With this year’s Northside Festival fast approaching (June 6-12), we figured it was a good time to check in on the local music scene, to get more in tune with the community we’ll be celebrating come June. We’ll be rolling out lots of great music-related content this week, including our picks for the 9 NYC bands you need to hear, an exhaustive look at Brooklyn’s music venues, and much, much more. Check out the Northside music lineup, and consider picking up a badge or some single-show tickets.
Big recording budgets from mammoth record labels are a thing of the past—and so is midtown Manhattan as the epicenter of music recording. Today, everything is different. Brooklyn has reoriented New York City’s cultural compass in most creative fields, and music making and recording is no exception. In the past 15 years Kings County has organically grown a huge number of high-end studios, run by talented musicians and engineers.
We wanted to know what these recording studios look like, who runs them, and what kind of beautiful layouts and equipment they offer. So we went out to photograph them and meet the people behind the scenes. It is no longer the promise of huge payouts that drives the music being made in these studios, but the obsession of creating, recording, and spreading incredible sound. These owners say that, despite the industry’s fundamental shakeup, in no other time or place has music making been more exciting.

Mission Sound
16 Powers St., Williamsburg

Oliver Straus opened the first iteration of Mission Sound in 1994, in a basement on North 5th street. He had been assisting at the Magic Shop and engineering on his own, but then he thought he knew a lot and could do it better. The entire studio was 19 x25 feet. Straus took out a loan and bought the best gear that he could afford—a Peavey producer series console and a Fostex E16 tape machine. At that time the hardest part was getting people to come to Brooklyn. Straus says, “It was like Siberia to Manhattan musicians.” By 1995, Mission Sound had grown the studio to its limits. They were a 24-track two inch facility, and had purchased a Neve 8026 console. When they went to uncrate and inspect it in Massachusetts, they discovered it was almost two feet too big for their current space, so to 16 Powers they went. Like most good things in life, this unplanned move turned out well.
What was your vision for Mission Sound?
Straus: I’ll address Mission as it is today. I wanted to create a space that felt good to Artists: rich colors, lots of toys, different spaces and natural light. The light thing is super important to feel the passage of day to night. Anyone can buy gear and put it in a rack, but all the gear and technology in the world are useless without the magic that happens when everyone in the room feels good and creative. I designed the studio to become your space, not a guest in ours, although you will probably get at least one visit from my daughter. It was very important to me to create a space that had a comfortable work flow, with a big control room where you could hang out and listen without getting in the way. We made a big lounge where you can get away from the music for a while without feeling totally disconnected from the studio.
How does Mission Sound stand out from the crowd?
Straus: NEVE, NEVE, NEVE. Our console has recorded John Lennon, The Who, the Kinks, and many other iconic bands and artists. We are a one room facility so this is your studio.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
Straus: They’re all great, but some of the more notable ones have been Sparklehorse, All American Rejects, Arctic Monkeys, The National, Neon Trees, Matt and Kim, Say Anything, and Mumford and Sons
What are your day rates?
Straus: Call us
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Straus: There is such incredible diversity among genres and musical styles. We are at a seminal time in music—It’s like there’s a great big mashup in Brooklyn out of which will rise the next big thing. It’s a really exciting time.

The Bunker,
 South Williamsburg

The Bunker initially grew out of a shared loft style apartment that Aaron Nevezie and John Davis lived in with another musician friend. This was around 2002, and not too much was going on in Williamsburg yet, but it was a place you could afford to find a big space and share it with some friends and make noise all the time. They were fortunate to live in a building that had a lot of interesting musicians in it, like members of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Inouk, Ambulance, LTD, and Les Savy Fav. Davis and Nevezie had their own, cheap home-recording gear and a few mics, and started out making demos for friends and neighbors. It kept growing organically over the years, and they folded back what money they made into buying better gear. In the spring of 2006, Nevezie and Davis decided to give The Bunker a go as a proper studio, until, through renovations, they outgrew their space.
What was your vision for The Bunker?
Davis: When we first began at the old space, we wanted to make sure people were comfortable and relaxed. Since it wasn’t a proper, built-out studio, the strengths were in the vibe, not in the acoustics or design. When it became time to build a new facility, we wanted to ensure excellent acoustics and sightliness, which was something we felt was missing in the mid-priced NYC studio landscape. So many of the great studios for tracking acoustic music, film scores, and jazz were closing in the city, and we realized that just having a bunch of cool mics and gear will only get you so far if you don’t have great-sounding rooms. We made the decision to work with a good acoustic designer/architect, Rod Gervais, to ensure that the rooms were great. I think since we built it all ourselves, it still has enough of the DIY vibe, even though it is a pretty large facility. It’s important to us that people can feel they are in a space built by the hands of the owners and engineers with a lot of love, sweat, and hard work.
How does The Bunker stand out from the crowd?
Well, I think the fact that we are musicians ourselves and built the whole place ourselves is a pretty strong part of our vibe here, and one of the things that attracts a lot of people. We are fluent in music and so we can work extremely efficiently. In addition to the normal ProTools world of digital recording, we also do a lot of analog recording and have a really well maintained 2” Studer A80 tape machine with Dolby SR. A lot of studios have tape machines in the corner collecting dust, but I think we are one of the few studios where the tape machine actually gets used on a regular basis. Making analog records is a bit of a dying art, but it’s very beautiful both sonically and in terms of the artistic process.
I think perhaps the most striking feature in terms of amenities is the Studio A live room, because a large wooden room with high ceilings is both acoustically and visually striking. We’ve also built up an amazing microphone collection over the years, and have a bunch of great instruments available in-house. The space is about 3000 square feet, and that includes two studios, a lounge, a reception, and some storage and tech areas. Studio A has 4 rooms in the recording area, whereas Studio B has one small live room for recording. A floor plan available on the website. www.thebunkerstudio.com
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
We’ve been lucky to work with a lot of really talented musicians across many genres, really too many to list. Our website has a long list of our clients, and our personal websites have lots of recent work. www.johndavismusic.info and www.nevezie.com are our respective personal sites.
What are your day rates?
Our day rates aren’t posted, because they may change over time. Contact booking@thebunkerstudio.com for a current rate card.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Brooklyn has been changing at an unprecedented pace, that’s for sure. I’m not sure that in the long run this aggressive development and gentrification will leave much room for art or music, but we seem to be at an ok balance point right now. There are tons of independent musicians making great music, and the neighborhood is booming with nice cafes, restaurants and bars. So while I worry about the medium- to long-term sustainability of the music scene in NYC—as people get priced out of apartments and venues close—at the current moment it still feels like there is a lot going on and people are excited about making good music. We have certainly been fortunate enough to carve out a niche here and have a steady and growing stream of clients.

