Ben Seretan

by Amanda Beland

Ben Seretan was walking by himself at night in Brooklyn and a man bumped into him and dropped a bottle of wine. Seretan apologized for the incident, but the man demanded he pay for the accident.

“He was like ‘Oh you gotta pay for this bottle of wine, it cost me $300,'” said Seretan. “I was kind of surprised. I mean, I talked my way out of it. I didn’t realize until weeks later that it was a scam.”

Seretan, originally of Orange County, was a recent transplant to New York then, having moved across the country to play and write music in the city. Almost five years later, Seretan is regularly playing shows and slowly building a name for himself.

Seretan began singing and playing cello in church choir. Cello was his focus until his instrument broke on the way to a music summer camp.

“I was driving to a music camp and it was so hot in the car that the glue came apart on the instrument,” said Seretan. “So I didn’t have an instrument for a few months, so my brother was like ‘Well you can play my electric guitar if you want when I’m not in the house’ and I just fell in love with it.”

Seretan’s new found obsession inspired him to apply and try out for a performing arts high school in Orange County. However, with no prior experience in playing the guitar, let alone playing jazz guitar – a perquisite skill for the program – Seretan had to think – and learn – quickly.

This cramming led to another musical discovery that would further influence his future in music.

“I took a few lessons with this kind of really skeezy church musician who was a rep for Pandora,” said Seretan. “He basically sold me – really aggressively – this little digital four track that I used for years and years. It was totally unnecessary because we had a computer at home – I could have like figured it out – but he was like ‘You gotta have this thing man’ and he sold it to me and I had so much fun just figuring out how to use it. My parents split up a little bit after that and the house that my mom moved into had this weird converted attic and I would take that four track up there and I would have different instruments I had gathered over the years, like some of them were my brothers, I still had a cello, I had various percussion instruments and I would just spend hours and hours and hours in the dark attic just putting shit onto this four track.”

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Seretan played guitar in a band in high school, (his drummer from this band is still his current drummer in the Ben Seretan Group), and continued to experiment with recording and writing music.

“I recorded an EP for my girlfriend when I was a sophomore and that shit is painful,” said Seretan. “I didn’t know how to sing – I was just doing my best to sound like Blink 182 probably – and I just wasn’t hitting the mark at all. And it fact, any singing that’s recorded of mine before 2011 I can’t really stand to listen to.”

Seretan attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. where he majored in experimental music and american studies. The experimental music program focuses on ethnomusicology and its application and study in world music. This included everything from music notation to historical aspects and contexts of various genres throughout the world.

Along with his studies, Seretan dabbled in a unique musical project that further helped him find his voice – literally.

“I played in this band in college who was really really loud – like Fugazi inspired – and it was two guitarists and two singers and we’d do a lot of overlapping type stuff,” said Seretan. “Just from having to perform in shitty venues with bad sound and trying to be heard over the drums and really struggling to have my voice be heard in general, it (my voice) just got more and more powerful to the point to where I was like ‘Wow this is an expressive instrument too and it’s like at least half of the equation.’ In playing with that band, my parts and the other singers parts would literally overlap and it wasn’t harmony necessarily. It was like we were singing two different songs at once; it was like sparring with somebody. Instead of learning to sing very sweetly together Simon and Garfunkel style, we were like barking at each other.”

Seretan graduated from college in 2010 and moved to rural Missouri where his mom and step dad were living. He stayed there for two months before he moved to New York City.

“I had a great life there. I would like wake up late and I would like go for a run on this dirt road where all these bugs would land on me and the neighborhood dogs would like follow me as I ran. It was like every morning I would have this Saint Francis of Assis communion with the animals in Missouri. Then I would go for a swim in the lake into the late afternoon and have dinner with my folks, watch TV and work on recordings late at night. It was awesome. But eventually I was like ‘Man, I haven’t see someone my age in like two months, every day is the same here, you know, I’m running out of books to read.’ Then, I got a phone call from my buddy  and he’s like ‘Hey I’m driving across country – wanna move to New York?’ And that’s what kind of decided it for me.”

Seretan was still playing with his college band – they recorded an EP in New York – and all the members lived close enough to the city where they could still practice together once a week and play shows. In 2011, one of the members was a awarded a Fullbright award in Poland. Seretan said the band was supportive and encouraged him to take the opportunity. With his departure the band broke up.

“I was like well I moved here pretty much to be in the band and I had girlfriend then, but I didn’t when the band ended, which was fine,” said Seretan. “I decided to stay and figure it out. I was playing scattered shows, so I decided to give it a go and I’ve pretty much been working and steadily playing ever since.”

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Seretan’s been writing, recording and releasing music as himself and collaborating with others ever since 2011. The results are numerous – three online releases in September, October and December of 2014, including two 15 + minute singles (September/October) and his first full length self-titled record. Seretan said 90 percent of the writing and arranging is him, but his band – the Ben Seretan Group – brings their own inspiration, experience and flair – to that 90 percent to complete the arrangements.

In 2013, the midst of this creative period, Seretan and his long-term girlfriend broke up. After the break-up, a friend encouraged Seretan to apply for a summer music and producing fellowship in Alaska that year. Seretan applied and was accepted for not only the 2013 program as a student, but in the 2014 program as well as a teacher and program coordinator.

As a result, Seretan traveled and lived in Alaska for two summers and focused on learning, writing and recording new music. His focus in his first year in the program – 2013 – was on extended play, including the physical training needed to play music continuously for hours at a time, as well as the musical components needed to write and record long-form drone-esque pieces.

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These summers gave Seretan ample time to write and record music, including some songs that made it on it to his most recent self-titled release.

Seretan’s currently working on his second full-length record. He recorded several songs at Medford’s the Soul Shop earlier this year and plans to continue to record more songs in the coming months at Spaceman Sound in upstate New York. He is also continuing to play live shows and collaborate with other artists on their records.

Seretan said the connection to the audience and the band during a live performance and the feelings that arise from a connection of merit are what drives him to continue doing what he’s doing.

“There’s this tattoo that’s on the front of my album cover – ecstatic joy – there’s a feeling of just unimaginable levity that’s available to me almost exclusively through playing the type of music that I play, ” said Seretan. “I think that’s what it comes down to. And I wanna feel that way forever. I mean, I thought for a long time that it was the act of playing. But you can’t play music that’s made in a vacuum – at least I can’t. It’s about playing that music and that style of music with the people that I play it with for the people that listen and that swirling mass of humanity is just where it’s at.”

Seretan continued.

