Hidden at the back of dead-end road off a tiny side street in Santa Fe is Stepbridge Studios. The only indication of any musical virtue is a painting of John Lennon on the driveway wall. Entering the sound room, however, offers a different perspective.
Within is a console—an SSL 4000 series with thousands of gray knobs, white sliders and level gauges—hunkering in the middle of the room. It’s twice as long as a standard kitchen table and surrounded by speakers the size of small children. Clients like Capitol Records, Viacom and Nickelodeon see this room and are sold instantly, according to Andrew Click, the studio’s chief audio engineer and co-owner.
Click wants New Mexican bands recording in this studio.
“After so many years, we decided we lost touch a little bit with the community,” Click says. “Do I pay my phone bill or do I finish my mix? That’s something I see a lot of these days; more than I ever have, honestly. New Mexico as a whole has been very good to us for a long time, and we want to give back,” he says. “We want to enable.”
That takes form in the Studio Technical Artist Resource program, or Star. The program for New Mexico bands provides up to $10,000 in interest-free loans for in-house recording and post-production, Click says.
Phillip Torres of hip hop band Zoology says his group has perfected its sound and is ready for something better than a burned CD, but it can’t happen yet.
“We aren’t well finically,” Torres says, “I mean we do well out of state, but our state is poor and making money living off of music is rough.”
So he applied straight away for the program. No one has been accepted yet, but Torres says the loan could fire up his band’s future.
“It’s like this: We can set a release date, and then stick by it without worrying about money,” he says. “That’s why we jumped on it. We’ve done home studio and now it’s time for the next step.”
Star primarily focuses on local bands’ greatest weakness: post-production quality. Click says musicians often spend all their money on recording and then can’t scrape together enough cash for decent mixing and mastering. The result is that sometimes their hard work gets brushed aside. The movie studios are the worst culprits, Click says.
“They don’t believe there is a single good band in New Mexico,” Click says in the studio’s expansive isolation booth, which has seen the likes of James Taylor and Randy Travis. “They don’t get it. If a local artist could get a song in a feature film ... that’s buy-a-house money. And for some reason [movie studios] don’t think there is a single good band here. And that’s due to underproduction and lack of budget. There is a lot of great music here. It’s just hiding behind the curtains.”
Torres agrees. He says too many bands record at home—a technique better reserved for hobby musicians. He says recording an album at a place like Stepbridge can redefine an artist’s image from garage band to professional force.
“It’s the best quality,” he says. “It will sound good anywhere, and we’re at the stage where we want to make it right.”