I know many SoCal hikers have seen and loved the movie Mile… Mile & a Half (and if you haven’t, you should). Opus Orange provided the soundtrack for the film, and actually appear in it as the group makes there way to Mt Whitney. Their music is largely acoustic, soulful-and-folksy, optimistic and outdoor-inspired.
Opus Orange is releasing a new EP titled Outside In, recorded in the Sierras entirely above 10,000 feet. Listen closely and you can hear the wind in the trees and birds chirping. I’ve been listening to it while writing, and it transports me to the mountains.
I had a chance to catch up to OO’s Paul Bessenbacher to learn more about their new EP.
Tell us a bit about Outside In. What makes this recording special to you?
Outside In is a collection of Opus Orange songs recorded entirely outside in the California wilderness above 10,000’ elevation using only solar power.
Backpacking and music are two passions of mine. When backpacking, it’s a challenge to bring an instrument other than your voice or perhaps a harmonica, let alone recording gear. This couldn’t have happened without the lovely folks at Golden Trout Camp with solar power.
We have reinvented our songs with washtubs and old BBQ grates for percussion, a washtub bass with a broom handle, and a variety of instruments found around camp including banjo, ukulele, melodica, and kalimba. Recording outside has a natural allure: birds sing, insects buzz, and the wind whistles throughout these six songs – nature as an improvising musician. Outside In is a natural progression from our lush soundtrack for Mile… Mile & A Half (2013) and infectious melodies of Balance (2014).
What inspired you to record above 10,000 feet?
California is full of beauty above 10,000 feet, which not many people (Californians included) get to witness. It also helped significantly that Golden Trout Camp is located above 10,000 feet!
Another inspiration was being involved in The Muir Project’s documentary “Mile… Mile & A Half”. Hiking part of the John Muir Trail with them, I was inspired by their immense talent and commitment to their project. Their movie is a testament to that. Making music while on the trail with them (with a ukulele, a toy glockenspiel, our voices, and of course sticks and stones) was always influenced by our constantly changing surroundings. I originally wanted to record our soundtrack for the film completely outside, but it was impractical during the post-production process. But that definitely planted the seed for Outside In.
Where did you record and what trails did you hike to get there?
Golden Trout Camp (a special use camp run by the Thatcher School) is located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, south of Mt. Whitney. From the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead, it can be accessed by taking the trail towards New Army Trail Pass. The last song on Outside In was recorded at Eagle Lake (Mineral King to Eagle Lake Trail) in Sequoia.
How did you handle the technical challenges of recording in the wilderness?
One challenge of recording in the wilderness include packing in and powering recording gear. For recording gear, I hiked in an 11″ MacBook Air (with Pro Tools software), Apogee Duet, two AKG 414 microphones, a table-top stereo mic stand, and cables. Golden Trout Camp has a solar panel, so we were able to plug in the laptop during recording (battery drains fast when powering the Apogee and phantom-powered microphones).
Another challenge is backpacking instruments. I always bring my lightweight and sturdy Flea Uke (made by Fluke Ukes) whenever I backpack, as its doesn’t add much weight or bulk. For Outside In, we added a kalimba & melodica to our packs. Nick Tranmer and Cam Spaulding (who run Golden Trout Camp) are avid music lovers and have various noisemakers around camp, like acoustic guitars, a banjo, and a washtub bass. Producing bass tones in the wilderness is a sonic challenge, as most things that produce low notes are physically large. The washtubs were welcome to the sonic palate of Outside In!
PB plays 21 Years Down (track 6 from Outside In) at Eagle Lake in the Sequoias
Thanks to PB for sharing a behind-the-scenes look at Outside In, available January 27th on iTunes.
More on Opus Orange
- Opus Orange on Instagram
- Follow Opus Orange on Twitter
- Listen to Opus Orange on Soundcloud
- Watch Opus Orange on YouTube