Keith Kenniff (aka Helios and Goldmund) and his wife & very talented musician Hollie Kenniff (The Gathering Dawn is an incredible ambient album) have released a new Mint Julep album. Bridging indie electronica, fuzzy shoegaze guitars, hazy vocals and a dash of pop music, the duo has another wonderful and easy listening album with Stray Fantasies. The album brings together piano, guitars, vocals and a slew of electronics. With all of this coming together on one album, we decided it would be great to see how it was made. They take us into the studio to showcase the equipment on this album and how it was used throughout the project.
Read on to see all of the gear and the context for it on the LP. Stream it below and get your copy of the record here.
Stray Fantasies is our third album, which we started writing in 2015. Each of the songs marks a different chapter throughout those years, and despite the length of time in writing these songs off-and-on, there was a cohesion that we aimed to keep intact during the process. Whereas our previous album was more polished and fine-tuned, we wanted this album to sound a little more rough and dirty, with emphasis on tape and analog-type sounds. We enlisted the wonderful Yuuki Matthews (of The Shins) to assist in some mixing duties to help further glue things together.
We keep our studio pretty simple. I learned to make electronic music with very little, doing a lot with software, so I do not own a lot of hardware gear. The visual clutter of too many knobs and options serves to distract me from the creative process, so I tend to stick with options for each functional purpose and use them almost exclusively. Our studio is a gathering place for us and our family, so we aim to make it functional and inviting. We recorded everything ourselves here.
For a guitar arsenal, I have a Martin D-15M, Hofner “Beatle Bass” from the 60’s (with flatwounds which haven’t been changed for 20 years), and a G&L ASAT.
NI Guitar Rig:
I run everything through NI Guitar Rig, so I have the flexibility to change tone options post-recording.
Ludwig Jazz Kit:
For drums, I have a Ludwig jazz kit from the 60’s with a Yamaha custom vintage snare with old K Istanbul hi hats, a 20” Zyn ride from the 60’s and a 17” Istanbul Xist crash. These are mic’d by a pair of Rode N5’s on overheads, SM57 for top snare, BETA 52 for the kick inside, AT4047A for the outside kick and bottom snare.
Although piano doesn’t make its way into this project, I often start ideas on it and transfer to the keyboard, mic’d by the trusty DPA 4011’s.
Hollie sings into an Audio Technica 4047A.
All mics are routed through an Audient ASP 800 into an Audient ID22 soundcard. The studio machine is a custom-built PC by PC Audio Labs.
We have a Tascam Porta03 Mark II for cassette mixdowns, and a Sony TCM400DV and Microcassette recorder for further tape manipulation of individual elements. We’re using Amphions for monitoring and DT 770’s for headphones.
Everything else we do is software-based. I started using Studio One during its early years and have stuck with it. It is stable and rationally laid out, and keeps getting better with each iteration. EQ is almost always Fab Filter (Pro Q3 nowadays), and other tape manipulation software to help dirty things up (Reels by Audio Thing, Tone Projects Sonitex, and XLN RC-20). We both love Valhalla’s reverbs and use their suite exclusively. Delay is almost always “Bionic Delay” or “Outer Space” by Audiothing. Fab Filter’s Saturn helps with distortion, L2 for limiting, Presonus’s built-in compressor. Synths are almost always a Juno software take, TAL-U-NO-LX and PG-8X. Korg’s Polysix soft synth used a lot on bass. I’ve gotten used to the speed and efficiency of soft synths; hardware synths seem superfluous to my workflow. I never got used to pad drumming or finger drumming in general, but all the electronic drums are played via the Nektar gx-49 midi keyboard.
Our songwriting process usually involves a short idea, a loop of a verse of 4-8 bars, which Hollie uses to craft the lyrics and melody then another loop of a chorus idea. Once those two are set, we map out the roadmap of the arrangement and then start to pepper those initial ideas. Typically we mix as we’re writing. The tone of the different elements is integral to the entire process. Sometimes once Hollie has the vocal melody we may change the entirety of the music underneath, or sometimes it stays the same.
“Still Waters” was written and mixed in one sitting, but the verses and the chorus of “No Regret” were actually written and recorded two years apart. With the songs we sent out to Yuuki there was a general sense of the mood of the track and how we wanted to shape it and he helped a lot to glue things together and make it sound cohesive. Carl Saff has been our mastering engineer for all of our other records and he did a great job again making things shine but keeping in mind the tone of what we had in the original mixes.