NMF ’22 Interviews: Michael Shular of Cincinnati’s In the Pines talks about the magic of recording ‘Impossible Daze’ in analog

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WOUB) – The 2022 Nelsonville Music Festival takes place September 2 -4 at the Snow Fork Event Center (5685 Happy Hollow Road) in Nelsonville, OH. The festival is presented by Stuart’s Opera House, a non-profit organization focused on providing access to the arts and arts education in Southeast Ohio. 

Leading up to the three-day festival WOUB Culture is profiling a number of artists performing at the festival. You’ll find all of those interviews right here on woub.org/culture

A promotional image for the band In the Pines. In the image, four male-presenting people are laying in a field underneath a barren tree with a blue sky above.
In the Pines [facebook.com/inthepinesmusic]
Last January Cincinnati-based band In the Pines released “Impossible Daze” (Soul Step Records). It’s a short and sweet record — one saturated with a certain kind of innocent yearning, the kind you’d find easily somewhere in the back-pocket of your mind on a dozy, warm late summer afternoon.

WOUB’s Emily Votaw spoke to founding member Michael Shular about the formation of the band, their explorations in analog recording, and how they’re feeling about their upcoming performance at the 2022 Nelsonville Music Festival.

Listen to WOUB’s conversation with Michael Schular embedded above. Click on “play” in the Soundcloud widget. A condensed and edited transcript of the interview can be found below. 

Emily Votaw: So, the name of the band is In the Pines, and my first thought was: so is that a reference to the Lead Belly song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”

Michael Shular: Yes, it is! We started this group when me and my friend Charlie were in high school. We just wanted to be a blues rock band. We loved playing the blues, and it just was one of those things — we were like, ‘oh, what should we call our band?’ ‘Oh, how about In the Pines?’ We love Lead Belly — and it just happened very quickly. There was like absolutely no thought to the band name. <laugh>

Emily Votaw: The band’s most recent release, “Impossible Daze,” is short and sweet – there’s no filler, and it’s not even 40 minutes long. As someone who is coming to this from the perspective of having been a teenager who loves punk rock – I’m a big fan of that. I’m curious: was that on purpose? Do you find yourself writing shorter songs in general?

Michael Shular: We definitely didn’t have that in mind when we were going to record that record. It was really very cool doing that one because it was all done on tape. That was the first one where we really went out of our comfort zone that way. We went to a studio in Iowa, which is about seven hours away from us, to work with this engineer that we had met two years prior. And we had a few phone calls with him, but none of us knew anything about the world of analog recording, or even what that really means. We had never done anything like that.

An image of In the Pines' record "Impossible Daze." This is a promotional image, with an image of the record on vinyl, half outside of the sleeve, which has a brown and rust colored embroidered design made up of flowers. The image is against a blue background.
“Impossible Daze” was recorded in November 2020 in Rock Island, IA. [WOUB]
But we just put our heads down and rehearsed. We rehearsed very, very extensively for about three months leading up to the recording session. And we didn’t know going into it, but that is kind of the thing you have to do when you’re going to record to tape. You want to be very well rehearsed — or else you’re gonna be wasting a lot of time. Unlike recording digitally, you have to do most everything live. Even though we didn’t really know that going in, we were ready, so the record turned out very, very well.  It was a wonderful experience and it kind of opened our eyes to this whole other world of recording and making music.

Emily Votaw: Very cool – so do you think you’ll go the analog route again? I know musicians in general talk about analog recording as being perhaps a little more difficult and less malleable than digital recording – but yeah, do you think you’ll go that route again?

Michael Shular: Oh yeah. I mean, we just fell in love with it. Just in the recording, the sounds, they just have so much more character to them. When you’re recording that way, not everything is going to be perfect and there are often mistakes or a flubs in a take. But you know, you just kind of have to learn to live with that. Once you kind of figure out how to accept that, and take a step back from being a perfectionist, you can look at it from farther away, and you kind of think to yourself like, ‘man, you know, that is very cool.’ It has way more character than a completely polished, clean, digital recording — not to say that you can’t get a recording like that digitally. I’m not bashing everyone out there who records digitally. But to answer your question, we’ve started building our own studio in our basement. We all live in the same house together and we’ve slowly over the past two or three years been gathering and collecting pieces of analog equipment. It’s coming together — slowly but surely.

Emily Votaw: I’m curious: what made you want to pursue being a professional musician? Were there any particular musicians who inspired you?

Michael Shular: Just off the top of my head, a big one is Neil Young. He’s one of my favorites, and he’s just an amazing songwriter. I take a lot of inspiration from Neil Young. Also, seeing Dr. Dog perform really kind of opened my eyes to what being a professional touring band could actually be. I saw that and I was like, ‘I wanna do that!’ It’s hard work. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding, you know?

Emily Votaw: How are you all feeling about playing the Nelsonville Music Festival? Had any of you attended in the past?

Michael Shular: I don’t think any of us have ever been, but I’ve always been a fan. I’ve always thought they do a great job with the lineups. They get really good bands to come through. And everyone that I know who has attended has only said good things about it. So I’m very excited. Don’t really know what to expect. We haven’t done many festivals, and, I mean, it’s a pretty prestigious festival. But yeah, we’re all super excited. We’re gonna be playing some new stuff. We’re gonna be playing some old stuff, and we’ve got a really solid lineup. So I’m, I’m really looking forward to it.

Catch In the Pines at the 2022 Nelsonville Music Festival on Saturday, September 3. Find more information about the fest at nelsonvillefest.org, and keep tabs on all of WOUB Culture’s preview coverage of the fest at woub.org/culture.