Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard & Tobin Sprout Art Opening: ‘The Big Hat & Toy Show’ 10/5-6, At The Library is On Fire, BKLYN

October 5, 2012 by  

If you want to give your ears a rest and inspire your eyes instead, here’s a tip for this weekend.

“Elliott with Machine” — we assure you this is just the beginning.

On October 5th-6th, Steve Five & The Library is On Fire will present “The Big Hat & Toy Show: The art of Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard & Tobin Sprout.”

We’re personally fascinated, but don’t take our word for it – here’s the full rundown from the organizers at The Library is On Fire, a D.I.Y. art & performance space in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that’s been running strong since 2007 (directions below):

Since their epic 2010 reunion, lo-fi indie rock legends Guided by Voices have burst back into the music world, first with their debut at Matador Records’ 21st birthday party in Las Vegas, and onto a massive world tour, releasing 2011’s Let’s Go Eat The Factory, 2012’s Class Clown Spots a UFO, and preparing to release 2012’s Bears for Lunch (the band’s 19th album). Altogether, Sprout and Pollard have over 40 full-length GBV and non-GBV album releases to their credit.

The Big Hat & Toy Show will showcase the visual talents of Guided by Voices’ frontmen, lead singer/songwriter Robert Pollard and singer/guitarist/co-songwriter Tobin Sprout, in a menagerie of installations. Both Pollard and Sprout have been as prolific in their visual art as they have in their musical output. The Big Hat & Toy Show will be an interactive conceptual installation showcasing the world of Pollard, Sprout, and Guided by Voices.

Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard was named one of Spin’s “Top 50 Rock & Roll Front Men of All Time”. Pollard’s collage work has been the source for most of Guided by Voices myriad releases. Novelist Rick Moody wrote of Pollard’s work, “You can see Duchamp in Pollard’s collages, as well as the influence of the painterly spaces of De Chirico and Yves Tanguy.”

Pollard’s artwork has been showcased at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and twice in NYC, 2007’s “Do The Collage” at Michael Imperioli’s Studio Dante, and 2010’s “The Public Hi-Fi Balloon”, hosted by artist Todd DiCurio and Vanity Fair Online Editor Michael Hogan. In 2008, “Town of Mirrors: The Re-Assembled Imagery of Robert Pollard” was released by Fantagraphics Books.

Tobin Sprout

Working in a photo-realist style recalling Charles Bell and Richard Estes, Sprout’s art has an underpinning of stark surrealism that is at once singular and universally felt.

Sprout studied Graphic Design and Illustration at Ohio University and has worked as a professional illustrator and designer. Sprout’s paintings and illustrations have won a multitude of design awards, and he holds an extensive roster of private and corporate clientele, as well as founding Petrified Fish Gallery in the late 90’s. In 2009, Sprout released his first children’s book, Elliott, published by Mackinac Island Press.

The Library is On Fire Headquarters

Since 2007, singer/songwriter & filmmaker Steve Five has curated events with indie rock band The Library is On Fire at The Library is On Fire Headquarters, a D.I.Y. art & performance space located in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The Library is On Fire Headquarters is located at 114 Forrest Street Loft 3C, buzzer 13, between Central and Flushing Avenues in Bushwick, Brooklyn. L train to Morgan Avenue. Opening night is Friday, October 5, from 6pm to 11pm. The show will also be open to the public on Saturday, October 6, from 1pm to 11pm and Sunday by appointment.”




NYC Studio THROWDOWN! The Magic Shop Takes On Stratosphere Sound for The NowhereNauts

May 4, 2011 by  

SoHo/WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN: Why record your debut album at one slammin’ NYC studio when a dozen would do? That’s what the NYC rock three-piece The NowhereNauts thought as they attacked the making of their stirring, wise-beyond-their-years self-titled release that came out this week.

The Nowhere Nauts: Three shots from the Magic Shop.

As it turns out, a dozen studios would have been nuts (and over budget), but two was certainly feasible. Ergo, producer Kevin March (drummer for Guided by Voices, the Dambuilders) and the band – vocalist Sofie Kapur, guitarist Hunter Lombard, and bassist Anders Kapur (Sofie’s bro) — split the spunky collection up between downtown contenders The Magic Shop and Stratosphere Sound.

