The Tedium of Rock & Roll: Bo and the Locomotive Finish Work at Native Sound

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click to enlarge Bo Bulawsky, of Bo & The Locomotive tracks vocals, for an upcoming album, tentatively titled It's All Down Here From Here. - Brian Heffernan
Brian Heffernan
Bo Bulawsky, of Bo & The Locomotive tracks vocals, for an upcoming album, tentatively titled It's All Down Here From Here.

It's Saturday and Bo Bulawsky and Steven Colbert thumb their Hill Climb Racing cars ahead on a smartphone and iPad, respectively. They lounge on a boxy, plaid couch in the rear nook of the Native Sound recording studio while Andy Arato stands in the center of the room overdubbing a bass line to a song they're provisionally calling "Cook" for a full-length album they're probably calling It's All Down Here From Here for now, tentatively, maybe.

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This is the final day of Bo & The Locomotive's six-day-and-night recording session with David Beeman (Old Lights, Née), who's engineering the record and part-owns the studio.

click to enlarge Bo Bulawsky (left) and Steven Colbert (right). - Brian Heffernan
Brian Heffernan
Bo Bulawsky (left) and Steven Colbert (right).

The guys--Bulawsky, Colbert, Arato and Evan O'Neal--are exhausted. They've spent almost fourteen hours each day at the studio. One of them tells Colbert he looks worse than usual today. He feels worse, too, he says.

The recording process, while thrilling at times, is rarely as glamorous or idyllic as imagined by those who haven't experienced it, especially near the end. The overdub process (re-recording imperfect parts, layering vocals and adding sonic textures) requires a nitpicking ear, patience and the readiness of a bullpen pitcher--do your job quickly and step aside for the next guy. There is little rhythm. It's far from a live-show experience.

The bass is a little pitchy during the bridge when Arato slides up the neck, they decide. The instrument's intonation must be off. Arato needs to do it again, but lower on the fretboard this time. O'Neal, straddling the bench of a Hammond T-212 organ, is up next.

It's about 70 degrees outside. Kids ride their bikes down Cherokee Street; others lick ice cream. It's gorgeous.

Inside the one-room studio, overhead lights shine on metal sound equipment that is cool to the touch. The space is windowless. The only green here, bouquets of fake flowers, hangs upside-down from the high ceilings.

Bulawsky says he wanted to take "an escapist approach" to creating the full-length album, the band's second, following 2011's On My Way. The original idea was for the band to move into a cabin north of the city for a week and record there. The cabin fell through, but "save for going home and going asleep, we've been here pretty much till 2 a.m., then getting back at 11 or 12 the next day," says Bulawsky.

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