Chicago writer John Fancher had a chance to catch up with AyOH frontman Avi Dell to talk about his experience of recording AyOH’s latest album Dangerous Questions with Steven Gillis at Transient Sound in Chicago.
It Started with a Sore Throat…
We booked our first session with Steve at Transient a few years back. A couple of days before the big day Steve called and said he had to cancel and reschedule. Fine. No problem.
So the rescheduled date rolls around and I wake up with a sore throat.
You see, I’d been in Israel for college and for most of my 20s, and this was my first winter in Chicago. I had forgotten how dry Midwestern winters can be… and how they can absolutely wreck your voice if you’re not careful.
I was not careful.
So, there I was with a throbbing scratchy throat… and I’m the lead singer! But I didn’t want to reschedule again. We moved to Chicago to pursue music at the highest level. And Steve Gillis was a hero of ours. I’d been dreaming of this day for too long, so there was no way I was going to let a sore throat stop me.
Even if it meant I couldn’t sing for shit!
So, we show up at Transient and run through one of our songs. And I sound like crap. Just terrible. I’m practically croaking. I’m apologizing to Steve and feeling like I’ve blown it for the whole band.
But Steve said, “No, no, it’s OK, I can still hear your tone. I can tell you can sing. Don’t worry about it.”
He loved the song and we went on to record 4 songs with him that year.
And that’s the first of many lessons I learned from Steve.
Just fucking show up.
Do what you say you’re going to do. So many bands take the easy way out when things get a little tough. If you really want to make it in this business. JUST SHOW UP.
Another thing that Steve said to us early on that has meant a lot to us over the years we’ve worked with him is,
“I know who you are, and I know who you want to be, and I can take you there.”
Hearing that from a pro like Steve, really encouraged us as band. And at the same time, made us realize we had work to do. It made us realize that if we really wanted to make it we’d have to keep growing, and learning, and challenging ourselves.
So, one of the core values of our band is “challenge.” We don’t ever want to get satisfied with what we did last year, last month, even last week. We want to constantly be moving forward, learning new things, overcoming new challenges, growing as a band.
The fact that Steve said, “I want to be a part of that” made all the difference in the world to us.
And Steve brings that passion, commitment and professionalism to every aspect of his work. We argue. We disagree. We fight. But Steve is always honest. The disagreements and arguments don’t come from pettiness or ego…they come from passion, commitment and professionalism. Steve cares about our art as much as we do. Sometimes I wonder if he doesn’t care MORE than we do!
One thing I’d tell bands just starting out, “If you work with professionals, you get a professional product.”
And one of the areas Steve’s passion and professionalism really shines through is songwriting.
We had what we thought were some good songs. We brought them to Steve and he took out a black marker and just tore them down…then he built them back up with us.
With Steve, you walk in with a song and you walk out with FUCKING SONG!
We’re doing well now, selling out shows in Chicago, and I talk all the time with other bands who are grinding it, trying to make it. And one of the things I say a lot is, “You guys are good, but you’d be ten times better if you worked with a producer who knows how to write songs.”
I don’t say it in a nasty way. It’s just the truth.
You have to surround yourself with people who are at the top of their game who can support your creativity. And that’s what you get with Steve, Vijay, Jim and all the folks at Transient.