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Foo Fighters new Saint Cecilia EP - the recording session details [Updated]

By Simon Kilmore

With the free EP now available an anonymous source reveals some of the details behind the recordings.

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Photo: Cambria Harkey

Update 26/11:

Ben Kweller confirmed via his social media accounts that his background harmonies feature on the title track of the record, ‘Saint Cecilia’.

Original Story:

Thanks to a source at the make-shift recording venue we can now reveal a little more detail on the recording session and the songs recorded for this new EP. Whilst the source prefers to remain anonymous we were able to verify they were indeed present during the recordings.

The session began on October 1st, 2015 and ended on October 9th although the band were not present and recording throughout. They had to travel to Atlanta and Nashville in between for two live shows on the 5th and 7th respectively. Most of the work was therefore done over the two weekends, the day before each performance at Austin City Limits Festival and during the day of the shows, before heading to the venue in the evening.

The main tracking for the songs was completed during the first weekend with vocals and overdubs recorded over the second weekend, as noted by Dave in his letter to fans released alongside the EP. The first song tracked was the title song ‘Saint Cecilia’ and four others followed.

When it came to equipment in the make-shift studio things were reportedly kept “super minimal”. A Tonelux digital recording console was set up along with some Mac computers, Neve EQs and various other outboard equipment and many microphones. The main vocal booth was set up in Grohl’s bedroom, and another in the bathroom!

Photo: Cambria Harkey
Photo: Cambria Harkey

Rough mixes were completed on site in Pro Tools before being taken back to Los Angeles for final tweaks and mastering. The band produced the sessions themselves but it is not known who completed the final mix and master, or where it was done.

Several guests arrived at the hotel, the first being the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. They recorded on the title track ‘Saint Cecilia’ but the source is not sure whether their contribution is simply low in the mix or got left on the cutting room floor. The session was reported to be extremely relaxed with Dave getting behind the drum kit to jam along with the Jazz Band at one point.

Ben Kweller and Gary Clarke Jr. also arrived during recording but it’s not clear which songs they participated on. If we find that out, we’ll update this story!

Onto one of the small mysteries of the session. When the full website was unveiled new background images were displayed, two of which clearly showed the lyrics sheets for a song titled ‘Fuck Around’. This is a title that goes back at least to 1999, when the band were recording tracks for ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’. It could be seen on a whiteboard showing song titles during the short documentary video released for the album, and again during the 2011 documentary ‘Back And Forth’.

It re-appeared during 2004/5 and recording for ‘In Your Honor’, seen on the ‘acoustic’ side of another board displaying song titles. Of course the mystery here is that ‘Fuck Around’ was not a track on the EP and nor did any of the displayed lyrics feature in any of the songs. So why did they share two images with the lyrics sheets? Teasing us?

The source reveals that the track was in fact recorded again during this Saint Cecilia session and is reported to be a completely acoustic song, very different from any of the five released. Because of this different tone one might speculate this was the reason they chose not to release it, feeling it didn’t fit in with the others.

Photo: Cambria Harkey
Photo: Cambria Harkey

Does this mean six songs were recorded in total during the session, rather than five? Possibly not. Upon hearing the final EP the source did not recall ‘Iron Rooster’ at all, bringing up the possibility it was in fact recorded elsewhere, and ‘Fuck Around’ was part of the five Saint Cecilia tracks. It could also just be that they were not around whilst ‘Iron Rooster’ was tracked.

With a Vinyl release of the EP coming in late January we may have to wait until then to discover the truth, if it features detailed liner notes.

Whatever the case may be it does mean that ‘Fuck Around’ remains unreleased, for now.

We will add to this article if more information comes to light.