Well, both the local power pop group and Fab Four have new records mastered by Miles Showell at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios. Einstein’s Sister guitarist and songwriter Kerry Tucker of Moline got to personally assist Showell with the new EP, “Exit Strategies” this past spring.
“Abbey Road was a dream come true – some of my favorite recordings were done there,” Tucker said at a band rehearsal Sunday. “To actually work on something we as a band did was just unbelievable. Miles was phenomenal. He’s a gentleman; he knows what he’s doing – there’s no question of that. He’s worked with every one of my favorite bands.
“To sit in that chair and know that every band has sat right there and gone through all their classic records,” he said. “It’s very surreal to look out the studio window and see the famous crosswalk (immortalized on the Beatles iconic 1969 ‘Abbey Road’ album cover).”
“He has equipment that’s exclusive only to him and only to Abbey Road,” Tucker said. “It’s the best technology in the world, so it was worth the trip to go over there and actually see that process, and I got to actually help him. It was a total treat.”
“It is one thing to have your recordings mastered at Abbey Road, but it is something else altogether to have MILES SHOWELL master it for you!” the Einstein’s Sister leader posted recently on Facebook. “He is, without question, the best!”
In addition to mastering the “new” Beatles song, “Now and Then” (based on a John Lennon demo from 1977) and re-mastering The Beatles’ groundbreaking “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (50th anniversary edition) in 2017, Showell’s resume includes Queen, The Rolling Stones, The Police, The Who, Tears for Fears, Paul McCartney, Genesis, Sade, Phil Collins, and Dire Straits.
“Having Miles and (mix genius) Nick Davis work with Einstein’s Sister for now a second time, is beyond words,” Tucker wrote. “The difference this time is when I was invited to attend the mastering session, I went!”
Mixing engineer and producer Nick Davis (best known for working with Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics) mixed the Einstein’s Sister 2020 single, “Begin Again” and “Standing Still,” also mastered by Showell.
That project came out of the power pop band’s November 2017 reunion gigs, which celebrated a new package of its “Learning Curves” (1999) disc in yellow vinyl, with a lyric and credits sheet, digital download of the original CD (including instrumental version of the album), a 7-inch single of its version of the ELO classic “Do Ya” (on clear vinyl), and a bonus CD of the instrumental, with outtakes, covers and live recordings.
Although Bill Douglas (vocals) and Kerry Tucker (guitars) have been performing together for decades — even releasing their first album under the Douglas & Tucker name — the Illinois-based power pop outfit of Einstein’s Sister began their career in 1997 with the release of OarFin Records’ “Oceanus.”
The band’s unabashed synthesis of Squeeze-like nasal whines and Jellyfish‘s idiosyncratic hooks did not gel well with the producer, so the band returned to their original indie-based inclinations, which served as a fortunate move for the band, according to the band’s bio.
1999’s “Learning Curves” began a strong cult following and peculiar music licensing (NBC, MTV, the Oxygen Network) while the following year’s “Humble Creatures” finally showed not only what seemed like a full, stable lineup (adding Andrew Brock to bass, Steven Volk to guitars, and ex-Tripmaster Monkey‘s Marty Reyhons on drums).
“We had such a good experience putting out the single we did a couple years ago, we were encouraged to do more,” Douglas said Sunday. “We put together more songs and we had the chance to work on the same people who worked on our last project,” he said, noting bassist Tim Smith (who plays with Sheryl Crow) and guitarist Vinnie Zummo (who’s played for Joe Jackson).
“It was a privilege to work with those guys again,” he said. “It all just came together. We had a short time to do it and we made it happen.”
“Every time we get together to do something – whether it’s a live show, a record, it always feels like a friendship you’ve had for years – where you can step away and you can come back together and it feels like no time has passed in between,” Douglas said. “We’ve been very lucky to have a great group of musicians and friends to work with.”
An expanded version of Einstein’s Sister (including Jeff Howard, guitar; Perry Hultgren, keyboard; Andrew Dena, guitar, plus horns and backing vocals) will perform Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Redstone Room (2nd and Main, Davenport), at 7 p.m., following an opening set by Josie Abigail & Washington Avenue.
What is mixing and mastering?
Tucker (a huge fan of The Beatles and Genesis), noted the mixing process is the combination of several instrumental and vocal tracks into one seamless recording, whereas mastering is a collective equalization, because every track is recorded differently. The mastering engineer balances all the tracks by volume and brightness, for example.
“The way I look at it is, like I built the cabinet and Nick decides the stain and what kind of wood grain I’m gonna use above all this, and Miles is putting the varnish on it basically,” Tucker explained. “He works more on dynamics. And so that’s why we really love working with him — which is why Dire Straits and The Police and The Who and The Kinks and McCartney and all these people love working with him, because he respects the musicians so much.
“Being a fan of music, being a musician himself, he understands that emotional connection,” Tucker said of Showell. “Musicians I know, like Mark Knopfler goes in and sits with him. He’s the best.
Tucker said he was blown away after hearing the finished two songs in 2020.