Studio G,
44 Dobbin St., Williamsburg

After Tony Maimone was on the road for the better part of 20 years, he decided to build a recording studio in Williamsburg, where he had lived since 1986. His friend Tom Sullens called him while he was on tour with They Might Be Giants to tell him about two commercial storefronts at the intersection of Metropolitan and Union. Maimone had been lucky to record in studios all over the world with Pere Ubu, Bob Mould and They Might Be Giants; he was always excited to start a record, and always a little sad to have a recording project come to an end. The studio got busy enough in 1999 to bring on board another engineer and partner, Joel Hamilton. Maimone’s other partner Chris Cubeta joined Studio G in 2014 after Cubeta’s space, Galuminumfoil Studios, in South Williamsburg, was sold.
What was your vision for studio G?
Hamilton: The studio was built from a player’s perspective. We move like a band, rather than a business. The place had to have a soul. The whole design of studio G Brooklyn serves the goal of making great records in a comfortable and creative environment.
How does Studio G stand out from the Crowd?
Cubeta: It’s a 5000-square-foot facility with three fully functioning studios, a huge lounge and tons of easily accessible storage for our extensive collection of gear. We have over 60 different guitars and basses, 40+ different amplifiers, over a dozen vintage and modern keyboards and synths. We also have a huge display case housing hundreds of effects pedals that artists can pick from to create all sorts of sounds.
Hamilton: We offer the kind of things you would expect from a top notch facility… Someone working here recently said “things just WORK faster and more efficiently here, it’s great.” Every detail, from the gear to the lounge to the fact that we will have your lyrics printed out right from your phone and on a music stand before you are even warmed up. We have the gear, but more importantly we have the experience on both sides of the glass to implement gear and actually put it to work in a way that makes top notch recordings and makes the process more efficient and reliable. That keeps bands together. That attitude makes records people pay attention to, not the gear. No wood shop ever made a birdhouse. A carpenter made a birdhouse using the wood shop and the tools therein. Another great factor is that if someone comes to make a record with me or at studio G in general, we have such a deep selection of amazing musicians to choose from that we wind up with a better product. Working at studios all over the world I have a certain perspective on how things should be, and when I get back to studio G it makes me really happy because everything a studio should be is represented and realized fully. It’s a good feeling.
Maimone: I’ve always wanted a place that was welcoming and comfortable to work in, and I’ve always enjoyed collaboration and recording with other people. Joel told me about this “new thing called pro tools” and in less than 7 years we were a Pro Tools HD room with a Neve and a Studer 827. It’s been a steady climb ever since. Five years ago Joel and I expanded our operation from one room to the 5000-square-foot, three-room facility it is now. I bought an SSL which now completes the old anecdote,”Record on a Neve mix on an SSL” Chris has been a driving force taking Studio G Brooklyn to the next level in terms of totally streamlining and enhancing what Joel and I started. We have installed Chris’s Purple Audio mod’ed Neotek Elan II in our C room.
There are many multi room facilities in Brooklyn but most feel like one big room with another small room crammed into it. One of our favorite aspects of Studio G is that it’s really a three room facility. All rooms are loaded with choice gear, all feature ATC Model 25 studio monitors, and all are completely isolated from the other rooms, though you can connect to other rooms of course to record. Someone mixing in C can record an overdub on the Bosendorfer grand piano in Studio A without disturbing someone mixing in the control room of A.
Finally the aspect of Studio G Brooklyn that is most exciting is the group of engineers working here. A fantastic bunch they are! There are a total of 11 engineers working here and they all add their own distinctive flair and production style to our studio.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
Hamilton: In the last few years in this new studio G location, I have made records with Aaron Neville, Marc Ribot, Lettuce, and many more…. This new space has 4 Grammy nominations (Pretty Lights, Bomba Estereo, Highly Suspect x2) and Gaby Moreno won best new artist Latin Grammy for her record Postales which I tracked and mixed. The Blakroc record was significant for me because I got to make tracks with the Black Keys, and for hip hop guys I really looked up to like Q-tip, RZA, and so many more.
Maimone: Some of my favorite recording projects that  I’ve been involved in here at the studio have been The Book Of Knots, Souley Man, Noura Mint Somali, the Goodnight Darlings, No Grave Like The Sea, Frank Black, Mike Watt, Megan Riley, Jon Langford, Underground System, CC Carana, Shondes, and Flutronix—they are a duo, women from Brooklyn, and I think they are amazing.
What are your rates?
Cubeta: Our rates vary quite a bit depending on which room and which engineer/producer you are working with.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Hamilton: The state of music making and recording in Brooklyn is stronger than ever. There are so many studios and a high percentage of them are quite good, and a high percentage of the engineers working in Brooklyn are quite good. A band or musician has many choices in the marketplace and traditionally that only serves to strengthen the marketplace. It’s a good thing for all of us. It’s really a good place and time to be recording music. I am fortunate and feel it every day.
Maimone: I’m hopeful because there is so much great music happening in Brooklyn.

