Taking their name from the Scandinavian Sami term for “shaman,” Noaidi bring a diverse and unique blend of musical traditions. Veering towards the darker side, they inhabit a cross-section of post-punk, shoegaze, and atmospheric rock, with a touch of doom metal lurking beneath. Guitarist, Mike Riga, credits Hüsker Dü and early Cure as major influences. Joining Mike are George Bach on bass and Richard Pearson on drums. The trio began playing together last summer and have since been busy writing and rehearsing material for their first album—A Certain Reticent Instinct, Beyond Reason. The album was recorded over two sessions in December and January at Gravity Studios in Chicago and finalized in April. The months spent writing, practicing, and honing paid off and the band entered the studio with a clear vision of the task at hand.
Noaidi have an appreciation for the organic, the natural, the raw: they prefer to record live. Consequently, choosing Gravity was a no-brainer. The relaxed atmosphere provided the perfect working environment needed for the performances. “You don’t want it to sound like this sterile creation,” as Mike puts it. Nailing every song in one or two takes preserved the live quality of their music. “I like things a little messy . . . I like music that’s a little rawer sounding. If it gets too mechanical and processed, I think it’s pretty boring.” The personal touch and low-key vibe of Gravity keeps things fresh, letting the process unfold naturally. “It’s nice to be able to work with people that are really positive about what you’re doing. First and foremost, it’s better for the performances.” And for a space that delivers amazing sound and engineering, the intimidation factor is low. As George describes it: “It’s a nice homey space and the people who work here are very nice.”
Noaidi take their music seriously and appreciate a studio that takes them seriously. For their sessions at Gravity, they worked with engineer Mike Penny. The experience was definitely a collaborative one, with Penny offering moral support as well as his technical expertise. Speaking highly of him, Mike clearly values his supportive style. “It helps when you record a track and you look back into the booth and the person manning the boards is enthusiastic about it.” Having experienced less than ideal recording situations in the past, Mike knows what a difference attentive staff can make. George echoes the sentiment: “Mike [Penny] is wonderful to work with. I’ve worked with him for two years now and he’s just . . . he’s a treat. I love him.”
In early March, the band tackled the mixing process, working with Doug McBride. Much like the recording, the mixing was a team effort. The trio sat in on the first day of mixing. Mike offers his take on the experience. “In the mixing process, I think it’s important to have someone that can speak the same vocabulary as you . . . One of the nice things about working with Doug [is] he’s not just sitting there with headphones on doing it while you just sit and watch. He’s talking to you the whole time.” Mike also appreciated Doug’spatience. “It’s clear that the conversation actually has a purpose, which is something that not every engineer wants to do.” Perhaps most important, is Doug’s ability to intuit the desired sounds and styles that add nuance to a recorded piece. “He’s got a really developed musical vocabulary,” Mike adds. “It’s not just someone [putting] a cookie-cutter mix on your music . . . It’s actually consultative. There’s a sense that he’s thinking about what he’s doing and thinking about what he hopes you want.” For Noaidi, Doug’s care and intuition is invaluable. “It makes me more comfortable and it ultimately makes the music better.”
No doubt, the drum room is the star of the show at Gravity. Richard lights up just talking about the drums. “The drum set here sounds f***ing amazing, especially in that room. The combination of that room and those drums . . . all I did was tune ‘em lower and that was it.” Mike attests to their sheer power: “You got those toms sounding like cannons.” “That was my goal. I like cannon toms,” Richard assures. And Even George admits, “The drum room is amazing.”
Overall, it was smooth sailing in the studio for Noaidi. According to Richard, that’s no exception. “It was fun making the record. It’s always fun recording here.” Going in with a game plan, the guys seem very pleased with the finished product. Mike is definitely satisfied, “It does sound as excellent as I hoped it would.” Now that their first album is in the can, Noaidi are looking forward to playing more live shows. Look out for these rock shamans in the coming months.