One afternoon recently I got a message from Dane Vance Creek of Rain Light Fade.
“We’re headed into the studio; would you like to catch up and check out what we’re doing there?
I couldn’t resist. Of course, I told him! It was a great opportunity to sit down with the guys and talk about music – while listening to their all-new material. Rain Light Fade consists of Dane on Vocals and Guitar, Ian Tomlinson on Guitar and Backup Vocals, Ira Merrill on Guitar and Vocals, Eric Vickers on Bass, and Steve Gale on Drums.
I met Dane at Earwig Studio – formerly Jupiter – in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. We sat down together in the recording area to talk. Duff McKagen and The Posies are just a couple of the big names that have recorded in the same room in the past. Engineer Don Farwell comes highly recommended and has been recording music now for two decades.
As we started talking in the room, Ian walked through to re-record some guitar tracks. “You mind if we hang out here while you play?” Dane asked him.
“If you don’t mind hearing me swear when I mess up,” Ian replied.
This type of banter is common with these lifelong friends. They had been playing for a long time together as Rain Light Fade; I had seen them no fewer than three times since 2013, and by then they were already seasoned show veterans with a strong following. But the guys needed time away to focus on other things.
RLF took a break for nearly two years.
“There came a point,” Dane told me, “Where we thought less of being a band and more about being friends. And being with family. It was becoming a grind. The earlier work was dark, but the feeling belied the strong friendships we had created over the last decade.”
“Besides,” Ira added while smiling. “We weren’t angry enough to play as dark as we did.”
“Yeah, we didn’t get to be ourselves,” Dane replied.
The guys are tight-knit and supportive of each other. Their conversations were on the verge of being in code. But it wasn’t like an exclusive club; it was more like “friend code” because they had known each other so long. When I had questions, I got honest answers and was welcomed warmly.
During the break, the guys still talked and hung out, while families grew and their lives got back on track. Steve and Dane discussed the future of the band and got to brainstorming. “We never had a chance to do a full-length album,” Dane said. This seemed like an honest goal for everyone. But during their time off the type of music they wanted to record had also changed.
“We dumped the loops,” Dane explained. “We like them but they’re too complicated. We wanted to strip it down. Make it less dark. We wanted something organic – a bass-driven groove rock. It would give us an opportunity to play together as friends.”
They got back into practicing.
They admitted to being a bit rusty, but really it didn’t take long to dial in.
“Practice is a matter of keeping the muscles limber,” Dave explained. “We’re pretty tuned in to each other after all this time. We practiced once a week and committed to one show per month.”
When they got into the studio, they maintained the organic feel by playing together in the same room – like they would on stage. Occasionally a track would need to be re-recorded. But this is where Don’s skill at the board was truly evident; he was able to isolate what needed to be replaced and set the timing perfectly for the new track.
Dane and I moved into the sound booth, where the rest of the band was sitting to watch Don craft his magic.
A huge comfy couch lined the back wall, opposite of the sound board. It was a smallish room for all the guys who were hanging out. One of them was eating a sandwich.
“Where’d you get that?” one of them asked.
“At the gas station over there.” he waved his hand vaguely towards the west.
The guys all looked at each other back and forth. “Uhhh….dude….”
“I got sick on one of their sandwiches a while back,” one of them said.
“Aww man..I’m halfway done!” He dug into the chips on the coffee table instead.
Then they all started laughing. Scared him. Like I said: Lifetime Pals.
On the wall was a project grid – showing the track names and numbers vertically on the left, and columns to the right that were labeled with the steps that needed to be done. The songs were not recorded in order; on the day I visited they started working on the first track – “The Beginning” – with a vocal track being the next step. Dane gave me a rundown of what was happening.
“What you’re gonna hear is just the basic vocal and band. We haven’t added any of the lead color stuff yet. You’ll get an idea of how it comes together.”
“YOU’LL GET AN IDEA, ALRIGHT!” one of the guys in the room said in a Cockney accent while everyone else laughed. Pals to the end.
When the tape rolled, I was treated to Ian’s guitar on heavy grind. The fuzz was joined suddenly by Steve’s drums in a surprise wall of sound. Eventually, Dane’s vocals came in – haunting, heavy, strong, crammed with the signature tone that is all him. The groove they wanted was the groove I heard. Since the bass solo track hadn’t been recorded yet, the band pretended by making bass sounds from the couch until Dane’s vocals started again.
Soon the wall of sound returned as Ian and Steve carried the song into its dying embers – fading in a long fuzzy sustain. As the song faded out, the band discussed what they wanted to do that the end. I heard the essences of Sweetwater, Alice In Chains, Tool, and tasty RLF licks in this one track, and it was fantastic. The notes played went exactly where my brain expected them to go, a fully satisfying experience that for me is hard to explain. Quite honestly, this track was great listening as-is in its unfinished state. I can’t wait to hear the completed track after the mix was fine-tuned.
I wish I could share my recording from the booth, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy!
Next, they worked on the last track – “New Star.” That day the goal was to get a “Scratch Track” built so the band could start playing to it. First, a click track was created. Then Ian recorded a scratch guitar track. Third, Dane went into the booth and recorded a scratch vocal. Ian jokingly made up lyrics for Dane from the couch. With this basic foundation, Don would be able to start establishing the layers necessary to get the final recording “in the can.” It was refreshing to have people share with me how the process worked. It all made a lot more sense after I watched them create music. Of course, they made it look seamless.
But it’s clear to me that a ton of work and love went into this album – which is being released on Friday, September 20th!
I urge you to attend the Rain Light Fade Album Release Party at Louie G’s Pizza that night; they are headlining with some excellent support from Lust Punch, Watch Rome Burn, and Celia. This will be a night to remember and, I’m absolutely certain, you’ll be blown away by new material as much as I was.
And I’m looking forward to catching up with them yet again to hear that magic at full volume!