Rochester has no shortage of budding musicians making recordings in their bedrooms using high-quality recording software. But for artists who need that extra professional touch, top-notch recording studios abound. Far from being an exhaustive list, here are five studios that are rocking the local music scene.
The Song Guy: Dave Drago of 1809 Studios
Dave Drago’s 1809 Studios near Macedon, Wayne County has been a go-to destination for some of Rochester’s hottest singer-songwriters looking to record full-length records. Danielle Ponder, Mikaela Davis, Jon Lewis and Ben Morey all turned to Drago for his abilities as a multi-instrumentalist, sound engineer and producer.
A characteristic aspect of Drago’s work is also his favorite: the background vocals he frequently writes and records for his clients. “The choir stuff has become a reason people come here,” he says.
Music produced in 1809 tends to feature classic song structures, rich textures, and big sounds. “Bring an idea to the table – don’t be afraid of it, don’t hide it behind other things,” Draco says. “Make it big, give it personality, allow it to be something people will hear.”
Drago says serving the song is the top priority of all his recording projects. Most recently he engineered, produced, mixed and mastered “Waves”, the new full album by Rochester singer-songwriter Evan Meulemans. For one of the songs on the album, “Current,” serving the song meant creating a persona for Meulemans to embody. In this case, a 19th century evangelical preacher, enhanced by the prominent organ sounds and church-like reverb on the vocals.
“Be that character you’re trying to be in this song,” Drago explains. “And that character could be you, but who are you? And what is your purpose in saying the things you say? »
“Controlled but Emotional”: Wicked Squid Studios by Josh Pettinger
Wicked Squid Studios dates back to 2011, when owner Josh Pettinger started using an RV as a mobile studio to create multitrack recordings of live shows in basements, dive bars and festivals. Wicked Squid was officially incorporated as an LLC in 2015 and has since become a popular studio stage for a wide variety of artists, from rock and funk bands such as KINDOFKIND and The Sideways to hip-hop entertainers MF SKUM , Donny Murakami and Negus. Irap.
In addition to recording albums, Pettinger—along with fellow engineers and producers Christopher Dubuc-Penney and Ian Fait—offers video services to music clients. Plans are underway to convert Wicked Squid’s Studio B into a co-op rehearsal space for local bands.
The general characteristics of the Wicked Squid sound are clear. Pettinger describes it as “punchy” and “controlled but also emotional”.
Tech Junkie: Matt Ramerman of The Green Room
Before the pandemic, producer and engineer Matt Ramerman was already the preferred choice of local artists such as bassist Luis Carrion, guitarist Bob Synder, rock bands Maybird and MoChester and reggae band The Medicinals.
But once COVID trapped people in their homes and banned them from live concerts, The Green Room began offering live streaming services and video recordings.
Ramerman says demand for visual content — live videos, music videos, social media content and B-roll footage — remains high. Audio recordings are always a top priority for the self-proclaimed “tech junkie”. For example, he recently purchased a two-inch 24-track tape recorder from Lou Gramm.
A drummer by trade, Ramerman studied at the Los Angeles College of Music with Ralph Humphrey – who played drums for Frank Zappa – before taking up sound production as a career.
“My role in sound is to help the artist get the sound he hears in his head,” Ramerman explains.
Newbies: Studios at Water Street
Water Street Music Hall’s recent history has been tumultuous, with multiple stops and starts involving liquor licenses, management changes and pop-up restaurants. But new Rochester-area managers Andrew Nittoli and Riley Fressie — musicians who met while students at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia — are looking to turn things around.
The duo now oversee the 1,000 capacity Water Street Music Hall, the more intimate Water Street club and the new recording studio in the basement.
Nittoli says the name Studios at Water Street refers to its ability to use both upstairs concert halls and downstairs studios for recording.
Some of their recording projects include a funk album by Philadelphia rapper ENDO and producer Ty Key, as well as overdubs for Buffalo American band Angelica Tree and Nittoli and Fressie’s band Americana Spooky and the Truth.
Vintage instruments and sounds take priority at Studios at Water Street. Nittoli and Fressie say they avoid using digital plugins wherever possible, opting instead for old-school gear like a Rhodes electric piano once owned by Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and a ’70s Fender Bassman cabinet. .
And rather than using only digital software, all Water Street sessions are recorded on tape. “I’m looking for authenticity,” says Fressie.
In the Rochester recording studio scene, Nittoli and Fressie are undoubtedly the new kids in town. After meeting in college and touring Europe, they moved back to Rochester two years ago aiming to make an impact with Water Street.
“We don’t want Water Street to be exactly what everyone expects – ‘Oh, yeah, give it a few months and then it’ll come back,'” Fressie says. “We’re here for the longevity of this one, and maybe it takes two kids who half know what they’re doing from Philly to come in and do it.”
The teacher: Stephen Roessner of Calibrated Sound
University of Rochester professor and producer Stephen Roessner has quite the pedigree. At SUNY Fredonia, he learned from influential indie rock producer Dave Fridmann and was in the room for the sessions that yielded The Flaming Lips’ acclaimed album “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” He worked as a sound engineer at the Juilliard School for almost five years and won a 2010 Grammy Award for his work on organist Paul Jacobs’ Naxos recording, “Book of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Today, he guides aspiring U of R sound engineers on recording projects. He is also active as a producer and sound engineer, having recently worked on Calicoco’s “Underneath” album, as well as recordings for Rochester band Bellwether Breaks.
“I focus on the energy that’s being created or the delivery, whether it’s guitar, drums or vocals. It’s about the emotion that’s in the music,” says Roessner. “And as sound engineers, now with digital editing, we can fix anything.”
“But we can’t fix the emotion,” he later explains. “We cannot fix the actual delivery. So that’s when I work with a band, that’s my main focus. I want to get something out of it that will be tangible, that will be perceptible in the recording. Not just ‘Oh, that’s perfect.’ It’s gonna be human.
CORRECTION 11.3.21: This article has been updated to indicate that the Rhodes Electric Piano at Water Street Studios was once owned by Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The instrument was not purchased directly from the band.
Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s art editor. He can be reached at [email protected]