For Thom Monahan, recording is all about collaboration. From his earliest days recording friends to a career producing highly acclaimed records, the key to making memorable recordings has been his acute sensitivity to the artist’s intentions. “Knowing what a song is about makes it easier to tell a story in a long form,” he says.
It’s a skill he’s cultivated by spending many hours on both sides of the glass. Thom spent more than a decade as a bassist and multi-instrumentalist in the Pernice Brothers, the Lilys and Monsterland.
Thom learned to record in an all-analog environment, but has since embraced digital technology, and most frequently uses a hybrid methodology. With a natural curiosity about technological frontiers that fuels a lifelong desire to innovate and experiment, Thom remembers lugging around an eight-track analog recorder in a flight case during the 1990s. “I lived in a place where we couldn’t make a lot of noise, so I learned to take quiet sounds and make them as big as possible,” he notes tellingly.
Drawing on these experiences, he brings to the table both inventive technical expertise and a sense of empathy for the artist and the creative process. “It’s always more about the performance than about fidelity,” he offers. “There’s a balance between a love for the artist’s performance versus making a sound that translates what the performance is about.”
Using modern recording technology to make albums that sound like vintage classics is all in a day’s work for Monahan. His collaborations with artists such as Devendra Banhart and Vetiver have redefined the sound of indie rock, establishing Monahan as one the most respected producers in the genre.
Recently, Thom produced The Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s latest Phosphorescent Harvest, produced Geppetto & the Whale’s Heads of Woe and mixed Nina Persson’s Animal Heart.