Thursday, June 05, 2014

INTERVIEW: Extra Classic - New Album "Showcase" Out Now!

Extra Classic is the dub and reggae inspired band from husband and wife duo Adrianne DeLanda (formerly of The Anniversary) and Alex DeLanda.  This week saw the release of their stunning sophomore album, Showcase - a joint release with Burger Records on limited edition cassette and via the duo’s own Nopal Records on limited vinyl and CD.  The new album was recorded in the classic Jamaican album format - “showcase” style - and features six new songs along with each of their corresponding dub/versions for a total of twelve mind-blowing tracks.     
Dri is a soothing soul-pop siren and her vocals are the perfect match for Alex’s authentic analog production and songwriting as they create vivid psychedelic-tinged and pop-leaning reggae that equally pays homage to their inspirations and paves the way for a new wave of reggae music.     
Just as I did for their last album, I spoke with the DeLanda’s and they gave insight into their unique recording techniques, the “showcase” album format, their influences and more. 

Your sophomore album, Showcase, was recorded in the “showcase” style.  Can you please explain more about that?
“The Showcase format is one of our favorite types of albums.  It is traditionally a Jamaican album format in which a song is immediately followed by its corresponding dub/version.  The dub/version highlights the riddim and features psychedelic sonic qualities such as space echo feedback that crashes into the sun and heavy phase that swirls like a twisting star.  We love songs and we love dubs so we wanted to create an album in the Showcase style.” – Alex

For the recording process, you again recorded in your own studio Nopal Recording and used vintage tape machines and recording equipment to capture the most authentic analog sound for the album.  Can you please tell us more about the recording techniques you used and why? 
“We used much of the same equipment from Your Light to record the Showcase album. We knew that we wanted to record in showcase format and that all songs would be followed by a dub.  So, when writing the songs we were conscience of making sure that the chord structure of each song would lend itself to a dub. This meant that there had a to be a repetitive groove for each song which wasn't easy - simplicity is sometimes more challenging than using a wide palette of chord changes within a song.  When we had the songs ready to record we (Dri and Alex) would record a demo with arrangement ideas.  Then we discussed with the drummer and he played to the demo.  The drums were recorded onto 8 track tape and then bounced down to 2-track tape with effects added such as reverb and space echo. From there we went back and recorded all the instruments from the demo. We then ran the whole mix through Altec tube preamps from the 60s to a 2-track 1/4" Ampex tape machine.  Once we got a song mixed to tape, we went back and immediately mixed the dub right after it onto the tape.  The tape was then spliced between the song and the dub to make them connected.  And this is where the magic of the Showcase format happens - when the tape is spliced between the song and it's dub it creates an interesting transition, sometimes it's fluid and it's hard to discern song from dub, while other times it's a little off but is still magical and keeps the listener interesting.  I think that's one of the main things we love about old Showcase albums, the transitions are not always perfect yet always magical because of the tape splicing.  This is something completely lost when songs are put together with a computer - it's too perfect and uninteresting.” – Alex

Besides the showcase style presentation, what do you think makes the new album different from your stellar debut, Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laser Beam?
“Both albums share the labor of love in production that are unique to our producer, Alex and our studio, Nopal Studios. I would say we made an effort with the first album to strive for Black Ark style production, which was Lee 'Scratch' Perry's studio in Jamaica in the 1970s. With the first album we recorded a lot of the tracks live, laid everything to tape and bounced tracks to contain our sound. On the Showcase album, we were going for the sonic quality of the Lovers Rock era of Jamaican music. We allowed ourselves to explore options and use varying instrumentation - including synthesizers - with more tracks. We also did a bit of collaboration with our old friend, Jim Vollentine, who worked on Dri's solo album Smoke Rings. Jim mixed the tracks, "A Little Rain" and "Whispering Leaves" on our new album; we mixed the dubs/versions of the songs and everything else.” – Dri

Showcase also features liner notes written by the legendary Danny Holloway, DJ and producer for Island Records in the 1970’s.  How did you come in contact with him?   
“We met Danny through our pal, Zach Cowie aka DJ Turquoise Wisdom. Danny worked for Island Records in the 1970’s, toured with Bob Marley and worked with The Heptones and The Rolling Stones among other heavy hitters of the time...He has a deep record collection, is a DJ extraordinaire, tells incredible stories and is the real deal. We are happy to call him a friend.” – Dri

You have plans to tour in support of the new album this summer so I would like to know what your favorite song from Showcase is your favorite to play live or will you also be playing any of the alternate/dub versions on tour?
“Many of the new songs we do live we have started to include some of the elements of the dubs. Dri has a space echo delay with her on stage and uses it while playing live.  So, many of the live songs are a blend of the song and it's dub.” – Alex

The promotional video for the album that included a snippet of the standout track, “A Little Rain” was super-cute with the choreographed dancing and student band.  Will a longer cut of the video be released or do you have plans to release a full-length video from the album? 
“Here is the full cut! We are so psyched!” – Dri

“A Little Rain” video

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