“It’s somewhat similar to how people describe opiate use in that it’s a blankness. It’s like a freedom from everything. And when it’s really really good, the emotions come later. It’s like everything from your mind goes into the background and maybe its like a corporeal feeling like there’s a very type of specific feeling of resonance I guess – like if everything’s in the sweet spot and the band sounds good and the people are with it and I’m getting it into this type of blank area – my body feels like it’s vibrating with the music in this very beautiful way. It’s like, you know you go about your daily life, you have thoughts that are intrusive and often if the performance is going terribly you’re like ‘Fuck my hair probably looks bad, that note was wrong,’ like all these things are flying around everywhere. But if it’s really good – that’s what I’m doing it for, for when it’s really good – it’s just like there’s nothing happening. It’s really peaceful, even though its the craziest shit- especially with the band… it can be so loud and so hectic and so almost like painful sometimes, but amidst all that chaos there’s like a wonderful, deep, sense of cosmic peace.”

Ben plays live frequently around New York, (one of his favorite and frequented venues is Shea Stadium is Williamsburg). He’s also playing a live and streaming hour long show this Wednesday – details and link here.

Buy Ben’s album here.

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Erin Shaw

by Amanda Beland

Two-year-old Erin Shaw sat in her childhood room and painted faces on the walls.

Her family was moving to a new house – but she wanted to leave her mark for the family moving in.

“I was like – ‘This is my home – no one else can live here and the next person’s gonna see that I drew these faces for them because I live here,'” said Shaw. “So, it starts at a young age … but I literally don’t know any other way. I’ve never not drawn, I’ve never not like made sculpture, but I also never really put a name to it. It took me a long time to really decipher what I did.”

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Now in her early 30’s, Shaw’s passion for painting, drawing, knitting, designing and sculpting has evolved significantly into not only a career – but a life purpose.

“It seemed like it was always a fight in the background, like I had to prove myself,” said Shaw. “Plus being a woman and a being a soft spoken lady is really hard. Except, through artwork, I feel like I possess a large voice. And maybe in the world, I have a small voice. It’s one of those things where I feel like that’s my handicap in a way, but it’s also something that I’ve learned is special.”

Shaw grew up in Mansfield, Mass. She began drawing and painting when she was a child. She continued in the arts all the way through her teenage years. She moved to New York City after high school to pursue fashion. After a year of going to school for design, she dropped out for financial reasons and started working almost immediately in the fashion world. Shaw worked for several well-known names in music and fashion, including Gwen Stefani.

However, while Shaw had thought this was the type of world she had wanted to be a part of, she soon realized she needed to make a change.

“My first day on the job (with Stefani), I put together an outfit for the new Sex in the City movie, and that was fun,” said Shaw. “So the things I did, starting off at like age 22 realizing this world exists and it’s super cool when you’re in the hype. But I realized as time went on that it was just not where I wanted to be.”

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Shaw spent five years working in fashion in New York City before deciding to go back to school. She applied to a couple schools, but decided to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Mass Art) back in Boston. Shaw said the decision to move back home – partially driven by wanting to be with a sick family member – changed her life.

“Actually moving back to Boston was a huge sacrifice,” said Shaw. “I had come back initially because I had a sick family member, so with what was going on, I was visiting pretty much every weekend or every other weekend. So,  I was sitting in a hospital, and I kept thinking ‘You know, what’s going on here? Like where do I need to be?’ It’s pretty much the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. And that is where it (the journey) kind of came full circle for me.”

Shaw studied Fibers at Mass Art, which included disciplines like weaving, paper making and sculpture, among others. Shaw also explored other programs and disciplines, including 3D printing and wood working.

“I just made sure like if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do this,” said Shaw. “And because money was an issue, being in school, I could be as crazy as I wanted to, so I kind of looked at every single day as like the last day and that’s really what kept me motivated. I was never a good student growing up. I mean, I was okay, I got good reviews but I could barely get to school, I hated school. But being at Mass Art, and being at this place where I could actually experience school for what I wanted I do – I really flourished. I never missed a day unless I was like dying with some horrible sickness. That’s where I feel like – all the magic happened for me.”

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Within her field of study, Shaw began combining several mediums to create a new and different type of practice called felting. This practice became the basis for a collection of animal head art pieces that were featured in a number of photo spreads and shows. For this collection – and subsequent collections – Shaw would draw her design in pen (no pencil!) before literally bringing her design to life in a 3D form. Shaw used felt, among other materials, to create the designs.

(Pictures of the collection – among Shaw’s other designs – can be found on her website.)

“I like making illustrations and then turning them into real things,” said Shaw. “I picked up felting which is something that you do with raw wool and a few needles. The needles are very sharp – they have little hooks on them, so if you snag your finger, you’re in trouble. But it’s something I kind of picked up and fell in love with and then from there, it was really just like a magical thing.”

Shaw graduated from Mass Art in 2012. Since then, she’s been splitting her time between curating her own drawing, painting, sculpting and knitting and her “day job” in co-running the Harvard Square specialty shop Follow the Honey. Follow the Honey focuses on locally made and produced products, services and lessons focused on bees and their honey. Along with her managerial role, Shaw is also a featured artist at the store. Recently, this has materialized in the design and creation of hand-sewn flower crowns dipped in bees wax.

For Shaw, the experience and opportunity to work with bees wax as a medium is an honor.

“If we can do some math, it takes them (the bees) the pollination of over two million flowers to make one pound of honey,” said Shaw. “It takes them – at the hive – to consume eight pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax. And therefore, like, when we’re talking about beeswax, when I’m talking about beeswax, or I’m dipping flowers in beeswax, I’m just like completely honored – it’s really unbelievable because of how much work they do.”

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Shaw is also in the middle of an apprenticeship with Danger!Awesome where she’s learning how to use lasers to cut drawings in wood. It’s a specific technique, according to Shaw, that’s been taught to less than 50 people in the world.

“It just came out of me wanting to learn and keep busy,” said Shaw. “As an artist, I find myself never wanting to keep my hands still.”

Shaw said she finds much of her inspiration for her art from powerful women – including Mother Nature.

‘My inspiration comes from Mother Earth and beauty,” said Shaw. “That’s kind of an underlying thread in everything I do whether it’s illustration or sculpture or even just writing. It’s almost always kind of this feeling for me of like past life – just empowering women and wanting to highlight them and adorn them and raise them up in the most magical way. As far as bees go, when I was at Mass Art, before I was interested in honey, one of my professors was talking about how in Egyptian times, they used to wear cones of wax on their heads and they would gather as if they were at the gallery opening and they would admire art or whatever it was and women would sit and let the cone of wax drip down their faces and they have charcoal on their eyes and I just find that one of the most beautiful, inspiring, pieces of history.”

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You can find Erin Shaw’s artwork on her Facebook and website.

