A chat with Hybrid who tell us what they have been up to and all about their new album "Light of the Fearless"
Breaking out into the scene in the mid 90s Hybrid have been blending string music with breakbeat to create their own unique style for over 20 years. They are best known for their use of orchestral sound which gives their music its a cinematic experience. The band is currently made up of husband and wife duo Mike and Charlotte Truman who have been hard at work on their just-released fifth album Light of the Fearless.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Charlotte and Mike and find out more about the new album and what they been up to.
Thank you Charlotte and Mike for taking the time out of what can only be a very hectic schedule with the upcoming release of Light of the Fearless. When you recorded your last studio album, Disappear Here, the band consisted of three members, now that it is just the two of you has the creative process changed much?
Charlotte: Not at all to be honest, our creative process has naturally evolved over the last ten years. Chris used to DJ and continued to do so after Mike stopped DJ-ing, life was getting unhealthy and we wanted to focus more on film work. Due to the time pressures of scores, Mike and I naturally evolved into doing our own sound design in different ways. Because I do live recordings in my studio, it was fun to experiment with different types of scrapes and noises and effects and then re-effect them in Pro Tools to make up atmospheres and textures. I really started making these when we worked on Hercules where The Rock walks through the valley of massacred villagers (nice moment!) …
Mike would always do some additional sound design and with me writing melodies and orchestra, adding textures, and Mike programming, making up ridiculously large beats and effects, adding synths and being the producer, this just became more after Chris left to carry on as a DJ. I have a little synth in my studio that I use in combination with my guitar effects pedal and organic sounds and Mike’s studio looks like the flight deck of the starship Enterprise. It’s a naturally evolving process but it’s cool because our jobs are different and yet combine easily. Writing this album wasn’t in any way stressful, in fact I’d say it’s the most fun we’ve ever had.
Can you tell us a bit about Light of the Fearless?
Charlotte: The album started in a few different forms but none of them were working, things either sounded too dark, too bleak, verging on political, and that wasn’t where we were at. After ten years of evolution, we’d had two kids, lost my mum to cancer, moved house and I was having problems with my mental health, which culminated in ending up in hospital. Life was crazy but we found a way through it and it was empowering. We wanted to put THAT into the album and not focus on the dark. The layout has been meticulously planned so that it flows from the special 'We Are Fearless' up to the grandness and strong message of 'I Won’t Back Down'. I wanted to talk about my mum, about mental health and make it more normal to talk about it. We wanted to use orchestras in a massive way and just let go of any constraints we might have about what people wanted us to sound like, but instead what music do we like. What we find exciting and empowering. It’s always going to sound like Hybrid because we’re Hybrid. Mike’s production affirms that, but it’s another evolution onto something we feel reflects the detail and musical experience of us as musicians, writers and a cohesive collective band.
What is it like recording an album as a husband and wife duo? Can creative or artistic differences bleed into your personal life?
Charlotte: Like I say, it’s been huge amounts of fun on this album and as well as film scoring. We both have separate studios in the same building and have identical setups so that when one of us has finished a stream of work, we send it to the other to add more on and swap back and forth until we feel it’s ready. Of course on albums it’s never ready. Like a painting where you don’t know when the right moment is to stop. That’s why it’s great having a record label because they came to the studio for their first listen and the album was mastered two weeks later. We were still adding choruses and changing tempos and beats the day before we went to Abbey Road to get it mastered.
Having different jobs helps, we don’t overlap in what we both do so that means we don’t tread on each other’s toes. We know when we work on films that speed is of the essence, so doubling over on elements doesn’t constitute an effective team. Over time we’ve got it down to a fine art and it works well. We can support each other when things can get stressful on a project. If one person is flat out, the other can handle admin, be the point of contact for producers/directors etc. and it’s a lovely, lovely way to work. We feel very lucky.
In between Disappear Here and Light of the Fearless you have scored a number of major Hollywood movies and video games. How does working on those types of mediums differ from making a music album and which do you prefer?
Charlotte: Well, movies are a combination of fulfilling the wishes and aspirations of the directors and producers of projects. You’re given an idea or flavour of what the project requires in the way of feel and drive and motion by detailed discussions with the filmmakers and also the temporary score they have paced over their film so in that sense, you already know how it’s going to go within certain parameters. Also, you have characters who need to either be kept mysterious or be up front and obvious so music can drive all that really well. I call it reverse psychology, putting emotions into characters to make the audience feel a certain way or know something more detailed about that character / scene that the dialogue alone doesn’t portray. Albums, well, it’s like floating about not knowing which way you’re going to go. You’re putting you, or in our case, us, out there and there’s no direction, nothing.
It’s incredibly hard and after a long time writing for film it was a really hard process getting back into finding out who we were and where we were going with the album. We’ve learned SO much after ten years of working for films and that’s one of the things we wanted to put into the album. All that experience and new found knowledge, not just musically but also technically. Mike mixes everything in 5.1 and he’s got his eyes set on Dolby Atmos next.
For previous album launches you've done things like “Live at BBC Maida Vale” and “Sinning in L.A” do you have anything similar planned this time?
Mike: Yes, we’ve got a brand new band together with an amazingly talented drummer Simon Hanson and guitarist Stuart Morgan. It’s a really lovely team of people and we’re starting rehearsals very soon. We’d like to do a live premiere of the album and a few older songs too so keep a look out! We’re seriously excited about getting out again.
Can you share anything about the planned HD and 5.1 versions of the album? Do you see a future in high resolution and multi-channel sound?
Mike: Surround mixes are a bit of a passion project and something that hugely excites us. How many people will want to listen in surround is another matter but a fair majority of people have some kind of 5.1 setup in their homes via a TV and speaker setups so it’ll hopefully appeal to some of our followers. We’ve been mixing in surround since 2013 and our default template is always set up for multichannel audio, although of course it needs to be folded down for stereo delivery.
We always record the orchestra in surround and even recorded the gospel choir in quad to add a sense of space around the singers. It’s dangerous to listen to everything in 5.1 while writing because it’s not the medium we’ll be delivering the album to the label but it’s soooooo nice to hear the extra depth and space between instruments when we do open up the surround mix and have a cheeky listen! With regard to HD, we’re not fans of MP3s or streaming but its horses for courses really, what’s the point in trying to get someone to listen to an HD audio file when it’ll come out of their iPhone speaker? We’ve grown up with our supporters who are pretty similar to us and like higher quality versions as they have better speakers and systems than our 20-year-old fans from a couple of decades ago so we’re glad to be able to put the extra time into making a 48Khz 24bit mix sound fantastic for the people who would appreciate it.
What's next for Hybrid?
Mike: We’re getting ready for live shows so we’re putting the whole production together including visuals, technical run-throughs, etc. and rehearsal time with Si & Stu. We’ll be front and centre next year for the festival season and can’t wait. We’re currently remixing the next couple of singles and getting prepped for the next video shoot so knee deep in audio and visuals, just the way we like it!
The first single from the new album, 'Light Up', was released on 13th July and Hybrid's fifth artist album is available to purchase and dance along to now.