Veterans of the Dallas music scene at Consolvo Studio in Oak Cliff tell us how their business has evolved over the past year.
We all had many reasons to stay indoors and away from people over the past 12 months.
But, just as we’ve heard about how the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down business in area restaurants and bars in 2020 and beyond, how have companies like recording studios weathered the storm. all the horror of the pandemic?
We chatted with Jeff Ryan and Jerome Brock about Oak Cliff based Consolvo studio discover.
These two don’t just have a studio experience with their own space. They are music aces with decades of experience among Dallas’ most powerful musicians. Brock has been playing in his band Cryptolog since 2014 and Ryan is one of the most prolific drummers on the scene, having performed with St. Vincent, Sarah Jaffe and even War on Drugs over the years beyond his current efforts in Motorcade. and Myopic.
Wanting to know more about what the studios have been doing to keep customers safe amid the pandemic – and what comes next as more people get their shots – we figured they’d be the guys to who to ask.
Let’s start with a bit of history on Consolvo.
Ryan: Funny thing is, I have a long history with this studio – which goes back to the 90s when it was called Hai Tex Studio and was run by a guy named Andy Chiles from Ooga Booga. In fact, I think I recorded one of my very first sessions here! Lots of bands from Dallas and Denton were recording here. For the past 11 years I’ve used it to rehearse with everyone from Pleasant Grove to Sarah Jaffe and St. Vincent. We also followed the latest Baptist Generals record here in 2012. Stuart Sikes, who led these sessions, would also use spatial mixing if the other studio down the street, Elmwood Studio, was busy with John Congleton. or Alex Bhore doing stuff. Jason Reimer then took it over when Stuart moved to Austin, and he did a lot of commercial and soundtrack work here until Jerome took it on completely a few years ago. Stuart still comes in every now and then to use it too.
Brock: I had been in the space sharing it with Jason Reimer and using it primarily as a rehearsal space with a few recording sessions per year for about five years. I picked it up about two years ago and made substantial updates to make it work more like a full-time studio. We probably started following more seriously with outside artists around September 2019.
What steps has the pandemic forced you to take at the studio in terms of regular studio cleaning?
Brock: We had lots of Clorox wipes, lots of paper towels, and lots of floor cleaner and hand sanitizer. We also purchased HEPA filters for the direct room and one for the control room. Between sessions, we wipe down headphones, mics, stands and other portable equipment with disinfectant wipes. We try to give artists the reassurance that they have what they need to stay safe in any way possible.
Do you ask customers to wear a mask when entering? What about social distancing?
Ryan: We ask them, as a courtesy, to keep a mask – and everyone has agreed with that. But it is especially in the control room, when we listen to the takes, that it is absolutely necessary. We try to maintain a safe distance during the sessions. While Jackson Scribner sessions last spring when the lockdown had just happened we pretty much all stayed in our own spaces where we had to work. Jackson pretty much stayed in the iso booth doing vocals and guitar takes, I stayed in the concert hall and followed the drums, and Jerome stayed in the control room. It was a little weird at first, but we knew we were working together for a bigger cause, and we were willing to follow protocol to get the job done.
Brock: Originally, we limited the size of sessions to three people or less, and we established rules on how many people can share the control room at a time. We demanded masks for everyone, but we had a few exceptions; for example, a person working in the concert hall or vocal booth might unmask themselves while working alone. We definitely worked with more social distance: we followed the guitars first for a project, then the drummer for this session, then the bass last. It actually led to new creative directions that we didn’t originally expect. It reminded me more of the older style sessions of the 90s and early 2000s, where you record to tape and the media is expensive and not very forgiving, so you work harder to make things sound good during the game. follow-up – but with the limiting factor this time around being time and personal interaction. Over the past couple of months more and more people coming in are partially or fully vaccinated – myself included – so we’ve started to offer a bit more flexibility when artists have been vaccinated or are at low risk. But we always apply the masks in the control room or in tight spaces.
What did you notice that the other studios were doing during our pandemic? More restrictions? Less restrictions?
Ryan: Over the past year, I have done a number of sessions at Chemical Street Studios in the Design District for Paul Slavens, as well as Levi Bryant Scribner. The protocols were quite similar to ours, which involved wearing a mask all the time and trying our best to maintain social distancing, as well as keeping the number of musicians and staff in the studio to its strict minimum. minimum. I also took part in filming sessions both at YAM Studio in Lake Highlands, and also last week at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton which felt like a studio environment because it was just the crew and the staff. all masked and doing their best to keep a distance. Everyone is doing their best to be safe, but obviously we’re all pretty exhausted from protocol. We understand the importance of this, but we can’t wait to get back to some kind of normalcy.
Did the pandemic mean you were more or less busy at the studio? Have people delayed the end of some records because of the gravity of things in 2020? Or did people have time to book sessions?
Ryan: I think the only really positive thing that came out of this weird year was that people felt the urge to create. Fortunately, Jérôme and I have the space and the means to make these inspirations a reality. Over the past year or so, the studio has seen Jackson Scribner, Doug Burr, Friend, Juno Uno, Crushed Stars, Bayleigh Cheek, Cryptolog, and Motorcade all following here with Jerome at the helm and at the helm, and generally myself at the helm. battery or at least give production advice on something. We feel really lucky to have this space and to support everything that we have put in place. We look forward to following more in the future. We’re about to record the drums for a new single from Pleasant Grove as well as Baptist Generals.
Brock: Overall, the studio was busier in terms of the total number of sessions, but with fewer people attending the individual sessions. Originally in March 2020, as the extent of the pandemic became clear, we were very cautious about anyone’s presence. But we decided it was safe to do this if we put some common sense rules in place and could get all the artists on board ahead of time – just so no one was surprised. Most of what I’ve been through is that people seem to create more and need an outlet to get it all out. It’s a strange time!