Leapling

(All photos are courtesy of Leapling.)

by Amanda Beland

Leapling, of Brooklyn, is Dan Arnes on vocals and guitar, Yoni David on drums, R.J Gordon on bass and Joe Postiglione on guitar.

The fellas just released their first full length LP (Vacant Page) this year and have been touring for the last couple of weeks – including a couple day stop at SXSW – with Baked and Lost Boy ?. Their sound is dreamy, yet immediate – it’s hard not to feel like you’re in the same room as the band with each track off Page. However, they certainly didn’t start off with their current sound.

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Leapling draws its name from Arnes who is a leap year baby.

Arnes said he seriously started listening to music – The Beatles, David Bowe etc – in 8th grade and began playing guitar shortly after.

“I didn’t have people in my high school that were playing in bands that much, so I would write music on my own and then record it bedroom style,” said Arnes. “I did that through high school just with like keyboards and my first PC. From there, it was kindof this slow build into what it is now.”

For a brief period, Arnes was in a band with current drummer Yoni David. After the project disbanded, Arnes continued working on his own music, drawing from his previous style – one focused almost entirely within a computer with no actual band. His first EP as Leapling – Losing Face – is based entirely in that style. While Arnes enjoyed “working in the box” for a period, he said the endless possibilities of digital recording became exhausting in a way.

“I was becoming very frustrated with doing every aspect of recording in the box just because there’s so many options to make changes and overwrite and second guess yourself, you know?” Said Arnes. “I would literally write a song and add stuff and there would be no real semblence of when the song would be done and yet, when it’s done, or you think it’s done, you can tinker with it. I did a lot of things, some on Face some afterwards – just more stuff than I needed.”

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Arnes was still in contact with David, who was then playing in a band with bassist R.J Gordon. In late 2012, Arnes and David started talking about putting the band back together. A mutual friend, Joe Postiglione completed the group on guitar.

(Arnes, David and Gordon also managed Big Snow Buffalo Lodge for a time, a DIY space in Bushwick. Big Snow closed in 2013 after David was shot in the arm outside the space that same year.)

With a full band assembled, Leapling’s writing and recording process continued to evolve and grow.

“Losing Face was kindof a stepping stone between that stuff I had been doing and now – all those tracks I used to do in the box – all the drums on Losing Face are fake drums, they’re sampled and I would play in,” said Arnes. ” I would kindof do everything in little installments and kindof write as I was going – very bedroomy style. Now, from this record, Vacant Page, I did the same process – I basically wrote the song and recorded a demo, brought the demo to the band and then we’d learn it and then we’d workshop it. What ended up happening is that because we were playing so much together, we kindof developed a kindof thing and style as a band … we did the record all live. It’s been a strange process for me to go from completely bedroomy, no live instrumentation to completely live and very a musiciany kindof recording. It has been infinitely better.”

The band recorded Vacant Page live at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge over the course of three or four days.

“I specifically wanted to do it very quickly because we knew the songs, we had been playing the songs, and we knew how to record it and how we wanted it to sound so I had a very specific idea going into recording,” said Arnes. “We knew the tone of the record so it was kindof fun to do it quick and pull it off and everyone was on the same page.”

Although Arnes said he’s proud of the entire record – “releasing your first full-length is a really big accomplishment” – he said he does have some favorite tracks … one of them happens to be my favorite as well.

“I really like Retrograde a lot,” said Arnes. “All the songs on the record we had recorded except for that song and the first song, Negative Space. So I had them in original demo form for awhile. It was suggested that I put strings on it. We had listened to it and decided we should do strings on it. Carlos (Hernandez) took it to a completely different place and it’s very cool – it’s cool to have something around that’s familiar … it’s the same recording that’s been around for awhile, but to get it back and just to have this amazing string arrangement added to it – he killed it – and it’s a cool feeling that I get when I listen to it because it’s familiar but completely unfamiliar so I can enjoy it in a way that I don’t enjoy the other tracks.”

Vacant Page was mixed over three or four days – also in 2014 – and was released on Exploding In Sound Records and Inflated Records at the beginning of February of this year, just in time for the band to head out on their first major U.S. tour. However, in the midst of the release and tour, Arnes has started working on his next record.

“Basically we gotta figure out when we’re gonna do the record – and how we’re gonna do it, but I have a bunch of demos written out,” said Arnes. “Basically that’s how it goes, when I get a song idea, I work it out I basically just record it in parts. I have to record it instantly or put it down in some way, otherwise I lose the idea. What happened was we finished the record and there was little while before it came out so I had time to work. When it came out, I already had like 25 demos of songs that were going to be on the next one.”

Arnes said playing music and being successful at it can be difficult, but it’s continued prevalence and importance in his life motivates him to continue to produce and write.

“I’m kindof writing more consistently than I ever have and it’s nice,” said Arnes. “Music is tough a lot of the time. It’s just a tough racket. I think what motivates me is the fact that I still do it. I find myself realizing how tough it is. Also, in high school, for a long time, I wanted to major in film making and then music kind of just appeared into my life and kindof wasn’t going away. I just sort of realized I was spending more and more time with – in high school, I would just do it in my spare time and kindof enter a flow state with it and just do it for hours and it just became very apparent that maybe I should just do that as much as possible.”

To check out Leapling live, visit their Facebook page. To purchase Vacant Page or Losing Face – which you should without question – visit their bandcamp.

Starlab Studios

by Amanda Beland

(Cover photo courtesy of Richard Thomas Hawke)

It’s the middle of winter and friends Matt Price and Marc Valois are building walls in hats, coats and mittens at 453 Somerville Ave. Aside from the tools and wood, the two men can also actively see their breath.

“There was no heat, it was insane,” said Price. “The toilet didn’t work for a long time too because the pipes froze, so that was pretty crazy.”

Price and Valois are two members of a five person executive board for Starlab Studios, a music, video, photo and entertainment-based recording studio in Somerville, Massachusetts. Price and Valois, along with James Lindsay, Lisa Vidal and Richard Hawke, not only manage the multi-faceted space, but have also built it from the ground up since the studio moved into its current location on Somerville Avenue in 2013.

With most of the construction finished on the space, the staff is prepping to officially open its doors for business at the end of this summer to truly show the city and the public its chops.

But don’t let the finish line fool you – it’s been a long race for the Lab.

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(Photo courtesy of the Starlab Instagram account.)

The original Starlab Studios was located at 32 Prospect St. – right outside of Union Square. It was originally rented and used for practice space with the original owner beginning construction on a recording studio in the basement of the single floor space. Valois and Price were in a band together called Movers and Shakers. They practiced at the original Lab. In the middle of construction in 2009, the original owner left the space so Valois, Price and the rest of the band took over and continued with renovations.

When the band began inspecting what had already been completed with the basement recording space, they realized they had a major problem on their hands.

