Interviews, Music Business — April 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Steve Lillywhite Production Week Part 2


Last month we put out a call to Singaporean bands for the chance to be a part of The Steve Lillywhite Production week. The final four bands summoned were AtlasMONSTER CATThe Sam Willows and Sub:shaman, all of whom had the pleasure of taking part in a live recording session at Yellow Box Studios with Lillywhite, as presented by SGMUSO. Of those four just one was hand-chosen to spend the remainder of the week being mentored by Steve. And that lucky winner was The Sam Willows. The indie folk four-piece further delved into Steve’s brain to acquire as much industry knowledge from the large volumes of expertise that the man had to offer.

We spoke to each of the bands about their experiences about the production. Today we look into Sub:Shaman and The Sam Willows’ take on the whole affair. Check out our interview with Atlas and MONSTER CAT here.

The Sam Willows

How did you chill out with Steve in between sessions?

The Sam Willows (TSW): We bonded mostly over meals. SGMUSO provided lunch and an option for a quick tea break on days when we had a bit more time. Besides that, Steve would use any spare moment, in between set ups, for example, to tell everyone gathered in the control room stories about the music scene from the 70s to present day and share small juicy bits of information about music icons. It was loads of fun and very educational!

Sub:shaman: We managed to chill out with Steve for a while after our live recording and in between the Sam Willows recording session. Steve’s a really down-to-earth guy. We managed to dig stories about his experiences with many renowned artists Steve has recorded with. It was a really humbling experience having a chat with an acclaimed producer who was very open about his passion for music.

How have recording sessions differed with Steve compared to previous ones?

TSW: Steve is such a strong ball of positive energy, and I don’t think any one of us has ever been in a situation where the producer habitually leaps out of his seat in the control room and plays air-guitar along with us to keep the vibes in the recording studio up! He also moved us out of the recording studio and had us record some parts in different spaces – in the control room with him, or in more unusual places like the stairwell of Yellowbox Studios. This was definitely a first for us! Steve’s extremely hands-on approach to stimulating the energy of the recording space, rather than the specifics of the notes produced, really took the pressure out of the recording process and made long recording hours fly past.

Sub:shaman: We recorded most of our demo, “Lowlife” in IsaO’s bedroom. The mixing process was all done by ourselves and it was a lot of trial and error for us. Hence recording at a gorgeous studio like Yellowbox with a seasoned producer was a world of difference. The studio had top-notch equipment, Steve mixed our track on the fly and the sound from the studio monitors was fantastic! We had never heard ourselves that clearly before!

Do you feel that the band has grown in any way after the Production Week?

TSW: Everyone who spent some time with Steve must have come away with important pointers on their specific craft. As a team, our understanding of the recording and production processes have been broadened. Our approach to writing music has also been streamlined a little through our interactions with Steve and the other producers and musicians involved in the Production Week – we’ll all be looking out for better hooks in future material! One important thing we learned in particular was not to discard any ideas that pop up before we try them out, and to be more open to reinventing things that have already been recorded. It’s sometimes not helpful to be too precious with older songs. Change and constant reinvention is good.

Sub:shaman: We are a pretty young band and we are constantly growing and evolving with every opportunity we take. The Production Week was a great experience for us to showcase our sound to seasoned producers and industry professionals, and we learnt a great deal about what these people liked and what areas we needed improvement. Opportunities like this are part of our learning process and helps us get better at our craft.


What pearls of wisdom did Steve impart to you?

TSW: There were loads! If we had to pick just one soundbyte, it was something Steve said during the interview with Anita Kapoor at sound check, “There is no winning, only not losing.” We’ll probably stitch that on a cushion for the band van. When we get a band van.

Sub:shaman: The biggest take-away that Steve shared with us was the importance of a musical hook for each and every instrument. If every instrument had a hook it would draw the listeners in and give them something new to pick up on every time they listened to a song. It gave us something new to think about when we’re song writing.

How did the band dynamic change having interacted with other bands in the studio?

TSW: It’s always slightly intimidating having an extra pairs of eyes and ears in the studio when you’re trying to record something. Every mistake we made felt even more painful and obvious with more witnesses. We all felt the need to be 100% perfect in every take which isn’t realistic. As a team we rallied ‘round to support whoever was being recorded at the time and we were so happy to feel the good vibes being extended to us by the other bands and producers in the studio. It gave whoever was being recorded that added boost to nail it on the next take.

Sub:shaman: I don’t think it changed at all, in all honesty. We knew most of the members in the other bands before the Production Week. It was great chilling with friends and nerd-ing out on gear and music. 

What are you going to do with the recordings and what can listeners expect from them?

TSW: We’ve got big plans for the Glasshouse track that Steve is presently mastering for us in Los Angeles, including our second full-length music video. This, along with our own performance schedules, means we’ll be kept very busy over the next few months – we’ve got shows lined up on big stages including Digital and Music Matters 2013 and the YouTube Stars Concert. We’d love to say more, and we will, if you stay tuned.

Sub:shaman: We’re toying around with some ideas for the recordings in the near future.


The Sam Willows Artist Links

Official Website

Sub:shaman Artist Links