A SOUND IN THE MAKING — A new series by Bluesound dedicated to spreading sonic enthusiasm whilst sharing our obsession with audio engineering and high resolution sound reproduction. Designed to showcase inventive and creative sound makers through exclusive access to studio rehearsals, mixing sessions and on-site venue sound checks — we uncover unique insights into the processes, inspirations and vision that goes into making their unique sound — a parallel journey to our own quest for perfection in sound
LAURENCE & CAMILLE
November 21, Timed to coincide with its launch that very morning, we met up with Milk & Bone (Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin) to deconstruct Deception Bay, the title track of their anticipated second album, due early February 2018. Join us inside Montreal’s Apollo recording studio, as the duo share early demo recordings, perform intimate renditions and take us on a creative journey through Deception Bay, a song they describe as definitive of the new Milk & Bone.
Bluesound: Can you tell us why you chose Deception Bay for A Sound in The Making?
Camille: The timing, of course (laughs). But it’s also the title track of the new record, so it gives a pretty strong sense of what to expect.
Laurence: It’s a different sound to that of the previous album and that’s what we wanted, something that was very powerful and grandiose. I think we were stronger and more in control on this song and album in general… we really owned our feelings.
Camille: We were in LA, we had a few skeletons of songs that we wanted to do, but this was the first song that we actually had a clear direction to, and I think it’s one of the only songs that we knew had to be in that direction. I think it’s quite a complicated song, in terms of mood.
“It’s almost a ‘deception anthem’. Very strong and powerful, but also intimate.” — Laurence
Bluesound: What’s the story behind the song’s title, Deception Bay?
Camille: The song itself came from the word deception and the idea of failure and rejection, but I was also very much inspired by a photo of a place called Deception Bay, that I thought was such a beautiful image that I started writing about it. So, to me Deception Bay is a very visual song.
Bluesound: Can you tell us a bit about the creative process?
Laurence: The basis of the song was really just Camille’s vocals and a piano. It’s exactly like the demo version, but that’s pretty much what we do for every song, whether it’s on a keyboard or like some of our songs on guitar or ukulele.
Camille: Every single song that we do starts with a very, very acoustic version. Generally we will ditch the piano and go elsewhere, but for this song we felt like it had to stay. It was so natural.
“We wanted something very grandiose, so we added French horns, tons of back vocals and counter melodies… we wanted it to be almost too much” — Laurence
Laurence: We have nuances like the verses that drop off, but the chorus is super powerful and so it was kind of an exercise to see how far we could go in that direction. We didn’t want to throw anything out, so with Gabriel (our engineer) we found a way to keep everything.
Laurence’s mention of an early demo version leads us to Camille scrolling through voice memos on her cell phone. It was time to hear something that only a handful of people have heard, the very file she originally shared with Laurence, a sound clip that not only represents the beginnings of the song, but the first new material on the album and a new sound for the duo.
“It’s crazy because listening back to this first version of the song, I feel like it’s much more fragile.” — Camille
What we heard could easily be mistaken for a stripped-down, acoustic cover. The original structure and lyrics appear untouched and yet, the feeling and the mood indicate a major transformation to the released album version. Keen to hear more details around the instrumentation and production approach that helped evolve a fragile early demo into such a powerful anthem, we invite their audio engineer Gabriel to join us.
Bluesound: What makes Deception Bay distinctive from a sound production standpoint?
“The first draft of the song came quickly. Day one, we had the structure and vision, then it was a case of adding layers.” — Gabriel
Gabriel: Even if she sings about being lonely or a relationship that didn’t work out… with all of those sounds, it’s like she’s not alone in the song.
Laurence: Those tribal drums they instantly give it a pretty strong emotion. I think they drive the song, they push it up front but they’re also super ‘rounded’ and seem to come directly at your heart… powerful, but sorry. We were talking about maybe having strings at the beginning, but strings I think would have been too dramatic and we wanted something powerful, so we went with the French horns instead and I love it.
Camille: It makes it sound royal.
Bluesound: How involved were you both in the mixing and mastering process?
Laurence: We worked so hard on the sound and on everything having its right place and right level. The mix and mastering of this song was crazy, we kept listening over and over, “oh there’s this tiny little thing”. We’re like crazy people with that. You spend so much time creating the album, you want it to sound amazing and for people to hear it exactly how you hear it.
Camille: But that’s because we love listening to music, right? And from listening to so much music sometimes, I’ll have a judgment about the mix and if I would have done things differently.
“If you listen to music in the right conditions, you’re going to get shivers. But if you don’t, it’s just going to be a catchy song.” — Camille
Bluesound: We’ve talked instrumentation, but vocals are a huge part of your sound…
Laurence: It was kind of hard to mix the back vocals in this song because we have everything in the chorus, we have those huge pads of French horns, then we have pads of back vocals, then we have the lead and then we have counter melodies of back vocals too. There were so many elements that it was really hard to find the perfect zone where to put everything and find the balance for the vocals.
Camille: For this song, something that we didn’t necessarily do for the first album was to bring the lead vocals right up front in the mix, but listening to so much pop music we realized that was something very important in the mix.
“The way Laurence and I sing individually is distinctive, but together it’s like we create a new tone.”— Camille
Camille: I think that the mix of our vocals together is really our signature. We know each other so well vocally and when we sing exactly the same lines at the same time, it really does create a new voice
Bluesound: Lastly, how would you describe the feeling of Deception Bay?
Camille: I think what we wanted to share was an experience that I think is very personal, but universal. You know, the failure of a relationship and feeling that you know things could have worked out and that it could have gone a different way, but then life happened. I think we wanted to give the audience a feeling of togetherness with that song, it’s kind of a wave when the chorus happens and you feel like you’re kind of connected with everyone else who went through the same thing. I think it’s one of those songs that’s not just about disappointment and resentment, it’s also overcoming something and getting better.
“It’s a complicated mood. When you’re feeling hurt and a bit humiliated, but at the same time you want revenge and to feel strong. It’s womanhood.” — Camille
Having already heard private demo recordings and seen inside the engineer’s working studio sessions, we are in for one more piece of audio candy, as Milk & Bone spend the remaining studio time performing live renditions of Deception Bay. With Laurence seated beside Gabriel at a mini Yamaha CS synth that’s passing through his console to replicate the piano, Camille heads to the vocal mic inside the sound booth. Above the thumping of Gabriel’s mixed drum track, Laurence’s live piano parts and Camille’s lead vocals create a version that captures some of the intimacy of that first voice memo combined with the confidence of the “deception anthem” they chose to be the title track on their long-awaited new album.