Like Catching Lightning: NY Quartet’s Lockdown Patch Solution
Flock Audio’s Patch allows MAKUTA to “literally drag and drop elements on the screen and see them correspond to the real world.”
While the past year has been challenging for many artists who are used to spending time on the road, Brooklyn-based MAKUTA has spent their time looking inward, building several new creative projects that will be released starting this fall. The four-sibling band — consisting of Doug, Jane, Aleata and Rose Makuta — worked together in the confines of their home studio, focusing almost exclusively on writing, recording and mixing. Among the forthcoming projects to be released is a quartet of EPs from the band entitled Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and Overmorrow — each of which were tracked and mixed almost entirely in their studio while using Flock Audio’s new Patch System.
“Flock was a really integral part for us during what happened this past year,” says multi-instrumentalist, writer, vocalist, engineer and producer Doug Makuta. “My sisters and I were all stuck in the studios with ourselves more or less, so we just plunged head first into what we’ve always done: writing and recording.” While they were working, they happened on Flock Audio’s Patch System, which made them curious. “We were talking with one of our close friends, who is also a really good mix engineer, and we all agreed that the traditional patch bay is one of the most archaic, and time-consuming things in the creative process. We were wondering if the Patch was too good to be true, but we wanted to try it and ordered one from Sweetwater.”
Getting Patch into Gear
With four EPs, collaborating on Hunter Hayes projects and a major ad campaign for Wells Fargo on their plate, MAKUTA didn’t have any time to waste getting their creative machinery into gear. Thankfully, their instincts on integrating a Patch into their set up were spot on: “The set up was extremely quick — we had less than 24 hours to integrate Patch into our system, and it only took 45 minutes tops,” Doug says. “Honestly, we didn’t have days or weeks to experiment with it. If we didn’t get everything going in the first day, we would have had a problem. We live and die by our deadlines, and you can’t go to a big client or record company and say, ‘I need a week to figure out my system!’
In the studio, stagnation is the arch enemy of recording artists, particularly MAKUTA, whose ideas come fast. “Wasted time can really crush creativity when you are inspired and have something in your mind about what you want to do,” explains Rose Makuta. “The timing in between each part of a session is often not fast enough, and you can forget an idea or lose the inspiration of the moment.” Her brother Doug agrees: “I don’t care who you are — after 45 minutes of listening to a kick drum, it all sounds the same,” he says.
Like ‘catching a lightning bolt’
“Since the beginning, our dream has been to have a studio that is super quick, super functional and able to keep up with creative spontaneity,” Doug says. “Because for us as songwriters and creatives, it is a lot like catching a lightning bolt — you’ve got to be quick with it, or the moment will pass.” Not only has Patch helped expedite MAKUTA’s workflow ‘in the moment’, it has had a measurable impact on the band’s overall productivity. “When we integrated the Patch at the top of this year, our output has increased,” Doug Makuta observes.
Aside from being able to move deftly on a single project within Patch, the system also helps the band move seamlessly from project to project while staying focused on their sonic goals. “Many of our projects — including our own and those we are working on with other artists — sound very different,” Doug says. “We were doing strings for Hunter Hayes’ song “If You Ever Change Your Mind,” and also putting together a remix of one of our songs, which has a more soulful, pop feeling, for a Wells Fargo ad campaign. We were under the pump to turn in the campaign within two days, and the Patch ended up being a huge time saver — we were able to instantly recall signal chains for both projects and move back and forth at will.”
Exploring new sonic frontiers
Even though the band often works at breakneck speed, they are very experimental in their approach and open to new ideas. With an impressive but focused arsenal of outboard gear that includes a Chandler Cassette, and Avalon 737, a BAE 1073 and other equipment, the band likes to make decisions quickly, while maximising the full potential of each piece of gear. “We never looked at a patch bay as an instrument before, but Patch has really become an instrument for us,” says Doug. “We are now combining compressors with EQs that we normally wouldn’t, and we are still learning new possible equipment combinations. You can get really exploratory.”
In addition to some of the more conventional EQs and compressors, Makuta likes to delve into more obscure sonic treatments and effects. “We have a lot of random gear,” says Doug. “We’ve got some old reverb and chorus tanks, Soviet-era synths and an old Sony 101 tape machine. We can literally load any of these into the Patch at a moment’s notice and recall it in an instant if we need to. It is mind-blowing and revolutionary for us in every possible way.”
The visual appeal of the Patch App and its drag and drop functionality is nothing short of ‘magical’ for MAKUTA: “For us, it is truly magical when you can literally drag and drop elements on the screen and see them correspond to the real world,” Doug concludes. “I am a visual person, and when I look at a normal patch bay it can be a little intimidating. But when I look at the Patch App, it’s beautiful. You see the names of the gear, the arrow patterns and the pathways. It is inspiring and has fulfilled a big hole that we had in our studio.”