The DIY culture was born of an economic and artistic imperative for artists to do it themselves. Two Saugerties recording studios, Leviathan Recording Studios and New Creek Recording, conceived in this spirit, have begun offering their services to local musicians. Thanks to increasingly affordable recording technology, these studios are able to provide excellent quality recordings for a fraction of the price of large studio setups.
Leviathan Recording Studios
Leviathan Recording Studios is named for Michael Bernier’s solo album released in 2011. Leviathan was produced at Bernier and Kandy Harris’s village home, using both of their diverse talents. Bernier, who local music fans may recognize from his previous group Stick Men, primarily plays drums and Chapman Stick, but Harris says of her partner, “he’s a great studio musician” who “can play pretty much any instrument you want.” Harris is a singer and a piano player with a music degree from University of Michigan. Together, the two can provide vocals and instrumentals for whatever the client needs.
In early March, Bernier and Harris decided to promote their at-home recording services on Facebook. Within a week, the couple already had two clients (one from Catskill and one from Poughkeepsie) and plenty of social media traffic.
Though Bernier is active in the local music scene, the couple says they don’t expect many new clients will come from Saugerties. Bernier thinks that because many local musicians are his friends, they might feel uncomfortable hiring the recording duo. Instead, they hope their use of social media will cast a broader net over the Hudson Valley.
Bernier says the home studio offers an efficient and affordable alternative to a larger studio. Bernier says he works quickly, and Harris says artists “won’t have to spend their whole paycheck,” to afford their services.
All small businesses involve wearing many hats. In this case, in addition to serving as engineer and as-needed session musician, Bernier also can serve as producer, offering guidance to artists who need help developing an idea further.
Of their setup, Bernier says “anybody could buy this equipment, but not everybody knows how to use it.” Harris and Bernier see Leviathan as a perfect fit for a solo artist, but admit they would not be able to accommodate an orchestra.
Neighbors have been amenable to the studio, say Harris and Bernier; in fact, the neighborhood includes a number of supportive fellow musicians.
New Creek Recording
New Creek Recording on Partition Street, named for the band The New Creek People, was born in the summer of 2012. It’s co-owned by bandmates Ian Flanigan and Dave Andersen.
Andersen, who is the engineer and producer, studied contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He says the genesis of the studio was a result of the band’s dissatisfaction with some individual performances on a recording. Instead of going back to the same studio to iron out the kinks, the group decided to do it themselves, and re-record at their rehearsal space.
Since opening to the public, the studio has produced two full albums, with four others currently in production. Andersen says that the studio has a small client base, and “isn’t terribly busy.” But, “If we’re not busy with clients, we’re busy with our own material.”
When asked if the studio might thrive better in another location, like the college town of New Paltz, Andersen emphatically said no. He says of the Saugerties music scene, “I can feel a sort of energy. It’s like there’s something ready to burst.” This cultural flourishing, he observes, seems to have really developed in the last three years. He says, “Dave’s Coffee House starting having music, and then Mirabella’s put in a stage, and now Main Street is doing music over there.”
For local artists, the affordable price point is a huge draw. “Most people can’t afford to go to a multi-million-dollar facility, “ says Andersen, “but maybe they can afford our twenty-dollar-an-hour rates.”
Being a start-up, customers can feel good that their money spent at NCR is constantly being re-invested into the business. Andersen says, “A lot of our clients dig the fact that they can grow with us. Every time they come back, [they] hear something’s slightly improved.”
One challenge, Andersen admits, is having clients invest faith in his start-up, which might not look as polished as its large-scale counterpart. Andersen says that although having more expensive equipment would be great, he doesn’t find the sound quality to be lacking at all. Clients may be taken aback by the look of the studio, which is essentially one large room, with a door that opens up to the noisy street. Fortunately, says Andersen, no recordings have been impeded by outside noise.
Owners of both studios were careful to emphasize that they don’t aim to compete with larger area studios directly. Both studios just hope to grow within a niche market of small, local musicians – be they friends, neighbors, or savvy social media users from outside of town.