Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.
Where are you based?
We’re originally from Downey, CA but are currently based in Long Beach, CA.
How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?
We got together as a band in 2016 when we reconnected after quite some time. Karen had been playing solo acoustic shows and Zach had been in and out of various local bands in Downey, CA. At the time Zach was recording a solo record at home in a garage studio when Karen came to hang out and showed him some of their songs, the collaboration process was so effortless and fast that the band quickly fell together. Through-out the years we’ve played with many bass players however recently after a string of auditions Jay came into the picture as the perfect fit for our outfit. All three of us are musicians first but Zach spends a lot of time engineering, mixing, mastering and producing records with local musicians in our current home city of Long Beach, CA.
Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?
We’re very influenced by the sounds and feelings of 90s rock musicians as well as late 70s to late 90s hardcore punk bands. To list a few we love Nirvana, Mark Lanegan, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, The Breeders, Pixies, Bad Brains, Iggy Pop, Joy Division, and the list goes on forever until it eclipses the heavens above. Although influenced we haven’t consciously stolen or borrowed any particular tricks from our favorite artists. One of our main missions is to stay true to ourselves and the music we believe in so that we can make and play music that we find to be fun and fulfilling.
Explain your creative process. Do you have a routine?
Usually Karen will write song ideas whether it’s a simple structure, melody or lyrical idea then they present the song to Zach who oftentimes adds additional elements including extra song structure, dynamics and other rhythmic changes. At this stage that the song is mapped out and its energy actualized, Jay is brought in to write an accompanying bass part to fill it out.
What is your “studio” setup?
One of our philosophies as artists is that the studio and engineers you choose to use from album to album are just as important as your choice in instrument to play or amp or pedal. It’s all paramount in creating the ultimate sound of the record and giving it its musical signature. So early on Cosmic Kitten decided that each record would be recorded at a different studio with a different engineer at the helm each being mastered by different mastering engineers as well.
Although all records are initially written and recorded at our lockout studio in Long Beach, CA affectionately dubbed “The Kitten Cave” We don’t record much in the space outside of the odd cell phone memo recording and such to capture ideas in their initial state. From there the songs are demoed elsewhere before their final process.
Our most recent record titled “Laugh of Lifetime” scheduled for release May 5th 2023 was previously demoed at the home studio of Gits drummer Steve Moriarty in Oakland,CA before additional tracking and revisions had to be made to complete the project. It was then recorded at Nightmare Sound Studio in Garden Grove, CA with our great friend and amazing local engineer Pedro Mancillas.
Nightmare sound studio is equipped with Pro Tools on a Mac Pro Tower with a Mackie 32B. We spent most of the session running our mic chain thru a Warm Audio WA73 Preamp we used that preamp on most of the key elements such as kick, snare, vocal, acoustic sounds ect. The micing process was mostly the mad science of Mancillas’ doing a mystery and a magic unto itself. However one of our big recording practices is doubling our guitars on every track whether its rhythm or lead, we try to make sure those melodies are represented by two different guitars, with two different sets of pick ups, running thru two different heads, going thru two different speakers cabs to really add coverage and variety to the sounds. On this record we used our tried and true Fender Hot Rod Deville 2 X 12 combo for a lot of our clean tones and fuzzy starting points. Followed by our paired tones thru which we ran a plethora of pedals and guitars. That’d be an Ampeg SVT-VR head running thru a Ampeg V-412 Cab and a 60s Marshall 412 cab blasting the gritty tones of an old school Krankenstein Krank head. For bass we blasted out a simultaneous signal running thru vintage Ampeg SVT and a 80s STV in to 2 separate Ampeg SVT-810V cabs. For drums we did a lot of coverage in the two story tracking room to ensure we’d get great room sound off of our trusty Yamaha Turbo Tour Custom 80s kit, one of the biggest and baddest sounding drum kits we’ve ever played around with.
By the end of the recording process we had contacted Jack Endino to master the record with little hope they’d express interest but to our surprise he was eager to help us round out the sound and it was a dream come true.
What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely?
It comes pretty naturally in steps, I always have the initial idea for a song, after showing it to Zach, we put it together fairly effortlessly since our passion is on full display in the writing room. Our collaboration process shows our minds to be really in synch and a lot of our ideas are shared ideas, whether we’re challenging ourselves to fit something more complicated into the art or finding ways to simplify the music to find intimacy in its expression. This process leads to the songs being most ironed out before studio so that we don’t bog down the recording process with indecision.
On this record it was most interesting going on a pre-production retreat at Steve Morarity’s home studio. He really helped to simplify our at times needlessly complicated song writing elements that we had sort of added in an attempt to reach for more complexity, his production was a reminder that sometimes that great parts of rock music is simple and heavy and he put us in touch with that sentiment during our time working with him.
At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?
Once the songs are finished, we normally show it to close friends out of sheer excitement. It is actually hard for some of us to contain our excitement. I for sure know Zach is always wanting to share our newest stuff right away, he gets so excited. However we normally wait a little while and try to plan some other cool things to do around the record so that people have more to enjoy and be excited for around release time.
Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?
Typically we share our work progress recordings and mix with the people who are directly involved, that being our engineer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer and producer (If there is one) our recordings don’t really get heard by anyone outside of personnel until release (not including live appearances of new songs).
How do you know when a track/album is finished?
Normally as soon as we have a master that we’re satisfied with we consider the tracks finished, we may go back and forth a little making sure it sounds right, but it’s sort of an innate feeling, when it’s right, it’s right and we move on with excitement in our hearts.]
How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?
Our favorite pastime is to go on long drives and blast our newly finished music with big smiles on our faces. We love making music and that moment when we’ve just had a collection of songs reach a climax of awesomeness is definitely a peak moment.
How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?
We try to make sure the only people with access to our work are the people closest to the process. That is not to say we really feel as though there are folks out there thirsty to steal our unreleased music or find a leak.
Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?
We have a relatively small team. The first to hear completed songs is the mastering engineer, then ourselves, then the mixing engineer followed by anyone who may need to hear what we’re up to to help us make future plans.
Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?
We’re hoping to always reach new audiences around the globe that are fans of that 90s sound and/or into the hardcore punk sound. Hopefully one day one of our influences that are still alive today will get to hear our work. We currently have a tour in the UK planned for April 2023 and are excited to see how folks across the pond receive our music. We’re excited for our West Coast tour that follows because we’ll be returning to some of our favorite cities in the US including Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland etc. it’s exciting to get to see our old friends as well as make some new ones.
Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?
Following the release of 3 more singles our newest full length “Laugh of a Lifetime” will be released May 5th 2023! We’re ecstatic to share it with the world.