The live recording room at Bad Racket has always looked like a big quilt to me. The high industrial ceilings, covered with sound insulating panels in shades of teal, brick, olive green, and black, set on top of Nickelodeon orange walls creates a blocked color scheme, worthy of a blanket passed down between generations. The entire craft studio is incredibly cozy, populated by an upright piano, secondhand couches, and vintage lamps casting warm yellow light across a hodge-podge wood grain floor.
Jacob Lee, singer and guitarist of Runaway Brother has spent countless hours tucked away inside the building off of E 22nd and Superior Ave., assisting in setting up and recording other bands to complete his degree in Recording Arts and Technology from Tri-C. When it came time to choose where to record their first new record since the release of their debut Mother via Tiny Engines two years ago, the decision was easy.
“I was interning at Bad Racket with Henri Rapp, who works here. We were just talking about different engineers, the ones we liked, and he pointed Eric [Cronstein] out because he really likes the way he records drums; how they kind of have a smack to them. I had no idea he’s done a few records that I really, really like. So we emailed him, and he responded,” says Lee sitting on a rogue ottoman next to a pool table positioned in the center of the entry room of Bad Racket. They’re in the last throes of a ten-day recording spree at the studio, putting in roughly ten hours at a time.
Cronstein has recorded Ohio DIY legends like The Sidekicks, Saintseneca, Tin Armor, and Andy Cook to name a few. Sitting in the studio as guitarist Charlie Gunn layers synth parts on top of an evolving track with the assistance of Secret Grief’s Scott Nelson, the similarities to The Sidekicks’ latest Runners in the Nerved World is evident. However, unlike most music coming out of this particular scene, Lee’s vocals have a sweet, calming allure to them, not unlike what I hear when listening to indie rock like Death Cab For Cutie. They saddle the divide between traditional abrasive emo and more technical math rock.
“We were finally able to do what we wanted to do on our first few releases,” Lee says of players they recruited with friends’ and family’s help to contribute cello (Steve Ilg), trumpet (Riley Conley), and sax (Nick Uguccini) to the record. “Going into it we weren’t absolutely sure, but later on after everyone wrote their parts and we did some demos, we heard things in our heads that we wanted [on the final tracks].”
“When you have that much time to reflect on your demos, you can kind of mess with your tones a little bit. I know Charlie was doing that constantly and Jake was too. A lot of the parts could have used a different instrumentation, or a different voice, and I think with all of the time we had we could put that together,” Ian Phillips, drums, adds. Not many people have heard the new songs they’ve been writing, however a handful are scheduled to make a cameo during their Brite Winter set, scheduled for February 18th at 12:00 a.m. on McCarthy’s Stage.
Runaway Brother originally formed in 2010 when the members of the band were friends in high school, plus Jacob’s brother Ian playing bass. While they’ve gotten rid of some past members and over the top gang vocals, Lee still cashes in on weird vocal delivery, setting the group apart from their contemporaries like Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms. “I’m happy we’ve matured and it hasn’t been the same every year, it’s been slightly different,” Lee discloses.
Lee smiles. “I guess it’s less about myself, and like, whining,” he says, referring to the lyrical content on the new record. “It’s more about how I perceive the world around me.” Don’t worry, it’s not all gone; there’s still plenty of waxing poetic about second chances and achieving happiness.
“Last night it was so cool coming in because everyone was here. The cello player, saxophone player, trumpet player. Scott and Charlie were in this room, everybody was warming up and everywhere you went was just like a playground,” Phillips motions around the room with a cup of coffee in hand.
While Runaway Brother has put brains, sweat, and dare I say, tears into the new album, they’ve also gotten the opportunity to escape from reality for a few days this winter and into their imaginations behind the doors of Bad Racket. The new album will be released on Tiny Engines, at a yet to be determined date.