Monthly Archives: January 2016

We Want Natural! Recording an Original Song


Posted by Cassie

Our experience in Puerto Rico has been somewhat like a dream. Maybe that’s because it really was a dream of ours to move here, but it just seems like a sort of magic occurs more often than not. It’s a convergence of people, energy and just simply being at the right place at the right time mixed together to form experiences that even in the moment you know are special.

Chris Cassie singing

The most recent magical experience happened just this week when we recorded one of our band’s original songs. Our singer/guitar player wrote a great, funny song called No GMO (We Want Natural). It is super catchy and fun and we all believe in it -both the message and the song itself. The chorus goes: We don’t want no GMO, just go outside and grow your own! We don’t want no GMO in our food….we want natural!

Anyhow, he made some arrangements with some big names in the musical industry even on a non-existent/ shoestring budget. And we were on our way.

Practicing
Practicing to the click track at Rob’s House

We spent the last week or so before recording practicing to a click track which is much harder than you might imagine if you’ve never done it before. It is the most annoying metronome sound you can imagine and we had TICK TOCK in our heads for hours on end. Probably is some form of torture. If not it could be!

Rob and Habish
Habish getting Rob’s drum mics all ready in the studio

Finally the moment came for us to record. We had two full days set aside to do this. We recorded at Spectra Studio in Aguadilla where the owner Habish Rosario welcomed us. It took a while to get all the equipment ready and so there was a lot of hanging out before each of our parts.

Kevin Chris Cassie Britton
We spent a lot of time hanging out under a beautiful flamboyan tree -Kevin, Chris, Me and Britton

One of the special guests of the recording was retired sound engineer Corky Stasiak. Corky’s resume in the musical industry is crazy impressive. He has worked closely with Kiss, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Beatles and so many others. He has been retired now for nearly 30 years and lives part time in Rincón. To have him come out and help with our production was quite simply amazing!

Corky Book 2
Corky Stasiak with a new book about the making of Kiss’s Destroyer album

So not only were we recording in a top-knotch studio where some of the best bands in Puerto Rico have recorded, we were also working with world-renowned industry heavyweights.  

Door of bands
Some of the awesome bands that Spectra Studios has worked with!

What was really cool was that our producer/friend Giovanni could totally hang with them. He knew just what and how he wanted things and kept the schedule moving at a great pace.

Group photo
What a crew on day one! L-R: Rob, Chris, Corky, Giovanni, Cassie, Britton, Habish

Britton Habish Chris Mark Gio
In the studio with Britton, Habish, Chris, Mark and Giovanni

Making a studio song is nothing like making live music. It is all deconstructed and then put back together again. We started with the rhythm which meant Rob on drums, Britton on bass, Chris on guitar and Chris and I on scratch vocals. Scratch vocals mean that they use it just for keeping the reference in the song. We would record our full vocals the next day and dub them over.

Corky Rob Britton

Britton made the comparison that this first stage is sort of like the batterboards in building a house. You want the song to be right on beat and time to the metronome just like you want your house to be straight and level. Everything else will build from there so it is very important. This was a tough stage and we took many takes. At one point we were so frustrated we had everyone except the band members and Giovanni leave. We finally decided to play it without the click track and we rocked it -but to a slightly higher beats per minute! So Giovanni reluctantly turned up the beats and we were able to finally get a great rhythm base to build the song on.

Under the Flamboyan
Camping out under the flamboyan

The day was just flying by! We basically camped out and had a couple of food runs but spent the entirety of the day at the studio. From 10am to 12midnight on day one! We got all the rhythm including some fun stuff like my tambourine part, stomps, and claps.

Cassie on tambourine
Cassie on tambourine

Day 2 was another long day. We got through a lot though! We did the lead guitar part, trumpet part, lead vocals from both Chris and me, gang vocals, keyboard and backup vocals. It is sounding awesome!

Mark Guitar
Mark on lead guitar! Sounds sweet!

Chris and Cassie singing behind

I was pretty nervous doing my part solo. When I was with Chris it was a little easier because we are always joking around. But alone it is a little intimidating to have people behind a window that can hear you but you can’t hear what they are saying unless they pipe through to you. I took a few takes and overall I think it went really well. I tried to have fun with it.

Singing in the mic

On day one when Corky was in the studio I received probably the best compliment about my voice that I have ever heard, especially coming from him! He said I sounded a little like Kate Pierson of the B-52s and that I have a really upbeat bright sound that is fun and will carry in a band because it adds such personality. It’s probably partly because I really do just have so much fun with this band and the music we make! We are always making silly jokes, wittisms and double entredres. So I am constantly cracking up.

Chris and Cassie
Chris and I have a great rapport together and are always joking around

Day two ended pretty late as well at around 11pm. When we were in between parts there was a lot of just chilling out in the barn area or under the tree.

Kevin Chris Rick Gio
Pizza time! With Kevin, Chris, Rick and Giovanni

Britton Cassie Caitlin
And time to chill between parts -Britton, Cassie, Caitlin

What an incredible, dream-like experience! We can’t wait to see where this dream takes us next! Yesh. Tiptop indeed.

Que Chevere

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A Walk to the Beach (and Other Spots)


Posted by Cassie

We live just down an offshoot of the main road of the 413 in Rincón and about 3/4 of a mile from the beach. So whenever possible we try to walk. Walking provides a different sort of perspective on the world. You are much more likely to stop and talk with your neighbors along the way, you notice the small details and life just slows way down. We walk down to the bakery, friends’ houses, the gas station, Sandy Beach, food stops and other spots. When Sean was here we took even more walks because we pushed pause on a lot of our other projects.