“There were water issues,” said Price. “When we took it over, we started to look at okay how are we going to finish building this. That’s when we realized there was this huge mold problem. We decided we were gonna pull everything out and build it from scratch.”

To raise money for the renovations, the group held a music festival in the parking lot of the studio called Starlab Fest. The event charged an entrance fee and offered entrants access to food, booze and music in the sunshine.

(For more information on Starlab Fest, visit the Facebook page from last year’s event – which was the Fest’s fifth incarnation. More on continuing the tradition later.)

The first annual Fest raised enough capital to fund the reconstruction of the recording space, which Price, Valois and the rest of the band used to record the last Movers and Shakers record. However – the former Lab was more of chill and practice spot rather than a functioning business.

“It was mostly just like our friends that already practiced there or friends who just wanted to record a few songs or whatever, ” said Price. “We weren’t really open to bringing outside bands that were going to pay to record there.”

This was pretty much the status quo for the crew until the city of Somerville bought the property where the Lab was located to make room for a newly scheduled Green Line station in Union Square. With their backs against the wall, the guys started to look for a new place.

Shortly before the purchase, Price and Valois had been in contact with Richard Hawke and James Lindsay, who knew each other from college. Hawke and Lindsay had a studio space near Market Basket where they ran a photography and film business from. Price and Lindsay went to high school together and had been in communication about merging the two ventures together and possibly sharing a space.

Hawke and Lindsay temporarily moved in the old Lab and the newly combined crew began looking for a new, permanent space.

When a municipality forces a business, home owner etc off their property using eminent domain – as was the case with Starlab – they are required to help relocate the business, home etc. into a space that is equivalent to their previous space. If that exact space isn’t available, funds are provided to make the new space like the former space. Given this, the Lab was given funds by the city to help convert another space to be like the former recording space they had on Prospect Street.

Finding a space, however, became the real challenge.

“I can’t remember how long we were looking, but it was a long time – I wanna say six months,” said Price.

“It was getting to be quite a worry,” said Hawke.

The guys cast a wide search net, but focused a lot of their hunting in Somerville, Cambridge, Medford and Boston. They heard of the Somerville Avenue location in the fall of 2013 from a friend – who eventually hooked them up with the landlord – and just before Halloween of that year, they secured the new space.

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(Photo courtesy of Richard Thomas Hawke.)

“A lot of places we were looking at were way more than we could afford,” said Price. “It was tough because it’s such a specific thing that we were trying to do – we had to build the space out. So it had to be a really particular space.”

Price and Hawke said they find it extremely lucky that the new space was not only still in Somerville, but in the same neighborhood as the previous Lab.

“Union Square was such a big part of our identity at the old place – doing a fest here and kind of being right in the middle of it,” said Price. “It would have definitely been a shame if we couldn’t stay. I mean, that was a big selling point for this place for sure.”

When the boys got the building, it was just one big empty space with two empty offices at the front. With money from the city, the group began basic framing with help from an out-of-state carpenter friend. What quickly ensured was months and months of an entirely self-motivated, self-taught construction experience.

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(Photo courtesy of the Starlab Instagram account.)

“We did everything ourselves, but it’s all professionally done,” said Hawke. “It’s DIY, but it’s not like cardboard walls. I know for me, learning about the soundproofing and how to frame was a really informative experience.”

Construction lasted for about eight months from the tail end of 2013 and throughout 2014. This included framing, soundproofing, insulating and wiring the control and live rooms.

“We’re done for now,” said Price. “Aside from aesthetically, the only thing that’s really left to do is treating all of the walls in this room and the other room, the live room, with acoustic paneling, That’s actually one thing that we’re not going to be able to do now just because we’re not in the financial position to do it until either end of the summer or the beginning of the fall after we’ve Starlab Fest. The acoustic paneling will be a few weeks or a month of building and then that’s when we’ll really open our doors to other bands and be a fully functional recording studio.”

Last month, the Lab was awarded a $1000 Sam’s Cub gift card through the organization’s annual American Small Business Competition. The card can be used to buy Sam’s club furniture and office supplies. Along with the card, the Lab also won a free trip to a training event and free promotion and mentoring through Score, the non-profit responsible for the contest. The Lab was one of 102 small businesses in the country to win.

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The concept behind Starlab is fairly unique – it takes all the elements an artist or creative project could want or need and makes it all available together.

“I’m excited what we can sort of offer to people because I don’t see a lot of this out there,” said Hawke. “It’s audio and video production in a creative direction – all in one house together. And the fact that someone could come in and – say it’s like an album recording – they can also get head shots and video done, and have all of that under one roof.”

But while the overarching concept behind the Lab has always been clear those involved, thinking about specific details beyond the actual nuts and bolts of the building (literally) was periodically put to the side until the Lab’s now primary female presence came on the scene.

“What was great about Lisa coming and joining us boys is she kind of made us do this major push to really lock down our mission statement and really set up five and ten year business plans, which we’re working on right now,” said Hawke. “It’s exciting because it makes things more realistic, more of how do we make our goals happen and how to be successful at that and also be able to pay for bills and heat and all of that.”

Vidal met the guys through Lindsay at Improv Boston.

“Being in here for such a long stretch of time just building, with the only real goal in mind that – we just gotta get this done somehow and then we’ll figure it out after – you just get kind of lost in the tunnel vision thing,” said Price. “At first, Lisa was on the outside of that – she lives next door basically and was friends with all of us and would just be here, helping out or doing whatever. When we started talking about her being involved it was almost like she could just see like here are these guys, they’re in this one tunnel vision type of situation– she sort of brought us out of that and helped us start focusing on something that’s not that. It’s been awesome.”

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Currently, the Lab rents out the live room as practice space and does periodic audio recordings in the building. They also host non-music related events including monthly stand-up comedy nights and movie nights called Disasterpiece Theater, sponsored by High Energy Vintage. According to Hawke and Price, these events are great, but the hope is to make the majority of the happenings at Starlab more creative ventures related to the Lab’s mission, which includes continuing to host Starlab Fest despite not having the traditional space the Lab used for the past five years (new location TBD).

“I miss the old place for nostalgic reasons, we had a lot of good times there,” said Price. “But this place is just so much better. I’m really excited to get this finally going as a business and to see what’s next.”

Contact Starlab about rates and availability here.

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(Photo courtesy of Richard Thomas Hawke.)

Peter Matthew Bauer

by Amanda Beland

Peter Matthew Bauer doesn’t want to be known as a side man.

“I hope it’s like – Neil Young was in Rick James’ band and no one really thinks about that,” said Bauer. “That’d be the ideal way of thinking – I don’t know if that’s the case – I’m not saying I’m Neil Young; what I’m saying is that I’d hope that they’d be Rick James.”