The result is a record that’s absolutely worth a listen: The group has been together since their early teens, and their songwriting chemistry here is sharp, deep, advanced and still jarringly raw – articulate emotions, insistent guitars and jamming breaks come through loud and clear. Kevin March’s rhythms rock, but bring an intelligent twist to each section. These are songs that keep you guessing, in a most welcome way.

At SonicScoop’s behest, March and his charges pitted The Magic Shop against Stratosphere: The winner in this epic indie rock recording cage match is YOU.

Kevin, why do you think The NowhereNauts chose you to produce their upcoming eponymous record?
Kevin: I had already been working and recording with The NowhereNauts the past few years as part of an original music education program I was developing. That trial program introduced them to writing original music and then recording it all in a studio, so it was natural for me to continue developing and producing them.

I noticed in each of them a creative spark that reminded me of the many great musicians and songwriters I’ve been fortunate enough to create music with over the years. Also, their work ethic and drive reminded me a little bit of myself as a young musician.  As a result, I had my eye/ear on them and, when an opportunity came up, I approached them because I thought that they would be great to work with – and I was right!  I love their unique sound and the energy that they bring to making and creating music.

Drummer/producer Kevin March took on two of NYC's top studios in the name of The NowhereNauts.

Bands obviously work in multiple studios all the time — in this case, why did The Nauts record in two NYC studios instead of one? How did you finally decide on The Magic Shop and Stratosphere?
Kevin: I chose Stratosphere and The Magic Shop because I had done extensive, spectacular-sounding recordings at both studios in the past. I also felt that my pre-existing relationships with the owners and engineers would allow me to successfully produce a complete album with a band new to the professional recording environment.

Almost all of The NowhereNauts’ debut album was recorded at The Magic Shop in 2010. The band recorded a different album as another band with Geoff Sanoff at Stratosphere in 2009. But, due to some unfortunate and unforeseen events, the album was shelved, the band dissolved and — the good part — The NowhereNauts were created.

Hunter: We chose the Magic Shop because our first recordings, ever, were made there and we really like the sound that we can get out of that studio. Stratosphere was chosen because of Kevin’s connection to Geoff Sanoff.

Fair enough! Which songs did you do at Magic Shop? What were the best things about recording there?

Kevin: The songs that we recorded and mixed at The Magic Shop (over two weekends) with the amazing  house engineer, Ted Young, were “Rather Be Haunted,” “Try to Light My Fuse,” “I’m Unlucky,” “We Got the Message,”  “Heat Stroke,” “Over and Over Again, “ “Newspaper Today,” “Delightfully Distracted” and “In the City.” Basically it was the entire album except “Where Is My Mind?”

The best thing about recording at The Magic Shop is the Neve console they have. It just sounds amazing, and it looks really cool too!  The live room is not too big, but it has a nice, controlled, accurate sound.  I love the vibe of the studio. Also, their  2″ Studer A827 tape machine, which we used to record all of the basic tracks, is in great working condition.

Anders: We powered through all the songs. It was insane how little time we had to record everything and how fast we got it done. Ted was so efficient; he got our recordings on to tape and, somehow, retained the rich, vintage-y vibe we were going for. His work in the studio is one of the reasons this album sounds so great.

Sofie: I loved the vibe at The Magic Shop, and the opportunity I got to experiment a little with mics. We also really got comfortable with Ted. Of course, his mixing is great too. We recorded on tape there, which really captured the sound we wanted.

Moving across town, why did “Where Is My Mind?” emerge at Stratosphere?

Their self-titled debut dropped this week.

Kevin: The best thing about recording at Stratosphere Sound is that the live room sounds amazing!  And I can’t neglect to mention that all of the house amps and guitars that James Iha and Adam Schlesinger have there are in top working condition and sound incredible; but, of course, only with the help and knowledge of Geoff.  Geoff is a fantastic engineer with a musician’s ear and brain. He knows how to capture the audio of a great performance and, just as important, he knows how to create a comfortable, productive working environment.

