It has been 31 years since Spoons released their first single, "After The Institution/My Job," and 30 years since the first Spoons album, Stick Figure Neighbourhood. The Burlington, Ontario, band had a great ten-year run that included a string of New Wave/Alt Pop hits, starting with the single "Nova Heart/Symmetry " in 1982 (from the landmark album Arias and Symphonies, produced by John Punter) and accelerating with the Nile Rogers-produced "Old Emotions," "Talk Back," "The Rhythm." The band reached its commercial peak in 1984 with the single "Tell No Lies/Romantic Traffic."
Spoons (not "the Spoons," as hard-core fans will quickly inform you) continued to perform and record, going through personnel changes but always featuring founders Gordon Deppe on guitar and vocals and Sandy Horne on bass and vocals. In 1988, the band released its Vertigo Tango album, which produced three final hits, "Sooner Or Later," "When Time Turns Around," and "Waterline." And as far as recording went, that, it seemed, was that.
Spoons continued to gig periodically, and the band released Unexpected Guest At A Cancelled Party, but that album was entirely composed of previously unreleased material from 1984-85. An album of collected works was released in 2008. But Spoons broke no new ground.
That is, until 2010, when they decided to record again and hooked up with producer and recording engineer Jeff Carter, a founding member of Canadian electronic-music trio Puncturevine. A long-time salesman and consultant in the recording department at Sherwood Music, in Kitchener, Ontario, Carter and his wife own and operate Sky Studios in Guelph, Ontario, and it was at this small facility that Spoons recorded Static In Transmission, their first album since Vertical Tango. Released in March 2011, the album featured ten fresh tunes—all of them recorded and mixed with PreSonus Studio One™ Pro and a FireStudio™ Project interface. The band is now signed to Maple Music and Universal Records—a major-label act once again.
As Jeff Carter tells the story, "This would be the first new Spoons record in over 20 years, and when I brought up the idea of recording and editing their new album entirely digitally, with no console at all, it took some convincing. They had several hits recording with the big sound of analog, and Gord and Sandy had some very disappointing experiences with earlier digital systems. Gord especially was very hesitant; he was not stuck in the past at all, stylistically, and wanted to do something exciting and modern, but at the same time, he wanted to make sure it sounded 'Spoonsy.' So we decided to test the waters by recording a two-song promotional disc, called Imperfekt, to promote the new material to the industry and see how things went with switching over to an all-digital process.
"I had just started using Studio One Pro on a Mac with my band, Puncturevine, and had been very excited with the results. I was impressed with its reliability, efficiency, and the sound quality of the 64-bit mix engine. I was even more impressed by the workflow and speed with which we could get things done. So with Spoons, we started tracking the songs 'Imperfekt' and 'Breaking In,' and after reading about how the new PreSonus hardware's zero-latency monitor mixing was integrated into Studio One, I switched from my previous multi-channel interface to a PreSonus FireStudio Project. The PreSonus preamps were warm and rich, and the converters were exceptionally good: The output converter allowed us to hear a great deal of detail without harshness. Just as important, the drivers were stable at low latencies on Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
"Studio One Pro handled the recording, audio editing, mixing, MIDI editing, mastering, and final Red Book audio mastering. We recorded 32-bit floating-point files at 88.2 kHz sample rates, with 64-bit mixing enabled. The results were mind-blowing, not only recording quality, but the speed and immediacy of the creative process with Studio One. Detailed changes in automation could be done on the fly, and assigning automation envelopes to any parameter was just a right-click away. Gord, Sandy, and I were very happy with the results, and the Imperfekt CD was good enough to garner major-label interest in the band once again. Spoons were re-signed to both Maple Music in Canada and to Universal Records. The full album would be tracked just like the first two-song EP, entirely in Studio One.
"This is one of the first albums I've made where everything was done 'in the box.' We switched from the old Core2Duo iMac that we tracked the first two songs on to an iMac with a new i5 quad processor. Things really took off. No mixdown through a passive mixer, no external processors, no analog mastering stage.
"Because the multicore processor use in Studio One is very efficient, we could run multiband compression, tape emulation, and high-end EQ and harmonic-adjustment plug-ins for mastering on the main mix bus, at low latencies, as we tracked and mixed. This let us always hear something closer to the final, mastered mix as we worked and allowed us to adjust and track everything at once. Virtual instruments, guitar-amp modeling, reverbs, etc., all could be done live instead of in separate stages. I don't think I ever bounced down a single thing, except the final mixes. All of the soft synths stayed virtual, so synth parameters could always be tweaked. The guitars and basses were all tracked dry, straight into the FireStudio Project, and we used amp modeling so that we could always adjust or automate the amp tone after the fact."
"I appreciated small things in Studio One at first, like presets for using default key-commands from other DAWs, which helped me learn the software quickly. A huge thing was reliability: Crashing and lockups were not an issue, and that made me very comfortable. Working with 32-bit floating-point files and 64 bit mixing at the same time, while not unheard of, is definitely rare in the DAW world. It's a hearable difference.
"As for the drag-and drop capabilities, dragging-and-dropping a single preset name into the tracking window to create a virtual instrument, with an instrument track, with that particular preset, all in one motion, was such a huge time and frustration saver, especially when an artist has an idea that we wants you to try and make reality. Being able to get there while the idea is still fresh is key. Compressors with sidechain inputs—love it. Studio One Pro is also one of the few Mac programs that allow Audio Unit and VST integration at the same time. The automation and hardware controller setup is the slickest, simplest, fastest, and most intuitive design I've ever worked with, bar none.
"I've seen how Studio One integrates with the StudioLive digital mixers, and I have to say I'm extremely tempted!"