Bauer is the former bassist and organist for The Walkmen.

He’s been working solo since last year after The Walkmen went on an indefinite hiatus.

Although he just finished up an East Coast living tour – including a show in Medford, Mass. – he has no plans of slowing down on his solo journey.

“In The Walkmen, when we decided to break up it was like a pretty freaky, cataclysmic moment because it’s like how do you make a living? I’ve got a family you know – so that was not good in that fashion,” said Bauer.

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Despite the anticipated hurdles of venturing out on his own, Bauer never questioned his connection to music.

“I mean, it’s just a die-hard, survival, like can’t live without it, wish you could do something else, but you can’t do anything else, like if you don’t do it for a day you get angry or upset – it’s just like your blood, you know?” said Bauer. “You get that – gotta keep moving like entertainer thing going after a while that gets in your blood too. You’re like a carny, and there’s nothing you can really do about it. like ‘Ah – sorry kids I gotta go.’”

Bauer quickly picked up the pieces and started writing songs and arrangements by himself for the first time.

“It started out very much by myself – really by myself,” said Bauer. “It was me writing music and really trying to teach myself how to do everything, including recording by myself. I called in some friends when I finally made the record, but I was like okay – I’m doing everything – I have to find a voice to do this.”

The result was his 2014 release “Liberation” where many of the tracks document important moments in Bauer’s life – including his childhood in an Ashram in India and upstate New York.

“The first record is supposed to be about how I grew up. like when I was a kid and this kind of thing, it’s like a entrance into things,” said Bauer. “That was the idea.”

Bauer admits some of his earlier lyrics and songs were pretty critical and doused with resentment and skepticism of the culture and atmosphere he grew up in – an atmosphere he said “stays with you even when you’re not in it.”

“I was trying to figure it out as to why was I so nasty about everything,” said Bauer. “The record started out with me writing songs about making fun of Scientologists and stuff and there are songs like that on the record.”

Bauer said his lyrics eventually evolved into a higher place of perspective – but he thought it was still important for people to hear his earlier songs.

“It turned into something else that can become a little more transcendent and less like choosing sides and less like being a jerk about things – but I thought it was good to keep the kind of jerky songs on there,” said Bauer. “It’s a very real feeling, like being a skeptic is good, being open to something when you can find out ‘Alright I’m gonna believe in this – I wanna get completely beyond belief” and that’s the heart of everything. Then you get to that and you can find that sort of space there. That’s what I’m always trying to do.”

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Bauer wrote and recorded “Liberation” entirely by himself and plans to do the same on a second record, which is currently in the works. Bauer said his involvement in recording and producing was very limited when he was playing bass and organ in the Walkmen, even when they were recording at Marcata Recording, their self-founded studio and recording space.

However – despite his limited involvement with the technical aspects of recording, he said he felt dissatisfied at times with the actual sounds the band produced.

“For a long time we were recording records with engineers and producers and you’d sit there and think ‘Why is this so hard to make anything sound good, like at all, like this is just drums, bass and a guitar, why does it sound so terrible?'” said Bauer. “And you’d work with that in a recording studio. Then I realized after making this record, it’s so easy to make it sound like you want it to. It’s all just the group that makes it sound like that.”

Bauer continued.

“It’s just not hard, like if it’s up to you and it’s just you, you just do it and there’s no thought or extra time taken on it, you know?” said Bauer. “You don’t obsess over anything. you just go ahead and crash through it. It’s like knocking a hole through a wall. It’s just a more vibrant and exciting experience that way.”

After the release of “Liberation”, Bauer continued to stray from the mold of his previous project and decided to put together a series of small, living room shows across the East Coast. Unlike the large venues he was used to playing, Bauer thought intimate venues would give him a chance to actually get to know the people listening to his music.

“I like interacting with people a lot and that’s a big part of why I thought I could do this,” said Bauer. “When I was in band, I’d still like go out and kind of wander around and just hope to talk to somebody strange. Not just like stuck in a room with the same people.”

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Bauer made the call for venues at the end of 2014 and began his first tour at the end of February. One of his stops was the Soul Shop recording studio in Medford, Mass. The Soul Shop is an all analog recording studio started by musicians Elio DeLuca and Patrick Grenham in 2007 after their band Keys to the Streets of Fear recorded an album at the Walkmen’s former studio Marcata Recording.

The show was unique for many reasons, one of which being that DeLuca, the head engineer at the Shop, recorded the entire performance. Bauer said if things “sounded good” he’d release the recording.

“You know, if tonight Elio made a recording of a song and it sounded good – I’d put it out tomorrow,” said Bauer. “When we tested it earlier, I heard what he did and it sounded great – I said if you wanna mix it down right now I’d put it out right now. Like to me that’s just a much more exciting way to do things.”

(Check out official photos from the performance taken by photographer Liz McBride)

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Bauer is currently selling tickets for a West Coast living room tour and is planning/booking dates and locations for a Mid-West tour and a European tour in the late summer, early fall.

“I think you feel like you’re getting across yourself in a very specific way – it’s very kind of raw like when people say that word, I don’t really know what it means,” said Bauer. “I think it means like the good and bad of what you do is very unable to be hidden, so its kind of a funny scene.”

Bauer is also planning on recording a couple songs in April for his anticipated second record. He said he hopes that people and fans will recognize and respect him and his music as it’s own solitary project – just as a side project by a former member of The Walkmen.

“I’m a young guy, I mean it’s not like this a side project or this is the guy from The Walkmen, “ said Bauer. “it’s exhausting thinking about yourself that way. But it seems like that stuff recedes in your memory. People ask you about it and you’re like I can’t remember. It’s like a different thing – it’s just a different time and a different world.”

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For more information of Peter Matthew Bauer and to check out upcoming show dates, check out his website and Facebook. For more information on the Soul Shop, check out their website and Facebook.

the Soul Shop

by Amanda Beland

It’s the middle of summer in 2007 and Elio DeLuca and Patrick Grenham are on their knees cleaning a console with toothbrushes. The console, constructed in March 1986, is a Pisces – just like DeLuca and Grenham. Their newly acquired ‘bro’ is about to become the centerpiece for something much bigger than the basement it once hung out in, untouched for years.

“It’s happened occasionally where people have brought in records to mix off Pro Tools and they park the computer here for a couple of days and I think it makes the tape machines kinda nervous … you walk into the control room and see that big flat screen and you think ‘man, this is not the way,'” said DeLuca.

DeLuca and Grenham, both of Somerville, are co-owners of the Soul Shop, an all analog recording studio in Medford, Massachusetts. Their console, among other analog gear, make up an almost 10-year-old business with a focus on sound quality.