Hunter: At Stratosphere you can get the HUGE guitar sounds that I really, really love. Also, our first time recording to tape was there and that was a very cool experience. I don’t think we could ever go back to recording digitally after that.

Anders: We tracked two other songs that aren’t on the record as well. I really love the atmosphere there. And, by the end of our recording sessions, I personally felt really comfortable and at home in the studio. Geoff was instrumental in getting the recordings we made there to sound as rich as they do. He had a lot of great input on our guitar and bass tones and the methods we used to achieve them. Having him there was almost like having a second producer.

Sofie: For my vocals, I recorded in the room with Geoff. It was a much more direct approach. I could have recorded in a booth, but I liked that I could see him and the band while I was recording. Also, the space is amazing — which I know isn’t exactly sound-related but, still, I’d live there if I could.

OK, most important: Who would win in an Ultimate Fighting match: Stratosphere’s people or the Magic Shop staff?
Kevin: The Magic Shop’s people! They have a lot more heavy vintage gear to throw around. Also, Stratosphere’s people are just so nice and easy-going that they wouldn’t want to fight.

Hunter: Tie! We really love the people that work at both studios. The workflow is really different for each of them, but the end result is always what we want.

Sofie: I’d have to put my money on Stratosphere, mostly because of Atsuo, the assistant engineer. He’s quiet, but something about him makes me think he’s secretly a superhero or a ninja or something. The Magic Shop would have a chance if they could bring all their action figures to life though!

– David Weiss

Studio Tour: North Brooklyn, Part 2

April 14, 2011 by  

NORTH BROOKLYN: Our neighborhood studio tour continues with four more decidedly uncommon studios in North Brooklyn. We talked to the owners of Strange Weather, Headgear, Metrosonic, and the Fort about sessions, toys, and building an active niche in this teeming slice of the city.

South Williamsburg (Coming Soon: Williamsburg/Greenpoint)

Those familiar with the SonicScoop blog-roll may recognize the name of Marc Alan Goodman, who’s been recounting the saga of building Strange Weather’s new, full-service tracking studio on the Greenpoint/East Williamsburg border. In the meantime, it’s a small secret that his current location already hosts one of the most impressive collections of hand-picked ear candy in the city.

Strange Weather is built around a 24-channel API 1608 console

More than anything, this is a studio for artists and engineers with boutique tastes. No summary can do justice to the extensive selection of gear that includes names like Neve, API, Purple, Gates, Federal, ADL, Neumann, Coles, dbx, RCA, and Bricasti. Strange Weather is also home to a startling collection of guitars, drums, and keyboards at the ready for capturing any sound musicians can imagine.

Most surprising of all, according to Goodman, is the price, and the fact that all his vintage treasures are in prime working condition.

“I wanted to build a studio where people can walk in and use world-class gear at an affordable price in a functioning atmosphere,” Goodman says. “There’s nothing worse than booking a day at a studio where nothing works. I feel like that’s the rule rather than the exception in the commercial studios I’ve worked in.”

In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter has recently been in for some sessions at Strange Weather, and this kind of attention to detail has it fast-becoming one of my favorite places to work. Owning a studio has begun to turn Goodman into a capable tech in his own right:  his racks are over-stuffed with impeccably maintained vintage gear, and  handmade re-creations of studio classics like the LA2A, LA3A and 1176.

Built around a new 32-channel API 1608 console brimming with the choicest EQs, Strange Weather turns out to be an ideal room for overdubs, mixing, or any sessions that don’t require a cavernous live room.

When asked about his niche in the studio scene Goodman says: “Ideally everyone would complete their records from start to finish in a studio, but today it seems more common for musicians to combine studios with smaller at-home or portable rigs. We’re focused on making that process as seamless as possible; to give musicians and engineers used to working at home a place they can walk in and use great, often rare equipment in a functioning environment.”

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Rates: Click for Room + Engineer Rates
Room Rate: $600/day; $550/day for blocks of 3 days or more.

