The National will release a new live album, Juicy Sonic Magic, this fall. It documents a 2018 two-night stand at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California, and was recorded using the same gear and techniques as legendary taper Mike Millard. Juicy Sonic Magic will arrive as a three-cassette box set November 29th as part of Record Store Day Black Friday. The National also shared a trailer for a short documentary, directed by David DuBois, that chronicles the making of Juicy Sonic Magic.
Millard — aptly nicknamed “Mike the Mic” — was active in Los Angeles during the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, recording hundreds of shows by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Rush. As Relix notes, he would release his recordings on cassette tapes featuring hand-drawn covers, passing them around to friends rather than hocking them like a commercial bootlegger. He was also famous for the ways he snuck his equipment into shows, packing it underneath underwear in a fake overnight bag or even hiding it in the seat of a wheelchair he pretended he needed.
Fascinated by the legend and work of Millard, National frontman Matt Berninger and producer and engineer Erik Flannigan came up with the idea to record an album using “The Millard Technique.” They chose the Greek Theatre because it hasn’t changed since the Seventies, and Flannigan was able to track down the exact equipment Millard used, vintage AKG 451E microphones with a Nakamichi 550 portable cassette recorder.
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“[T]here’s something about Mike’s recordings that just really feel like you’re in the sync of it a little bit more,” Berninger told Relix. “It feels like the the room is right up to your neck, you’re kind of soaking a little deeper inside the space. It sounds like you’re in something, either in an arena or an amphitheater or a club. Some things just have a sense to them, and it’s probably audio and it’s hard to define what it is.”
The National released their most recent studio album, I Am Easy to Find, in May. The band will spend the rest of the year touring in support of the record, although their only U.S. date is an October 26th set at the Voodoo Music and Arts Festival in New Orleans.