The live room is home to a colorful spread of vintage and well-worn instruments – Hammond organ and Wurlitzer, Silvertone banjo, full drum kit and percussion accoutrements; and the control room is a narrow sideline off the vocal/iso booth.
The Mason Jar Studio is a modest affair but anyone who works here has likely been DIYing it for long enough to see that their bases are more than covered – by the Pro Tools HD system + True Systems Precision 8 and Hamptone mic pres, Manley Vox Box, Neve 8816 summing mixer and LA2A and 1176s in the racks. Like in their mobile rigs, the studio equipment has been carefully selected, hard-earned, and in some cases… sponsored.
Starting out in 2010, Mason Jar self-funded their video projects, but a grant from NYU and a Kickstarter campaign helped them stay in the game long enough to establish a reputation.
Support from a number of gear sponsors, including Peluso and Sennheiser/Neumann, Gotham Sound and ARRI, helps keep equipment rental fees at a minimum. Even though clients are coming to them now, says Knobler, “the nature of these big video shoots requires so many people in so many disciplines that even the largest budgets get eaten up pretty quickly.”
Knobler and Seale cite Motown and Daptone Records, and The Band, as influences in what they do. And new technology is what has enabled them to take up and advance these great traditions with little budget.
“Some of our favorite records are live – like Aretha Franklin and Allman Brothers records – from back when some of the best records were live records,” says Seale, “And people really responded to them because they felt like they were there. That’s a feeling that we want to bring to all of our projects.
“I think people respond to our videos because it makes them feel a little bit closer to that time when something was conceived and created.”
From a business perspective, Knobler describes the videos as a “front” to the rest of the creative work he and the Mason Jar family produce. “From Feist, two of our arrangers ended up writing horn charts for Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear’s solo record,” Knobler cites.
“Our arrangers/composers do film scores and orchestrations, and we have filmmakers who do documentaries and narrative music videos and concert videos. And a lot of the work feeds each other – [i.e.] we did some music for the Food Network, and now our cinematographer is working with the Food Network.”
Finally, the videos present Knobler and Seale as producer/engineers with a lot of heart and soul, and a lot of savvy. And these days, that goes a long way when you’re trying to make a name for yourself.
Knobler puts it best: “The videos have been fun, and promotional for Mason Jar, and they’ve enabled us to work with some artists who – let’s be honest – would never have come to our basement to make a record.”
Visit http://www.masonjarmusic.com for more information on Knobler, Seale and the other Mason Jar members, and to get in touch.