As psyched as we were for the last year's new Pelican album, we were just as excited to see the band in the live setting again after a long six year wait. Now those worlds are set to collide soon when the Chicagoans drop Arktika, a nine song 2013 live set recorded in Russia. The record is the band's first full-length live jawn since 2008's After the Ceiling Cracked CD/DVD. And we're stoked to be exclusively streaming the ENTIRE THING right here. Not only that, but we spoke with guitarist Dallas Thomas and soundman Matt "Coach" Hannigan about how this project, which the group is putting out itself, came together. You can pre-order a copy of the album, which is out digitally this Tuesday with a 2xLP out August 26, here.
How did the idea for doing this live album come about? Dallas Thomas: By chance, really. The idea had been loosely thrown around for a while, then our main man, soundman Matt "Coach" Hannigan, bought a recorder and started recording shows at random.
Can you tell us more about the specific technological tools that have been made available in the last few years that helped this project happen? Matt "Coach" Hannigan: The Arktika Club in St. Petersburg, Russia had an Allen and Heath console and I used the Zoom R-16 to track the recordings. It's a small, 8-track recorder that writes to an SD card, so it's easy to tour with. I also used my own mics and DI boxes to keep the sound consistent. Mics used: Audix D6 on kick, Heil PR20 on snare, Sennheiser 604s on toms, Tech 21 Sansamp on bass and Radial JDX DI boxes on guitars. The Radial boxes helped get me a nice, clear, in your face guitar tone that stayed true to what was coming out of the amplifiers. I love the JDX boxes.
Walk us through process-wise, whether from the band or recording side, what kind of preparation goes into doing something like this? Coach: When recording a live show, the recording is completely secondary. One of the advantages of using a simple recorder is that I can plug it in, hit record, check the meters occasionally, and otherwise forget about it. The live show is first and foremost for the audience. If the recording turns out good, it's just a bonus.
What about once the show is over -- what's the process like from then on to get to a finished product? DT: After the 2013 Euro Tour, Coach recorded about nine shows, which was about nine hours of material to sift through and he let me borrow the Zoom recorder and I just started taking random shows and importing the files into Logic on my laptop.
How soon after the show was over did you listen to the recording? Whenever you first did, were there specific things you were looking for -- something you thought went great during the show, something that you hoped would translate on to tape but weren't sure would come across? DT: Pretty much as soon as our last Euro tour was over. Four days after we flew back from Russia, my dog passed away after incurring over $8000 in vet bills while I was on tour. Coupled with jet lag, I was in a pretty nervous headspace and couldn’t really sleep, so I just started going through all the shows that we recorded. While going through all of the recordings, I was keeping an ear out for ones that captured the rawness and energy of the live show that maybe a studio record cannot.
You're put out live DVDs before, but what are some of the differences in doing an audio-only project like this? DT: I think the fact that the show that we captured was in Russia makes a bit more special to us and the amazing time we had there. Considering the historical tension between Russia and US, this release serves at a document of the power of music to transcend culture, nationality and race. Also, I think this recording really captures where the band is at this point in time, and it’s cool to hear raw live versions of these songs as well.
Assuming this was a one-shot deal -- you were going to record this show and this show only -- what's it like (either being in the band or recording the show) knowing that everything that happens will be on tape for better or worse? Coach: I've learned that you never remind the band that you're recording. It might psych them out and cause them to lose focus on the task at hand, putting on a great show for the people there.
DT: We never knew if Coach was recording or not. Which I think was best so we were just concerned with playing not recording. At first we thought we might just compile the best recordings of the tour, then I got to listening to the St. Peterburg show and it sounded the best and we played the best of the whole trip. That is where we just got the idea of do a Live from Russia release. I can't believe we played as well as we did that night. [Guitarist] Trevor [de Brauw] had caught a stomach bug and I was super hungover from pounding vodka in a shuttle bus on the way to Red Square in Moscow the night before. The Herweg bros held the St. Petersburg show together for sure.
You guys are releasing the album yourselves -- tell us a little about what goes into a project like this from that perspective, particularly given that it seems like one of the bigger DIY projects you guys have undertaken in a long time. DT: Yeah it has naturally come about. I am super stoked on the raw vibe of it. Coach recorded it, I mixed it, my old time friend Brad Boatright at Audiosiege mastered it, and then our manager Simon did the layout. So yeah, it has turned into an in-house DIY project for sure. With the ever changing effect of technology on the music industry, I feel like bands are going to have to be more resourceful and creative with how they embrace technology and use it to their advantage if they are to survive. There are tons of resources out there and the equipment gets better and better and cheaper and cheaper to make tangible listenable recordings from makeshift environments, but you still have to put in the time and work for sure. Do you have a favorite moment on the live record? DT: The noise section at the end of "Mammoth". I went out in the crowd where kids were giving me high fives, patting me on the back and going crazy. If I remember correctly, Coach went on stage and tackled [bassist] Bryan [Herweg].
Coach: At the end of the set, during the "Mammoth" wall of noise, Bryan tried to tackle me to the ground. I think he was still upset that Edward Snowden was not at the Moscow show the night before. He took it out on me, but I was victorious. I will always have the upper hand.
*Pre-order a copy of Arktika here.
**Top photo by Tomas Zakopal; others by Trevor de Brauw.