Seaside Lounge,
255 18th St., South Slope

In August 2004, Charles Burst, Josh Clark and Mitch Rackin had all been running small studios as a way to record their own bands, and bands of friends. Seaside developed organically out of that. Clark had been living in an apartment in the Seaside building upstairs for a couple of years before the studio was built, and they knew there was extra space available downstairs—because they used to skateboard and throw parties and shows in the open floor plan. It was a huge raw space that nobody was using, and they noted how perfect it would be for building out a studio, due to its high ceilings and lack of neighbors. When the chance came up, they jumped on it. They pooled gear and “broke out the credit cards.” All had been living and playing music in Brooklyn since 1998.
The hardest part of getting started was physically building the place; they put up, literally, tons of drywall. Then they took a crash course in running an actual business, accounting, taxes, fire sprinkler code, and on and on. The Seaside team caught the last few years of the CD era, where bands were coming in with decent budgets to record (early on, producer Phil Palazzolo brought some noteworthy projects in, including Radio 4 and New Pornographers). Busy with bookings, their income helped put the finishing touches on the space, in addition to helping them hone their engineering expertise.
What was your vision for Seaside Lounge?
Burst: We wanted the rooms to be as big and tall as possible. We wanted it to be a comfortable but not clinical environment, where everything works on the technical end of things. And we wanted it to be affordable. That’s still the M.O. to this day. People have fun here. A lot of that comes down to things working properly, and everything being geared toward efficiency.
How does Seaside Lounge stand out from the Crowd?
Burst: Our rooms are big, which is a huge amenity in this city! The recording part of the facility is five rooms, which total about 1,400 square feet. The whole place is about 2,000 square feet total. We put a lot of thought into little things to make sure people are comfortable. People keep coming back, so we must be doing something right. My favorite aspect of the studio is just the quality of the people who come in. We get to work on music with awesome people every day, and that’s what it’s all about.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
The National, The New Pornographers, Parquet Courts, Okkervil River, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Neko Case, Psychic Ills, The Impressions, St. Vincent, about 1,000 others.
What are your day rates?
$600/450 for Studio A/B respectively. That’s a 10-hour day, with one of our engineers included. We also do a lot of work with freelance engineers; those rates vary a bit, but they are lower.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Burst: I don’t know if this is just a Brooklyn thing, but it seems like everybody is in a band these days, and there’s a ton of creative energy being put into music. Clearly, the industry has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years, and there’s not nearly as much money to be made all around, but I think that’s been a blessing in a way. People are doing it for the love of doing it. There’s very little attitude or duplicity, because nobody is out to get rich anymore. We can leave that to the real estate people!

