Back in July 2013, I came across four demo tracks from a band called Rouge – four girls playing and singing the blues with rock and soul overtones. It didn’t take much thinking to realise that I was listening to something special. I immediately got in touch with the band and asked for a meeting. We agreed on a production partnership and commenced work on the first EP headed by the single Wilderness.
Rouge aren’t a terribly conventional line up because they feature two leads vocalists with both playing guitars, but whatever force in the universe had made this band happen wanted these voices to meet because they blend seamlessly. Becky Wixon and Simone Picknett share the vocal and guitar duties perfectly and by far in the most respectful manor I have ever witnessed. They are also the chief songwriters in the band.
Nicole Burnard provides powerful drums, and it is still a mystery to me where the strength to make so much noise comes from this little girl, but boy does she deliver, and spectacularly in time too! Moreover, Nicole is a multi-instrumentalist playing bass and guitar in addition to mastering drums and percussion.
Ruby Rose Lee picked up the bass just for this band! With background in guitar, the prospect of joining Rouge was enough to motivate her into some serious crash courses and bass practice. By Rouge’s first gig, Ruby was playing flawlessly like a natural.
I’ve adopted a methodology some time ago that seems to work well for me when doing production work. It involves attending rehearsal and getting to know the band, the environment they feel comfortable playing in, understand the dynamics in the band and of course learn the songs. This idea is to be involved in the process as much as possible so that by the time we get to the studio, everything flows naturally and I don’t look like an outsider to the band. It also gives me an opportunity to have input into the songs early on in the process and we are not wasting any precious time in the studio making changes. If this process starts early enough, there is even an opportunity to test the changes live during gigs and see the audience’s reaction.
Rouge had been very clever and were renting a permanent space on the outskirts of London which they have converted into a rehearsal space called Red Box a few months before I met them. This gave us more than usual opportunities to rehearse and go over the songs.
It’s a great force which pushes their music and live performance in your face.Matthew Clewley
On the 12th of September, 2013 we went into Snap Studios to record Rouge’s Edge of the Bed EP. Three very long days of intense work fuelled by Red Bull, coffee, music and the girls’ spirit. We’ve taken a considerable time to set up the drums and the drums sound. It may sound ridiculous saying that drums are important in a track, but it really is! Especially since this is a four piece and we were really going to a raw sound without much additional studio performances that the band could not recreate live. So with every instrument and part to be more exposed than in a conventional pop/rock production, we had to take a bit more time to get everything right. Furthermore, to get the real “old school” rock drums sound, we decided to record to a 24-track tape machine (Snap’s Otari MX80) on high-bias tape quite heavily pushed for tape compression and saturation. The click was fed only to Nicole for drums with the rest of the band playing live to Nicole’s drums. We used Snap’s awesome tie-line system to place the amplifiers in other rooms while the band are in eye-contact with each other. Everything was played live with overdubs afterwards when we had the perfect drums and bass takes.
Also in the studio was my dear friend and Rouge’s “guitar tech / musical god / rouge daddy” (this is the actual quote!), Toby Hawthorne – the Big Man himself. Toby is the embodiment of everything that is good in this world and always makes me a better person by just being around him. Toby was instrumental (excuse the pun) in setting up guitars, making sure the band’s gear was in order and had brilliant input on the band’s performance. Toby knows the band and the material intimately and I could rely on him to give me honest feedback regarding sound and performance. When I was tweaking microphone positions in the live room, Toby would give me the “thumbs up” if the mic was in the right place. I can’t say enough how important it is to have a trusty pair of ears around. Whether it is the studio assistant or someone in the band or just someone you know, while running a complex session, there’s bound to be something you miss and someone like Toby can crucially save the day by saying something like “what happened to the bass?!” or something rather.
…this track is downright awesome.The Musical Melting Pot
Enjoying the incredible collection of vintage amplifiers and vintage microphones at Snap Studios is a privilege in its own right. Each one with a story, a date, a sound… Sometimes it’s like a time machine that lets you travel to a certain period in time and record through somebody else’s famous rig. I’d like to say that we took advantage of just about everything the studio has to offer at one point or another, and I hope the results speak for themselves.
All the tracks were transferred into Pro Tools via Snap’s Prism converters, and I’ve mixed the songs in my studio. After the mixes were approved by the band, I sent them off to the always brilliant John Webber at AIR Studios for mastering.
Rouge released the first single off the EP called Wilderness on the 25th of November, 2013. You can buy the single on iTunes and a physical handmade copy off the band’s website. It is also available for streaming on SoundCloud.
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Becky Wixon – Guitars and Vocals
Simone Picknett – Guitars and Vocals
Ruby Rose Lee – Bass
Nicole Burnard – Drums and Vocals
Adam Crowe – Hammond
Tobias Hawthorne – Guitar Technician / Musical God / Rouge Daddy