GREENPOINT: The recording and performance venue known as The End has made some changes of late – re-tooling their rooms and refining their concept. In business just over a year, and that much older and wiser, The End’s owners now have a more integrated plan for the space.
First up, Studio A now features a Malcolm Toft-designed MTA-980 analog desk, which once belonged to TV On The Radio. As the console that recorded the band’s first two albums, it might stand as a symbol of indie integrity, of a band’s DIY work ethic paying off. And in that sense, the console speaks volumes about what The End’s owners want for their clients.
“A board like this really fits our philosophy,” says Brian Binsack, who co-owns The End with Brian Crowe and Neal Sherlock. “And that is to have one really comfortable control room with a total Brooklyn band-style board, and to push further into being a home for Brooklyn bands. A home with a top-of-the-line recording studio in it.”
Given the layout and build-out of the space, The End really does feel more like a studio inside someone’s cool loft apartment than the multi-room production complex it is on paper. One side of the floor features Studio A’s control room and tracking room, Studio B control room and a second common tracking space. Sight- and tie-lines make it possible for bands to use all of those rooms to track live with isolation between musicians.
The other side of the floor is a living room, full kitchen and 100-capacity live or rehearsal venue with the backline and technical capacity – including lighting and live recording – to assemble and rehearse a tour.
On the day of our visit, Dirty Projectors was rehearsing with the classic ensemble yMusic for Letterman. “We have their stage plot, and we’ll set them up to rehearse as they’ll actually be on stage,” says Crowe. “We’ll help them with their sound, and do a stage mix for them.”
In fact, Dirty Projectors has been working out of The End a lot lately. “They were basically here for two months,” says Binsack. “They came here to rehearse and then finish writing before their tour.
“Liam Finn, too – he wrote and recorded his album here, while simultaneously rehearsing for his next tour.”
The End is a unique setup, built for indie bands to hole up and write (in Studio B, perhaps) then record (in Studio A) and rehearse and even play showcases in the live venue. And the facility is priced such that an artist could feasibly take over the entire place. (Really. Call for rates!)
“You have a kitchen and catering,” Binsack points out. “You can have your label here to preview the record, you can have meals and meetings.”
Sherlock adds, “When Liam Finn was here recording, his dad Neil [Finn, of Crowded House] came down and used the space to rehearse and they’d have family dinners. We BBQ’d pork shoulder roasts every night! Then Neal ended up jumping into the studio for a couple days to record overdubs and music for his song for The Hobbit.”
Meanwhile, indie bands such as Monogold and Elliot and the Ghost have recently made records here too. “They came in with an outside engineer,” Binsack says of Elliot & The Ghost. “He told us what the budget was…we made it work. They got their whole record done, had the whole studio – total privacy. When you shut that door, the whole roof is yours.”
Having the venue and amazing roof deck, The End is also home to Balcony TV, and has hosted more than one Sofar Sounds show. They’ve also just produced the first “Sessions at The End” in-studio performance video with Bird Courage, and put on their biggest event yet under “The End Presents” – filling a nearby warehouse space with over 400 people to see Bird Courage, Monogold, Kelli Rudick and (TVOTR’s) Kyp Malone.
If all goes as planned, the studio will be the loss leader to a whole enterprise of The End’s content and events.
“We never wanted it to begin or end at recording,” says Binsack. “[The shows and recordings and video] are all things we can do to help in the production and promotion of these artists and also draw people to the website and to the studio. And they’ll see we’re not just a studio, and we’re not just a production company. Every band that comes here ends up working with us on a bunch of different things.”
STUDIO A – THE NEW CONSOLE
The End’s Studio A has been reconfigured from what it was – both to make room for the new console and Studer tape machine, and to create a homier vibe.
“We built a library in here instead of diffusion panels,” Binsack notes, pointing to the floor-to-ceiling shelves of coffee table-sized books on either side of the couch. “We want artists to be in their comfort zone. We really built this studio from the artist’s perspective. And the artists have been responding.
