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Format Busters: Reigning Sound Goes Old School on its Latest Release, 'Shattered'

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For the Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright, 42, music has been not only a career, but a lifestyle that he’s wholeheartedly pursued his entire life. Cartwright and his bandmates navigated the special challenge of recording on an eight-track, one-inch recorder for their latest work, Shattered. The album has received overwhelming positive reviews; it’s yet another well-received release to add to the dozens upon dozens of recordings that songsmith and garage rock veteran Greg Cartwright has tucked neatly under his belt. The format isn’t new to the band. It’s taken an old school approach in the past. But according to Cartwright, the issues that the limited format forced the band to create an even more solid record.

“The thing with that format is that you don’t have a lot of room for recording things, seeing if you like them later, ditching them later, you have to be economical,” he explains. “With a lot of modern recording, especially digital recording, you can have as many mics as you want because it’s unlimited. But working on an old machine like this, you have to have a production plan before you record the record.”

Cartwright explains that the band needed to plot out exactly what each track on the new album needed because of the limitations of the recording format. Even though Reigning Sound was forced to put a lot of thought into the way it went about recording its latest batch of songs, Cartwright notes that he likes it that way.

“Recording this way just requires a little more pre-production,” he says. “But if you’re going into a modern studio you can record as much as you want and ditch whatever you want. For me, that’s not good because you can keep adding and changing things. I like that as we were recording Shattered, there was a finite number of things we could do to the record. The limitations, to me, are a good thing because it forces you to make decisions upfront. It also forced everybody to be more dynamic. With this, you can’t be like, ‘I’ll do the guitar part that is just like ‘chk,’ ‘chk,’ ‘chk,’ and then add more — you have to fuse them all into one part.”

Cartwright says that ultimately the antiquated recording style forced him and his bandmates to create something that is actually preferable for live performances.

“This recording style really forces you to figure out what you can do that would actually be something you can perform live,” he says. “I find that that’s a problem with a lot of groups. You go to see them live and it sounds nothing like the recording. And that’s because modern recording allows you to basically to trick it out to the nth degree. The only problem with that is when you realize that you can’t recreate what you recorded because would have to have nine guitar players.”

Shattered is Reigning Sound's first album of entirely new material in five years. It moves with a sort of looseness totally devoid of pretension, sounding more like something Cartwright dug from the depths of his personal R&B record collection than something recorded by a couple of guys in a seasoned garage rock band in 2014. "Baby It's Too Late" is rich with delectable organ while "Never Coming Home" sighs with longing and love lost. "Shattered" feels like a tightly compiled pop record, mostly because it is. Cartwright admits he was trying to channel a host of different inspirations when creating the record.

“I like a lot of different kinds of sounds and the production style of a lot of different studios and engineers,” he says. “Throughout my life, being a big fan of music, I always go back to Memphis because that’s where I’m from. I have a lot of favorites from there, particularly producers who really influenced me. I’m not mimicking what they do, but I love the sounds that they get and I want o get close to those sounds without copying them.”

Cartwright says that touring is largely the same as it has always been, aside from some precautions that he has to take to ensure that he’s taking care of himself in middle age.

“The main thing for me, after you pass the threshold of 40, is not to talk too much and not to smoke too much,” he says. “If you are going to wear your voice out before you start, that’s no good. When I was younger I could shout all day I could have just as much to give at every show. As you get older, it’s harder to hit those higher bits. It’s more of a studied thing. Like getting to them instead of reaching with abandon and yelling and screaming; you have to be more measured with it when you’re older. If you want to last for a whole tour you have to be aware of that, so for me that’s one of the biggest things: don’t wear out your voice. It’s not an issue so much when you are recording because you don’t have to do it consecutively day after day, but when you’re on the road, you’re singing for an hour every night, you have to be careful.”

Right now, Reigning Sound is just focusing on promoting Shattered.

“We just want to get out there and play these songs live for the fans, try to expose them to the songs in a live format. Every time you make a new record, people can buy the record and they can think whatever they think about the record, but for any band’s following, your fans want to see what those new songs sound like live, and you need to make them a part of the set in a way that people welcome them,” explained Cartwright. “For any band, you make a new record, people want to hear it, but at a live show, they still want to hear their favorites. The trick is to make them love these new songs so they become favorites.”

Reigning Sound, Brian Olive, Stupidity, DJs Alright & Mr. Fishtruck, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct 26, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $15, beachlandballroom.com.

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