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The making of Lockdown

Recording a song in times of corona crisis
Who are we playing Lockdown

For about half a year, I am in a cover band called Who are we. The band consists of 6 colleagues from We are you, my current employer. Before the corona crisis, we practiced once a month at the office. We performed for an audience only once: for all We are you colleagues from the Rotterdam office at the Christmas party. Since the lockdown of March 2020, we didn’t see each other anymore, let alone play together.

On Tuesday, March 24th of 2020, our lead singer Emil, proposed to write a song together, and record it at our homes. He was thinking of a rock song called Lockdown.

The lyrics, structure and drums

Emil wrote the lyrics and the initial chord structure. He recorded his voice, with a click track and ukulele. He sent his audio file to the band using WhatsApp and Slack. Rob did some finetuning on the structure and chords. Lars then played and recorded his part on drums.

The rhythm guitar

My Ibanez RG electric guitar

I received the chords in a PDF file, and I was able to record the rhythm guitar part. I was playing an Ibanez RG series electric guitar, which recently had had a full maintenance job. The signal goes to a Boss GT-10 effects processor. From there, an output signal goes to a Line 6 Spider III 30W amp. The GT-10 also has a USB interface to my MacBook. This way, I can record the sound directly using the free GarageBand software on MacOS.

My Boss GT-10 effects panel

I could pull the vocals and drum audio files into GarageBand, turn on a click track, and play along with that. I recorded it in parts, which I could repeat until I was satisfied with it. Then I exported my track as an audio file, which I sent to the other band members.

The other tracks

All band members recorded their parts in similar ways. Because we all had the separate audio tracks, we could all mix, cut, copy and paste the tracks and exchange more ideas for the structure of the song.

The mixing

When we were all happy with the structure, we decided to record our ‘final’ parts, with all effects like reverb and echo disabled. We put the audio files into DropBox, which we shared with a professional mixer/producer. He applied effects to make all the tracks sound well together, and shared that progress with the band members.

The artwork

Emil created the artwork for the single, with a font and some Photoshop magic. Because it was pretty graphical, I recreated it in CSS Grid.

The planning of the release

Because we were already planning the official release of the song, we had a bit of deadline to work to. Rob set up a TuneCore account. This is an online music distribution platform, which places your music on global digital music stores like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal. We could already plan a date and provide the artwork. We picked April 29th 12PM as the release.

The website

Since I had the logo in CSS and we knew the release date, we wanted a simple website to support the single. I created an animation of the artwork, and implemented a counter plugin (Flip, which is absolutely great by the way), that counted down to the 29th at 12PM. I created screen recordings of this, which were shown in a We are you internal video presentation.

The release

On the morning of the 29th, we received links to the single on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal, which I added to an unpublished page of the website. That page went live when there was another internal presentation, so everybody could immediately listen to it.

The video

On May the 5th of 2020 we all travelled to Koog aan de Zaan to shoot the video. There is a building next to the river De Zaan which an industrial vintage look we thought would fit the song. We had some concept what we wanted to shoot but ended up doing a performance video. We playbacked our parts while listening to the track. Our colleague Michelle edited the video. After it was finished we put it on YouTube and embedded it on our webpage.

The future

All band members are really happy with the result. Lockdown gives us the confidence we can write songs ourselves. We can create and professionally release a single with non-professional recording equipment. Of course, we are thinking of writing new songs. This tastes like more!

The band members of who are we keeping their distance

© Portfolioris 2020