Denver producer and musician Jeff Cormack is set to release two albums early next year under the moniker South of France, a project he started eight years ago.
Cormack approached the two records in very different ways. He started work on Remember That Cool Thing We Did pre-COVID-19, but since the pandemic started, he went back to tweaking and refining tracks. You’re Lovely Till You’re Not, a lo-fi collection of songs recorded on an old tape machine during lockdown, came together much faster.
On Tuesday, December 1, South of France will premiere new singles from each disc: "Hideaway" and "The Passenger."
Cormack says when he first started writing “Hideaway” for Remember That Cool Thing We Did, the song was confusing. But when the pandemic hit, he went back, spent more time on the synth-pop tune, found a groove and made it stronger.
The other single is a fuzzed-out, reverb-drenched take on Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” which will be part of You're Lovely Till You're Not.
In tweaking cuts for Remember That Cool Thing We Did, Cormack says he was digging into production elements like sound design and editing, and adding sub frequencies, scrapping melodies and changing lyrics as he went along. Having a home studio, Cormack could fine-tune cuts on Remember That Cool Thing We Did on his own time without having to deal with the time or money constraints of working in a professional studio.
Cormack plays every instrument on both South of France albums; he laid down drums and bass parts first, particularly on Remember That Cool Thing We Did, which is driven by rhythm. And he says that although he really loves shoegaze songs from the ’90s and early 2000s, he tends to write more poppy and catchy tunes with a lot of hooks.
“I really tried to incorporate those really dense tones, either with guitar or running a lot of the keys through my guitar pedals to really fuzz them up and make them big,” he adds.
Remember That Cool Thing We Did took Cormack a long time to produce because early on, he got a bunch of plug-ins and virtual sample libraries, and he was trying to use them on everything; ultimately, though, he wasn’t happy with the results. “I would sit there and be like, ‘Well, that sounds like so and so, and that sounds like so and so,’” he says. “I don't like that.”
Instead, he limited himself to hardware instruments and effects rather than virtual ones. He went more old-school with his Mellotron, Fender Rhodes and Moog, which he’d run through his guitar pedals.
“It was funny,” Cormack says. “I had this moment of like, 'Ah, I think I have a little bit of my own signature on this, finally.' I watched this thing with [producer and musician] Benny Blanco where he was in his studio talking. He has a Mellotron, and he has all these pedals. And he was like, 'Yeah, I run the Mellotron to these pedals because I hate it when my shit sounds like other people's shit.' And I was like, 'Oh, my God. That's a very good point.' I was going down the rabbit hole of buying all sorts of plug-ins.”
While Cormack spent a lot of time on Remember That Cool Thing We Did, he says he cranked out You’re Lovely Till You’re Not in about ten days, because he limited himself to four instruments and a tape machine.
“I wasn't going to bounce them into the computer and then remix every track,” he says. “It was like, ‘Okay, get it close, commit to it and then just keep that vibe.' It was really fun.”
Cormack says that at the beginning of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, he was home with his wife and his daughter, who was seven months old at the time.
“It was fun to just kind of hunker down and play with gadgets,” Cormack says. “She'd be in the room with her big headphones on, turning knobs in the middle of the song. So it was fun. It was almost like more of a family experience. It was cool.”
For more about Cormack's project, go to the South of France website.
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