Luna Pines: How get an Ambient Dream Pop Sound (Gear, Production Techniques and Live Setup)
We speak to London based Dream Pop duo Luna Pines (as seen in BBC Introducing London, Sofar Sounds and featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday and Fresh Finds) Luna Pines members Lotte van den Berg and Rob Oates delve into how they achieve their luscious, ambient Electronic Dream Pop sound. We talk gear, plugins, production techniques, live setup and more.
Musicngear: What gear would you recommend for Dream Pop?
Lotte (Vocals, Guitar, Synths, Sampling, Mixing, and Mastering): To be honest, I produce and do all our music in the box working with MIDI & sampling, using Logic and Ableton. I don't have much hardware - but the sounds I used most are from instruments I got from Reverb Machine which is a favourite site of mine - everything is super easy to use via to EXS24 sampler on Logic.
Mostly I use the Porta synth and the RM-20 synth which is actually modelled and inspired by the sounds of the ultimate Dream Pop band Beach House. The sounds are from the Yamaha PS-20 I believe. Digital Nostalgia is a great one too on there. I find you can get creative with really little and you don't need to spend thousands on hardware, just sit and learn your DAW and chop things/alter stuff until it sounds cool!
Rob Oates (Drums and backing vocals): The only thing I can add to this is in terms of gear (my job is a lot more simple compared to Lotte haha)
Alongside a standard drum kit setup, I use a Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad with kick and snare triggers. I use the pad to play the original drum sounds from the song if needed or to layer or loop sounds on-top of the live drums.
Practical tips for performing your productions live and the gear/setup you would recommend using?
Lotte: I try to keep it simple because there's so much going on and only two of us!
I use an Ableton launchpad along with ableton to trigger samples and tracks, and then I use an M-Audio Code 61 for my keys and that's split up using Logic's MainStage (so I can have loads of sounds on the keys) and I also use an Akai MPD 218 for triggering samples.
Then for guitar, I use a Fender Modern Player Tele that goes through a Boss DS-1 Distortion, a Keeley Caverns Delay Reverb V2 which is my favorite pedal ever. The reverb on that thing is insane. So you can loop a few things using the Shimmer setting and alter it in real time and it creates this huge canyon like reverb that sounds like a symphony over your guitar - it's ace.
For vocals, I go through a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play where I use autotune and harmonizers. I'd recommend keeping your setup doable and not overreaching on what's possible for your two hands to do. Mine is just possible haha - at the end of the day, I also need to focus on singing so I can't have any more going on.
Try loads of things out, most of our best songs were written by accident
Vocal processing tips for artists who are interested in this style?
Lotte: It's really all about plugins here, and of course a good mic. I use an AKG C214 (which is a 414 but with just a cardioid polar pattern) that's only about £250) and then my standard plugin wall is Compression, EQ, Exciter (very light), CLA Vocals (from Waves - the only vocal plugin you really need!), Stereo Delay & Pitch Correction at the end for most of our songs, but I also use a lot of harmonizers like the Izotope Nectar 2 which is amazing.
What I usually do is record a load of doubles and then slice them so they're perfectly in time, and the pitch correct the notes manually to make harmonies so it sounds like a huge wall. It takes hours of patience but so worth it! Then I'll do a few high octave doubles and pan them hard Left and right. That usually makes the wall of vocal sound on most tunes.
Other useful tips?
Lotte: I'd say just try loads of things out, most of our best songs were written by accident and me just messing around not actually trying to make anything. But there's always a moment when you're like ah that could be something. If that doesn't happen it usually goes in the bin and I start again. But yeah just persistence. And if you want to also produce your songs to a professional level, watch A LOT of YouTube tutorials and don't run before you can walk.
Learn about the basics (compression, EQ, Bussing effects, Reverb) and learn your workstation of choice inside out. It gets so much easier when you have an idea in your head and you know how to technically achieve it, and it's so frustrating when you have the idea but not the technical knowledge, so make sure you learn that!
Listen to Luna Pines's newest release
How do you record your drums?
Rob: So we have a combination of live drums and samples on the songs. Often it’s beats purely made from samples in Logic, but when we record live drums we use a pair of AKG C214’s for overheads and then Sennheiser MD441-U on toms and snare and a d112 on kick. We’ll sometimes record live drums mainly for the overheads to capture the cymbals in order to give a more human feel to the beat to sit alongside the samples.
If someone was interested in drumming in this style - who would you recommend they listen to?
Rob: In terms of drumming for this style, it’s kind of a hard one to pin down to one style as we have a lot of different influences. This tune is one of our more simple ones in terms of drums as it’s quite poppy, so really any electronic pop song. But in general, I would say The 1975 and the Japanese House are the two that have had a huge impact on the style of drumming. The 1975‘s more recent records for the ‘live’ drumming side of it and the Japanese House for the heavily sampled and weirdly syncopated drum beats.