If there’s any truth behind the idea that Williamsburg is a great place to make music, a lot of responsibility for that would have to fall on studios like Headgear Recording. Since opening in 1998, Headgear has been the birthplace of seminal records from  TV On The Radio, Massive Attack, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Animal Collective, CocoRosie, Nada Surf, My  Morning Jacket, Son Volt, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Moby and Santigold.

Although the “Room For Rent” model of studio has waned as competent owner-operators create their own personal oases of sound in every corner of the city, Headgear remains one of the most accessible and freelance-engineer-friendly studios in New York.

Headgear boasts one of the largest live rooms in the ‘hood, plus two iso booths.

In addition to house engineers Alex Lipsen, Scott Norton, and Dan Long, Headgear has been home to projects from a who’s who of hip and distinctive producers and engineers, including John Agnello, Peter Katis, Dave Sitek, John Hill, Chris Moore Gordon Raphael, TJ Doherty, and Chris Coady.

Headgear is also no stranger to Film and Television Post. Recent clients include “Grey’s Anatomy,” MTV’s “Skins,” “CSI: Miami” and the Columbia Pictures comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

According to studio manager Jackie Lin Werner, the studio’s appeal is personal as much as it is technical: “ We’re not stiff or pretentious. We’re down to earth and like to be helpful. Beyond the gear and the size of our rooms, I believe people trust Headgear as an established studio with a respectable client list.  Headgear probably appeals most to indie bands and major label bands looking for an affordable, high quality studio in a space that has a creative vibe. “

Headgear’s A-room houses an automated Trident 80C console and offers a choice of Pro Tools HD and 24-track 2-inch tape. A well-equipped B room is also available for mixing and overdubs.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Contact for rates.

Neve Console. Pro Tools HD. Ampex 2”. Engineers who know what they’re doing. What more could you need to know?

Metrosonic’s vitals = Neve 5315, Pro Tools HD, Ampex 2”

According to Metrosonic’s Pete Mignola, it’s the people who make a studio: “The people who built it, the people who run it, the people who use it,” he tells us.

“Everyone who comes to Metrosonic talks about the vibe. Of course they like the great gear, the affordable rates, the windows & city views, but they always say that they love the vibe here. There’s human element to this that makes each studio unique and special in its own way.”

Metrosonic has always had a large, comfortable control room. More recently, the studio’s originally modest live room underwent significant renovations in 2008, and now, Pete and the crew are excited to bring a new 850 square-foot live room into the fold.

Bushwick, Brooklyn

Rates: $40/hr, including Jim Bentley as Engineer.

Over the past decade, North Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood has filled up with enough small private studios to fill an area twice its size. In that time, Jim Bentley’s studio The Fort has stood as one of the neighborhood’s active mainstays.

Mission control at The Fort, equipped with a Neotek Elan console

Persevering in this competitive new territory since 2003, owner/operator Bentley has hosted noteworthy clients including Brit Daniel of Spoon, Doug Gillard and Kevin March of Guided by Voices, James McNew of Yo La Tengo, Jennifer O’Connor, John Agnello and  Jemina Pearl.

This especially affordable studio is equipped for both analog and digital sessions, offering a Neotek Elan console, Tascam 1” 16-track, and a 24-channel MOTU/Apogee system. The studio bills at $30/hr on weekdays from noon to 6pm and at $40/hr 6pm-midnight or weekends, and includes Bentley’s services as engineer.

Bentley is most proud of his live room, a large, vibey space with vaulted, heavy-timber ceilings: “I love to track full bands in the room live for feel and then sauce it up and make it sound supernatural from there,” he says.

Bentley’s down-to-earth approach is made clear in his parting words to us. The Fort, he says, “appeals to the clients who realize making records is more about the man and the performance than the machine or the media buzz behind it.”

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based audio engineer and music producer who’s worked with Hotels, DeLeon, Soundpool, Team Genius and Monocle, as well as clients such as Nintendo, JDub, Blue Note Records, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visit him at

Cymbals Eat Guitars Sign To Barsuk Records, Sophomore Record Out This Fall

March 8, 2011 by  

Staten Island-based indie rock quartet Cymbals Eat Guitars have signed to Barsuk Records.

