed too easy.  But I’m pretty sure we just used the first take.  She makes it look easy.  Micah came over with a mandolin and we added that to Out on the Plains.  (Last time Micah recorded mandolin on my kids album two years ago his young son was in the room and can be heard making kid noises on the MKNATPPOPPL)  Then we ran the mandocaster through way too many pedals and added all the noise on Take Your Time and Redemption.  On one of those I think I was playing the mandocaster and he was just kneeling in front of the pedal board twisting knobs.  We had a couple vocal edits/tweaking to do so I sent tracks to longtime friend and gizmo genius Joel Pakan who worked his magic.  Around this time the tracking was wrapping up.  My work was done.
Pat Tomek of the Rainmakers took on the task of mixing.  He also added some great percussion and in the midst of recording an album with the Rainmakers left his drums set up and played the drums on Take Your Time.  Once again I was working with a great guy that knew how to get great sounds out of my lo-fi basement studio sound.  The last guy to work that sort of magic was Gregg Ward on the Mysterious Kung Fu Ninja and The Pink Princess of Pretty Pretty Land CD.  Gregg’s been doing a lot of mastering lately so once Pat perfected the mixes they were sent off to Gregg who masterfully mastered the album and came up with some amazing fades that really pay off when you listen to this album straight through.  Take that shuffle.
As the mixing and mastering continued I borrowed a painting of Matt Holm’s and Kjel Alkire began the design and layout.  There’s a whole great story behind the origin of the painting but for legal reasons I’d rather not put it out there for the general public.  I will say that it was very intentional to have a gray and fluid image.  I think that is a wonderful description of my faith journey, and likely yours.  I’m grateful for Matt’s willingness to share the image, and Kjel’s sensibility to incorporate it into the design of this album.
When all that was done I took it off to Copy Cats where Ed took it under his wing and gave it all back one thousand fold.
And that’s how we made Reform Follows Function.
Posted: April 22nd, 2011
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