Home studio influences sound for J. Roddy
J. Roddy Walston has a new place to do his business.
Before releasing “Destroyers of the Soft Life” last fall, the members of J. Roddy Walston and the Business — Walston, guitar, piano and lead vocals; Billy Gordon, guitar; Logan Davis, bass; and Steve Colmus, drums — spent months turning a former bomb shelter / lumber yard in Richmond, Va., into a recording studio.
During a telephone interview from Richmond before the start of a winter tour that comes to the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights on Saturday, Walston said building a studio was a case of learning on the job.
“It was one of those things, like pretty much every project I’ve started, where the moment I finished, now I’m qualified to do it,” he said. “It was just a massive undertaking … In the end, what was awesome about it is we have this space, no matter what’s going on, there’s a pretty easy retreat. That’s something that we needed.”
It allowed the group to change the way it works. Instead of trying out new songs on the road and recording on a budget and a deadline, the 10 tracks that made the album were crafted in the studio and went through multiple incarnations.
“There’s probably only one or two on the whole record that weren’t messed with a lot,” Walston said. “There’s probably five versions of every song.”
Lead track “You Know Me Better,” which Walston called one of his favorites on the record, might not have made the album working another way. It took awhile to capture in the studio what was ringing in his head, and under different circumstances, a lesser version would have been released or it would have been left off the album entirely.
Producer Phil Ek, who has worked with Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes, was brought in late in the recording process, and “Destroyers” has a more polished feel than some of the band’s more raw, early albums. Songs like the lead single “The Wanting” and “Numbers” even add a hint of pop to the southern-tinged rock.
Since the songs were crafted in the studio, Walston said some have evolved more than usual now that they’re being played in front of an audience. “Bad Habits” is a song in which Walston said he tried to “explore the range and possibilities of my voice” in the studio. It starts more controlled before building to the unbridled energy fans expect from the Business live.
“It was weird, I could feel people wanting it to explode,” said Walston, so the live version has less build and more energy from the opening notes. “You shouldn’t always give people what they want but sometimes, yeah, you guys are right this time.”
Having a recording studio isn’t the only change in Walston’s life. He also became a parent since the release of 2013’s “Essential Tremors.”
“The two most common things to talk about being in a band are romantic relationships and family relationships,” Walston said. “Up to this point, I’d only been on one side of the parent-child scenario. Really getting to have the actual feet-on-the-ground experience of it rather than imagining definitely opened my eyes.
“There’s definitely a shift in your thoughts. Before it was a lot easier to be impractical, that this philosophical idea is the most important thing on the planet … Now it’s like, ‘I have to have food in our house.’ It snaps you into a completely different reality.”