Latest Barsuk signing: Cymbals Eat Guitars

After self-releasing their awesome debut Why There Are Mountains to critical acclaim in ’09 and touring hard these last couple years, Cymbals Eat Guitars will be heading into the studio later this month to record with producer/engineer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile)

As previously reported, they’ll be recording the album with Agnello at Headgear in Williamsburg. The new album is expected out in the Fall of 2011.

Follow Cymbals Eat Guitars via, and check out a recently released Guided By Voices cover, “Gleemer,” at Sirius XMU. The cover will appear on a forthcoming GBV tribute album coming out later this year.

Dream Gig: Travis Harrison Records Guided By Voices Heroes at Serious Business

January 20, 2011 by  

SoHo, Manhattan: Travis Harrison — record producer, engineer, founder of Serious Business Records & Studio and Guided By Voices super-fan — met late era GBV guitarist Doug Gillard when his band, The Unsacred Hearts, shared a bill with Gillard at Piano’s.

Serious Business: Doug Gillard, Travis Harrison and Robert Pollard during Lifeguards sessions

Harrison gushed about GBV, Gillard dug The Unsacred Hearts, and they stayed in touch. Later on, Harrison inquired about future prospects for Lifeguards, the Gillard and Robert Pollard GBV side-project whose one and only release, Mist King Urth, came out in ’02.

“I was a huge fan of the first Lifeguards album,” says Harrison, “I buy everything that Bob [Pollard] puts out. After I met Doug, Bob had been in touch to tell him if he wanted to produce the music and find a label, he’d be into doing another Lifeguards record. That’s when I swooped in and pitched Doug: I have a studio, a label, the [recording] skill-set and I’m a huge fan. Let’s do this! I expected to get no response.”

Of course, Gillard did respond and the new Lifeguards record, due out February 15 on Serious Business / Ernest Jenning Record Co., was engineered by none other than Harrison. Scroll down to stream “Product Head,” the album’s single released on 7″ in advance of the record. And read on for an interview about the recording and production of Lifeguard’s Waving At The Astronauts by this Guided By Voices super-fan…

Awesome that you got to engineer this record at Serious Business! So tell me about how it all came together.

The way they worked on this project is that Doug wrote the instrumentals and recorded them at home in Garage Band and then sent them to Bob who then created the melodies and lyrics on top of these instrumentals. It’s just one of the many ways that Bob works.

Doug’s GarageBand demos were pretty fully fleshed out — he recorded most of the guitars, and bass and other little sonic treatments. Then he brought it to me and at my studio, I salvaged any less than ideally recorded stuff, but we also tracked drums, bass, re-tracked any guitar that I could get him to re-track and then we recorded Bob’s vocals.

What were your first impressions of the material? Were you so psyched?!

First of all, I was just in awe. As far as Doug’s instrumentals go, the shit’s amazing. He’s a great guitar player, and has an amazing musical mind that always goes somewhere you don’t expect. He’s awesome. But I didn’t actually hear these tracks as songs beyond instrumentals until Bob was actually in the studio, at the microphone. He drove in from Dayton in May to do his vocals. And that was just amazing. The guy is a genius! Obviously I’m a huge fan, but just to see him work and see how completely natural and instinctual it is, I was blown away.

Wow, very cool! And I know you’re a drummer — did you by any chance get to play on the record?

Yes, I played on five songs and Doug played on the rest. He’s a great drummer, he basically plays everything, but it was obviously a crazy honor for me to play drums on this record. There were some parts that were really fast, that either exceeded his technical ability or that he thought I’d have a good groove for – that’s the stuff I got a shot at.

And what was your goal in the studio what aspects were you re-recording or adding, and how did you approach the recording?

Travis Harrison in the zone

It was very important to me to make it sound as un-GarageBand-y as possible. We didn’t want it to sound homemade at all. And Bob’s vision for the record was like “ARENA ROCK.” He’s known for lo-fi, but we were consciously not going for that. Doug was the producer, so he really called all the shots. He called for a lot of really heavy compression on drums.

On one song in particular, “Nobody’s Milk,” Doug had done the original drum track on a drum machine and it was incredible but it wasn’t totally in time and he’d used the GarageBand compressor at 10 to really squash it. It was really clean but insanely compressed and I begged to redo them.