“Now we’re making tweaks to cover the engineer’s perspective as well.”
Of the new console – which was totally recapped and brought back up to spec with help from studio tech Carl Farrugia – Tabron explains: “We sought out a console that not a lot of other studios (or any!) in NYC had that was flexible and reliable enough to stand up to the rigors of being the heart of a busy tracking/mixing room.
“At the end of the day, any console is really the nerve center of a studio’s philosophy. The MTA gives us the most flexibility in a wide array of scenarios, whether it’s a traditional full-band tracking day, or overdubbing a new vocal without losing your mix.”
It looks like a tank well up to the task, but how does it sound?
“Compared to the Tridents I’ve worked on (mostly 80C), I’d say that the 80C had a vibe almost gushy low-end, and the MTA is a bit more tight and forward sounding,” says Tabron.
“It’s got more of an SSL characteristic on the low end. The top-end is nice, I’ve noticed with guitars and vocals I appreciate a lot of the ‘vibe’ it has going on in the top end, but without a lack of detail. The stereo bus tends to like to be hit a little harder than I expected – there’s definitely a sweet spot on the stereo bus where things tend to open up a bit more.”
With the new-and-improved Studio A, a new Baldwin grand piano, and reclaimed Studio B (Rough Magic had been a long-term tenant), The End is an affordable option for full album production – and more – in Brooklyn.
The owners are not drowning in overhead in this location; they seem to be in it for the music, for the excitement of working with great new artists. At this point, their mission is simple: “We are in the beginning stages of our business,” says Binsack. “We want cool records to be made here.”
For more on The End, visit www.theendnyc.com.
8th Annual Afropunk Festival Adds Headliner TV on the Radio – Big Lineup Playing 8/25-26 in Brooklyn
In what promises to be one of the standout NYC music festivals this busy summer, the Afropunk Festivalis returning to Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park for the 8th Annual Afropunk Festival on August 25-26.
TV on the Radio has just been announced as the headliner for The 2012 festival, which brings together a high-powered musical lineup including Erykah Badu featuring the Cannibanoids, TV on the Radio, Gym Class Heroes, Alice Smith, Janelle Monae, Das Racist, Skindred, Toro Y Moi, Sinkane, Reggie Watts, Spank Rock, Ninjasonik, Toshi Reagon, Straight Line Stitch, The Memorials, Bad Rabbits, Gordon Voidwell, Cerebral Ballzy, Phony Ppl, Body Language, Sinkane, Flatbush Zombies, Radkey, Joe Jordan Experiment (JJX), Purple Ferdinand, and DJs The Supasonics, Grits and Biscuits, DJ Pete Smoke Les, Roofeo and VENUS X GHE20GOTH1K.
Afropunk fest will also feature over a dozen of NYC’s top food trucks for the Bites & Beats Food Truck Festival, which will bring in cuisine from around the world and the five boroughs. Trucks on site will include: Rickshaw Dumpling, Mexicue, Eddie’s Pizza, Green Pirate Juice, Korilla BBQ, Kelvin Natural Sushi Co., Valducci’s Pizza, Bian Dang Taiwanese, Fishing Shrimp, Frites N Meats, Snap, Gorilla Cheese Truck, Morris Grilled Cheese, Jamaican Dutchy, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Wooly’s Ice, Taim Falafel, Desi Food Truck, Cupcake Crew, and more.
Bring your wallet!
Also, the Afropunk Spinthrift Market will feature over 80 local artists and artisans offering fashion, crafts and art with a fresh alternative perspective. Vendors at this dynamic DIY market will include Junkprints, Biddies & Blokes Secondhand Garb, Funkydada, Martine’s Dream, Nakimuli, Made By Toti, The Meat Market, Wonder Lee, Noir A-Go Go, Kings Rule Together, BKLYN BOIHOOD, Dallas & Dynasty, Kelly Horrigan Handmade, Shawng Original, Candid Art, Robin’s All Natural, Melody’s Addiction, and many mas.
Fire up your chopper!
