Mild High Club just released ‘Skiptracing’, the second single off of their mind bending new album of the same name. ‘Skiptracing’ finds Alex Brettin fully realizing the sound he began developing on Mild High Club’s first album Timeline. Skiptracing, which is out on August 26th via Stones Throw Records, is the result of meticulous craftsmanship that creates a wall of crisp, clean and psychedelic sound. In listening to ‘Skiptracing’ and ‘Homage’ you start to get the sense of just how much effort Alex puts into each track, but it’s not over done or over-produced. It’s pretty perfect and will trip you the fuck out.
We interviewed Alex from Mild High Club to find out more about his songwriting recording process. Check it out below the Soundcloud stream…
Listen to ‘Skiptracing’…
Here’s the interview with Alex Brettin of Mild High Club…
[RP] Can you describe how you created and developed the Mild High Club sound?
[Alex] Listening, loving, and learning the music of my upbringing. The Beatles, Steely Dan, the list goes on and on..
[RP] Was there a moment or series of events that caused you to want to pursue music as a career?
[Alex] A series of serendipitous events compounded some interesting results!
[RP] Where did you record Skiptracing?
[Alex] Skiptracing was recorded mostly in Oakland, CA at a newish studio called Santo with additional recording LA, Chicago, and NYC.
[RP] Can you walk us through what the recording process was like? For example, do you record live as a band or are you recording everything yourself?
[Alex] I write all the parts and record most of the basic tracks with additional contributions from an array of players(club members*). A considerable amount of the backbone can be attributed to Mat Robert’s impeccable drumming.
[RP] How involved are you in the recording process aside from performing?
[Alex] For this record, I employed the alchemical skills of Jason Kick as my engineer. I hadn’t worked with an engineer up to that point but I soon learned how much freedom and collaboration could come from it. He was crucial in solving some of the most interesting obstacles, and also willing to put up with my OCD and long hours. If we planned to work, we’d do 14 hour days. I was able to exercise my compositions without having to go back and forth between the computer, deleting etc. Still working on figuring out the best way to access it all.
[RP] Both of your records sound incredible, but there is a difference in overall sound between Skiptracing and Timeline. What was different about the recording or post-recording process that resulted in a higher fidelity sound?
[Alex] I felt like Timeline was an experiment in simply making a record and I ignored a lot of the science of acoustics and technological possibilities in favor of some mystical interpretation of the spirit of the Beatles or something like that. With Skiptracing, I wanted to push the technology to the limit and make an ultra clean record that sounded crystalized at any volume. Polished enough to painstakingly search for a 60hz cycle among a sea of tracks, but also unpolished in realizing the beauty in certain mistakes.
[RP] How involved are you in the post recording process (ie. mixing & mastering)?
[Alex] I came to NYC to mix with Jarvis Taveniere and we ended up getting an Airbnb and setting up shop. I sat in the whole time. He whittled it into form while I nervously contributed my burnt opinions.
[RP] Are effects added during the recording or mixing process or both?
[Alex] We did most of the effects in the recording process. Most of the mixing came down to eq, stereo imaging, panning type operations.
[RP] Can you describe how you develop a particular sound? For example, how did you arrive at the synth/keyboard sound that opens ‘Homage’, the trippy slide guitar sound used throughout the record, or the vocal effects on ‘Head Out’?
[Alex] Most of the sounds just come from the equipment I have at hand and what I like to hear. The ‘Homage’ synth is a vst I played in Logic and brought back to the studio in my second session, The slide guitar work came from tedious takes in the studio (the kind of thing you can only do in the studio) I had to go back to my beginnings when I realized I could kind of play guitar and music somehow means more than most things to me–I thought I could get away with some slide, maybe some Brian May stylish guitarmonies– The vocal effects on ‘Head Out’ came from an idea I had that was figuratively(and literally) reverse engineered by Jason Kick. A lot of the effects came from my desire to reamp tracks through effects units and play the effects units playing the tracks meta.
[RP] What does your writing process look like?
[Alex] Each song is different= the basic chord structures side A was written in sequence before arriving for the first session. After that, I developed those songs and came back and wrote the second half in the studio off the top of my head. We don’t play the music as a band until I finish the recording.
[RP] What were you listening to the most while writing Skiptracing? Is it different from what you were listening to during Timeline?
[Alex] Definitely- during Timeline I listened to a lot of psych pop ala Fading Yellow compilations, and general psychedelic wobbly music. By Skiptracing era, I was OBSESSED with the full discography of Steely Dan, Breakfast in America by Supertramp, Skylarking by XTC, “holding you loving you” Don Blackman, and The Pavillion of Dreams by Harold Budd.
[RP] Does what you’re listening to at a particular time influence your records?
[RP] How would you describe Mild High Club’s evolution from the Timeline to Skiptracing?
[RP] What attracts you to writing and recording trippy/psychedelic records?
[Alex] Being a serious joker.
[RP] Do you have any formal music training?
[Alex] Yes, I have and have had some amazing teachers and mentors.
[RP] Finally, I’m always curious about how other people consume music. Do you have a favorite ritual, place or activity while listening to music?
[Alex] On the turntable, whilst doing nothing else.
Photo by Logan White.