“The second track was as exactly as I imagined it in my brain, but better — like you read my mind, because mixes are really subjective,” he said first of the Davis mixing. “He knew exactly where I wanted things to go and how I wanted them to sound and then Miles just put the sprinkle on it. That just made it incredible. And the mastering just has that classic British sound to it that only Miles can reproduce.”
Because of COVID, Tucker didn’t go to Abbey Road himself in 2020, and met Showell for the first time this past April. He first visited Abbey Road as a spectator in 2019, for a seminar.
“It’s insane. It’s just crazy,” Tucker said of being where the Beatles recorded. “The thing that’s heartbreaking as a Beatles fan is, you realize that these tapes weren’t handed down from the gods, you know, from the heavens. Actually, four guys just walked into a room and made these records.”
“Four guys walked into a room and made ‘Abbey Road.’ They walked into this very room, and they plugged in their guitars and they wrote some songs and this is what they did,” he recalled. “It kind of humbles you in a way because you realize just how amazing they were.
“But at the same time, it gives you a sense of, wow, these guys did that and it’s like, it’s not really any different than what I do except they were just amazingly brilliant and talented,” Tucker said. “It does kind of give you a little bit of hope and I mean, it got me there again.”
Showell mastered the EP’s four songs on the first day, and Tucker went back the second day to see him press the record on vinyl. It’s available on CD, vinyl and streaming, and Tucker is like many musicians who prefer the warmer, more live sound of vinyl, which has had a resurgence in recent years.
“I love the way it sounds,” he said. “You can hand this piece of vinyl to your great-grandkids, and in 150 years it’s still gonna sound the way it sounds right now, the way you wanted it to sound.”
“I think the difference is basically, if you’re gonna get kind of technical is, CDs are a digital reproduction. So it’s a series of numbers basically looking at something and then telling the computer what it saw, that’s one way to look at it,” Tucker said. “Whereas vinyl is a continuous, almost like a car tire on a road. It’s a continuous reading that never lets up. There’s no reinterpretation. It is honest.”
“It’s like with the thing that Miles brought up. If you put your ear by a stylus, you can actually hear the music coming off of that. You can’t do that with any other format of music,” he said of the needle on the vinyl record.
Tucker called Davis “like the uncle I never had. He’s just got all these great stories and he’s just like the coolest uncle you wish you had.”
“Miles, my wife pointed out, Miles is like the brother I didn’t have,” he said. “We have identical taste in music. We’re roughly the same age. We both love apparently the same bands. We’re both fascinated by the same technology. And the fact that we still stayed in touch, I mean, we talk about once every two weeks just about.”
Despite the stars he’s worked with, Showell is very modest, Tucker said.
“Miles is just the nicest guy on the planet,” he said. “You see how he takes his time and explains everything. He knew how important it was. I mean, he gave me some going-away gifts that I can’t really talk about which were pretty cool. He bought us a glass of wine after we were done and he’s so down to earth.”
The band called the new disc “Exit Strategies,” expecting it’s truly their last record.
“These guys, they’re like brothers,” Tucker said. “Playing with Einstein’s Sister is like putting on the most comfortable pair of jeans I own. It just feels so right at home playing with these guys.”
He has continued performing regularly with bandmate and lead singer Bill Douglas (as Douglas & Tucker) for years, and they typically are at The Grape Life in Davenport once a month. Drummer Marty Reyhons is busy playing regularly with The Velies, and Tucker also plays with The Tailfins.
New singing partner
Tucker brought singer-songwriter Josie Abigail in after knowing her parents.
“I heard her sing and was absolutely blown away. I started working with her just on a songwriting point of things,” he said. The band had her sing on the new song, “Farewell Allie Mae” (You can hear it HERE) and Abigail will open the Common Chord show with her own set.
“She’s got an amazing voice. She’s got a real sparkly personality, just kind of like custom made for all this,” Tucker (who’s performed with her at Grape Life) said. “And when I brought her in on that tune, it’s like, Nick when he was mixing it, just told me he was just in tears. I mean, this guy mixes for Phil Collins and he’s in tears listening to Josie sing and it’s like, wow.”
An Einstein’s Sister fan, Janette Lyle, posted on Facebook Oct. 21: ” ‘Farewell Allie Mae’ WILL break you down!!!! When you listen to this track, brace yourself. A brand-new song hasn’t hit me like that in a very long time…WOW! I am a puddle. This is exactly why music is magic. You all did your thing on this one! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! P.S. The entire EP is absolutely perfect!!!”
Apple Corps Ltd., the Beatles’ longtime label, last week announced the impending release of the Fab Four’s “final” song, “Now And Then.” The track will arrive as an A/B single — backed with the group’s first-ever release, “Love Me Do” — on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 9 a.m.
According to a press release, “Now And Then” was “written and sung by John Lennon, developed and worked on by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and…finally finished by Paul and Ringo over four decades later.”
Tickets for the Saturday night Redstone Room show are $15 in advance / $18 day of show, available HERE.