Production Strategies: Blake Sennett on Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous

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Scores of indie bands forge uneasy sonic and thematic alliances with the music of the '60s and '70s. The discomfort appears when an artist strives to be "of their time" and moving forward while simultaneously digging and emulating the bountiful goodies that have come before. The cool thing is when all the influences and styles and recording techniques fold in on each other and form a wonderfully bizarre amalgamation of the familiar and the unique. This is certainly the case with Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous [Brute/Beaute/Warner Bros.], which flits from country criers to full-out rockers to ginchy '70s AOR exclusions. Holding it all together are the sometimes subtle, sometimes bombastic and wacky guitars of Blake Sennett (a former child actor and alleged relation to bandleader Glenn Miller). Sennett covers a lot of stylistic ground on the album, but roots his excursions in warm and rootsy tones that drift in and out of the band mix.

"I feel like guitars should punctuate the lyrics," he says. "So having a sense of concept--like a Pink Floyd album--is something I always strive for. But, having said that, I tend to play what I hear right off the bat and go with my instincts. If you over-think things, it gets dangerous, and you can be your own worst enemy."

Recorded at Mike Mogis Studios on a vintage API console (and later bounced to Pro Tools for mixing), Sennett and producer Mogis kept the guitar sounds seated in the vibe of Sennett influences such as Nell Young's Harvest and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon--as well as various releases by The Band and the Beatles.

"I think all the studio stuff that existed in 1975 and before had a certain sound to it," says Sennett. "Today's technology--like some SSL and Avalon gear--is so transparent, and it has too much sparkle. It all sounds too perfect, whereas the older stuff is more mysterious and punchy."

To capture his guitar tones, Sennett used small amps--specifically, a Fender Pro Junior and a Silvertone amp with an 8" speaker--and predominantly employed large-diaphragm condenser mics. …