EDM duo Koven, made up of producer Max Rowat and vocalist Katie Boyle, make dramatic, destructive, progressive drum’n’bass. Most recently, on their four track EP Higher Ground (Part 1)they combined this style with grunge guitar riffs, distorted vocals inspired by Radiohead and Bring Me The Horizon.
We catch up with band member Max to hear how he layered brass sounds using Spitfire Audio software to create big braaaams, and how oeksound’s Soothe2 helps him keep the mids in check. MusicTech also hears how a chance encounter with old friend Simon Dobson resulted in Coven working with the composer’s Parallax Orchestra for the EP.
High ground already getting a lot of support from DJs and fans. So that’s part one. Where is part two?
Max. with Part two, all I can say is it’s on its way. We decided to split things into two parts because we have a lot of material right now and we wanted to make sure they were all finished in the best way possible, rather than rushing them and not getting the time they deserve.
We’re not ready for another album yet, so we decided – like with our EP Further on – to divide it into two.
Industrial strain is a step towards an almost nu-metal sound, with distorted guitars and rock vocals. Is this a style you’ve been wanting to get into for a while?
It’s something we haven’t really delved into, but we’ve had a lot of influence from tracks like The national anthem by Radiohead and some recent ones Bring me the horizon.
Where do you make your music and what is the process for starting a song?
How we start/write a song is pretty much 50/50 between Katie and me. There are certain times when I create an instrumental that I send to Katie, and others when Katie sends me rough piano chords to work on. But for this last EP, it was the first time we wrote every song in the same room from the beginning. Before that, ideas were mainly sent over the internet, etc.
What was your last plug-in purchase?
There was a contact library that a friend of mine and a very talented producer, Joe Ford, was involved in – a sound library called Evolution: Devastator Breakout. It’s fantastic. It’s full of everything you could want in an epic trailer doom stylish sounds. Kicks, braams, pulses, distorted bass. 100 percent recommend.
What is the best free plugin you own?
Camel Audio’s Camelcrusher. It’s perfect for boosting anything from bass to vocals. Also, I like the randomization option.
What is the most profitable plugin you own?
oeksound Soothe2 has been a really big help lately. With strings and vocals on top, there tends to be a constant battle in our songs, keeping the mids in check. And Soothe2 is a savior for that.
What’s the DAW plug-in you use all the time?
Apple Logic’s Ringshifter. I use it regularly. I don’t overdo it and use it subtly.
What plugins fit seamlessly into your master bus?
FabFilter Pro-L 2 and ozone multiband compressor. I digest on the go. I need to hear as I work what the final finished song will sound like.
What a plugin would Higher Ground (Part 1) be incomplete without?
I could give a list, but I tended to rinse the Fabfilter Saturn a lot through these songs.
Tell us about the distorted vocals Industrial strain. And the melody sounds so powerful with these braams. How are they achieved?
Thank you. With the vocals, it was a few Fabfilter Saturn plugins that gently added distortion bit by bit. I also added a small part of the Universal Audio Raw plugin.
Braaams are a mix of lightly driven Spitfire Audio Albion brass and Evolution Atlantica Trailer Low Brass.
How did you create these clean drum sounds Take it away? And what about those violin strings?
As for the song, the drum samples for each hit were already pretty clear. However, I layered it and sent the kick and snare to separate buses that have hard and fast compressors to enhance and layer the transient over the original sample.
It was the first time we were lucky enough to record live strings. I used to use a variant of the Spitfire Audio Kontakt Libraries for MIDI strings.
Funnily enough, when we were in Devon on a writer’s retreat creating the songs for our latest EP, I bumped into my old music theory teacher from college, Simon Dobson, who is insanely talented in all things music – composer, performer, conductor, the list continues. I’ve always wanted to work with Simon on some music, so we just asked him if he would take what I had for strings in MIDI and properly arrange, conduct and record it with proper strings, and he agreed.
So we were over the moon to work with Simon and the Parallax Orchestra. We hope to do it again soon.
Do you have any secret sauce plugins?
I tend to mess with the effects pedals on the Waves GTR3 Stomp. There is a pedal called Pitcher bass. I like to punch everything and it layers the original sound with a wide stereo layer of varying pitch. It’s also fun to play with the Lay-D pedal from the sample pack.
How about a guilty pleasure plugin?
Not sure if it’s a guilty pleasure, but mainly Waves CLA Vocals. You can’t go into much detail, if any, with the compression, reverb and delay parameters, but I tend to just run the Katie through the plug-in.
What are you using without fully understanding?
I have to be honest, I’m not the most technical person when it comes to music production. Sometimes I really don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not completely familiar with synthesis and I know the ins and outs like a lot of other producers. I think for me it’s just experimentation, turning and switching dials, resampling and constant trial and error.
Stream Coven – Higher Ground (Part 1) on Monstercat Bandcamp page.