I first came across Buggie, AKA Gretchen King, when she was singing with Phantods, a band hailing from Columbus, Ohio. They were pretty successful, did some massive shows, and made a rock documentary, "Meet the Phantods," back in 2012. I was a fan of their unique brand of indie rock/pop, and I'd previously tried to get them involved in another project, but the band dissolved right around that time.
When I saw a Facebook post from Gretchen (I'm going to call her Buggie from here on in), looking for a mixing engineer to work on her solo project, I was intrigued. I dropped her a message right away, eager to hear what she was working on.
Buggie's backstory is that she's a graphic designer by profession, alongside being an exceptional singer and musician. She's worked in packaging design, logos, and product placement. She's also a ridiculously talented sculpture artist. Since parting ways with the Phantods, she played in a few other bands (Check out Kabiria, who were a bit ahead of their time with face masks), but she wanted to produce something entirely of her own, with all her creative energy and control. No compromises.
She sent me a full EPK (Electronic Press Kit), a unique approach at this stage. The EPK was formatted as a project outline, with links to her Soundcloud channel full of rough mixes of the songs, and the complete story behind the project. She'd listed all her influences and references for the record, including visuals. This EPK was specifically for mixing engineers to understand the project. Super cool.
I was utterly blown away by the approach. It's uncommon to have the vision written out so clearly, with such a firm intention behind the music. I was convinced I wanted to do the record halfway through the first song. One of the most immense drives behind my work as a mixing engineer is the desire to fully represent and honor the artist's intention and bring that out as much as possible through the mixing process. So for me, this was a fascinating prospect.
I was even more impressed by the phenomenal dedication Buggie had shown in getting the project underway. She'd saved up, quit her job in Los Angeles, and learned to do as much as possible on her laptop, by herself.
When it was time for the record to be mixed, she knew that she wanted to mix in her hometown of Columbus, and then complete the accompanying sculpture artwork at her family's home in northern Ohio.
We had a pretty great workflow happening in the sessions. Buggie brought her entire production rig with her to the studio. If we needed to tweak or grab things from the production stage, we could, until we had it sounding exactly how it did in her very wild imagination.
What we produced is definitely one of the most exciting records I've worked on in my career.
It's an incredible selection of music - electro-pop meets trance meets Jim Henson movies, with a hefty dose of surreal over the top (in the best way possible) sound design. The whole project is outlined here on Buggie's website, bringing together the art, music, and stories to create a complete experience for her fans. For anyone looking for inspiration on engaging your fans, you'll undoubtedly find it by following Buggie.
I really encourage you to check out her Bandcamp page. You won't be disappointed!
In the next article of this series, I'll tell you more about the mixing process on Buggie's track, Westend. To read more about my previous featured work, click here.