Room 17
345 Maujer St., Bushwick

Room 17 started making records in January of 2013. It combined the energies of its three founders and producers Joe Rogers, Adam Lasus, and Scott Porter, all of whom were making music in their own personal studios. As native New Yorkers and artists who had been creating in the city for years, Bushwick felt like their natural home. Rogers, Lasus, and Porter made sure that Room 17 could exist as a resource for musicians and artists who were already hard at work, building the Brooklyn music scene. Bringing those artists together and supporting that vision was Room 17’s primary goal.
What was your vision for Room 17?
Our vision for the space was to create something that existed primarily as a recording studio, but that could also support intimate live performances (which we do during CMJ and for special album releases), function as an art gallery and host installations, act as a satellite studio for special Daytrotter sessions, provide a physical structure for people to feel comfortable being themselves in, and embrace their creative visions freely. We wanted something that felt more like Andy Warhol’s “The Factory” and less like a sterilized version of what some recording studio’s have become. At the end of the day we felt it more important to know that we were helping to empower our favorite artists, and we used that as the core for developing Room 17.
How does Room 17 stand out from the crowd?
Room 17 is a studio/community that holds its most powerful resource in the artists who create within it. To help empower them we provide lots of special amenities—some of which includes our very special Trident 80 console, a vast array of vintage outboard gear, mics, and instruments. We have a special, hand-picked selection of items, some which include our personal instruments that frequently make it onto records and have helped us develop our special sound.
One of the most important aspects beyond the gear though is the actual space in which the studio exists. Room 17 was built in a hundred year old brick warehouse with 13 foot ceilings. The entire space itself is almost 3,000 square feet and our live room is one of the largest and best sounding in all of New York. We pride ourselves in being able to host loud ripping rock bands that want to record live and feel the walls resonate, while also hosting elite classical ensembles who play together and have a very specific experience filling a space, using the ambient elements of Room 17 to create beautiful and lush recordings. It’s a dynamic resource and ultimately becomes one of the most important elements of Room 17.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
We’re honestly excited about all of the records we do here and have had a ton of great musicians and artists come through Room 17 in our three year journey thus far, but a small list of notables would contain Karen O, Kurt Vile, Perfect Pussy, Rubblebucket, Sondre Lerche, Laura Stevenson, Dilly Dally, Hinds, Sunflower Bean, Spirit Family Reunion, Alexander F, Mark Mulcahy, Chris Harford, The Shivers, Melaena Cadiz. There are so many more. We’ve really had a blast.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
While monetizing music has become so confusing over the last decade, we try to embrace the positive aspects of it. One is that there is so much more room for artists to feel free and expressive. While being an artist is extremely difficult, it has proved that there are people out there who truly believe in what they are doing, and obviously we find inspiration in partnership with those artists. The Brooklyn scene seems to be incredibly healthy and has the passions of so many great people behind it; our hope is that with resources like Room 17, we have the potential for a real renaissance in the Brooklyn and greater New York City art/music scene. I think the people involved have never been stronger, more impassioned, or more ready to work together to create something unique and powerful. That is what keeps our doors open and excites us the most about the future.

Thump,
295 Eckford St., Greenpoint

Thump has never had an opening date, nor a completion date, according to Richard Levengood. He has been recording music since he remembers, and every iteration of any space he has been in, has been his studio. Levengood moved to Brooklyn after a failed stint of upstate living in Albany, New York. He quickly realized that making noise at the levels he was used to outside of the city was no longer acceptable. In the summer of 2008, Thump moved from Park Slope to Greenpoint, a time when the neighborhood still had massive loft spaces available where kids could play grownup and slam drums at 3am, according to Levengood, with minimal worry from like-minded neighbors upstairs or below. It was there that Levengood built the first test tube version of THUMP.
What was your vision for Thump?
I hope that THUMP feels like home to the people that come here. We’re a word of mouth studio, and at this point I can’t even count how many people have keys to my front door. They’re all welcome at any time to drop in and borrow a mic, piece of outboard, or to say hey.
How does Thump stand out from the crowd?
Everything works at THUMP. I can’t stand gear that doesn’t work to spec. Our control room doesn’t forcibly make the engineer stare at the band while recording. There is a sight line but only when both parties want it to be used. A large percentage of the equipment in the studio is homegrown out of our workshop, Brooklyn Tube, with our tech Carl and myself. The studio is around 1300 square feet total. We have a double height live room with a twenty foot ceiling, three isolation areas and a comfortable control room—we also have a backyard, and this backyard has trees. I mean trees that have grown up to be a forest. Our neighbors attack the trees every spring because they hate the leaves in their yards. We’re working that out.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
I honestly know more engineers than I do bands. I’ve tried to make THUMP a safe place for engineers to come and not worry about studio day rates, or who recorded what buzzy band. Lots of awesome art has been made here. I hope that continues.
What are your day rates?
We have always had limited overhead because the studio has operated out of my place of residence, and I maintain and build a lot of the equipment myself. My primary concern is that the engineer makes enough money when they are working out of my studio. If the engineer can make a living, the studio will continue to exist. A small bit of social investing will keep a place like THUMP pretty busy throughout the year. So, to answer the rate question, it’s mostly between the band and the engineer.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
I would have the studio exactly as it is now even if we never booked another day. I’m glad we’ve become the spot for a lot of people, but I get just as excited by free days on the calendar for my own recording enjoyment. Brooklyn has changed during the decade I’ve lived here. I’m sure that pace of change will continue and I feel an obligation to keep our doors open to the musicians that want to call Brooklyn home. Too many venues and studios have been shut down the last few years. That being said it seems that the same amount have opened up… only further east.

