For this week’s column, I’m going to step out of the project box and take a look at a group of local musicians who demonstrate the DIY mentality as they self-record an album in their homemade studio collective. Milwaukee band Flojo (John Juchemich, drums; Justin Rolbiecki, bass; Sarah Gilbert, piano and vocals; Kurt Spielmann, vocals and acoustic guitar; Mike Tietjen, electric guitar) forms part of the collective that currently resides in an old Walker’s Point storefront.
“The fact that this used to be a venue was really attractive; a lot of good music had happened here before, so we’re trying to keep that going,” says Tietjen.
When looking for a space, they were concerned with three criteria: sunlight, more than 1000 square feet and “no metal bands.” Apparently their old practice space shared walls with musicians inspired by the likes of Slayer and Megadeath (Let the record show that I love Slayer).
Not only is this a recording studio, but a few of the band members also moonlight as carpenters, working out of the space’s basement wood shop. Other members fancy the vintage motorcycle shop; also awesome, also underground. Gilbert has gardening plans for the mystical courtyard behind the building, and a portable darkroom might be in their future.
Gathered around a coffee table that Spielmann made with only hand tools and a coffee ground stain (more on that later), they shared the pros and cons of being in complete control of the recording process.
“It’s a blessing and a curse really,” Rolbiecki says, “The blessing is unlimited time—we don’t necessarily have the best equipment, but we can get a sound that’s pretty close to something you’d get at a professional studio — and we’re not paying $25 an hour for it.”
“The curse for me is over-editing, over-analyzing and overdoing it,” Rolbiecki says.
Despite the challenges, Flojo is pleased with the space and the opportunity to control the recording of their own music.
“We’re a group of friends who started a cooperative so we could do our primary passions and secondary passions all together,” Gilbert says, “It’s a creative place.”
Come out and support these DIY go-getters for their CD release show on Thursday, June 16 at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (1001 E. Locust St.). The lineup includes Flojo, Meadow Parish and The Vega Star. Preview a few tracks from Flojo’s new release here.
Got an unfinished piece of wood lying around? Try Kurt’s totally cool wood-staining method:
- Brew strong coffee in either a regular pot or a French press (If you use a French press, steep the grounds extra long)
- Chill the coffee
- Soak a clean rag in the coffee, squeeze it partially dry and apply several coats until you see an effect (Kurt noted that this produces a mild stain, but he really liked how the grounds softened the boldness of the grain)
- Apply shellac to dress up the pine (or other wood-of-choice)
Until next time, enjoy these bits of musical inspiration for your home:
Stop by Wade’s Guitar Shop (3490 N. Oakland Ave.) and pick up a few guitar mounts. I hung my guitars as functional art and painted a cheap classical with my favorite Joni Mitchell quote and a simple pattern. Try it!
Vintage suitcase speakers: I shall attempt to make these. I might succeed.
Credit/gift card guitar picks: Try playing cards for thinner picks, or add your suggestions in the comments section.