“Do it right the first time,” reads a review of the studio on Facebook.

DeLuca and Grenham knew each other in high school, but lost touch after graduation. They met back up and became friends during the mid-2000’s after seeing each other at various “weird noise” shows around the Boston area. Grenham also had a regular DJing gig at The Cellar in Cambridge. DeLuca eventually started bringing records to play on the nights Grenham was DJing. It was here the two started talking seriously about music and decided to start the band Keys to the Streets of Fear.

Grenham and DeLuca wanted to record live to 2-track tape for the first Keys record, but couldn’t find a place in Boston that had the capabilities (or the desire) to enable the process. That’s when the two men turned to Marcata Recording, then in Harlem NY. Marcata was started by the band the Walkmen.

“They (the Walkmen) were like, ‘well in a studio, you need a tape machine, four or five good microphones and that’s it,'” said Grenham.

“And a decent console and that’s it,” said DeLuca.

“Yeah, so they were like let’s build our own studio so we never have to pay for another studio again,” said Grenham.

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Analog vs. Digital Recording

In technical terms, the difference between analog and digital recording has to do with the distinction in signal paths and the way sound is recorded and stored. (Science!) Without inching into modern jackass territory here -almost everything done in the digital sphere can be done in the analog sphere – except it probably takes more time and more gear. Obviously in analog recording, there are no presets and nothing can be automatically applied or filtered like you can do in a digital editing program like Pro Tools.

In analog, if you want to amplify a track or add an effect, you have to physically turn a knob or press a button or adjust a setting on a real life droid. There are no drop down menus with physical hardware. Also, in digital recording, you can totally use that backspace key and undo in less than two seconds. In analog recording, you can delete something from a tape – but once you do – you can’t take it back. You have to rerecord. (Danger!)

In digital recording, you essentially have unlimited tracks – you could have 100’s of tracks of just shakers or vocals if you so dared – but in analog recording, tracks are limited based on the studio. At the Soul Shop, you have 16 tracks to fill and if you fill those 16 tracks and wanna add more stuff to a song, you gotta be creative and finagle a way to do with your resources.

The Soul Shop is an all analog recording studio simply because that’s the way DeLuca and Grenham like to work when it comes to recording. They like tubes and physically touching things – they aren’t big fans of using a mouse and a couple arrow keys to T-Pain audio tune the heck out of your voice.

“It’s because he wants to push faders on a console and run stuff through tubes and compressors or whatever,” said Grenham, talking about DeLuca. “All that kinda stuff you have to do the old fashioned way and not sit there and point click ‘mix’.”

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The Marcata studio and practice space were located in a former Nash Rambler production factory in Harlem where different parts of the cars were installed on different floors of the building and the car was moved by ramps when each floor’s work was completed. The studio was located on one of the ramps.

“The walls and ceiling were curved – nothing was parallel to anything, which is the first indicator of a good acoustic space because then you don’t get weird like being in the shower, back and forth reflections,” said DeLuca.

The guys spent three days recording at Marcata before bringing those recordings back to Massachusetts to a couple other studios in the area. However, Grenham and DeLuca couldn’t shake the Marcata feeling.

“These experiences (in Boston) were expensive and then we were like – maybe the Walkmen were right,” said Grenham.

“They were expensive and they were indicative,” said DeLuca.

“Maybe we should just stop paying other people to borrow their stuff and just buy it,” said Grenham.

We were also kind of foolish at the time, so we bought a bunch of gear,” said DeLuca.

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DeLuca and Grenham bought gear with the intention of using it to initially record live sets and then eventually, to open up their own space. In the winter of 2007, Keys had a week residency at PA’s Lounge in Somerville for this purpose.

“Sunday through Monday, we played every night of the week, different sets, one was all covers, one was all jazz tunes, one was new stuff and then we got other bands to play,” said DeLuca.

Grenham and DeLuca recorded every set of the residency.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2007, however, until the gear found a permanent home when DeLuca found the current location of the Shop in Medford.

“Luckiest I’ve ever been on Craigslist,” said DeLuca.

The building was separated into three spaces – a bridal shop in the front, a piano restoration shop owned by the landlord in the back and the space that would become the Soul Shop on the side. At first, the building’s landlord was hesitant to allow a recording studio to rent the space. After repeated attempts, he finally conceded.

“It took meeting him in person,” said Grenham.

“We all had the same weird crazy Italian vibe going around,” said DeLuca.

With the space acquired, Grenham and DeLuca began construction on the space, which was one room when construction began. Grenham has been a professional builder for years, so he brought people in to help separate out the control and live rooms, as well as to help with sound proofing.

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“That was wicked fun because I know how to build houses,” said Grenham. “Learning how to build all of the sound stuff was kind of awesome. If I was smart, I would make a lot of money doing that.”

The Shop’s live room has a couple unique aspects that aren’t immediately noticeable. First – drawing inspiration from Marcata – the walls were installed crooked on purpose. Second, none of the walls are actually touching each other.

“None of these walls are parallel – this one tilts back, they all have very little angles,” said Grenham. “You don’t notice it when you walk in, you’re not like ‘oh my God, this is a crazy house.'”

“You know, not like many degrees of an angle difference, just a tiny shimmy, just enough to make it sound the way it sounds,” said DeLuca.

The space wasn’t entirely finished until October 2007, though the first record was made in the uncompleted space in August 2007.

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“I remember we had holes in the ceiling and no tape machine,” said DeLuca. “We didn’t have the endless money of being able to throw it together at once, with the gear and everything else. You know, piece by piece.”

DeLuca and Grenham acquired the gear the studio through careful Craigslist and eBay searching. Grenham has also built (and is still building) many of the amplifiers in the studio, which the Shop either keeps in house or sells.

Before, during and after construction, the two men continued to collect equipment, including the Shop’s tape machine, Neotek console and Steinway piano, which belonged to DeLuca from childhood.

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“That was one of the main things – live room sound, have to have real pianos,” said Grenham.

Grenham and DeLuca are co-owners of the studio. DeLuca is also the head (and only) engineer. DeLuca is a conservatory-trained pianist who’s been working on both sides of a console in various forms since college. He plays guitar, bass, piano, organ and sings in various projects including Blinders, Faces on Film and Titus Andronicus. Grenham and DeLuca also both play in the New Lights.

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Titus Andronicus Live at the Soul Shop

The Shop is used as a recording space the majority of the time. However, the live room has also been used as a low-key show venue. DeLuca plays keyboard for the band Titus Andronicus and the Shop has hosted the band twice for secret shows for family and friends. The most recent show occurred in August 2014 while Titus was on their most recent Northeast tour. Blinders and Wicked Kind (members of Titus Andronicus) also played.

