Canberra musician Joh Rooney of Surfwolves visits Abbey Road Studios during coronavirus | Canberra time

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It all started with a thought: what if two strangers recorded at Abbey Road? The Surfwolves, also known as Paul James and Joh Rooney, were playing in a Belconnen garage when the idea was born, and it wasn’t long before they realized they could record in the most famous in the world. They just needed to fund it themselves. But what started as a question of people recording at Abbey Road, turned into, what would it be like to record during a pandemic? While James had to give up on the trip a month after their March 2020 taping date, Rooney was lucky to find out. A day before the musician was due to fly, the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. This meant he was unable to recover his flight and accommodation money. So Rooney put on his N95 mask left over from last year’s bushfires and flew back to London, knowing full well he might have to return at any moment. “There was a chance I could only be there a day before turning back.” Rooney managed to get over a day’s recording at Abbey Road. But just. The musician was in the studio for a day and a half before having to return to Canberra and avoid the City of London lockdown. But it was a day and a half that he would not have lived without the pandemic. London was eerily quiet when Rooney arrived. People had just started working from home and when he jumped on a bus to go to Abbey Road, it was just him and another passenger. If it had been another passenger, it would have been just an average (albeit quiet) public transit experience. However, the interaction was the first in a series of unique Abbey Road experiences, as the lady on the bus was also Paul McCartney’s neighbor. “She had known him for years. Their kids had gone to school together and they used to chat over the fence. It was weird because I had come here because the Beatles are so inspiring and here I am sitting next to someone who has known Paul for many years,” Rooney said. The unique experiences continued when Rooney arrived at the studio. He was the only one who didn’t cancel their booking, meaning the other five studios – including the three in which the Beatles had recorded – were empty. This allowed Abbey Road to play the previous Surfwolves album for anyone working in the building. “They listened to everything and enjoyed it. It was a cool moment. These people saw amazing musicians and they didn’t hate our music. It’s kind of humbling, like we’re on the right path to something. thing,” Rooney said. An empty Abbey Road also led to a private studio tour for Rooney and his session bassist Alec Coulson. “It was a surreal moment walking through an empty Abbey Road,” Rooney said. “Studio One is for orchestral music and the Beatles have been in that one. Studio two is the Beatles’ studio, studio three is a bit smaller, but was still used by the Beatles.” there wasn’t the pandemic, I would I’ve never seen them because it’s too expensive.” Almost a year later, the Surfwolves began releasing the tracks recorded at Abbey Road, starting with Time is Not for Sale, released last month. And according to Rooney, you can hear the difference Abbey Road is making. “I think the best way to describe it is when I heard the Abbey Road recordings, they sounded in 3D,” he said. “Looks like you’re in the room. There is a warmth associated with using their microphones. It just adds that pinch of magic.”


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