On Monday morning, I flew back into Pittsburgh after 10 days in Southern California. I arrived the previous Friday, July 9th, to stay with and photograph the band River Runs Scarlet as they recorded their 5 song EP at Omen Room Studios in Garden Grove, CA, in Orange County, outside of Los Angeles. This is the story of our trip, but first, the cast:
Your narrator and River Runs Scarlet's official photographer: elena dee (photo by McDade)
The drummer: Brian McDade
The bassist: DoRn aka Brad
The lead guitarist: Floyd Karma, Jr. aka John
The lead singer: Zosia West
The rhythm guitarist and screamer: Aaron Pepe
And the producer: Bill Urban
Now you've been introduced to the main players of the trip, let me say the 10 days felt like a month. This isn't a bad thing and it feels a little weird to not be around the RRS crew 24/7 now that we're all back in Pittsburgh. But this story isn't about Pittsburgh, it's about our journey to California to record an album (and do a few extra things as well).
Day 1: Friday, July 09, 2010
The band flew into LA a couple hours before I did, and then my plane was delayed due to lightning, so I got in 2 hours later than expected. Planes scare me a bit, but I calmed myself by taking pictures out the window. Very therapeutic.
Lovely, isn't it? Finally I landed and was picked up by McDade and Dorn in the Cadillac Escalade they were renting for the trip. Big car. Nice nice. You'll see pictures of that later. We went straight to Omen Room Studios, where the band was in preproduction.
John and Aaron were drinking in celebration of their arrival and because they didn't have to record for a couple days, so along with photos of the actual preproduction, I captured a few frames of what I like to call "River Runs Scarlet, brought to you by Jack Daniels."
Day 2: Saturday, July 10, 2010
On the flight in, McDade's kick drum rim was broken, which he was understandably upset about. John and Dorn made light of the situation by backseat driving with said rim on our way to IHOP for breakfast. At IHOP we were luckily seated away from people because boys are ridiculous and play Frisbee with the specials menu.
After breakfast, we went to the studio to continue preproduction. There was a lot of setting up and sitting around, but we made the best of it. The below images are all taken in the live room, where a lot of the recording (mostly McDade's drums and Zoe's vocals) is done. There's also a dead room, where a second vocal microphone (for Aaron's screams) was set up. The bass and guitars were directly recorded through wires into the computer, as far as I could tell.
Finally, preproduction was finished and I took a picture of the drums all mic-ed up with my beloved fisheye lens. Sweet!!
Day 3: Sunday, July 11, 2010
McDade recorded drums all day and while John and Dorn were allowed to be there, Aaron and Zoe and I ended up spending the day checking out Huntington Beach (the area we were staying in) and watching TV in our hotel rooms. Sunday meant True Blood, which Zoe and I were excited about. We'd informed the guys earlier that if we WERE at the studio that day, we were going back to the hotel just to watch our show. Once everyone else got back, I went with John and Aaron to inspect the Lingerie Bar a couple blocks down from our hotel. Sadly, it was last call when we arrived, so we walked around a bit and randomly discovered a purple and seafoam green shopping cart, which we had to play with.
Day 4: Monday, July 12, 2010
Monday was guitars, and still not much hanging around the studio. Before that we hung around the hotel a bit and then went to a tobacco shop (which in Cali doesn't mean just tobacco, which is weird to me) so the smokers could buy cigarettes in bulk. They were very excited about this.
Because there wasn't much to do in the studio, I ended up taking pictures using the Escalade's headlights and, later, my slave flash. The slave flash will trigger if any other flash goes off in it's visible range, so there was a lot of fun playing with that, as well as slow shutter speeds and having my "model" trigger the flash manually. It kept us occupied and I got some pretty cool portraits.
Day 5: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We started the day going to Backline to rent equipment for the show on Thursday at the famous Whiskey A-Go-Go. RRS was psyched to play there, and I was psyched to shoot. I mean, it's the Fuskin' Woot!! Errr...Whiskey! All sorts of big names have played there, taking pictures there would be about as awesome as shooting at the CBGB or Fillmore East. But before we could have a show, we needed to rent equipment, because transporting guitar cabs across the country would have been kinda tough.
After that, Floyd Karma went back to Omen Room to record and the rest of us, still in Whiskey mode, went downtown to Los Angeles to scout out the area. Zoe and McDade have both lived around there before - he played the Whiskey once with his old band and she lived in one of those fancy Hollywood neighborhoods, so they gave us the grand tour.
Dorn felt very "Entourage" with the group of us getting out of our Escalade and walking around downtown L.A., but eventually we went back to the studio to hang out. Here's everyone.
While upstairs in the studio's lounge, Dorn and McDade discovered my fisheye lens, which of course had to be played with. That's where Dorn's picture from the introduction comes from. He's good at being ridiculous, so when we went back to the hotel he inspired "jumping on the bed" pictures of a surprising amount of band members. Everyone landed safely and went to sleep.