Hanging out with Will and Sean
Britton, Will and Sean hanging at Jackie’s Gyro place

Cassie HammockHammock relaxing
While I literally hung out

Sean also took a few solo walks and found a path from our house directly to the beach and so we all decided to go for the hike to check it out. Britton and I have been curious about a trail that would supposedly end up at the beach but we hadn’t ever actually taken the trip.

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Through the back jungle

We took a machete and just followed Sean’s lead through little creeks and over small bridges, bamboo clumps and flower-carpeted trails. We took our time and stopped to admire all the things we came across.

Field on walk
Open meadows

Flor
Flor de maga -Puerto Rico’s official flower -looks like hibiscus but is not

Horses
We even came upon these beauties covered in burrs that made their manes look like Rasta dreads

Condos
We then popped out of the jungle and right into civilization at these mostly empty condos

Beach palm tree
And onto this beautiful coconut palm fringed Rincón beach

It was a fun little side quest that took us only about a 30-40 minute walk through the jungle. You never know what awaits just out your backdoor. Sometimes the best adventures are found on your own two feet.

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Our First Band Gig


Posted by Cassie

Our band played out our first show as the final performance for the 3rd annual Legends Surf Classic at Harbor Restaurant right near the public beach in Rincón (balneario). Not 20 feet behind us the moon was glowing on the lightly lapping waves. It was a great show with a nice turn-out. We have practiced long and hard for it and while we are still improving, I would say we rocked it!

Band daisy
Thanks Daisy for this photo. For this show the band included (L-R): Caitlin (vocals), Mark (guitar), Isabella (vocals and tambourine), Me (vocals and tambourine), Rick (keyboard), Chris (guitar and vocals), Britton (bass), Kevin (trumpet), Will (guitar) also not visible Rob (drums) and Dave (saxophone),

As for the band itself, it’s sort of hard to describe our sound, but I suppose the closest description for genre would be psychedelic funky reggae rock with a surf twist. Yah, quite the mouthful! Or someone described it as a mid-60s Greenwich Village vibe. I’m not sure. It’s very unique I think because we all bring very different musical backgrounds. We just play what we like. Over half of our songs are originals and our covers are quite a bit changed.

Caitlin Chris Cassie
Caitlin, Chris and I sing

It’s a big group. We started with only about 5 core people this summer but can accordion up to 10-15 depending on availability and season since so many people are here only part of the year. We try to keep to the roots of a jam band with long songs and slow builds. It’s been a fun process and a lot of work practicing to get to this point of playing out.

Under the tent
Under the tent (thanks Robin for most of these photos)

We’re still learning a lot about being a band. It’s like having 5 or 10 boyfriends/girlfriends. Each with unique needs and desires. And communication is key. It has helped me appreciate bands that can stay together for a long time. It’s truly almost like a marriage with a bunch of people. Not to mention that once money is introduced into the equation it changes things a bit.

Rob Rick Will Squid
Rhythm section

Band
Good crowd!


Thanks to Squid for this video (we had some mic technical difficulties but at least it was a jam song)

We still have a few kinks to work out and we are constantly adjusting and improving, but I can say with certainty that this night was one of the best moments in my life. No matter what happens I can now add “band member/singer” to my resume of things I have been/done in my lifetime. And to be able to do it with Britton and these amazing people just adds to the sweetness. Pretty awesome.

Band Hans Solo
Yah! Get up, get down! We even had an unexpected guitar hero! (photo source: FB)

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Gozalandia and Salto Collazo


Posted by Cassie

For our last day with our friend Sean here in PR we decided to show him Gozalandia. The owner of the property has done some major work with accessibility since the last time we visited and almost all the paths are paved now!

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Path through Gozalandia to each of the waterfalls

We came in January as it happens again so it was much quieter than it can be in the summer months though the water is a bit chillier too. Such a beautiful movie-perfect spot.  

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But the chilly water wasn’t stopping me this time. I decided I was going to swing off the rope into the water.

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Getting ready

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Now hang tight then swing, release… and splash!

So much fun. With a splash I was suddenly under water in the most deliciously cool freshwater ever. I climbed up the  rocks and let the water from the cascade wash over me as a natural shower. The boys weren’t interested in swimming and just enjoyed the beauty of the place.

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Hi from behind the waterfall!

Then we walked to the larger more well-known waterfall. It was interesting seeing it from above and looking down because of the new paths. It really made me remember just how crazy those guys are who not only jump but dive head first from that height! It was also pretty slick and mossy and Sean gave us quite the scare when he slipped on his butt up there! ¡Cuidado!

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Imagine jumping (or slipping) from here!

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I think it is the coolest looking rock face

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Sean enjoying the view


We spent some time talking with new friends we met there at Gozalandia and I was asked again by someone else if I was Puerto Rican! I think that is the most awesome thing that with my Spanish I can “pass” as Boricua de pura cepa as he called it. The final test was for me to yell out “¡Wepa!” which I did loudly and without hesitation and so I passed -haha. Accordingly I am now officially adopted as a Puerto Rican ;-)

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¡Wepa!

We stopped in Lares for some lechón, but they were sold out for the day so we had chicken, pasteles and arroz con gandules instead. An employee told Britton we could come back tomorrow for the lechón. They had about 8 spits and walked Britton into the cooler where 10-15 pig carcasses were hung. He told Britton that people from the area raise the pigs and then bring them to this little restaurant to be processed. Very local and fresh pork.

When we left we drove by and then stopped to see Salto Collazo.  This waterfall really isn’t much in comparison to the ones at Gozalandia except on the other side of the road is a huge cliff drop off.

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Little Salto Collazo is right on the road and there is no real pond/pool

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And we ended the day enjoying a wonderful sunset over the mountains

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