Virtue & Vice,
54 Franklin Ave., Bed-Stuy

Anthony Gallo struck out on his own in 2008, hoping to work with more independent bands and be his own boss. The financial hurdle to get started was massive, he says, and the search for real estate in New York City was difficult. Credit cards financed his first place, as he adjusted to paying two New York City rents. For Gallo, finding clients and work was easier, since his rates were low and many of his clients lived in Brooklyn already. At his first location in Greenpoint he worked alone. Gradually, Gallo took on more clients and equipment, including a Neve desk, and saw he needed more square feet. After looking at well over 70 places, Gallo found Virtue and Vice’s current location. He and Tom Gardner (Rift Studios) built it out to fit both of their studios, including a production room they can rent out monthly.
What was your vision for Virtue and Vice?
My goal was to be able to record loud rock bands at any time of the day without bothering neighbors and neighbors not bothering us. We needed tall ceilings, natural light, and a long lease to make it worth our time and money. Most of all, I wanted a place I actually wanted to work in 10 hours a day 300+ days a year. The vibe I’ve always wanted to have here is that you don’t feel like you’re in the city recording, but out in the woods relaxing. Recording shouldn’t be stressful, and when your decision making/creativity starts being affected by money or rates, the final product suffers.
How does Virtue and Vice stand out from the crowd?
The Neve and tape machine always draw people here for sure, as well as the keyboard collection (Yamaha Piano, Hammond Organ, Rhodes, Wurli, Mellotron, Optigan, 4 Octave Celeste and more.). The Yamaha C3 Grand Piano is amazing, and I’d like to think it’s the best piano for the price for recording in New York. The live room and the sounds you end up getting are probably the reason people keep coming. It’s really hard to get bad sounds in here. I’m also constantly adding to the gear collection and searching for unique instruments. Private parking with a loading dock adds to the ease of the day-to-day. When it’s really nice out we grill outside for lunch. When an outside producer/engineer is using the room, I’ll be out in the yard restoring a ’77 VW bus I’ve been working on. It’s made it into a few music videos sitting out there.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
The list is pretty long at this point. There were days where I’d be working on one of John Legend’s projects and the studio manager would call, then hours later I’d be in the other room with Bon Jovi. That was just the normal day to day and it led to lots of Grammy nominations and some successful records. Those projects and the opportunity to work with major artists were special to me, and the stories are endless. The KEXP Live Sessions I did were career changing for me. They came at a time when I was completely burned out at 27 doing major label projects, 100 hours a week. I didn’t know if I could or wanted to continue making a living that way. These bands were awesome and people loved and appreciated the music greatly. That was the fork in the road and then I decided to make the plunge to the working out of my own place.
What are your day rates?
Rates vary depending on the projects, but I’m a firm believer that the band of four working at bars/restaurants should not have to pay the same as a major label. I try to keep it as affordable as I possibly can.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
It’s not as bleak as everyone makes it out to be. It is extremely difficult, yes, but that is New York as a whole, and that’s why I love it here. Recording in New York is very closely tied to the real estate market, and we’ve been seeing the effects of it in Manhattan and Wlliamsburg for a while now. We actually shot an entire web series (Brooklyn Sound) here with that same premise—it’s about a landlord who wants the recording studio gone and a studio that doesn’t have the money to stay. It’s something happening all around us lately. There is just so much great music going on in Brooklyn and the city as a whole. I’m more invested emotionally in recording than I was when I started. Owning a studio is definitely hard, but as a fellow studio owner said, I respect anyone who is able to keep one going for any peiord of time. The good definitely outweighs the bad.

Brewery Studio,
910 Grand Street, East Williamsburg

Andrew Krivonos started the Brewery Recording Studio in 2008 right after he graduated from college. He took out a loan and opened in an old microbrewery in Bushwick. A year later, Brewery Studio moved to its current location on Grand Street in Williamsburg. After interning and assisting at larger studios in Manhattan, Krivonos saw that the old, large-format commercial studio model was a dying concept, he says. Their high overhead made it impossible for average musicians to afford their services. Krivonos saw the potential in Brooklyn because of its lower operating costs and ever-growing market of independent artists and labels. The early years were challenging; competition was still stiff with legendary New York studios that had been around for decades. But slowly, Brewery emerged as one of the city’s top studios by carving a space in this Brooklyn market.
What was your vision for Brewery Recording Studio?
We try to really understand why a musician wants to be in a recording studio, as opposed to just working on music at home. The studio has to provide an outlet for an artist’s creative energy. We wanted our studio to feel open and inviting. The vibe you’ll catch will remind you of a rustic brewery or parlor. Our staff of engineers and producers tries to do everything DIY—from constructing rooms, to making acoustic treatment, to building reception desks. You’ll notice our efforts not just in the music, but every inch of the way.
How does Brewery stand out form the crowd?
The Brewery is comprised of a control room, a vocal booth and live room, as well as a lounge/bar and reception area. Aside from having large, open rooms with tall ceilings that create a spacious feel, our facility also has two skylights and a little roof deck where you can escape to. Clients can listen to instrumentals at our “Beats for Sale” iPod in our reception area, or grab a seat and watch tv sitting behind our bar. Our clients can book sessions easily online, or submit files for mixing and mastering through our website. We have off-peak discounts and specials, as well as project packages for clients with tighter budgets. Our mission was to make the process easy and streamlined.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
At the Brewery Studio, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Skrillex, Kid Cudi, Raekwon, Jhene Aiko, Boys Noize, Talib Kweli, ILoveMakonnen, Joey Badass, and many others.
What are your day rates?
10 hour block with engineer $750; 10 hour block with assistant $600.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Every year we’ve been fortunate enough to have more and more clients trust us with their music. Last year we served over 500 different clients, and yet every day I meet another musician in New York whom I haven’t met. New York City will always remain a hub for creatives with 8 million people. But as rising rent in Manhattan drives more creative industries further out, Brooklyn will continue to be the next logical home for music in New York City. I’m very optimistic that we’ll keep breeding more talent in this borough of Kings!