Day 6: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Wednesday began vocals, which was exciting. Guitars weren't entirely finished yet, but they had the tracks completely down for two songs and wanted to get the vox for them and finish guitars on Thursday before the show at the Whiskey.
I also took an adorable picture of John and his mom, Debi, who is awesome, as well as some shots of palm trees near the beach while we were picking up Zoe's mom, sister, and best friend. How cool is it that they're all so supportive that they'll fly across the country for a big show? Actually...I guess I count for that too.
Day 7: Thursday, July 15, 2010
FUSKIN' WOOT!!! WHISKEY A GO GO!!! But before that, Backline for equipment.
The second picture, by the way, the stage Zoe is sitting on, is used in a Korn music video. Don't ask me which, because I have no idea, but she was really excited about it. Anyway, we piled equipment to the U-Haul and then people into the Escalade, and went on our way to Los Angeles, where we met more people, including Zoe's lovely actress friend Marya. I want to do headshots for her so badly, she has the biggest eyes!
And then!! THE SHOW!
River Runs Scarlet rocked it. They were amazing and did not disappoint those who came to see them.
After RRS, the headliner, Evolove came on. They're currently finalists to be the new freecreditscore.com band, and their commercial totally rocks, so I recommend checking them out. However, a warning: their songs WILL get stuck in your head.
Zoe and I met up with Lucy after the show, I gave her my card and they talked about the music business. We three blondes took a pic together because we're all so awesome and adorable. I, of course, look ridiculous with my phone hanging off my dress, but oh well. Zoe and Lucy save the image.
Day 8: Friday, July 16, 2010
On Friday, I woke up early (and made McDade do the same) which was kind of miserable because we'd all been out partying after the show the night before, but exciting because I was going to assist for photographer Alan Weissman. Alan is a master of lighting, so I thrilled to get a chance to work with him. He had a headshot shoot that day - headshots are his specialty. Not really my thing, but I learned SO much about the nuances of lighting from him. He's very particular about everything and I did a lot of adjusting lights just so and angling the reflector into the eyes, which took me a bit to get a hang of. I learned quickly though and even got to teach him a couple things later on in the day about LightRoom and Photoshop, which was pretty awesome. After shooting, we talked a bit and he ordered pizza for me, him, and his other assistants. Domino's, we learned, is having a contest where you photograph the pizza you ordered after delivery. So, we did. Alan was interested in my fisheye, so I let him try it out and took some images myself as well. This is my favorite, what do you think?
The entourage picked me up after getting stuck in traffic and I went window shopping on Melrose in L.A. with Zoe's friend Brittany. We had a grand ol' time and tasted the delights of Pinkberry, which you will hear more about soon.
Day 9: Saturday, July 17, 2010
Vox, cont. Hung out at the studio, where I finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and took some pictures of everyone working, goofing off, and listening to the recordings so far (and dancing to them).
Once night fell, I got to do what I had been wanting to since we experimented with light in the dark on Monday. Remember those? Yeahhh....River Runs Scarlet + elena dee photography = badass promo pic. Zoe is on top of the Escalade, silhouetted by a light in the parking lot. The guys (L to R: Dorn, McDade, Aaron, Floyd Karma) are silhouetted by the car's headlights. It may not be the most original image, yeah, but I freaking love it.
Day 10: Sunday, July 18, 2010
Our last day in California! It felt like we'd been there for a month to everyone but Dorn, who said it only felt like three days. Seeing as it was our last chance to do so, John and I hit the hot tub.
We also got In and Out Burger, which without fail makes me think of A Clockwork Orange, and is delicious, and Pinkberry, which is frozen yogurt and OMG AMAZING. McDade and Dorn and I had driven around for half an hour the night before trying to find the one in Huntington Beach.
Finally, everything was recorded. It was very exciting when Bill crossed off the last of the Xs on the RRS progress chart and I took a picture of everyone with said chart, as well as some of them just chilling in front of Omen Room Studios for the last time.
We did some fun little interviews as well, continuations of an earlier video of Bill being interviewed as McDade and McDade being interviewed as Bill. Aaron was John, John was Dorn and Dorn was Aaron. Zoe and I were each other. It was ridiculous and so SO much fun. But eventually it was time to leave for the airport and we piled us and all of our stuff into the Escalade and drove off. Bill called us 20 minutes later to say he missed us already. Aaawww. Zoe and McDade had to take the car back to the rental place, so Dorn, Aaron and I chilled at the airport waiting for them. John napped.
Then they got on their plane and I got on mine and the next day it felt kind of strange, because I got so used to having the River Runs Scarlet entourage around 24/7. I also had gotten used to their music, so "Sinister Love" occasionally will run through my head and I get annoyed that the EP still needs edited and mastered. Did it ever get named...?