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Since the Shop opened, it’s been witness to dozens of different artists and bands from a slew of genres.

Guitarist Will Graefe, of Brooklyn, recorded at the Shop for the first time in 2008 with his guitar, saxophone and drums trio Dikembe’s Mutombo. The trio recorded live to 2-track tape in four hours. Since then, Graefe estimates he’s recorded at the Shop between 10 and 20 times on various projects including Wilder Maker, Katie Von Schleicher, the Soul Shop’s 2013 Christmas Record and his own solo project. Graefe also currently plays guitar with his main project Star Rover.

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Soul Shop Christmas Records

For the past two years, the Soul Shop has produced and released a Christmas record. The 2014 record, titled “Christmas Alone With You” featured originals and covers from a number of Boston bands including Parks, Abadabad, Blinders, Quarterly, Faces on Film and the Low In Between.

Take a listen to this year’s production process:

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Graefe says recording at the Shop is unique because it offers a transparent and comfortable process for recording.

“Elio eliminates a lot of the typical barriers that can inhibit spontaneity and risk,” said Graefe. “Often times, (there’s) no isolation, no head phones, no computers- just capturing the people in the room with warmth and honesty and grit and cuts and bruises, too. There’s an accountability about that.”

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Musician Katie Von Schleicher is also a regular client and friend at the Shop. She’s recorded there with Wilder Maker, Sleepy Very Sleepy, and her own solo work, among other projects.

Von Schleicher says the vibe of the Shop is a huge part of the experience of recording there.

“Whenever I go into the shop, it’s hopefully for five days at least – whenever I leave the Shop, I have some sort of postpartum depression because its a full experience,” said Von Schleicher. “It’s a fantastic place where one by product of Elio and Patrick both being picky opinionated guys is that everyone who comes in when you’re there is someone you trust and someone that you want to work with. So it’s really a fully immersive experience – a lot of the time is spent on the couch listening to overdubs while someone else is in the live room and a whole lot of it is down time, so its exhausting and somehow even the downtime where you’re sitting on the couch is riveting though. It’s like Wayne (Whittaker) cracking a joke, or in the case of Wilder Maker – or my solo stuff, Will Graefe cracking a joke, and the chemistry between everyone who’s there is a huge part – at least to me – of what the Soul Shop embodies.”

Dan Webb, of Dan Webb and the Spiders, recorded five tracks from his newest LP Perfect Problem.at the Shop. Webb, who also plays drums in Blinders with DeLuca, said the Shop’s focus on sound quality, among other things, made the recording process more comfortable and more worthwhile for him and his band,

“My favorite part was that when we tracked there was no headphones involved,” said Webb. “At the Shop, Elio had us set up in such a way that we were able to track our parts live and without headphones so it sounded awesome as we were recording it, which only added to the comfort level of the experience. and in my experience, the more comfortable you are, the better the recording goes.”

The experience of recording live in an immediate atmosphere is a major focus at the Shop. According to Grenham and DeLuca, often times musicians head to a studio and record each instrument or part of a track separately and at different moments. The idea of working at the same time and in the same space while recording is part of what makes the sound and recording methodology unique to the Shop.

“People still come in and are surprised that it’s just one big room,” said Grenham.

DeLuca references this methodology as a cornerstone to the recording process for the band Eternals (formally Stephen Konrads and the Eternals when they recorded at the Shop).

“It also needed to be built up in a careful fashion where when they played the initial tracks, they played live, looking at each other, as opposed to everyone in a separate room with closed circuit tv camera action going on,” said DeLuca.

Musicians typically find out about the Shop through word of mouth, Facebook or through their website. Details for booking – price, dates etcs. – are typically discussed and determined based on need once you make initial contact.

“No one wants a ringing phone in a recording studio,” said DeLuca.

One of DeLuca and Grenham’s favorite parts of the Shop is the community that surrounds it – not just immediately with friends or friends of friends, but with anyone who comes into the space.

“It’s nice to give people the opportunity to check out the work and the methodology and see if it’s right for them – or right for something they’re involved with,” said DeLuca. “And it is great for us to be able to recommend – like Patrick’s saying – other players for certain things. If someone comes in and they want strings on their record, it’s not them playing a string part on a MIDI keyboard. It’s four or five musicians simultaneously set up in a circle reading off a piece of paper, the way it should be – you know?”

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High Energy Vintage

Hight Energy Vintage is a vintage game, clothing and music shop in Somerville. It’s owned and operated by Andrew Wiley. Wiley, a New Hampshire transplant, originally began selling vintage items at the SOWA market almost four years when he was “broke” and looking to make ends meet.

“It was immediately successful,” said Wiley.

Wiley continued to operate a booth at the market for two years until he opened up a storefront location on Broadway Street in Somerville in October 2012. Since opening its doors, High Energy has experienced steady a steady clientele.

“I don’t think I’ve done any advertising and I kind of like that,” said Wiley. “I like being under the radar.”

Wiley, with help from a few other employees, acquires the shop’s inventory through yard sales and private buy-outs, among other means. Wiley says he’s always been into records, games and clothes so it just made sense to start selling that stuff.

“I like everything in this store … like this shirt, I like this shirt; if it fit me, I’d have it for myself,” said Wiley. “This store is just an extension of me and who I am. It makes sense.”

High Energy Vintage is located at 1242 Broadway St. in Somerville. Check out their website and Facebook.

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Julie Rhodes

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by Amanda Beland

Julie Rhodes is an active supporter of live music.

So when a friend suggested they go to the Newport Folk Festival in the summer of 2012, she didn’t hesitate to say yes, especially with a line-up that included one of her current favorites, Alabama Shakes.

She had no idea what was coming.

“I thought that Newport was just…I thought it was just going to be like you go and see some music and that’s basically what it is,” said Rhodes. “But for me it changed my whole life.”

At Newport, Rhodes was walking around the festival grounds when she heard someone singing her favorite song at time.

(The song goes by many names and has been covered by many artists. The rendition Rhodes had been listening to was “New Railroad” by Crooked Stills.)

She immediately began searching for the source. What she found she says she’ll never forget.

“So I hear this song and I see this guy in red overalls and straw hat and no shoes sitting in the grass with a guitar,” said Rhodes. “Just busking in the grass.”

The man was Jonah Tolchin, a local musician and producer. They talked briefly – Rhodes complemented him on his playing – and then they parted. Over the course of the next year, they ran into each other and slowly developed a friendship at various shows across New England. At one of these shows, Tolchin called a group of friends and musicians onstage and they performed a couple songs together.

Rhodes was in the audience for the show.

“I remember feeling really inspired,” said Rhodes. “That’s when I wrote my first song.”