Strange Weather,
390 Graham Ave., Williamsburg

Marc Alan Goodman first opened a studio named Strange Weather in 2004 in Philadelphia, he says, but the studio didn’t become what he considered a real public space until 2007 when he moved to Williamsburg and partnered up with Daniel Schlett; Schlett had a couple studios around New Jersey before then as well. Goodman says it was a hard process, however: finding clients whose music they wanted to work on, building the space, putting aside enough money to purchase all the gear and pay expenses, finding new clients when they grew too much and priced themselves out of range of previous clients. Plus, engineering records, generally speaking, is really difficult says Goodman. No matter how great of a job you do, the record is only as good as the musicians and their performance; however, if the engineer messes up even a little, things can be made a lot worse. It’s a lot of pressure, says Goodman, so they strive to be at the top of their game all of the time.
On the other hand, the easiest part of owning a recording studio in Brooklyn is going to work in the morning. They love what they do. When a record is turning out great, it’s no issue for Goodman and Schlett to show up and do their best work.
What was your vision for Strange Weather?
Goodman: Both Daniel and I had worked at other studios for years as musicians and engineers before we got serious about building our own place. We’d seen plenty of pitfalls swallow studios, but the one that was the most obvious to both of us was that a lot of engineers start to think that they’re the ones who are really, really important, and that the best way to make a record is to tell the musician what they should be doing. We go out of our way to accommodate musicians because we believe that it’s the best way to get great performances, which is how you really make great records. When people come in the door we want to make sure that they’re going to have the time and resources they need to set up and get comfortable, whatever that means to them. Then we listen to what they’re doing, and make decisions about how to best represent it on the other side of the glass. Too many other studios have a prescribed set of rules determining how things are done at their space, and while I think that there’s a place for that too, it’s not our vibe.
How does Strange Weather stand out from the crowd?
Primarily people come work with us because of who we and the other engineers that work here are. So much of making records is about who you’re working with and how you interact with them, and I think that most musicians who choose to work with a specific engineer trust that person to find a place that will facilitate their making the record they want.
That being said, I think we’re pretty well known for our collection of vintage microphones, instruments, and outboard gear as well as our desk (a custom 48 channel API 1608) and the phenomenal rooms designed by Wes Lachot. The whole space is about 1800 square feet, set up primarily as one large live room and control room with two mid-sized isolation booths, plus the soundlock, lounge and bathroom are wired up as additional isos. We decided when we built this room out that it was more important to have one great space that we really want to work in, rather than shoehorn a couple smaller ones in and maximize our potential profit. It makes it harder for us to pay our bills, but it’s easy to get great sounds and make records turn out the way we want.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
Daniel recently wrapped up records with TEEN and DIIV, and is in the process of finishing up a new Amen Dunes record, as well as a project with Arto Lindsay. Recently, I wrapped up the new Kayo Dot record, and got to mix quite a bit of last year’s Arts + Leisure by Walter Martin, which I think is a phenomenal record. Over the last couple years we’ve had opportunities to work with other great engineers as well. Chris Shaw mixing tracks on the most recent Modest Mouse record as well as a classic Bob Dylan live rerelease were both pretty exciting.
What are your day rates?
If you’re curious please feel free to contact us through our website (because rates are always changing); we’d love to talk to you about whatever project you’re working on.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
That there are more people making records, and more people with interest in making music, and the process of recording it, than ever before. And while the rising rents in parts of Brooklyn closest to Manhattan have driven artists and musicians further in to the borough, Brooklyn is a big place, and there will always be people here making new, interesting art and music. It’s an exciting place to be, and we’re hoping to settle in for a long time.