It took a ton of work to match his exact part because it was very intricate, but to achieve the compression, I used the API 2500 bus compressor as the first stage and then after that, the Fatso pretty much demolishing it in parallel. And I really favored the compressed side and went for this ultra squashed sound to simulate his Garage Band demo. That was my goal throughout the whole project, to please Doug and Bob as much as I could. I willingly and gladly checked my ego at the door!

In that process, do you feel like you learned from them? From following their instincts?

Of course, although this way of working — taking a fully fleshed out Garage Band demo and turning that into the record — is incredibly tedious. So it was a matter of enjoying the tedium of that. I spent an insane amount of time on my own editing, beat-by-beat, that ultra compressed drum track because I didn’t want Doug to hear really anything different from his version. I just wanted it to be real drums instead of these samples.

But do you feel you came up with something new and different in the process — something cool you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise?

Yes, but you know Doug was the producer and this is what he wanted to hear. And when he heard it, he (and Bob) loved it.  But the way these guys work…and I should separate them, because Doug is more of a meticulous craftsman. But at the same time, he does kind of bang it out. He’s not going to do 30 takes of something. Where Bob does ONE take.

Tell me about that! What was it like recording Bob’s vocals on this?

I had a [Shure] SM7 set up in the studio. The SM7 is my favorite mic, especially for a singer like Bob. I was really excited. My thinking was to record Bob onto two tracks simultaneously.  One track was just about capturing him with very little compression — an SM7 to a Great River mic pre to a distressor at 2:1 (but barely touching it) — and then on the other track, I hit him with an 1176 at 4:1 with the super-spitty setting (the fastest release and the slowest attack). And that’s the track I ended up using for most of the final mixes.

Also, for every track, I printed either Space Echo or Echoplex live. Bob would step up to the mic and say “Alright man, this one is arena rock!” or “This one’s Elvis!” or “psychedelic” and between the Echoplex and the Space Echo, I was able to get what I wanted. I would print that live so there were certain freak-outs in sections — wild, completely tasteless effects stuff.

Bob basically sang the record in sequence. He stepped up and sang the first song all the way through, he listened to it played back over headphones and then moved on. Couple tunes, he’d punch in a word here and there. He did Side A, then we took a break, had a couple tall, cold ones, and then move onto Side B. It was incredible. I’d always heard he was first-take-jake, and he really was. And he was in wonderful voice too. As good as I’ve ever heard him sound.

Stream “Product Head” off Lifeguards’ upcoming album Waving At The Astronauts, also now available as a single on 7″ vinyl:
LIFEGUARDS – Product Head by seriousbusiness

Awesome. And he was digging what he was hearing?

Yeah, I was giving him Space Echo on his headphones. Monitoring off my Soundcraft Ghost, I was recording the output of the Space Echo back into Pro Tools, and I knew he wanted to hear a lot of it, so I gave it to him and made it long, made it do stuff! I tried to provide him with something he was really feeling.

And that was the vocal chain throughout?

Yeah, this was a bang-it-out situation. He did the whole 10-song record in four hours, and two of the hours we were just screwing around. The thing about Bob is he doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the studio, but he works really hard. He wakes up every morning and writes. He’d worked hard on these tunes and had practiced them a lot at home. He was on point.

And you mixed the record as well? What was the focus there?

Lifeguards' "Waving At The Astronauts" will be released on February 15 via Serious Business / Ernest Jenning Record Co.

Yes, Doug and I mixed the record together. And he’s into hearing stuff pretty bright. He doesn’t want to hear a ton of kick drum. He has a specific way that he hears records, coming from this late 70s, post-punk place, and the end result is awesome.

We worked very quickly. I mix in Pro Tools, but not in the box. I spread it out on the Ghost as much as I can and try to use as much outboard as I can, but I also keep it as recallable as possible. So I would sit at the desk and get the mix up for a few hours and then when it came time to mixdown, Doug sat at the desk and I would hit record, and he would do all kinds of cool shit!

