Oakland Local and Oaktown Indie Mayhem present The Studio Series. One Oakland band, recorded in a local studio, highlighting the thriving local music community in our city.

It’s easy to idealize the music world. The adrenaline rush of a great show, the memories of the songs that create our personal soundtrack, reading about all the cool shenanigans our favorite musicians get into. But with every musician (most of whom work regular jobs, or multiple jobs for a living) there are hundreds of people who make the system work, who don’t do it for money and certainly not for fame. They do it because they love music.

Talking with Yosh Haraguchi from Faultline Studios before he recorded the live session of Oakland’s Tumbleweed Wanderers‘ “Easy Come Easy Go,” he explains that during his music career he realized you have to be a salesperson almost as much as you get to make music. By recording, he was able to stay creative and be involved with music, but to work with people, not in sales.

“No one pays you for playing music, or very rarely,” said Haraguchi. “But mostly you make your money by selling a T-shirt, selling a thing. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be in the business of selling things.’ Now I’m doing a service. I get to work with people.”

An engineer working with bands can mean recording them as they sound when they perform or helping them record what they hear in their heads but have yet been able to produce.

“The song is like the body and the production is like the clothing,” said Jeremy Lyon of Tumbleweed Wanderers. “Every time we record, we learn so much about the process and how many ways there are to capture a song. Since we also produce all of our music, the question “what’s the vibe?” gets tossed around a lot when recording. In the end it really comes down to the song.”

Tumbleweed Wanderers are about to release their album Realize on June 9th. The album was mostly recorded at Panoramic Studios in Stinson, where the atmosphere helped shape the creative process. Lyon stresses the need for a comfortable environment to record.

“When you know you’re being documented, you inherently present yourself differently than when you’re candid,” said Lyon. “Either you’re more reserved and careful about your communication, or you’re overly boisterous, like a caricature of yourself. With recording, you want to get out of that headspace, otherwise you’re going to make a sterile track, so keeping the vibe loose and fun yet focused is the key to capturing energetic and honest performances.”

Key necessities to keeping the vibe right: “coffee, tea, coconut water, chips and guac, Honey Bunches of Oats, PB&J, and beer,” said Lyon.

While keeping the experience loose and fun is part of the goal of an engineer and studio owner, that doesn’t mean the job is always exciting or glamorous.

“There’s a joke that somebody once told me,” said Haraguchi “How do you know which guy is the studio owner? He’s the guy taking out the trash.”

Owning a studio means doing the chores like keeping the toilet clean and making sure there is toilet paper. It also means making the tough decisions, like whether to buy a new microphone or a dishwasher.

“Depends on which hat I’m wearing,” said Haraguchi, referring to his roles as both studio owner and engineer.

Two years ago, Haraguchi almost moved Faultline to Oakland. However, if he’d paused production while making the move, it could have been enough to make the studio go under. The studio can pay for itself as long as it chugs along, he explains, but a pause in production might be enough to break the bank.

If Haraguchi wanted to move to Oakland now, it’s possible he couldn’t afford it –another telling sign of the dramatic effects of Oakland’s elevating real estate costs.

For now Faultline is safe with a new lease at their space in San Francisco. When the landlord of the current building passed away and left it to her son, Haraguchi was able to renegotiate a lease for a few more years. This was partly due to a stroke of luck and partly due to the unique nature of the studio industry, or the unique nature of their designs.

“Nothing ruins the value of a building like the recording industry,” said Haraguchi. “The way we build up the rooms and the way we lay it out, you wouldn’t use it for anything else. The walls aren’t parallel. If you were to make it into an office, it would be the weirdest office ever. That’s what saved me.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.