Rare Book Room,
Greenpoint

Nicolas Vernhes started Rare Book Room 1995, but at first it was as a rehearsal space. He was in a band and tired of paying rent for a tiny rehearsal space on Avenue B with no bathroom and very loud clanging steam pipes in the winter, Vernhes explains. After looking in Manhattan—where the few options were in the Meatpacking, still awash in carcasses, blood and rats, as he describes it—a friend told him to look at Williamsburg. He took the first place he saw: a three story residential building with a garage/warehouse on the ground floor on South 6th Street. There was a lot of decent used analog equipment available at the time, so the main thing, once Vernhes decided to record other people, was to soundproof the space, because it was underneath the Williamsburg bridge. Vernhes moved to Greenpoint in 2000; he took with him everything he learned from the original space and refined it, with about twice as much space.
What was your vision for Rare Book Room
Originally the idea was to set up a very informal recording studio within a rehearsal space so my band could record snippets of what we liked and then stitch them together down the line. People heard I had a space and asked about recording there. It grew organically from that. One thing I wanted was to be able to take my time making records and to not treat it like a standard commercial studio, which in my experience had been cold and uninviting. Another thing I wanted to include was patience and openness on my part. I’d recorded in studios before and it was really hard to convince the engineer to spend time sussing out what was in my head. I took that as a challenge on myself when I decided to run my own space.
How does Rare Book Room stand out from the crowd?
The live room is very comfortable; it’s more like a large living room stuffed with all sorts of good instruments. The studio is about 2000 square feet in total with a 1000-square-foot live room, a good size control room, an iso booth behind it with sight lines to the live room, and a large storage space.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
I’ve had the chance to work with great people; after 20 years the list can be long and unruly, but I’d like to mention the following bands, some of whom readers will know, and others which they might not but are every bit as interesting; The War On Drugs, Dirty Projectors (by themselves and with David Byrne and Bjork), Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Silver Jews, Daughter, School of Seven Bells, Speedy Ortiz, Oneida, Endless Boogie, Black Dice, Spoon, Wye Oak, Wild Nothing, Lia Ices, Cass McCombs, The Fiery Furnaces, Cat Power, Fischerpooner, Versus, Guv’ner, David Grubbs, Ted Leo, Blood on the Wall, and very recently, Strand of Oaks. Here is the complete list: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/nicolas-vernhes-mn0000343762
What are your day rates?
I don’t have a set rate; that way the studio isn’t like a commercial facility. If I want to work with a band, I’ll find a way to make it work with them or with the label. The bigger records offer me the chance to work with bands who are starting out but show a lot of imagination and potential for making great records.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Don’t get me started on how crazy the rents have become and what it means for a creative life! Brooklyn is a very big place so I won’t generalize, but Williamsburg (where I started) and Greenpoint (where I am now) are so different in every respect since I moved here 20 years ago. I came out looking for a cheap, large space, and it was easy to find. The real issue was whether or not I wanted to be anywhere outside Manhattan. Every other storefront on Bedford Avenue was shuttered and the L train sparsely populated.
Obviously the rents have gone up dramatically and it’s not easy to hone your hustle if you’re working all the time just to pay that rent, which is part of why so many people I know have moved out to LA. Developers can’t build million dollar condos by the boatload and expect that the very people who made the neighborhood attractive (by slowly re-building it) would be able to afford the hike and stay. Culture is of little consequence to those people even though that is what’s presumably being peddled, but New York is always in flux and a certain kind of creativity thrives on challenge. People who have wild ideas and who want to contribute to the overall creative din will find ways and places to do their work; perhaps it takes that kind of wonder and delusion to be able to make it here.

The Creamery,
390 McGuinnes Blvd., Greenpoint

The Creamery opened its doors in 2008 after founders Quinn McCarthy and Jon Hildenstein (now mastering at JLM) completed its design and construction. The big music industry studio model was coming to an end and they had already been making cool music in their shoebox bedrooms. They figured if they could get enough space to fit a live band and make unlimited noise, they could build a studio themselves. They pooled resources towards building materials and lived in the thick of construction for the first several years as it bloomed. McCarthy says people always used to walk in and ask, “How did you learn how to build a studio?!” The only answer he had was that not having a place to play, let alone sleep, will teach you quickly. They moved out of the space and expanded the business. It has undergone several renovations to become the studio it is today. Jeff Fettig and Jacob Plasse joined the operation in 2014 and brought their skills and musical community into the fold.
What was your vision for The Creamery?
The vision was to have a place where we could collaborate with the musicians we loved. We wanted a space with tons of instruments and the equipment that could capture the magic of an inspired perforce. There wasn’t this expectation of creating a hi-end rental-facility. It was more personal. We wanted a room that sounded good and felt like the place you might play your best music. Some people turn their weakness into their strength: we couldn’t afford to have anyone build it, and in doing it ourselves, it took on a very real vibe.  Musicians understand transformation and can feel that when they walk in the door.
How does The Creamery Standout from the Crowd?
People love the light and the view. You really feel the city, and Brooklyn’s old-industry vibe. It was a creamery before it was The Creamery. Our space is real, just like the growing careers of the artists that we cherish. It’s big and beautiful and imperfect and perfect. You can feel the day pass, and the sun set. You’re not removed from the changing of the season. We don’t make music in a hole in the ground. We love tape and old instruments. We get down with software and drum machines too.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
Live Footage, Alpenglow, Los Hacheros, Emily Wells, Peli Roja, Maku Sound System, Wilsen, Tim Pourbaix,  Trixie Whitley…. many more. We also had David Duchovny hang out for a bit, that was a fun day. Josh Ritter is coming in this month.
What are your rates?
Rates vary. We’re not interested in being the cheapest studio but we’re not expensive.  We care more about working with good bands and tailoring a budget and production concept that makes sense for the artist.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
Music is alive and well here in Brooklyn. People who are making music aren’t doing it as a means to a paycheck or fame; they’re doing it because it’s their truth. We believe in the community and symbiotic nature that surrounds our recording studio. Everyone knows you can make cool music in your bedroom. Our artists come here for our expertise in facilitating creation. Yes, it helps having the tools and the space, but most bands need conditions to realize their process. Also, we’re excited to be releasing The Creamery Mixtape Volume 1 in May. It features ten of our favorite bands recorded in just over 3 days. The tight knit nature of the project allowed bands to run in to each other between reels of tape, and created a beautiful sense of unity against an otherwise diverse pallet.