Gentleman’s Shop and Denim and Chrome will present a custom motorcycle show at the festival that will include bikes by Chaos Cycle, Indian Larry Legacy, M & D Performance, Industry Customs, Steve Iacona, and many others. In addition, Nike Battle For the Streets Skate Competition will feature the nation’s best amateur skaters in a competition to be judged by top professionals and hosted by Alex Corporan and Billy Rohan.
According to Afropunk, the festival was founded in 2002 based on giving a voice to thousands of multicultural kids considered outsiders in their communities. Today, the notion of Afropunk has evolved and comprises a particular force within greater youth culture: Afropunkers are creative, expressive people who speak through music, art, film, sports, fashion, photography and more.
Occupying The End’s Studio B, Rough Magic now has access to the brand-new facility’s multiple tracking spaces, including its 100-capacity live venue.
Rough Magic manager Joe “Moose” Demby – who previously managed Chung King Studios – says the move allows Rough Magic to expand and at the same time separate the long-term and hourly rehearsal spaces from the commercial recording studio, which caters to clients such as Talib Kweli and Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio.
“I really wanted to separate the rehearsal rooms and recording spaces – it doesn’t always go so well to have them right next to each other,” says Demby. “So we’ve turned the original studio space into another long-term rehearsal space (for Kid Savant) and we’ll continue to maintain a number of other long-term and short-term rehearsal rooms and writing studios over in the original location.
Meanwhile, The End’s B room is a step up for Rough Magic’s studio clients. “It’s a really good fit for us,” says Demby. “It’s a gorgeous space…and definitely a bit more polished, so I can bring some of my clients from Chung King that I wasn’t able to bring to the other space.”
To get setup at The End, Demby hired Billy Cameron to wire the second live room (which doubles as an art gallery) and live music venue for additional tracking into Studio B, which already had a window and ties into the facility’s main Studio A tracking room. They also cut a window into the interior wall so the control room now has a line of sight into both of the main tracking rooms.
“It’ll be great to have that venue space wired up so we can reamp in there, or get super big drum sounds, or offer stage rehearsals with recording capabilities,” adds Demby. “There are a lot of bands that need more than what our other hourly rehearsal rooms can hold. Like the Balkan Beat Box are doing a show later this week, and needed a full stage to rehearse their live set, and it made more sense to put them over here in the End’s venue where there’s a full stage, a real PA and one of the owners, Brian Crowe, is a live sound engineer.”
In the meantime, Rough Magic has relocated its mic collection, select instruments and amps, and studio gear – including ORAM Octasonic, Vintech and BAEs, Neve 33609 and Universal Audio 610s – into the new studio, which is equipped with Pro Tools HD and C24 controller.
The move is a win-win for both The End and Rough Magic who are essentially joining forces in the process – pooling gear, instruments, space, expertise and, ultimately, clients.
Gillian Rivers is everything a classical violinist could want to be: She’s young, she’s beautiful, and she makes a reasonable living playing and arranging music for critically acclaimed contemporary composers. The only catch is that most of these composers turned out to be the songwriters in rock bands like MGMT, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio. But Rivers says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I studied in classical conservatories with very strict teachers,” Rivers told me over drinks in the dapper lobby of the Bowery Hotel.
“It’s a very regimented world. It’s about making sure you can adhere to what the composer intended. But stepping into the rock world, I found I could do anything I wanted within the framework of a few chords. It was just incredible.”
To her, the transition was a natural one. Rivers says that artists in the rock culture want to hear a lot less vibrato than classical conductors, but otherwise the physical skills translate easily. It’s the attitude that’s hard for some classically-trained musicians to master.
“One of the biggest issues classical musicians face when they’re working with rock bands is personality. A lot of times rock artists feel intimidated by classical musicians. And if they don’t feel comfortable, you’re probably not getting called back.”
