A unique Luton van conversion for singer-songwriter Olivia Dean that’s equipped with Martin Audio components has enabled the East London-based recording artist to tour and play live for audiences in her local area during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Conceived by Dean and Emily Braham, with the help of Rob Sinclair and tour manager Andrew “Wilkie” Wilkinson (of Sinclair Wilkinson), the “From Me To You” truck tour has been arriving at some unusual outdoor locations to help promote Dean’s new album of the same name.
The Martin Audio rig has been supplied by Wales-based CS Audio. Wilkinson had met the sound hire company’s managing director Paul Hatt on the Clean Bandit tour, for whom the latter had been handling monitors and providing the audio control package. As well as mixing monitors for other high-profile bands, for the last four years Hatt has also operated Martin Audio PAs increasingly in his hire inventory. “We bought MLA Mini and grew the stock from there because I was so impressed,” he says. “We do a lot of package control and monitor systems so we added 12 XE500 and 12 LE100s.
“For a long time we were just doing small PA hire, but the time came when we needed bigger boxes,” Hatt continues. “Having had a good experience with the MLA Mini we purchased [Martin Audio] WPM and an iK42 amplifier infrastructure which would give us more flexibility of deployment. We then purchased WPS for a series of theatre shows—but almost overnight they were cancelled because of Covid.”
Then along came the unusual challenge for Dean and he was presented with the old Luton van in which to build the PA infrastructure. “The brief was to quickly provide a compact PA, not too heavy and with a low power draw,” he explains, choosing two-way XD15s as mains. “I selected them in case we were unable to use the PSX subs,” he continued. In the event he was able to place three of the 15-inch self-powered Martin Audio subs in front—while the stage was sufficiently large to accommodate Dean and her three backing musicians (drums, bass and keys) all on in-ear monitors. The sound system’s plug-and -play preset provided an additional advantage for the sound engineer.
Production had earlier turned to Matt Snowball, who played a significant role in the renovation process, and he fabricated custom brackets to mount the XD15s to the sides of the van. As for operation, FOH engineerMat Collis, mixes the show on an iPad and also drives the truck, while tour manager Wilkinson controls the lights from an app on his iPhone.
“We needed a sound system that would provide coverage for five people in a café, up to 200 people at a drive-in cinema,” Wilkinson says. “The XD15s and PSX subs throw a surprising distance which was really helpful on some shows that had the audience spread out so far. The sound quality was great too, everything was crystal clear even when pushing the system; a nice tight low end as well.”
As for Collis, he was able to virtual sound check every show. “Luckily I had rehearsals to mix monitors and FOH so we had a good starting point but when we installed everything into the truck there was a lot of noise inside due to it being basically a fiberglass/metal box; therefore, some adjustments were needed. [The speakers’] plug and play preset was ideal for this as I didn’t have a lot of time to set up each gig.
“I have to scan RF and check 30 channels of FOH and six channels of RF before starting so anything that saved time was a massive bonus. Everything is electronic including the drums, as the least amount of stage noise the better.”