Aunt Vicki is an indie rock band formed by married songwriter duo Lee Dyer and Erin Campbell. Their new single Lights Out deals with the frustrations of home recording (something every indie artist can relate to) and the accompanying music video is a fun, tongue-in-cheek homage to the 90s MTV aesthetic of their youth. Both were released on Sept. 3rd.
They weren’t planning to record their new album Love In The Dark (out Oct. 22nd) in a tiny apartment with paper thin walls separating them from less-than-supportive neighbors who go to sleep early, but the pandemic changed a lot of plans and left Aunt Vicki stuck in just that situation.
The tenuous armistice with their neighbors meant Lee and Erin had to stop recording when they gave the universal signal for going to bed: turning their lights out. Because of work schedules, they only had very small windows of time when they could make noise and their home recording sessions always had a sense of racing against the clock in anxious anticipation for the surprise moment when the lights would go out and their session would have to abruptly end.
“Lights Out is about running out of time, about the neighbors hearing you practice, about people talking in the background of your acoustic guitar home recording tracks. It’s the constant struggle of being an artist without a proper workspace,” said Lee Dyer.
Whereas Lee is a more lighthearted, energetic songwriter, Erin brings a more somber, quiet and introspective songwriting approach to the mix. “When we lived in that apartment we were constantly trying to record a song in between work and quiet hours and every wall, floor and ceiling had a stranger living on the other side. During the recording process that pressure became a metaphor for our own mortality and how our own lights are going out as we age and we have to accomplish what we can before our world goes dark,” Erin Campbell added.
When Aunt Vicki first tapped MG O’Shea to produce their new album, the initial plan was to record everything with him. He had recently built out a recording studio in his childhood home in Asheville, NC after moving back home from Los Angeles (he’s also lived in Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville, Edinburgh and Stockholm). His work as an audio engineer has received attention from gear companies like iZotope and Aston Microphones and his electronic solo project Kinjac has received press from outlets like Bandcamp Daily.
Aunt Vicki had sent their first album to O’Shea to master, but when they moved to Asheville from New Orleans in 2019 they knew they wanted to expand the acoustic duo sound into a full rock band sound and were excited to bring in O’Shea as a studio drummer, mixing/mastering engineer and producer to get an outside perspective on the project.
Lee Dyer is an accomplished audio engineer in his own right and recorded and mixed their first album at home, but they were looking forward to the luxury of having a quiet vocal booth and no neighbors to worry about and a dedicated engineer to run recording sessions so Lee could focus on performing. The only problem was that when they first approached O’Shea he was busy running for Congress, so they made plans to start recording after the March of 2020 primary, which ended up being right when the pandemic started and made recording together impossible.
With nothing but time on their hands, they decided to pivot directions to make the best of the situation and O’Shea simply dropped off some favorite recording gear (a Universal Audio 610 tube preamp and an Aston Spirit condenser mic) at Lee and Erin’s apartment so they could capture the tones he wanted for all of their parts, but recorded in a tiny apartment during quarantine instead of a vocal booth.
After work and before the ever looming deadline of lights out, in a dance that fellow indie musicians understand all too well, they somehow managed to find enough quiet moments to finish their parts in between the take-ruining sounds of neighbors, dogs barking, passing cars, and bears knocking over trash cans (yes, that’s a thing in urban Asheville).
After recording their parts at home, Lee and Erin handed off the song to O’Shea to record drums on at his home studio and mix/master the track. O’Shea also does some film production and had an idea for a music video, so the three of them got together at Lee and Erin’s house and shot the music video for Lights Out.