NORTHRIDGE, Calif. —To ensure straightforward, loud-and-clear live mixes for Modest Mouse’s recent Lonesome Crowded West Tour, FOH Engineer Peter Thompson utilized Soundcraft audio control solutions.
Founded in Issaquah, Washington by singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green and bassist Eric Judy, Modest Mouse is one of the most influential indie rock bands in recent memory. While best known for their crossover hit “Float On,” the band has built a reputation for experimentation and overhauling their sound across every album, evolving from a post-grunge trio of high schoolers to a five-to-seven-piece band of violins, horns and percussionists. For longtime fans, however, the band’s sophomore album The Lonesome Crowded West—a ramshackle collection of songs about the struggle for self-understanding in an increasingly urbanized, consumer-driven and chaotic world—remains their definitive work to this day.
To celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary, Modest Mouse embarked on the Lonesome Crowded West Tour in late 2022. Performing as a four-piece for the first time in over a decade, the band played the 1997 album in its entirety and in order, along with an encore of older fan favorites and rarities including “Dramamine” and “Edit the Sad Parts.” Given the band’s back-to-basics approach compared to their recent tours, the live sound in turn required a simple yet reliable setup to ensure a balanced and impactful mix for every show. To meet these requirements, Thompson enlisted a Soundcraft Vi7000 digital mixing console with a Vi Stagebox and Realtime Rack Core.
“Modest Mouse was a seven-piece during my first run with them last summer,” said Thompson. “This Lonesome Crowded West tour was a four piece and all guitar amps, no digital profilers or anything, so the whole setup was very analog. With that, the only challenge was battling the ambience of the stage, getting the guitars to project and still have room for vocals. I've been using Vi consoles for a long time, since 2007 or so, and I’ve used them with Steely Dan and Bob Seger and several other old-school acts using amps and monitors. So I took it to the front-of-house for this tour because it's my go-to desk.”
Equipped with up to 128 inputs, 32 mono/stereo busses and enhanced 96kHz 40-bit floating point digital audio processing, the Vi7000 was designed to facilitate a straightforward and intuitive live mixing experience. At the heart of the Vi7000 is the Vistronics hybrid interface, which combines the best features of analog hardware and digital software to achieve streamlined controls and unrivaled versatility. Rather than installing physical controls around or adjacent to a digital touchscreen interface, resulting in an unintuitive and awkward workflow, the Vistronics interface places rotary knobs and switches directly onto a touchscreen that displays output monitoring, EQ, sends and more. Depending on the software being used, the graphics behind the analog controls will change to the relevant controls, resulting in an efficient, simplified and more enjoyable user experience.
“The Vi7000 addressed how I like to work,” explained Thompson. “I've done several different kinds of things with the Vi setup and it is so easy, simple and fast. The biggest plus is that it's very quick to navigate. Like when I needed to do quick panning and whatnot for certain songs, I program the pan knob to be right there in front of the faders. The ergonomics of the desk is really nice—and it's not that I don't use other desks as well, but I still keep coming back to the Vi.”
In addition to the Vi7000, the Soundcraft Vi Stagebox provided Thompson with an extra 64 mic/line inputs and 32 analogue line outputs for even greater flexibility and routing options. Thompson also utilized a Soundcraft Realtime Rack Core for access to state-of-the-art effects and plugins by Universal Audio, which the band occasionally required even with their scaled-down setup. Overall, the Lonesome Crowded West Tour was a successful tribute to Modest Mouse’s early days, in large part thanks to the simple but impactful live mixes achieved every night.
“The Realtime Rack is basically integrated into the Vi system, which is great,” added Thompson. “I used it for the Lexicon reverb and some simple compression on the vocals, but I didn't use a heck of a lot of it in this particular run. I used the Realtime Rack a lot with the regular Modest Mouse tour, though, because Isaac would have distortion effects and things like that that aren't built into the Vi. But for the most part, all the parameters like comps, gates and EQ work to the point where I often don't need additional plugins. Everything I need is already built into the desk.”