Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes believe in man over machine. Their electro-pop rock songs have all the humanity of a folk record. There’s no way to describe their sound without pointing out that all of their electric sounds are generated by real, live humans.
They are known for their engaging and explosive live shows, so it’s no wonder that their audiences fall in love with them. Their new release, Kid Tiger, demonstrates their commitment to a faithful reproduction of the live experience; a commitment to capturing the vitality that makes them so damn good.
Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes are Daniel Ellsworth, Timon Lance, Joel Wren, and Marshall Skinner.
NYMM: What is new about Kid Tiger?
Daniel: The new album was recorded in Nashville at Sputnik Studio, with Vance Powell. It was fun for us to get to work with someone who has worked on a lot of our favorite records, like Jack White and the Raconteurs, among others. We had it mastered with Richard Dodd. Vance suggested we use him, but it wasn’t until after it was done that we looked him up and realized that he had engineered tons of famous albums from Tom Petty to the Traveling Wilburys and more.
Part of what went into our decision to work with Vance was that he tracks live-to-tape. That’s the way he works, and that’s the way we wanted to do it. We knew he could capture amazing sounds and a lot of energy in that setting.
Timon: If you track live, you don’t normally use a click-track, which is limiting and a bit mechanical. The idea that we’re performing these things, creating as we go, and not cutting and pasting, keeps it human. It’s not set to match a metronome. Even the digital parts are very akin to acoustic instruments. You can sing all the parts, and they contain imperfections because we play them that way.
NYMM: Was there an effort made to match the recording to the live show?
Daniel: It’s something that we talk about. Even during the recording process, we talked a lot about how much stuff we want to put on there. How much of this can we actually replicate in a live setting with the four of us? On the other hand, we’re making a studio record, not a live record. So even though we tracked it live, putting things in there that we might not necessarily be able to play live is alright. In the end, since we’ve made the record, we’ve tried to replicate every part live.
Joel: We use a lot of synth and electronic instruments in our music, but we’re big on creating everything live. We don’t use loops or anything like that, so the idea of tracking live-to-tape made sense for us, even though Dan uses a synthesizer. We like electronic sounds, but we always want to perform it. Someone is playing every element.
NYMM: What’s different about this album from your previous albums?
Daniel: This was the first time that all four of us wrote the songs. We kicked around the idea of bringing in some strings and horns. In the end, however, it felt like we shouldn’t have anyone else on it, that it should just be the four of us. We did bring in some friends for the gang vocals, but otherwise, it was just us.
Joel: The writing process is different now. We’ve been working on this project for over two years now. It was the four of us, hashing stuff out, thinking about it, and then recording little bits as demos. We wanted to capture the energy of the live show and that’s kind of hard to do when one person writes a song and three other people just learn them.
NYMM: How do you think that makes it fall stylistically?
Daniel: A lot of our influence is drawn from classic albums as well as contemporary pop records. We think about how to walk the line of making a record that sounds like what we want to hear, but also has some elements from modern music.
NYMM: Does the structure of the album follow along the same lines?
Timon: “Backfire” is the last track, and I remember thinking that it was a really cool one for the end. It sounded like it should be up front, because it’s really catchy, but it also has an open-endlessness at the close. Something like that makes me want to flip the record and start over.
You can find more Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes here:
Photos by Jon Karr
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