Bridging The Gap
When I met Rivers, she wore the kind of oversized plastic-rim glasses you’d expect to see on a record store clerk – not a concertmaster. She talked about crate-digging for stylishly unhip LPs, early tours with clinically unstable rock musicians, and dance parties at dive bars where she met future collaborators. These were inherently different from the droll stories of tooth-and-nail competition and over-the-top intellectual posturing I’ve come to expect from classical musicians when they’re on a roll.
There are some musicians who can straddle both worlds, and there have been times when Rivers has invited players to a session only to find they fit about as well as meatloaf on a rice cake. Some of her peers find themselves a bit too “square” for the gig, she says. “Most classical musicians expect to come in and see sheet music and expect to be told what to play. They also expect to be done at a set time and – well, you know how it is in a session. You can’t start looking at your watch at 5 o’clock.”
“But I always liked that,” says Rivers. “I liked not knowing what I was going to do when I walked in; and to keep on building and adding layers until the whole track starts to sound orchestral.”
The New Anatomy Of A String Section
Luckily, Gillian Rivers has found a small group of players who can work in both worlds. She calls them City Strings.
“Sonically, it just sounds so much better when you have three or more different players together. If you can afford to hire a trio or a quartet it’s always a good decision. Each musician has a different way of attacking the note and a different vibrato so it sounds much bigger and more natural. It’s also much faster than having me play through the song again and again doing multiple parts.”
But with smaller budgets, Rivers does just that. Although she’ll always bring in a cellist when one is needed, she can play violin and viola, and often does. As for arrangements, they’re frequently written on the spot, sometimes taking inspiration from a sketch sung or hummed by a band member.
Sometimes however, the budget allows for more planning. “With Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ It’s Blitz I started by going into the studio and doing exactly what I most often do,” says Rivers, “which is searching for ideas by improvising over the track and getting ready to layer new parts. But in their case, I convinced them to let me take it home and write out more harmonies. It started out as improv, and ended up being something that I could spend some time with. It can be scary because you never know what’s going to happen when you’re going into it, but the outcome is always satisfying.”
More recently she’s taken that kind of collaboration to another level. When Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist Nick Zinner wrote “41 Strings,” a Steve Reich-inspired piece for orchestra, 3 drummers, 2 basses and 8 guitars, he called Rivers to help orchestrate the piece. She’s been helping him perform it live too, and she finds the audience response refreshing.
“[In a classical concert] it’s more about you and the composer and you have this need to somehow deliver something people have heard several times before, and to do it better than anyone one has ever done.
“With rock audiences, people are just incredibly excited to hear the element of strings at all. It’s almost like playing for virgin ears.”
For more on Gillian Rivers and to get in touch, visit www.gillianrivers.com.
TVOTR’s David Andrew Sitek produced the sessions, with engineer Zeph Sowers tracking. Headgear’s Scott F. Norton also engineered a couple of days of tracking sessions with the band. Stream the awesome new track, “Will Do” below…
More recently, Headgear — the studio and friends/family of the studio — has had a hand in multiple tracks featured on MTV’s Skins.
Another featured track, Unsolved Mysteries‘ “You Only Live Once,” was also tracked at Headgear and engineered by former Headgear intern, Colin Alexander. Alexander is the electronics maestro in Unsolved Mysteries and he releases his own original music under the name Tiny Specks of Many Things.
Next, the Many Colors song “Peaks and Valleys” also soundtracked a recent episode of Skins — Many Colors is Jackie Lin Werner, otherwise known as Headgear’s studio manager. “Peaks and Valleys” was mixed by engineer Nick Smeraski, another Headgear alum.
Keepaway‘s song “Evil Lady” was also featured on Skins, and was tracked with Headgear’s Kyle Boyd for their Baby Style EP.
Meanwhile, producer/engineer John Agnello has been working out of Headgear a bunch, most recently with Joy By Proxy, Andy Shernoff and Sons of Bill. Coming up, Cymbals Eat Guitars will be tracking and mixing their new album at Headgear with Agnello producing and engineering.
And back to TV On The Radio, listen to the advance single “Will Do” off Nine Types of Light here:
Check out Headgear’s new website for more information on the studio and recent projects, and to get in touch.