3 Questions for…Justin Gerrish: Mixing Vampire Weekend

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MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN: The end of summer is nigh for Vampire Weekend. As the evening starts to show itself a tad earlier, the incredibly clever indie rock band’s next album comes that much closer to daylight.

Vampire Weekend: (l-r) Christopher Tomson, Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chria Baio. Photo by Vorrasi.

Vampire Weekend: (l-r) Christopher Tomson, Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chria Baio. Photo by Vorrasi.

The fast-rising four pack of Upper West Siders — Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson — asked up-and-coming engineer Justin Gerrish to mix their new collection. Gerrish and the group were recently ensconced in Avatar’s Studio E to shape Vampire Weekend’s ear-tingling concoctions. Working in tandem with co-mixer Batmanglij, Gerrish learned a thing or two about mixing – especially when it comes to fast and refreshing workflow – and gave us three chunks of insight on the experience.

Due out on XL Recordings, the new collection will probably show up in early 2010.

Q: How many tracks did you mix?

A: I co-mixed all the tracks of the album with Rostam. I also recorded some of the drum tracks. That’s how I first met the guys in Vampire Weekend.

Q: Which studio and what gear/setup did you decide on?

A: I ended up mixing the album in Studio E at Avatar Studios in NYC. Studio E is a Pro Tools room that has a vocal booth attached. I normally like to mix on a console but the guys wanted to stay in the box so that we could move from song to song quickly with minimal recall time. We typically worked on a song for a couple of hours, then we would move on to something else, and come back to that song later that day or later that week.

I usually work on a song until I think it’s done and the band has signed off on it. But with this new style of work-flow, I enjoyed having a fresh perspective on the song when I revisited it after working on different material. What’s great about working at Avatar is they have a pile of outboard gear that can be brought into any room. So for this project I did run some tracks through a chain of analog gear. I think I had some 1176s , LA-3As, Neve 33609s, GML EQ, Neve 31102sAMS RMX, Distressors, PCM 70 and a couple of live chambers that the studio has.

During mixing in Avatar's Studio E: (l-r) Batmanglij, Koenig and Gerrish.

During mixing in Avatar's Studio E: (l-r) Batmanglij, Koenig and Gerrish.

Q: What was fun about working with the band, and on this new album?

A: Vampire Weekend is a unique band with an eclectic musical taste. They took a different approach while making this record, which was exciting. We tracked drums for half the record in about two days. When it came time to mix the record, Rostam and Ezra were in the studio with me for most of the time. It was nice to get their feedback as a song was being mixed. Not having to upload mixes, and email back and forth notes with the band, saved a lot of downtime and allowed the creativity to flow. We worked collectively to achieve the sound we were happy with.

The new album has so many different elements that each song has something new. So when it came time to mix we could really experiment with creating a distinctive landscape for each song. I think this album differs from their first one, but didn’t lose any of the elements which made Vampire Weekend unique in the first place.

– David Weiss

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