LA-based producer / artist Hotel Garuda has released his debut EP The Tension via Mom+Pop Music. The EP is the culmination of a year of work where he started to feel disassociated with electronic music and moved more towards indie rock (a genre he has been dabbling in for some time and has remixed quite frequently). The Tension breaks beyond the confines of electronic music into a blend of synth-pop and indie rock with crunchy guitars on “Olivia”, funky bass lines for “Leave You,” mellow guitars on “Mutual” and vocals on each of the track that make these great for the end of summer into the cooler fall months. The EP opener "Rush" keeps things a little more familiar with some Oliver-esque chugging synths and chopped vocals for a funky and fun record.
To get an idea of how his music has evolved and how his music making has changed with it, we asked Hotel Garuda to take us into his studio for a new My Toolbox feature. He shows off the essential pieces of gear he has in his studio from guitars to mics and synths.
Listen to The Tension now and get your copy here.
1. Guitars - Gretsch Electromatic G5420, Fender Semi-Hollow Telecaster, Paul Reed Smith Semi-Hollow 22
With this project I really wanted to lean into using guitars and live instrumentation more than ever. I bought the Gretsch G5420T about a year ago and use it to sketch out rough ideas all the time. I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a couple of really amazing guitarists, who used the Fender and PRS semi-hollow models I mentioned. These guitars do pose somewhat of a price-barrier to entry to the average enthusiast, and there certainly are more wallet-friendly, affordable versions out that do the job almost as well. I love how semi-hollow electric guitars sound in general, and I’m glad I had access to them to make this body of work.
2. Slate VMS Microphone
We did all the vocals on this project using this modeling mic from Slate Digital. This was the first time I’d had the chance to really dig into mic tones, and Devesh and I were able to get a really tight, consistent sound out of this mic. It’s got a whole load of modeling presets in its companion VST that allow it to emulate the sound of MUCH more expensive and rare microphones like the Sony C800G (which runs about $15,000 used). I was so used to recording ideas on my little $100 USB mic (which sounds great for the price) that I was absolutely blown away with the performance of the Slate VMS. I highly recommend this to anyone that wants to record vocals without spending a down payment on a house to do so.
3. Dave Smith Prophet Rev2
I ended up selling this synth to a friend of mine a little while ago, but it’s all over my EP - for lush pads as well as syrupy leads, the Prophet is just an iconic piece of gear. This was the first piece of analog gear I bought, but now that software plugins like Omnisphere are so advanced, it may not be entirely necessary to own one of these. A lot of times, our writing sessions would start with a looped drum beat in Ableton with someone messing around on the Prophet; having those physical knobs and faders to manipulate definitely stirs creativity in a different way to software synths. They do tend to get a bit hot with prolonged use though!
4. Neural DSP “Archetype Plini” (Software)
Since I do all my guitar processing in my DAW, without using real guitar amps, this plugin was recommended to me by my vocal engineer and writing partner Devesh Dayal, who plays guitar in the band Skyharbor. I’m always looking for guitar FX plugins and once I started using this, I was completely blown away by the variety of tones and quality of processing within it. Neural does a few different versions of the Archetype plugin based on presets by different guitarists, and each version is a total game changer for anyone looking to process guitars “in-the-box.” The interface is very user friendly, and includes a host of built in effects to really hone in on a tube-amp-sounding guitar tone.
5. Sonarworks Reference (Software)
This is really nifty piece of software that the Slumberjack guys put me on to. It alters your master output to account for your room’s frequency response. I cannot recommend this enough! Being that this EP was not made in traditional, treated studio spaces, I needed some sense of baseline to which I could record, produce and mix. The Reference bundle comes with a measurement microphone that the software uses to give you a frequency response curve according to the room you’re in. I made presets within it for all the rooms I worked in, as well as all the headphones I used to produce on. This is possibly the most underrated piece of software I’ve bought in the last few years.