He ended up using the console in very obviously un-Pro Tools-like ways. Like, panning sweeps on Bob’s lead vocal and on the guitar solos. Expressive moves that you wouldn’t do in Pro Tools.

And I really encouraged Doug to do this because there’s a character to all that GBV music that’s the exact opposite of Pro Tools. In the back of my mind through the whole project, I kept in mind the essential character of the GBV recordings that people love so much, and they’re on 4 track or on ADAT made in a garage somewhere.

How would you describe that “un-Pro Tools” quality? Just totally unpolished and lo-fi, or what?

Well the entire GBV and Robert Pollard’s solo oeuvre is about as varied as you can imagine. He’s obviously famous for being the king of lo-fi. You have certain records, like Vampire On Titus, which just sounds like the shittiest possible thing you can imagine. 4-track and whoa…you can barely hear the vocals! It takes like 8 listens to realize how amazing the songs are.

On the other hand, they made records with Ric Ocasek and Rob Schnapf for TVT, and those are glossy and way more hi-fi. The Rob Schnapf record sounds incredible. It’s a huge guitar record, lots of compression but modern sounding. So they run the gamut.

But the quality I’m talking about is… this thing we all get into when we make records with Pro Tools — even when you’re not trying to make polished sounding music, you polish your mixes because you can do anything you want. You have all these shades of subtlety…all these things you can do in Pro Tools, where when you’re working with this big beast of a board and you’re just trying to get something done, you make mistakes and the mistakes becomes the essential character of the music.

Do you feel you had to hold yourself back from the way you usually engineer records at all to capture that?

Yes, somewhat. But in this case, a lot of times there just wasn’t any time to do things that I should have done. Like getting the drum mics perfectly in phase, or creating musically perfect EQ relationships between all the overdubs — all the things we do as mix engineers. We just did it fast. And that speed is an essential part of the GBV aesthetic. Bob does not ponder the music.

Awesome, well congrats! Now, fill us in on Serious Business — it’s a studio and a record label — how long have you been around?

I started the Serious Business studio in Long Island City with my good buddy, Andy Ross, who’s now the guitar player in OK Go. We had a G4 with Pro Tools and the audacity to put an ad on Craigslist advertising as a studio, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

We moved from there to a big loft in Williamsburg and then partnered up in a collective-type fashion — an engineer friend of mine, Halsey Quemere, brought a tape machine (a Sony MCI, acquired from Jimmy Douglass) into the fold, and then I felt we needed a more proper studio space, so we found the SoHo location. Last year, I hooked up with [producer/engineer] Shannon Ferguson (of Longwave, etc.) and with him came this great influx of cool gear.

And the label? You guys are actually putting out the Lifeguards release, yes?

Yes, I started the label awhile back as an outlet for my own bands, and my friends’ bands, and though it tends to take a back seat to other (paying) gigs, it’s continued as a total labor of love. Artists like Benji Cossa, Higgins, Rocketship Park, etc. it is all music I love. The binding theme of the label is Class A songwriting.

For Lifeguards’ Waving At The Astronauts, Serious Business is partnering with Ernest Jenning to put it out. I did the A&R and recording and production and layout of the artwork, and Ernest Jenning is doing the promotion and distribution, etc.

And you’re also doing a podcast for BreakThru Radio — it’s cool! Tell us about that!

In this week's "Serious Business Live on BreakThru Radio," Travis Harrison (at right) welcomes Dawn Landes and band into the studio.

BreakThru Radio produces a ton of original content — including a few in-studio sessions with bands. The main property is a show called “Live Studio,” where the band comes in, plays a set, and talks to the host Maya MacDonald, a college radio-style interview. I started recording the lion’s share of those last year at Serious Business, and after awhile, I convinced them to give me my own show!

My show is the same kind of format, but way less formal — there’s drinking, silly craziness and lots of potty-mouth. My vision for that show is to create an atmosphere of what it’s really like when bands come into the studio to record with me. So far I haven’t gotten fired, which is a miracle!

Tune in every Monday morning for a new installment of Serious Business Music Live on BreakThru Radio Check out Serious Business, the studio, at and the label, at And pick up the Lifeguards single “Product Head on iTunes.