Figure 8,
Prospect Heights

Shahzad Ismaily opened Figure 8 this spring because he was excited about having a place where he could be more experimental with the process of recording. Recording budgets today don’t allow for much creative improvisation, he thought; much of it feels premeditated, and lacks the wildness he’s felt in the past. With Figure 8, he wanted a studio that would engage musicians in a bigger part of the recording process with different arrangements and more unusual experiences in the studio. Ismaily started looking for a building to buy in 2012. Getting all the permits and doing the build out took a long time; it wasn’t until 2015 that Ismaily first opened the studio doors, though at first just to friends, and friends of friends.
While he was in search of the space, Ismaily tells me he sensed strongly that China would be an ascendant world power—a country where the number 8 is extremely fortuitous, even more so the number 88. When he happened upon the address 188 in Prospect Heights, superstitiously, he knew it was his future studio. And it was. Ismaily owns the building but, he says, it is a collaborative effort ultimately between the engineer and studio manager Michael Coleman, engineer Phil Weinrobe, engineer and wiring guru Eli Crews, carpenter and engineee Sam Owens, Stephen Spacarelli and Jacob Fiss-Hobart, both of whom were instrumental in the studio’s build out. Finally, after we talked, Ismaily called back to say he forgot the most important part: Figure 8 is dedicated to his mother and father, Malika and Wazir Ismaily. “We’re all super close,” he says.
What was your vision for Figure 8?
A lot of studios charge anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 to $2,000 per day. When we finished building the studio, I had the good fortune of owning the building, and didn’t feel intense rent pressure. So I intentionally decided that the rates we selected would allow us to break even in ten years, as opposed to turning profits in two to three to four years. That way we encourage friends, and people experimenting on their first records, and young people to come in. It’s the kind of space that is really welcoming to a lot of younger and newer artists that might not have intense budgets for expensive space for their first record. I have really enjoyed their company and it’s been a really positive experience.
How does Figure 8 Standout from the Crowd?
We specifically aimed it toward really warm, analog equipment. In terms of that we have a 1970s Neve recoding console, but we also have Pro Tools and Logic. Guitar amps are built into the table in the lounge where you can plug in your guitar and work on parts or figure things out while the band is recording something else. But then, our backyard has a ping pong and lunch table, where you can chill out, outside, in-between takes. People have said it feels like being in a cabin upstate, more than the city, which is a good head space for making and recording music. There is a lot of day light in the mixing room, and also a full shower and kitchen and bed area so that clients from out of town or the country can have a little bed. If you’re staying here over night, and at 2am you are working on a song, you can go to the piano and write so that when you start the next morning, you can roll into the space and start recording the thing you worked on in the middle of the night. It’s a really loving kind of space.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you’ve recorded?
All the people who have come through here have been really amazing. But to give shout-outs that might allow more people to come over, we’ve recorded Pussy Riot, Richard Hell, Laurie Anderson, Kathleen Hanna, Damien Rice, and countless more amazing people; Money Mark from Beastie Boys produced a record here.
What are your day rates?
We decided to have a set day rate, no matter how famous or not famous or rich or poor anybody was. That way, nobody could say, “Dude, I just recorded at Shahzad’s studio and paid this much,” and everyone else would be like, “What, I paid twice as much!’” So we decided no matter who called or came in, it would be $400 for the upstairs studio and $300 dollars for the downstairs studio, and the engineer is additional on top of that. If you need to stay in the studio over night, we’ll talk and work out a small fee.
What makes you hopeful (or not) about music-making and recording in Brooklyn right now?
I would say there is little to be hopeful for business-wise; there is not much reason for that. Things are really ending in that regard, and more so every year. So I’m not hopeful in terms of business or money or financial stuff—but I’m tremendously hopeful that Brooklyn continues to be the place with the most creative wonderful spirits, who are present and come through our space constantly. I’m constantly floored by what people do on their instruments, and with their voices, and in their lives these days. I’m so happy to be a part of that.

Photos by Jane Bruce and Chris Trigaux.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Vibromonk Studio, 274 Morgan Ave Ste B
    Brooklyn, New York 11211
    vibromonk.com
    A gem of a recording studio since 1998.
    A little more homework, Natalie…

  2. In all respect to these rooms, Systems Two (117 Ditmas Ave., 718-851-1010) is probably the oldest and busiest full-service studio in Brooklyn, with the best Steinway of any NYC recording studio.

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