By Max Sullivan, Contributing Writer
Hints of a new release by Gretchen and the Pickpockets have surfaced this fall. Lead singer Gretchen Klempa said last month that the group had been writing a few songs a week since it finished up its hectic touring schedule this summer.
But now there’s a date. Dec. 20, the Durham-based foursome is heading to 1130Ft Creative Media in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, to record their third release, Klempa said.
The plan is to record four to five songs for an EP, still without a name; and if Klempa has her way, it will be the band’s most hands-on experience in the studio so far.
The previous two records, Stop (2013) and Gretchen and the Pickpockets (2014), were mostly mixed by their respective producers. That, Klempa said, will be different this time around.
“This time around, personally, I would be there saying, ‘This needs to be there, this needs to change,’” Klempa said. “I want to be there when it’s mixed. I don’t want to be there listening to a song after it’s mixed. I want to be there.”
Klempa said she particularly wished she could go back and be more involved in the mixing and mastering of Stop. After its release, Klempa was dissatisfied, and she and Smith realized the band’s hands-off approach for her first time in the recording studio was the reason.
“When we recorded it, we liked the songs, and I’m not saying that [Stop producer] Tyler Guise does a bad job,” Smith said. “We kind of didn’t communicate the vision that we wanted.”
That understanding led to a more involved project earlier this year with the band’s self-titled LP. Smith and Klempa said they still could have done more personally with the mixing, but they took what they learned from their first recording experience and brought it to the studio to make a more satisfying release.
In particular, a difficult production situation became a moment Smith could be proud of with the track “Down Down Down.” At one point in the song, every track cuts out but Klempa’s vocals, making that lone track open to a wide spectrum of sonic options. By personally contributing to of the board, Smith said he and the band came up with a nice sound for Klempa’s voice that brought out the “sheen.”
“When you add a compressor or you take a little bit of the lows and the mids from her voice away and add a little bit of that [brightness],” Smith said, “That is something that we just never did before, and so that’s I think as a band we were happy with [Gretchen and the Pickpockets].”
Having had that growth in the studio earlier this year, the band is eager to see what will come from the recording session this winter. Smith said he hopes to do more overdubs, including the use of loop pedals.
“Every time, it gets better,” Klempa said. “Every time, it’s really different. I think this time will be really different, too.”
Part of the future recording plan is to pay a debt—a cover for each Kickstarter donor who gave either $500 or $1000. They’ve recorded one donor’s choice cover – Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl” – and now they’re going to finish three more. Smith admitted that it’s taken a while to get the awarded covers finished in a timely fashion, as mixing the LP this year took up a lot of time itself. However, they plan to release songs by Smith and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Smith and Klempa are particularly excited about the Earth, Wind and Fire song. “Shining Star” and “September” are in consideration, but Klempa said it will probably be “Let’s Groove Tonight.”
“Earth, Wind and Fire, man. That’s going to be a jam,” Smith said.