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Writing an album: There’s an app for that

Alabama-based One Like Son record their latest album entirely on an iPhone, limiting their professional audio gear to a Shure SM57, writes Erica Basnicki.

Grab the mic and Let the haters know
Make them sing along to the words you wrote
They won’t know Now were making records In the studio… I challenged Stephen Poff on his choice of lyrics. Poff, from Alabama-based band One Like Son, chuckles and admits a certain irony; One Like Son’s latest album Start The Show, was recorded entirely on an iPhone 3GS – and not in a studio at all: “Anything we could do on the iPhone, we did with the iPhone,” said Poff. This included the bulk of the mix as well (minus two singles, more on this below).
Although the tracks themselves were loaded into Cubase for mixing, Poff used Saitara Software’s AC-7 Core to control the DAW via the phone. In fact, the only piece of professional studio gear used on Start The Show was a Shure SM57 microphone, used in conjunction with Sonoma Wire Works’ GuitarJack and AmpKit’s LiNK.

Although Poff admits he knew recording an entire album on an iPhone would draw some media attention, his goal was to enjoy the process of experimenting with unconventional recording technology, as well as the challenge of using it to make an album that sounds good.
“I’m certainly not comparing myself to the Beatles, but if the Beatles can record an album on a four-track, I can record an album on the iPhone.”
It would be unfair to compare just about any album to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bands – which Poff is referring to – however, two singles from Start The Show did get professional mixing treatment by engineer Will Kennedy at Studio P in Los Angeles. Here’s what he heard: “In all honesty, if I didn’t know in advance that it had been recorded on an iPhone, I wouldn’t have guessed,” he said.
“That said, it was clear that the guitars were tracked with amp modelers, and that the drums were samples. But those tools are common in modern recording, so their use wasn’t a giveaway. The amp models in particular weren’t quite as good as others I’ve used/heard – they were a little two-dimensional in nature, which is common with all modelers, but it was a little more noticeable on these tunes. Certainly not bad though. I’ve mixed other songs that were recorded on a DAW in a similar manner, and I’d say the quality was comparable.”
Although reportedly the first commercial album to be recorded this way, One Like Son isn’t alone in using iDevices to record material. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe used his iPhone heavily on Collapse Into Now released last March, and Gorillaz’s The Fall was recorded entirely on an iPad.