By Liza Carbe’
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/10/20 – Shane and his brother Tyler’s band, Hearty Har, have their debut album Radio Astro scheduled for release on BMG records in February 2021.
At its best, music can be analogous to an alchemical process: fusing the old with the new, drawing on what’s come before you, and marrying it with new ideas and technology. A dedicated modern musician can create a portal, a singular artistic opportunity, by jumping headfirst into learning everything that one needs to know to control their creative future.
Shane and Tyler Fogerty decided to do this before undertaking the recording and release of their debut album Radio Astro. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Shane about the recording process of their upcoming album. We discussed their growth and pre-production process.
Before I spoke to Shane, I listened to the release of their first two singles: Boogie Man and Scream and Shout. These guys were going deep. I was first struck by the old school drum sound and the wealth of different guitar tones and colors! Was that a Mellotron I heard, possibly a real one? A solid kick, well-defined bass, and a clearly carved out space for all the interesting and well-thought-out parts. There was a focused arc to the music and lyrics of their songs. I was getting pulled in and enjoying the simultaneously retro and forward-looking experience.
Then I started checking out the videos that went along with the songs. Boogie Man was animated, with macabre and colorful images that felt like a voodoo Mardi Gras. Scream and
Shout also has some deep bayou images mixed with quirky animation. Both tunes had a funny yet creepy vibe. It didn’t seem like they were taking themselves too seriously and displayed a
good sense of humor – all boxes checked! I was looking forward to speaking with Shane about the music of Hearty Har.
I wanted to ask Shane what lead to the decision to engineer and produce their own album, but I also wanted to get some backstory on who they were and what brought them to this point.
It was apparent when speaking to Shane that he and Tyler take nothing for granted. They have worked hard at developing their own voice and have spent a lot of time learning the tools to capture their vision the way they heard it. After recording what would have been their debut album in 2017, they realized that they needed to take control of the process. Although they tried to convey their artistic vision to the engineers and producers, the songs weren’t coming together with the way they heard them in their heads. They realized they would have to take some time to learn about production, engineering, and the music business. Shane decided to join the music program at USC University of Southern California, while his brother Tyler studied art and photography at Cal Arts.
A few years later, they were ready to go. They turned their old rehearsal studio at their dad’s house into their new recording studio. They equipped it not only with the latest Pro Tools rig
but also decided to add a couple of two-inch analog tape machines. They already had a nice collection of amps, guitars, and keyboards. Yet something was still missing. Of course – they
needed a real Mellotron! So, they ordered one to make sure they had all the musical colors they were hearing before recording what would be their debut album. They even had a natural
reverb chamber in the hallway of the house to get that incredible Led Zeppelin drum sound. Lucky for them, their dad is a musician and appreciated the multi-purpose hallway.
Their dad happens to be iconic rocker John Fogerty, leader of the foundational American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although Shane and Tyler didn’t go right into the music, they learned quite a bit by osmosis. Shane says he remembers being in the studio and running around the couch while his father was recording. After begging for their first guitar, they lost interest and left the instrument sitting in their room unplayed, like kids often do. Shane got into skateboarding and Tyler into photography. Although they enjoyed both of these activities, they
started to feel the pull of music over time.
At some point in high school, Shane had what he called his musical awakening. He was already a big fan of his dad’s music, particularly his ability to write a simple yet well-crafted song. He
also started really getting into the music of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Shane would study the songs, the arc of the music as well as the lyrics. He wanted to learn to tell not only a good lyrical
story but a good musical one as well. Shane started writing his own songs in those artist’s styles to understand what made them great. Later on, he got more into the guitar and psychedelic
rock and engineering great guitar sounds.
Currently, Shane says he writes in a completely different way than in previous years. The songs usually start as a musical idea, a riff, or even a bass line, and then he builds the lyrics around
that. There is nothing like a good riff, says Shane. Tyler writes in a similar way, although he recently had some lyrics that he wrote down on a napkin – they subsequently built the music
around those. They both love and appreciate good songwriting and how the simplest song can be one of the best.
It’s doing that in a way that’s not cheesy or cliché; that’s the challenge, says Shane. He goes on to say that they strive to be new and compelling. Like many disciplined songwriters, when they get an idea, they quickly record it into their phone so as not to lose that initial spark. Then they come back to it at some point to develop it into a song.
One of the sparks that led the brothers back to music was that they realized that they wanted to participate when their dad was jamming with other musicians, instead of just sitting on the
sidelines and listening. It was this impetus that led Shane to not only be interested in the art of writing a great song, but in being a great player. He started not only studying the guitar but also
commenced ear training and theory classes. Before long, they weren’t just jamming with their dad – they were touring and performing with him.
The next step was finding their own voice and starting their own band. In 2017 the two brothers began writing and recording together in their own studio. Can’t Keep Waiting was the first song that Shane wrote and that Tyler co-engineered in their home studio for Radio Astro. This was the first of three singles that they released on their own. As Shane says, we just wanted to get some music out there. By this time, they were unsigned and ready to test the waters.
Two of these initial three singles were part of the songs that they recorded back in 2017 and are included in the upcoming release. Thematically they fit with the rest of the songs, says Shane.
During the next three years, Shane and Tyler grew as writers, producers, and engineers. They reworked some of the initial songs while composing new ones and implementing all the latest
techniques they were learning in college. The experience of doing everything on our own was both liberating and frustrating, says Shane. When it’s your studio, you can just keep reworking, changing, and adding parts. At some point, we had to stop and agree that this was the final mix and release the album. When you just keep adding, eventually you are taking away from the initial magic of the idea. Here, the young artists are possibly invoking poet Paul Valérys famous quote (often attributed to others): a work is never truly completed but
Shane spoke about their frustration in communicating their vision to outside engineers before they started their own studio. He then went on to say, if you make yourself the engineer, then the only thing in the way is the knowledge of the gear that you are using and how well you use it.
