Tape Machines and Getting Intimate With Electricity: Gear Talk With Raindrop

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  • October 27, 2017
Raindrop

If the band of your dream band sounds something like a cross between the Beatles, the Flaming Lips, and Ariel Pink, then Raindrop are for you.

The solo moniker of Sydney multi-instrumentalist and studio wizard, Miles Devine, Raindrop came to fruition in 2013 as an outlet for some songs that didn’t quite fit in the catalogue of the other projects he and his mates were playing in at the time. Since then they’ve birthed a string of singles and EPs, the majority written and recorded by Devine on his lonesome.

Crafting a sound that sits in a strange dimension between lo-fi and hi-fi, psychedelia is the dominant proponent of the band’s sound. Beatles-y basslines curl under laser-beam synths and vintage organs, compounded with slightly demented guitars and luminous melodies.

There’s something Tame Impala-esque in the way Raindrop seamlessly fuse old and new, taking a tapestry of 60s and 70s influences and transfiguring them in a space-age context. Even the way Devine records reflects Kevin Parker’s predilection for solitude; most of what you hear is played by him alone, laid down in a home setup called Mindfield Studios.

Only Hope is the latest offering from Raindrop, and there’s a record in the horizon (we’ve heard it, it’s bloody excellent). Before it comes out, we caught up with Miles to chat tape, drum machines and getting intimate with electricity.

Raindrop

Chatting tape machines and why getting intimate with hardware synths is the only way to go with Miles Devine of Raindrop.

Hey Miles. How’s it going? What are you working on at the moment?

Hey! I’m very well thank you. I just bought a Tascam 388 tape machine / console, so right now I’m giving it a serious clean on the inside so I can record a new tune I wrote onto it.

Sick. I love the fuzzy warble of the guitars on Only Hope. What are we hearing on that track guitar-wise?

Thanks! The fuzzy warble guitar is my Epiphone Casino into a Tascam 4 track through a Boss vibrato pedal. The brighter guitar is my 12 string Vox Phantom through my Fender Deluxe Reverb.

Vocals effects and manipulation seems to be fairly prominent part of your sound. How do you approach vocal processing?

They are indeed. I really like the way SM7Bs react with overdriving a preamp or putting it through a Space Echo to get those nice slapback distortion vocal sounds. When vocals are in the cleaner world, I like using tape manipulation to achieve a chorus-like effect.

Tell us a bit about your bass sound. Huge Beatles vibes going on there.

The bass sound I achieve (very much going for Beatle-y tone) is always a Hofner Club Bass through an old Fender Bassman amp. I also split the signal to run through my Minimoog’s filter for extra low end too.

What are synths you are currently making good use of?

I use my Micromoog the most.. I think it’s the most exciting sounding synth of all. The Minimoog, however is pure perfection, which sometimes isn’t always as unique, but still so so beautiful. I also use a Roland JX3P and Juno 106 for lot of my polyphonic sounds too.

Is there a company or maker you feel like you gel with best?

It’s a tough call between Moog and Roland as they both have very unique qualities that I’m obsessed with. If it’s specifically synths I’d have to go with Moog.

It sounds like you record both live drums and drum machines – is there a preference? What is it you like about drum machines?

Drum machines are beautiful things to me because there’s something so intimate about them. I don’t have a preference but I feel Raindrop’s music is going in directions where I’ll probably use them more consistently. Recently, SPOD has been triggering drum machine kicks and snares off the one’s we record and it sounds rad.

What’s the cheapest piece of gear you feel like you’ve gotten the best value out of?

My Tascam Portastudio 424. I paid $50 for it about 6 years ago and have done more demos on it than anything else I’ve ever recorded onto. It’s also a major part of my guitar sound so it’s a big winner for me.

You work with tape quite a lot right? How did you get into recording to tape and how does it fit in to your workflow?

My friend gave me his 16 channel tape machine about 4 years ago and I decided at the time to start building a studio around it. I got into recording to tape as soon as I could. In my opinion, It’s one of the greatest tools to have in a recording studio.

If I’m tracking a “live” sounding band, I’ll always prefer to do it on tape as it helps their minds when it comes to committing to takes. I also use it frequently for it’s speed control settings. Most Raindrop songs are recorded at a different tempo initially to get either a fat (slowed down) sound or a tight (sped up) sound. You can then go further and record the instruments in different speeds (Sgt. Pepper’s style).

What are your thoughts on the software/hardware synth debate? Do you use both?

I’m strictly hardware when it comes to synths. I have no problem with the sound of software synths make, but synths are all about getting intimate with electricity. Having solid knobs to actually adjust your sounds is what makes it beautiful. I also do believe that they have more life and imperfections, making them the only choice for me.

How about pedals – is there anything on your board at the moment that really shapes your sound?

I love Deathbyaudio pedals a lot. I use the Echo Dream, Intersteller Overdrive and Fuzz War for all fuzziness. I also use a boss VB-2 vibrato, which is my favourite pedal of all time. Delay is mostly a Roland RE-20 Space Echo pedal, but I recently got an Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man.

Do you have any particular ethos when it comes to using guitar pedals?

I don’t think about it too much anymore. I like pedals that do strange unexpected things that you sometimes don’t want them too. I don’t really get much out of pristine boutique sounding stuff. I feel like you have to be blown away by what a pedal does the second you turn it on.

Are you really hanging out to buy anything at the moment?

Well, there’s always something… One thing I’d kill for is a LinnDrum. I never realised how magical they are until I borrowed SPOD’s one for a few months while he was overseas. There’s something about the way it sequences drums that just blows my mind.

Check out Raindrop’s music on Spotify and Bandcamp.

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