Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox is a genre-busting, rotating collective of musicians and vocalists that reimagines modern pop hits in a style that recalls jazz, ragtime, and swing classics from 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and ‘50s. As the group’s arranger, producer, and pianist, Scott Bradlee has brought together a multi-talented circle of performers who rework versions of popular modern songs. And the music videos of their collaborative covers have become viral sensations, with millions of views on YouTube: as of March 2017, Postmodern Jukebox YouTube channel has amassed over 600 million views and over 2.5 million subscribers.
Each Thursday, Postmodern Jukebox releases a new video on YouTube. The collective has covered songs by artists ranging from Lady Gaga and The Strokes to Katy Perry and the White Stripes. Since their beginnings as a small group of friends making music in a basement in Queens, NYC, Postmodern Jukebox has gone on to feature 70 different performers and tour four continents.
We got a chance to interview Matt Telford, the Postmodern Jukebox audio engineer, and we talked with him about how the project started and what role LEWITT mics play in it.
[LEWITT] How did you come to Postmodern Jukebox, and what's your position in the project?
[Matt Telford] Postmodern Jukebox got started and grew up in Scott’s basement, and the first tour he went on did the East Coast, where I was working. I ended up going on the show, kind of joining the circus a little bit … and afterwards, he asked me if I want to work for him. The project was growing and he needed help with it – so I helped him with the video and audio aspects. I’ve now been working with Postmodern Jukebox for about 4 years, and I’ve done tons of stuff … really everything from the sound of the videos to being their FOH and doing monitors, as well as setting up all the production stuff and really kinda just being the backbone who makes sure everything gets done. And it’s been a wild ride to see how everything has progressed. I'm now both their engineer and their production manager.
[LEWITT] What do you like best about being with Postmodern Jukebox?
[Matt Telford] The best aspect, I think, is that Postmodern Jukebox is like a family: everybody in the group is friends, and it also connects us all when we work together on other projects, too.
[LEWITT] You’re using quite a collection of LEWITT mics with Postmodern Jukebox. What can you tell us about them, and what role do they play in your daily work routine?
[Matt Telford] Well, the LEWITT mics are very versatile! We do every music video in one take, and room noise can be a huge problem for us. But with the array of LEWITT mics we’re using, it’s really easy to focus in on the actual source of the sound – without getting a lot of the background noise. We use the LCT 240s a lot on the horn sections, I also use them to track tap dancers as well as piano, and they just sound amazing on all the recordings we’ve done with them – especially since I can have some gain reduction with them and also use their filter to cut out some low-end noise.
I use the LCT 550s on background vocals. They’re amazingly quiet and sound great. I also use them on piano, since their frequency response is well built for that and has a really wide spectrum. Having them on the piano seems to balance out everything really well, especially when I use two of them there. They’re my go-to mic when I record a piano.
As far as the LCT 940 goes, I love how it’s a very clean mic: it doesn’t have a lot of coloration, which is perfect if we have to do something where we’re not really looking to have the singer’s voice colored by the mic itself.
I haven’t used the LCT 840 on a video yet, but you’ll be seeing and hearing it in a few videos that are coming out soon. The LCT 840 adds a little bit more color with the tube, which I really like. It’ll hopefully become our new main mic, because we do want to have a little bit of that vintage coloration on the vocals.
When we’re not producing videos, we’re using the MTP 550 DM handheld mics, and they're doing great. We do a lot of group vocals with two or three singers on one microphone during our stage show, and it picks up all those slightly off-axis voices really clearly. What’s especially nice here is that even though they do well on sources that aren’t directly on-axis, they still let us keep the background out of it. So those are the main features that make LEWITT really work for us.
[LEWITT] You’ve also used the Neumann U47 for many of your productions. Have you had a chance to A/B the LCT 840 and the U47?
[Matt Telford] Yeah … I’ve done a lot of shootout tests with these two mics, and in several respects, the LCT 840 really outshines the Neumann. What I found is that its mid response is a little bit better than the Neumann’s; it comes through a lot clearer. And with the Neumann, you have to sweep down the filter to really get that low end out of it, while you don’t have to go as aggressive on the LCT 840, which is a huge perk. Another thing I really like about the LEWITT is that doesn’t get a lot of those low frequencies that you’re not really gonna use without having to make major adjustments with the frequency.
[LEWITT] What did you use before you switched to your MTP 550 DM handheld microphones, and why did you make the switch?
[Matt Telford] Before, I was using either the Shure SM58 or the Telefunken M80s. The MTP 550 DM has a better axis then the M80 does. Also, the M80 is a very bright microphone whereas the MTP 550 DMs are more balanced out. And when it comes to clarity, the MTP 550 DMs go way above and beyond the SM58. You can actually hear it if you just have a raw recording: the MTP 550 DM sounds so much better than the SM58 with nothing on.