We went on to talk about the working relationship between the brothers. All successful partners have a particular flow, bringing different strengths to their projects. I asked Shane to define how they worked together and what each one brought to the process. Tyler will have different production and instrumental ideas that I never thought of. I will hear his ideas and say, damn, let’s explore that and see where that takes us. His voice is a lot different than mine most of the time. It’s good to have someone else to contribute and balance ideas that are different yet similar. Tyler likes to do a lot of layering, whereas I like to keep things simple. Sometimes, one works better than the other, but two different approaches give us a lot more artistic choices.
Shane went on to describe their recording process. They record everything to an analog two-inch 24-track tape recorder utilizing outboard analog gear and then bring it into Pro Tools. This
gives them the analog sound printed to tape – they can then use all the capabilities for editing and mixing that Pro Tools offers. They like to go old-school with some of the microphones as
well. They get very elaborate when miking the drums, including the U67 over the kit and a D12 on the kick drum (a la the Beatles), Sennheiser on the toms, two-room microphones, and
every other drum meticulously miked. Although they want that old school vintage sound, they also take advantage of getting that nice thick low-end that modern technology allows. Says Shane, the best of both worlds. One of the coolest things they do with the drums is to record them in a hallway. They set up a mic and speaker opposite the drums at the other end of the hallway to get the natural cavernous drum sound prevalent on Hearty Har recordings.
Shane says that he and his brother Tyler love to be experimental in the studio by miking instruments in an unusual manner, processing parts in a weird way, using a vinyl player as a
guitar amp, or re-amping it through a vinyl player speaker.
They have quite a few different people who have influenced their guitar tones, including Dick Dale and many of the great guitarists of the 60s and & 70s. They are influenced not only by their
superb playing but also by the great tones they would achieve. Alessandro Alessandroni, a composer/guitarist who played the iconic guitar parts on all of Ennio Morricone’s late 60s spaghetti westerns, was also an enormous influence. Shane recalls how he would obsess over Jimmy Page recordings, stating with admiration, Jimmy’s acoustic playing, the altered tunings, and all the layering of different guitar parts he would do and still make it rock. For electric guitars, Shane uses a Stratocaster, a Rickenbacker, and a Les Paul. He says that with those three
guitars and an acoustic, he can capture all the colors he needs live and in the studio.
Although Tyler is also a guitarist, he plays more of the synths and keyboards and provides vocals. For live performances, Tyler plays guitar and Minimoog. In the studio, he pays a lot of attention to creating many of the effects. Delving into the sound of the 60s and 70s would not be complete without a Mellotron, a tape-based early electronic keyboard instrument, something of a precursor to the modern synthesizer. The device was popularized in recordings
by the Beatles (Strawberry Fields Forever), the Moody Blues (Knights in White Satin), Genesis, and many other seminal rock and prog rock groups. Tyler decided that the modern digital Mellotron, while good, was not good enough. So, he ordered a real analog one from overseas. It took a while to arrive and even more time to get the hang of playing. Anyone familiar with the Mellotron knows that those 12 seconds of tape stop, and then you have to lift your hand or finger and start again. It takes dedication and discipline, which both Shane and Tyler seem to have in abundance.
I wanted to know about the new album and the inspirations for the two songs they released.
Shane explains that they co-wrote Scream and Shout, but that Tyler was the primary songwriter. Explains Shane, [Tyler] likes to compose in a dark, creepy, alien, voodoo kind of vibe. Tyler had some of the lyrics, and then I added the chorus idea and a few other parts. For Boogie Man, Shane explains that one night, as Tyler was driving, he thought of a creepy guy on the dance floor in a nightclub. I now saw their music video for Boogie Man in a different light.
He went on to discuss their album release strategy. I asked what led them to decide to go with a label instead of releasing the album themselves, especially in this new climate of artists
having so many resources to do all the business themselves. Were they possibly gun shy signing with a label given all the problems that their father John Fogerty had getting his music back from CCRs label, Fantasy?
Shane explains that before deciding to sign with BMG, they had people who they could trust go over every bit of the contract before deciding to sign. They also felt that what BMG offered
them with support was worth what they would be giving up in complete control. We’ve been working with them on the upcoming release. We were planning a tour and also to be part of South-by-Southwest, but of course, everything has been canceled due to the pandemic. So, we have been concentrating on the release of our new album. So far, we’ve teased the album by releasing two songs with accompanying videos. We will be releasing one more on January 15, then our album drops on February 19.
We talked about being the sons of John Fogerty and how that impacted them professionally and otherwise. Certain aspects of the way people treat me because they want to get something from my dad bothers me, and I’m very aware of that, but most of the time I’m cool with it because I understand how it is to meet someone whose music and words you have loved and cherished, so most of the time I don’t let it get to me. As far as professionally, the label doesn’t want to associate John with us because our music is so different. It’s a little similar, but it’s our own voice. So I don’t think it affected us in that sense one way or the other.
Although their music may be different, both brothers play in their dad’s band, and their studio is at his house. This has led to some musical inspiration for all of them. John did come in and
sing background on their song Scream and Shout – there have been some attempts to write together.
For now, the focus is on the release of Hearty Har’s debut album Radio Astro. Until the world opens up again, listeners will have the opportunity to enjoy listening to the album, with touring
to come sometime in the hopefully near future.