For the past 30 years, Everett musician Sean Wolcott has collected artifacts from a bygone era of music.
Wolcott’s studio, Soundview Analog Recorders, is filled with analog recording equipment from the 1950s to ‘60s. In a world dominated by computers, the outdated technology is hard to come by, and even harder to learn.
Long before the digital age, musicians and producers would record various instruments onto magnetic tape, then manipulate and layer the sounds to create the final song. Different equipment produced different results, from the pleasant grittiness of an overloaded tube compressor to the vintage coloration of a transformer.
Modern digital devices try to replicate these effects, but Wolcott, 43, said they tend to fall short.
“It just doesn’t compare,” said Wolcott, who plays the guitar. “These are real electrons moving through real devices. Most of the (digital) plugins get most of the way, but the soul is not there.”
Wolcott’s collection may be vintage, but it isn’t collecting dust. Wolcott records instrumental soul music with Craig Curran, 43, of Seattle — a childhood friend and former bassist for Seattle indie rock band Fleet Foxes — as the Wolcott Curran Collective.
“A few years ago we decided to get serious and really try to get those sounds we wanted,” he said. “It’s really about using your ears and trusting your instincts, versus flipping on a magic switch on a magical piece of equipment.”
Their new single, “Good Luck With That,” was released Feb. 21 and features Wolcott on guitar and Curran on bass and drums. It was recently showcased on Spotify’s instrumental funk playlist, which has about 185,000 followers. The song has been streamed all over, including as far away as Brazil.
“Good Luck With That” has a gritty, raw and saturated tone, which comes from the various tape machines, reverbs, compressors and microphones they used to record it. It also has a strong drum groove, oscillating bass riffs and undulating guitar melodies; Wolcott said it emulates a niche style of soul, funk, jazz and British blues from the mid-1960s.
“There’s something specific and special about that era that means a lot to us and really inspires us,” Wolcott said.
The song was the result of hours of trial and error. Part of the process was learning how to best use the analog equipment.
Curran, who played bass and sang with the Fleet Foxes from 2006 to 2008, said it’s the sum of all the parts in the studio — rather than one standout piece of technology — that makes their music feel authentic.
“Collectively, it creates something that is virtually impossible to recreate in the digital medium,” he said.
Though most of Wolcott’s equipment is from the 1950s and ’60s, one piece of equipment is even older. Curran’s bass lines were recorded on a 1939 Altec Birdcage ribbon microphone, which produced a smooth, natural sound for the low end.
The largest piece of equipment in the studio is a 1957 EMT 140 Reverberation Unit, which creates artificial reverb using a steel plate and springs under tension. The device came from Portland, Oregon.
Wolcott also has a piece of music history: a Scully 280 four-track tape recorder the Beach Boys used while recording their influential 1966 album, “Pet Sounds.”
“I purchased it from a friend who got it from the engineer who did the stereo mixes for ‘Pet Sounds’ on it,” he said.
Wolcott and Curran, who met in preschool and grew up playing music together in Woodinville, don’t have any plans to play live shows for now — though maybe down the line. While Wolcott occasionally records and produces like-minded musicians at the studio, they’re most focused on making their own music.
“Our main goal is to make great music together that we’re happy with,” he said. “The most important component is that we get to play with each other.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
Wolcott Curran Collective
Learn more about Sean Wolcott and Craig Curran’s instrumental soul project at www.wolcottcurrancollective.com or stream it on Spotify and iTunes. Find more information about Soundview Analog Records at www.soundviewanalog.com.