Steve Albini’s engineering works for Spare Snare

Steve Albini’s engineering works for Spare Snare
Spare Snare with recording engineer Steve Albini, at Chem19 studios

When they recorded their debut album, Spare Snare named it ‘Live at Home’ – but however you say it, the ‘bedsit lo-fi’ collection was very much a live, home studio effort.

And very far removed from the sophistication of the Chem19 complex in Blantyre where the likes of Deacon Blue, Calvin Harris and Franz Ferdinand have worked.

Add to that the presence of a world-famous sound engineer in Nirvana and Pixies man Steve Albini and you have something rather special.

So to be re-working tunes from that self-recorded debut makes the contrast even greater.

“We decided to revisit tracks that we felt had matured with playing live or which may have suited (Albini)’s ear from the past 25 years,” says singer and band founder Jan Burnett.”

And as it turns out, the legendary engineer – who considers ‘producer’ a too-grand term – already counted the band among his favourites.

“I asked his studio, in Chicago, how much his rate was, just being nosey really. He obviously gets a lot of crank questions like that from Nirvana fans.

“But Steve chipped in and said ‘If it’s the Spare Snare I know from the ’90s, I’d love to work with you’, and that’s how the seed was sown.”

It turns out the rate was, well, what you’d expect for someone who’s also recorded PJ Harvey and the Manic Street Preachers, but Burnett had a cunning plan – incorporating the cross-Atlantic visit into a workshop, where ten Scottish sound engineers got to spend a day under Albini’s tutelage, thanks to Creative Scotland.

They also got to work with award-winning Scottish producer Paul Savage at the studio founded by Spare Snare’s indie contemporaries, The Delgados, while that connection also led to the likes of Emma Pollock helping out with vocals on the new recordings.

And the band packed in as much as they could into their time with Albini. “The night before the workshop, we were in until 2.30am setting the studio up,” Burnett recalls.

“With the albums we record ourselves we swap ideas, with no clock watching,” he continues. “With this project we had a finite time to get the job done. I like both processes, sometimes it’s good to be under pressure.”

Read more: Steve Albini’s sound masterclass

Albini is a known lover of traditional techniques, the album being recorded the ‘old-fashioned’ way onto tape. So its release as a 12” record – and a cassette! – is a bit of a nostalgia trip for the record-collecting vocalist.

“Five years ago I would have said vinyl was dead, so it’s lovely that we can do a vinyl album, mastering, cutting and pressing at the highest spec… and actually have people wanting to buy it – and being able to  play it!”

‘Sounds’ is out now. The band play Leith Depot on August 18 and new Glasgow venue The Great Eastern on October 12th. More at