Members: Sam Spiegel aka Sam i, Brennan Larsen aka Shmuck the Loyal
Occupation: Producer (Shmuck the Loyal), DJ, producer, director, songwriter (Sam i)
Current Release: TRY's Chaper One (Remixes), featuring Couros and Killah Priest, is out via Spectrophonic Sound.
Gear Recommendations: Sam i: I love my Teenage Engineering OP-1. It makes the music-making process so playful. I like anything that makes any arena in my life one for play. I also love my Neve 1084 pre-amps. I’ve battled them against many vintage or new pre’s, and I’ve never found anything that consistently can beat their sound.
Shmuck the Loyal: I recommend buying whatever gear that allows you to be mobile with your creativity. Wether it’s a good pair of headphones, tiny midi keyboard, OP-1, multi effects pedal or portable mic and interface - invest in your ability to effectively collaborate.
If you enjoyed this interview with Try, visit the duo on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
Sam i: I had rented a tiny shitty apartment with a friend in Silver Lake. We had the attic in a house above an old lady who was agoraphobic and had 18 cats who would sneak into our apartment and use it as a toilet. My roommate was smoking crack and the place was chaos.
I had my first setup with a G4 and a pair of speakers in my bedroom. I remember the first time I had a real artist over it was Fatlip from one of my all-time favorite rap groups, The Pharcyde. I was just starting to play him beats and the old lady shut the power in our entire apartment off for the rest of the night. She would always do that if she felt the music was too loud.
Shmuck the Loyal: My first home studio came together in 2010. It consisted of 4inch M-Audio av40 speakers that I got for under a hundred bucks, a laptop, mbox interface and the first generation Maschine. Everything sat on a folding plastic table, and although I was young and messy I always kept my workspace very clean. It was a huge point of pride in my life.
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Sam i: I first started with a BOSS SP 202 Dr. Sample. Eventually, I got a G4 desktop and ProTools. Soon after I was able to afford an MPC 2000XL. This was my main setup for a long time. I started collecting other vintage gear … Preamps and Mics and keyboards and synths when I could afford to. My first big gear purchase was a pair of NEVE 1084 pre-amps which are still my favorite pre-amps.
I ended up cultivating a great collection of vintage and vintage-inspired stuff. I love combining this with Ableton and ProTools and modern, cutting-edge sounds and technology. There's so much you can do with a computer to manipulate sound and midi, but the old stuff just has a certain character that’s unmatchable.
I recently got a vintage Neve mixing board, and while I’m mixing everything in ProTools, I’ve started sending everything through the board at the end just to get its magic touch. We’ve been doing this after a lot on the new TRY album. It elevates every mix 10-20% without even touching any knobs.
Shmuck the Loyal: My studio space changed significantly until it found a long term home on music row in Nashville, TN in 2016. At that point my monitoring setup was Focal Twins, Yamaha HS8s, and Avantone mix cubes. The main gear I used was C414XLii and SM7b microphones, a couple of midi keyboards, a decent desk, apollo interface, Maschine studio and a bunch of random synths and toys.
I think my studio changed most as I was able to afford new gear. I’ve never really been a gear junkie though, most fancy hardware stuff was way out of my price range so I really leaned into the software/plug-in side of my kit.
Some see instruments and equipment as far less important than actual creativity, others feel they go hand in hand. What's your take on that?
Sam i: I do think that a great instrument helps to inspire creativity. Sometimes if I’m stuck, I’ll just dive into my ARP 2600 and start messing with it. It usually brings me ideas. The same goes for a great piano or even a unique MIDI interface that helps you think about chords and melody differently.
Shmuck the Loyal: The creative energy we work off of has to come from somewhere. Gear definitely plays a big part - some plugins or synths are really easy to use and can be worked on faster while others require workarounds that produce interesting results. It’s all special.
But at the end of the day, I’d rather work with good people and shitty gear then vice-versa.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
Sam i: I love a simple setup, as there’s freedom in limitations. Not having too many options, or sometimes having a framework to work within can help me to focus. I also love to be able to just work on a laptop in a hotel room. That’s so inspiring to me to be able to execute an idea anywhere at any time.
I recently rented a houseboat in Amsterdam on a canal, and just had my laptop, a midi controller, and a set of speakers, and I was so inspired, wrote so much great music over the course of the few weeks that I was there.
That being said, there’s nothing like being in a perfectly tuned studio with crazy speakers and having tons of toys around. That’s super inspiring, too.
Shmuck the Loyal: Over my career I’ve learned to be comfortable working in any of those environments and I truly do not have a preference. That flexibility, in retrospect, was extremely beneficial for me to learn - especially when it came to who I was able to work with. There are brilliant people working across the whole spectrum of work environments.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
Sam i: I love my Ableton Push. Love being able to look away from the laptop. I do a lot of my writing on the Komplete Control. I also love programming midi through the sequencers on my OP-1. I really love things that make me think differently. I’ve been wanting to try out one of those Roli Seaboards. For Interfaces, I just got a new UAD Apollo x16. It sounds great. I love the UAD plugins, too.
Shmuck the Loyal: I have to have my Maschine and a keyboard. Putting my hands on something physical is 100% essential for me.
Even though I’m almost totally in the box, I’ve never been able to click on a screen to make music.
In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Sam i: For me, I aim to innovate. Of course, I’m inspired by all of the music and art and life I’ve experienced over the course of my life, but I want to create things that people haven’t seen before.
That being said, I also aspire to make music that is timeless and doesn’t feel too time-stamped. It's the hardest thing to be groundbreaking and timeless, but that’s the goal.
Shmuck the Loyal: I think the holy grail is the definitely the intersection of those two worlds. I’ve spent the vast majority of my career pursuing innovation and have only in the past couple of years started exploring the idea of “less is more” kind of timeless production.
Generally speaking though, I tend to gravitate more towards innovation. Nothing intrigues me more than a song that I can’t wrap my head around on a technical level.
Most would regard recording tools like microphones and mixing desks as different in kind from instruments like keyboards, guitars, drums and samplers. Where do you stand on this?
Sam i: I find that audio gear does give real character to a recording. I have a Neumann U47 that was used all over Brian Wilson’s “Smile”. It carries a really special magic to it. I also have a terrible 15-dollar radio shack mic that I always record Karen O [of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs] on.
Whether a piece of gear is expensive or not, it can have a special something to it that brings out character and affects the song with something undefinable but still so important.
[Read our Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs interview]
Shmuck the Loyal: Different? Totally - but it’s all art.