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Rhodes doesn’t come from a family of musicians – in fact, she can’t remember hearing music playing in her house growing up. The music she did listen to came from the radio

“The stuff that really spoke to me at a young age was like – I really liked Lauren Hill,” said Rhodes. “She had that soul feel to her voice that I didn’t understand why I liked it at the time.”

As soon as Rhodes got her license, she was driving to as many concerts as possible, which at the time included pop punk and alternative rock bands like Brand New and Mae. Rhodes frequently went to shows in other states, sometimes even states outside New England. It was on these long car rides where she began singing.

“I guess I got some chops that way, you know what I mean, just constantly practicing – I didn’t know I was practicing, I thought I was just having fun,” said Rhodes.

Close to 10 years of private “practicing” passed before Rhodes sent Tolchin her first song. Tolchin told her to keep writing – which she did. Eventually the two decided to work on a stripped down, bare bones EP together in the summer of 2013. Tolchin’s original idea was to record the EP “just to have” said Rhodes. But after the two worked together, Tolchin convinced Rhodes to release the EP online and suggested the two work together on a full-length, fully-formed LP.

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The following months were full of writing and confidence building. Rhodes began writing and arranging songs on her own as well as performing live for the first time. Tolchin and his friend/guitarist Danny – who would eventually become Rhodes’ guitarist, mentor and close friend – began carving out mini-sets for Rhodes within their own sets at shows. This gave Rhodes the vehicle to slowly begin building a stage presence.

“I think just going out on a limb and .. I faced a lot of fears really quickly so I feel like it (the fear of being on stage) passed pretty quickly,” said Rhodes.

Tolchin and Rhodes began tossing out location ideas for recording her record and Dirt Floor Studio seemed like an obvious fit – not only because that’s where Tolchin recorded his first record, but also because of the Studio’s vibe.

“It’s a very first time kind of place and its also family so me being new to the whole thing, we thought it would just be more comfortable,” said Rhodes.

But when Rhodes and Tolchin watched a documentary on the legendary Alabama recording studios Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and FAME Studios, Rhodes became obsessed with the idea of making her record there.

“It went from him being like ‘how do you feel about doing the record there’ to me being like ‘we have to do the record there,'” said Rhodes.

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Rhodes ended up recording most of her record at Dirt Floor with Tolchin’s band in the summer of 2014. Dirt Floor is located near a patch of Connecticut state forest, enabling some of the songs to be recorded outside.

“I think part of why the record sounds like it does is because we were outside in the sun,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes wrote the lyrics for all of the songs on the record and wrote complete guitar arrangements for two of the songs on the album. Rhodes says writing songs can be difficult, but it’s something she enjoys very much.

“When it comes to speaking my mind about things, I find it hard to find the right words to express myself so that’s part of the reason why i really enjoy writing songs because I can get a lot of stuff out that I normally wouldn’t know how to get out.”

The record was mixed between Dirt Floor and a studio in California.

However, Rhodes was able to overdub parts of her record at Muscle Shoals after recording the basic tracks at Dirt Floor. Rhodes and Tolchin drove from Boston to Alabama a month after recording at Dirt Floor.

“At the time, I was working like crazy, I was going to shows like crazy, I was trying to write like crazy, so my mind was full all the time,” said Rhodes. “So we went there and we’re sitting at the river, the Tennessee river, and we’re taking it all in. It was the best; it was such a beautiful time.”

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When she got back from Alabama, Rhodes started booking more of her own shows. The only issue became finding a band. Rhodes had recorded her record and had been playing with members of Tolchin’s band. This meant when Tolchin went on tour or was in the studio, band members were unable to play shows with Rhodes.

The issue came to a head when Rhodes was asked to play a show with Ryan Lee Crosby and only had a guitar player and a harmonica player. Crosby suggested Rhodes ask his drummer for the show, Harrison Seiler, if he would mind filling in. Rhodes asked Seiler at the show and, according to Rhodes, Seiler listened to the songs once before the show before playing them live. A couple weeks later, Rhodes asked Seiler to fill in again and he said yes.

“He kept saying at these shows, ‘you gotta play with my friend Wayne, he’d love this,'” said Rhodes.

Wayne Whittaker plays bass with Seiler, alongside Eric Bolton and Stephen Konrads in the band Eternals (their bandcamp). Whittaker and Seiler have been playing together in various projects for years. Rhodes, in need of a bassist, agreed and brought Whittacker and Bolton on to complete her backing band.

Since the fall, the group has played a number of shows together, including a “Blue Wednesday” two-week residency at Atwoods Tavern.

“The live shows that I’ve been a part of have been a lot of fun,” said Whittaker. “Eric Bolton has been on guitar, and he brings a certain spotenaity and energy that’s unique to every set. For the band, our the job is pretty simple, support those songs and leave enough room for Julie. The freedom we have with the songs makes each performance different, which is part of the reason it’s been so fun.”

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Whittaker said he’s only known Rhodes for a couple of months, but has been impressed with what she’s accomplished in the time they’ve been friends and band mates.

“It’s pretty remarkable how much Julie has done in the amount of time she’s been a musician,” said Whittaker. “Formative years are so important, and to trust your instincts enough to throw yourself in head first and learn on-the-go is something that shows tremendous confidence and trust in the process.”

Jenn Harrington is roommates with Rhodes and has known her for almost two years. The two originally met at a show and formed a friendship at subsequent concerts. Harrington has been around for almost the entirety of Rhodes quick transition into musicianship.

“I think the thing I most appreciate about witnessing the evolution of Miss Rhodes is that there isn’t really a precedent to follow,” said Harrington. “The woman wrote her first song and in a year an incredible album is recorded and mixed. Six months into playing live at venues, she’s completed her first mini-residency with a two hour sets each night that ended with the audience shouting for more. And just about every set has had a different combination of players—all with varying personalities and ways of playing—and yet, there is a shared character within them all. There are many musicians, many people, who don’t have the grit to submit and adapt to change on an often-daily basis. And Julie has managed it because she is many things: she can go-with-the-flow one moment and then be a pistol the next, but no matter what perspective she’s taking, she’s cares about every bit of it. ”

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These days, Rhodes is focusing on “shopping” the album around to record labels to hopefully get signed so the record can be mastered. She’s also writing a lot, getting more comfortable with playing the guitar and playing around the metro-Boston area as much as possible.

The last two years still don’t seem real to her.

“It doesn’t even make sense to me, honestly, like I say this stuff but I’m just like what are the words coming out of my mouth?” said Rhodes.

Julie Rhodes will be playing tonight, Feb. 5 at Atwoods Tavern with Smith & Weeden. Show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the door or online. For more information on Julie and upcoming shows, you can keep tabs on her through Facebook, Twitter or through her website.