Phil Cook, one of the three multi-instrumentalists and singers in Megafaun, explains the troubles of recording and benefits of finishing his band's second LP, Gather, Form, & Fly.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What was the most challenging aspect of finishing Gather, Form, & Fly?
PHIL COOK: At first, we were going to do the whole process ourselves again, like with Bury the Square. After we laid the tracks down, I attempted to mix it and got in way over my head. A song like "Impressions of the Past" has over 70 tracks of acoustic instruments, and I've a got a ways to go until I can truly tackle something like that. After we hit that wall, our label, Hometapes, heard through the mess of our mixes and believed in it right away. They helped us out with hiring Chris Stamey to mix it at his studio, Modern Recording.
I'd say, as most bands do, that approaching the release date added some pressure here and there. Chris Stamey is a popular and respected guy, so naturally his schedule had to be worked around. Sometimes we'd have only a couple hours to mix per week, and big decisions had to be made.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of finishing Gather, Form, & Fly, be it musical or through opportunities it's afforded your band?
I'd say finishing this album helped us gain a bit more confidence in the whole process, from writing to recording to touring. Also, finishing this album for a label like Hometapes helped us see how many more doors open when you're working with the right people. They put so much care into the art and design and packaging. The picture on the CD and etching on the vinyl is of our late grandfather, Sheldon Wilcox. We gave a copy to our grandmother, and she was so blown away at how thoughtful the artwork was.
Also, I think doing everything ourselves for the last three years has helped us to really see and appreciate every step of our journey. It seemed a little fast then, to get booking agents as well as an European label in the span of a month. When we first got to Europe last month, it was truly an opportunity of a lifetime and we knew it. We have a lot of friends who've gone over, but we also have a lot of friends who haven't had the opportunity yet and may never. I can speak for all of us when I say we're lucky as hell to have gotten this far.
If you could change one thing about the record, what would it be?
I guess I could say that it would've been nice to record parts of the album in a real studio with great mics. We're doing fine with what little we've got (It's gotten us this far...), but our minds wander to many sonic areas. We're only capable of reaching certain areas right now.
And what's something about the record you find interesting that no one's pointed out?
The record features a guest appearance from Keil Jansen, who we moved out here with. Keil was in our high school/ college rock band called Mount Vernon. Nowadays, he's working as a special education teacher and a home brewer. Not many people know that he's really a great trombone player, but he hadn't played the thing in over four years. He agreed to record the part for us and showed up one morning to Brad [Cook, Megafaun member]'s house. He took the instrument out and literally blew the dust off it, fitted the mouthpiece, and said, "OK, let's do it." He laid down all the horn parts in "Impressions of the Past" in less than 90 minutes and put his horn away. It's back safely in his closet. I find this fact to contain the heart of the whole album: You rely on the people who rely on you. Community is truly our greatest treasure.
Try to limit yourself to one answer: What's your favorite local album of 2009, other than the one you made?
Hammer No The Fingers' new album kept us alive for many late-night tour drives this year. They're lifesavers.