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Behind IN Covers: A Talk with Sharlene Birdsong
Posted May 06, 2015 by Roberto Campos

In an Indianapolis basement laundry room stands a Tascam 388 Studio 8, a Sunn condenser, a box full of Scotch Magnetic Tape RB-7 7’’ reels and a Dell computer, all of it adjacent to a custom-built dry wall room made to capture sound. This is the Vibes Music Recordings, a studio where Sharlene Birdsong explores Indiana music and hones her craft of recording.

In this studio, Birdsong (Thee Tsunamis and White Moms) trades a drum kit for an eight track working on the MFT recording project Indiana Covers (IN Covers). The premise of the project is to take Indiana artists and have them record a cover of other Indiana artist’s songs. Any song will fit the project, the artist just has to be from Indiana.

 

“IN Covers spawned out of asking how MFT and I can make a project about Indiana and have bands that are already established come in and record while helping to support MFT, support Vibes Music, and Sam Ash,” Birdsong says. “IN Covers came from a point of view of promoting and keeping the Indiana spirit involved and keeping the involvement of Indiana in the project.”

After approaching Jon Rogers, executive director of MFT, about wanting to do live recordings, Rogers and Birdsong talked about having Birdsong help with the MFT recording series Ep in a Weekend. From there she ran with the idea of recording Indiana covers. In addition to wanting to cover Indiana songs herself, the project is partially inspired by the Topped with Fudge! Indiana compilation tape.

“Last year I heard the Topped With Fudge! compilation and I was like ‘this is so awesome that there’s this Indiana compilation, it totally sound dirty and nasty’,” Birdsong says. “I wanted to do something like that."

 

Popular Ego listening to their recording Photo by: Roberto Campos

Birdsong took on the role of audio engineer in January and has since recorded seven Indiana artists for IN Covers including: Hen, No Coast, Chris Dance & the Holy Echo, She Does Is Magic, and Popular Ego. On the horizon, Jorma Whittaker and Dirtbike are planning to participate.

 

“I want to get bands I’ve never heard of or in a different part of the scene than I am in, I want to do all different kinds of genres,” Birdsong says. “I need some Indiana hip-hop really bad! I really want to do a Baby Face song or a Michael Jackson song.”

Constructive criticism has been an ally for Birdsong, criticism from John Zeps and from people she doesn’t know personally has been an asset to her when growing from recording session to recording session.

“One thing that I’ve become better at is talking to people and getting what I want across to them,” Birdsong says. “I think working with tape and vintage equipment really piques people’s interest. They’re usually not used to it and it makes it easier to have suggestions.”

“I just want to make sure it sounds good," she says.

 

 

Having released a couple of covers on MFT already, Birdsong wants people to feel the “grassroots vibe” that she believes is found in Indiana music.

“I want people to have this feeling of homegrown music when they listen to these IN Covers, I feel like this is how a lot of Indiana music is made,” Birdsong says. “The project is done in fun, but I want people to get that this project is staying true to the spirit of MFT, like all those recordings on the MFT site are done by people themselves.”

“I wanted to achieve this basement groove and basement vibe but also, for me, learn about Indiana music along the way," she explains.

To get in contact with Birdsong to participate in IN Covers e-mail her at: birdsongsxx@gmail.com. There is no fee to participate.

Check out more photos from the Popular Ego IN Covers recording session below.

 

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