The 1975 sonically ‘At Their Very Best’ with Eighth Day Sound

The 1975 rely on Eighth Day Sound, a Clair Global company, for service amid their At Their Very Best touring campaign. Photo: Jordan Curtis Hughes

Touring in support of fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, The 1975 set the bar for touring At Their Very Best turning to Eighth Day Sound for  service. 

“We’re collectively trying to make this the best-sounding show in any room that we go into, regardless of whether it’s an acoustically or architecturally challenging one,” said FOH Engineer, Lee McMahon.

Ready to react within the 112 input mix on his DiGiCo Quantum SD7, the nuances of the band’s live sound are driven by each band member – and can change  at any moment. “It’s certainly the most complex show I’ve ever worked on, and I want that attention to detail to come across. It’s part sound reinforcement, part sound design, all audience/band interaction. When you have a two-hour long show, you have to manage everything down to the precise SPL exposure, so I really want to push and pull on the audience’s reactions and what they’re experiencing,” he added. 

To help achieve this career-defining production, the tour turned to Eighth Day Sound, part of the Clair Global Brand Group. Production Manager, Josh Barnes commented on the vendor service: “The Eighth Day Sound team has continued to keep up with the dynamic scheduling and variety of show sizes that come from working with The 1975. They prove on a regular basis that their strength is as a global audio provider; from extra live additions with short notice and TV performances on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as far-reaching tours, they’ve covered any requirements this touring cycle has called for.”

McMahon agreed: “The band wants to reach fans  all over the world with the same standard of show, so having a global provider that can support us wherever we tour is absolutely critical. The pooling of all of these amazing people from Clair Global and Eighth Day Sound is brilliant, especially our Account Executive, Meegan Holmes. For inventory access and movement, logistically as a worldwide company, the capabilities are pretty incredible. Eighth Day has been absolutely amazing in supporting us on this tour.”

A long-time DiGiCo user, McMahon needed something that “sounds really good, is super flexible and fast”, making the Quantum SD7 his preference to really help hone-in on the micro details. “As a mixer, a detail I really care about is to make sure the audience can hear something they can see happening, so although this show is heavily automated and snapshotted, it’s still constantly moving in the moment,” he explained.

The brief was to showcase the beautiful theatrics of this production, which sees an intimate set design of inside the band’s ‘house’. This large physical construct challenges the acoustic temperament of every venue. 

“The concept of the show is that it’s more theatre-meets-gig at times, and I think that’s been a huge thing for me to embrace, but it’s been so fun to put together” continued McMahon. “When the band is playing quietly there’s a lot of connective tissue that grabs you. We’re spanning songs from five-plus releases over a 10-year period, and trying to tick all of the sonic qualities they’ve meticulously put into the making of their albums. Wherever possible, I reverse engineer the studio recordings and try to recreate as much as I can live.”

McMahon’s plethora of outboard comprises Solid State Logic Bus+, Kush Clariphonic, Rupert Neve Designs 5045 Primary Source Enhancer, Shelford Channel,  API Audio 2500+ Compressor, Kush Audio Fatso (with sidechain gain attenuator), Overstayer M-A-S, Eventide Eclipse V4, Lake LM44 for master and vocal EQ inserts, supported by two fully-mirrored Waves Extreme-C Server X10s.

Empirical Labs EL8X Distressors are a chosen “Swiss Army Knife” for vocals. McMahon explained: “Matty is one of the most dynamic vocalists I’ve ever heard or mixed, and I really love that, but I also need to be able to control his vocals in the mix alongside riding the fader. A lot of the new material was recorded with high mic gain where Matty is singing very softly, and we’re trying to emulate that at times; the Distressor helps keep everything in a good spot.” 

Healy switches between singing into the Telefunken M80 wireless and wired microphone models, often using both within the same song. The remaining band members – completed by lead guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald, and drummer George Daniel – and the multiple touring musicians utilise more Telefunken, Sennheiser, Shure, Earthworks, Audix and BeyerDynamic mics. 

In monitor world, Engineer Steve Donovan mixes on his chosen artillery; an SSL L500. It’s Jerry Harvey JH Audio Roxannes across the board for the band, with a Shure PSM1000 system. The monitor system comprises L-Acoustics KS28 Subs for sidefills and X15s for back-up wedges.

Donovan also undertook the tour’s RF needs, specifying Shure’s Axient Digital system for an accurate transient response. Eighth Day Sound’s Meegan Holmes commented: “This is such a wonderfully theatrical show. The scenic elements presented some RF challenges, but Steve Donovan and his tech Tom Boothby have done a solid job of working with it and getting the artist monitors dialled with precision.”

Dealing with the aforementioned reflective stage, the FOH mix translated exceptionally well with d&b audiotechnik at the helm. Grant Cropley, Eighth Day Sound Systems Engineer, stated: “We wanted something that was flexible and scalable for the varied shows in the US. The band draws very loud crowds whether they’re in clubs, sheds or theatres, so we wanted the performance of a big PA that could be scaled down for intimate gigs and handle every show with ease.” 

Cropley designed a modular d&b system that boasted three packages in one, each deriving from GSL on the mains, KSL for side hangs, flown SL subs, a 270° hang using V series cabinets for the arena dates touring the house stage design, and SL floor subs via a combination of AL60 and V12 loudspeakers for front fill. Cropley explained how the GSL system gave the team the desired outcome. “It gives us a consistent experience every night, without the need for delays to reach every seat in the house.”

Making sure the room geometry is correct, Cropley’s designs assist McMahon’s preference when it comes to curve and frequency response. He continued: “There were a lot of technical fundamentals that Lee and I both agreed on and wanted to explore. There’s a lot of redundancy in the system, so understanding what Lee is trying to obtain from his mix in a PA was really crucial for me. We also have a similar taste in how we hear things, which works in our favour.”

“It is vital that there is a partnership between systems and FOH,” added Cropley. “The role of system techs on tour is more crucial than ever, with the technological advancements over the last few years being quite significant.”

Commenting on the results of this union, Holmes noted: “We love providing a big d&b GSL/KSL system for our tours. Lee McMahon is an absolute legend, he and Grant Cropley have had the audience jumping and dancing at every show!”

Cropley designs the system using d&b’s ArrayCalc simulation software, and utilising the ArrayProcessing feature. His favourite FOH PA System Drive is the DirectOut PRODIGY.MP, which Holmes ensured was on his rider for maximum comfort.

Production Manager Josh Barnes concluded: “A happy crew makes for a happy tour. The production team along with our vendors have worked hard to ensure the crew are looked after and well-respected while putting this show together – and I think that really shows in the final product.”

Meet the crew behind The 1975: At Their Very Best