The objective of the Lop-Off session is to create a space to allow musicians to express themselves even if it isn’t in the most traditional of ways, while recording the process live. You’re exposed to the real life challenges artists face, often the clash between transferring the real life energy of a live performance into a recording and how sometimes it’s needed to tweak what sounds amazing in person in order for this to work in post, showing how no two performance are alike.With a sign advertising “never used” Ladies Panties, my first time at Swampspace had a comical quirky vibe. Inside, with local visual arts on display and an abundance of food giving it a warm gallery atmosphere surrounded with people either performing or supporting.
Finding a spot on the wood floor I caught Bootsie. Her slow yet emotionally driven acoustics paired with strong vocals, were done in one take leaving me assuming the rest would be the same. Unfortunately the reality was that to get the perfect sound most of the artists had to replay their tunes at least three times, due to the variety of interferences that can happen.
In contrast, the energetic and heavy Shark Valley Sisters were the first to meet the challenges the day of recording held, due to some sort of sound error SVS had to repeat the instrumentals in their track 5 times.At that point you had the tune almost memorized, but Shark Valley Sisters maintained their spirit, playing just as enthusiastically as the first time.
By now I had a gist of how the rest of the day would go, multiple takes off the same tune, which could have felt tedious to the people involved. This real life glimpse into the measures it takes to create a single song was a great experience to those who’ve never witnessed it. Rarely do you get to hear a song dissected like this, working pitches to bring out the perfectly orchestrated sounds of each instrument. The dedication of not only the performers but of Tony recording and audience, making jokes after especially high energy sets “now can you do it again?”, the capability of each band repeating and improving. Kilombo with their driving bass and loud distortion in your face, accompanied by a rhythmic drum machine.
One of the most interesting and shocking things to see recorded was female-headed metal group Smut. Heated rifts that dipped into a slow head banging rhythm seemed unfitting for the venue but impressing was the vocalists boldness and confidence to scream her lyrics in the quite room (the audience not hearing her instrumental track). Being able to do so without even the slightest embarrassment and still hold such a high pitch was notable, not only doing this once but repeating it again without an ounce of lacked energy. Her void of fear to fill the quite and quaintly artsy venue with her screams was the most hardcore thing to happen that day.
Ending my time there I finished with possibly one of my favorite groups that day, both vocally and instrumentally. Oly brought thick honey dripping sound and ethereal keyboard tied together with a steady melodic beat by the drummer, so immersed in the song her eyes closed in a sort of trance. They brought a calming aura that fit Swamp. Lop-Off overall was long and tedious but very worth it, I left tired and satisfied, with a new found respect for both the audience that supported and the artistic process.
Tony and Maite of “Pocket of Lollipops” and the minds behind Lop-Off answered some questions about Lop-Off as a whole, thank you to them and Oliver of Swampspace for allowing the day’s events to happen.
What made you guys choose to start lop off?
We had been recording bands from the cottage for a few, when we thought of lining up 9-11 bands and record within a certain time frame. I also think its important to show what musicians deal with as they record a track, it’s something most will not experience if they are not directly involved with someone who spends time in the studio. It’s meant to be an art exhibit. A performance piece in a sense. And the audience interaction is being quiet when the vocals are being done and being part of the whole mess-ups and so-ons.
How do you choose the people to participate?
Its tough to say how we decide but each lop-off has been curated different. The first one was Maite and I – I (tony) wanted to include a few of the 90s kids that I grew up with like Ed matus, Ed Artigas, and having them on a compilation with then at the time new bands such as Landica, and Juju Pie.
The second was in Delray and was curated by Maite, myself, and Liam Milano, from Kismet. Liam is very in tune with what’s going on in South Florida, so he invited few, and we invited a few. The third was in Rhode Island, which was organized by the director of AS220. It was a gift to the residency. WE didn’t know what the bands were going to be like so it was more of a challenge. And this one was added programming for the “go for Broke” series we did at Swamspace. Maite and I again just reached out to or invited bands or members of bands to do a session,
What do you get from it(joy, love, cheers from adoring fans)?
the documentation is why we do it. It’s to say it happened.
Does it feel like you are building up a community by doing this?
We aren’t building anything that isn’t already there. We are providing an intimate platform for musicians to perform by holding these sessions. Some musicians perform stuff that isn’t their usual gig. It’s supposed to show the working musician. It’s an audio marathon, more of a sprint. But it’s definitely an audio sketch of a musician(s).
Photos by David Bautista