Corey Hart and Paul Mitch, the two frontmen of the Madison-based Americana band Lost Lakes, wouldn't necessarily describe themselves as perfectionists. They just knew they wanted their self-titled debut album to be very good.
That's why it took nearly an entire year of writing, recording, overdubbing, editing and tinkering in a warehouse studio for the final version of "Lost Lakes" to come to fruition.
The band is ringing in the release of their record — a collection of warm, playful, polished country tunes — with a performance at the High Noon Saloon, 701A E. Washington Ave., on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Hart and Mitch say that in many ways, "Lost Lakes" ended up as the same album they envisioned when they began working on the project in November of 2015. Some central themes remained a constant: Rhythm would be at the fore. The timbre of the guitar would be "warm and thick."
And of course, there would be the goosebump-inducing harmonies that are Mitch and Hart's speciality.
"Paul does this great stacking of background vocals," said Hart. "'Paul's vocal vignettes,' I like to call them."
"You usually call it the 'Wall of Paul,'" interjected Mitch.
In the opening track "Digital Tears," a stream of lilting guitar triplets interweave with a stuttering drumline, as Hart's gentle vocals ruminate on human connections in a digital era. On "Summer Rains," a pitter-patter of percussion give a pulse to a tapestry of slide guitar, acoustic fingerpicking and rich vocal harmony.
But beyond the core elements, a lot of the album came about through trial and error.
For a few hours every week, the band would get together and tinker. Vocals by Hart, Mitch and even guest stars like Madison favorite Anna Vogelzang would be recorded, then promptly discarded. Arrangements for Hart, Mitch, drummer Shane Leonard and keyboardist Rusty Lee were written, then set aside because they were a smidge "too cheesy." Hart once spent an entire day recording take after take of one specific acoustic guitar section.
As the months went by, a lot ended up on the cutting room floor.
"Production-wise and arrangement-wise, there were certain ideas that didn't stick," said Hart. "The core album stayed the same — it was a matter of trying things."
The fifth member of the ensemble was the recording environment itself — a shared warehouse space called the Dojo. Conditions in the space, which Mitch describes as "a big, creative zen gymnasium of music," could get a bit intense. On cold days, temperatures would dip into the 40s. When the sun would glare through the space's greenhouse windows on sunnier days, a greenhouse effect would boost things into the triple digits.
"It was great," said Hart. "We were literally sweating it out together."
Mitch said that throughout the journey, he knew in his brain what "good" sounded like. The process of recording meant taking time to calibrate the sound they were making with his internal barometer of quality.
At the same time, he said he was wary of letting things simmer too long in the production cooker.
"There's a danger with too much perfection that it ends up feeling anti-septic," he said.
He said he's happy with the final result.
"People come back and say it sounds good. You can hear all the parts, it doesn't sound too busy. There's clarity and there's space," said Mitch.
The album finally went on sale last Friday, and Mitch and Hart have been busy making some radio appearances and preparing for Thursday's show. Of course, they've been sure to give themselves some breathing room to roll the album out.
After all, they know they wanted to do things right.