For over two years, in a galaxy not that far away (the Baker district), Moon Magnet Studios has been recording and shaping a collective of musicians in a communal habitat, and it’s far out, man.
When it comes to recording studios, there are nearly as many places to record as there are musicians. If a musician is fortunate enough, she will find a place with people who truly enjoy the inner workings of music, with sound engineers who are passionate fans, love getting sucked into the creative vortex and go the extra mile to find what the artist is searching for.
The exterior of Moon Magnet’s operation is unassuming. It's passed by thousands of people daily who don’t see its true aura. But once a step is taken into its atmosphere the creative air becomes infectious.
“For me it was a jam spot and a place to go to feel inspired. For a short period of time I even lived at the house and it was in that time Reed, Derrick, and I started to scheme up our dreams and goals for Moon Magnet,” says Anna Smith, who works on maintaining Moon Magnet’s online presence, and assists in curating their biweekly Wednesday night shows at the Meadowlark.
Busy as bees, though laid-back as hippies without a care, the house is alive with human lifeforms creating music as an artist collective as equally as a fully functional recording studio. Jam sessions so common an occurrence, Westword interviews are best conducted at a local coffee shop.
Reed Fuchs runs the official studio and acts as the house’s main sound-smith and studio manager. “I remember talking to friends about starting an artist collective kind of like a Long Spoon, it was maybe my sophomore year. Then we started getting serious about it. Let's actually start an artist collective that does more things than what most artist collectives do. Maybe it could be a publishing company, maybe a record label, a recording studio, and I wrote a business plan that semester on different things that we could do.”
Before Fuchs, Neil Lyons, Anna Smith, and Derrick Bozich gravitated toward the house, it was already functioning in a lot of ways that it does now, with bands rehearsing and a studio in the basement. They just decided to step it up a notch, adding a little more precision to their work.
“We started talking about ways we could really help the amazing musicians all around us and impact the Denver music scene in a positive way. We talked about the studio, we talked about expanding the record label, we talked about music licensing and how we might be able to create a forum to license music in an intuitive way,” says Lyons. “That conversation, for me, was what started this crazy circus and planted the ideas for what would eventually take us where we are today.”
Working within a fixed time frame like many studios, instead of creating until a song finds its completion, tends to put a musician under pressure, extracting rather precious creativity from the process. “I like doing a per song rate because then I'll work on this song until it's really good, rather than just having a certain amount of time,” says Fuchs. “Having a flat song rate allows us to just experiment with sounds.”
Not all projects end up being the same as the last. The flow of creativity and ideas can come in great burst before, during, or after with the impulse of a mind of course acting unpredictably. “Sometimes artists have all these ideas coming in,” says Fuchs. “Sometimes they don't really have any ideas, they're just like, ‘Here's the chords, here's my vocals and a melody, and let's make a song around it.’ Sometimes it's more collaborative where they’re like, ‘Do whatever you want, add crazy effects to it.’ But sometimes they’re like, ‘We want it exactly this way.’”
The recording studio feeds each and every endeavor from music making with multiple bands, to music producing, and vice versa for the four members Fuchs, Lyons, Smith, and Bozich. An unexplainable space oddity, commencing countdown, engines on. Both endeavors, Moon Magnet and music making, is open creativity with musicians who happen to be in the house filling in when the need presents itself.
“That is always an option that's on hand because there's always people around,” said Bozich, a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and graphic artist at Moon Magnet. “Talented musicians that are kind of just hanging out, so we usually can just grab them and hit record.”
While Jackson Boone was in town, they managed to get their pianist to play bass on a Magpie’s song they were working on that day before running off to a prior engagement, the band’s show. “We have touring bands sometimes crash on our couch. A few days ago our friend Jackson Boone was in town and all day we were waiting for someone to play bass to show up at the house, just anyone that might play bass. And then we found out this guy plays bass,” says Fuchs.
Existing harmoniously as an artist collective, Moon Magnet provides much more than a space to record, by curating shows for recording bands to play in, providing a network of communication with the Denver music scene if need be, or opening up opportunities for artists as well as musicians.
“We try to take a ground up approach and help our artists from the writing process through recording, fundraising, marketing, registering with Performing Rights Organizations, registering copyrights, distribution, album artwork, graphic design, the list goes on. With such an eclectic pool of artists we can truly help musicians through every part of the music making process,” says Lyons.
With the recording studio no more important than the artist collective, they feed, help, and perpetuate each other, and if one part were missing the other would not return to shore. “If the studio wasn't there, the collective would go elsewhere to record. They all help each other out, they're all ingredients to the same dish,” says Bozich.
Moon Magnet is currently working on a 3rd compilation with Sunboy, Linear Downfall, déCollage, and a special guest that will also play at the album release show May 5th at Rhinoceropolis. “We were approached by Adam Baumeister, who runs Meep Records. He does custom vinyl etchings and pressings and he wanted to put out a record,” says Bozich. The compilation will be a clear vinyl picture disc, two-sided 10-inch, and sandwiched between will be artwork by Jacqueline Cordova that can also be seen while spinning.
“The role of the musician is evolving with all of these new tools available to us,” says Lyons. “Bridging the gap between the traditional ideal of making live music on an instrument in a certain place and time, and the new guard with its technology and production techniques, that's what keeps me so intrigued as an artist and musician.”
Moon Magnet is here today, looking toward the future, seeking new ways to release music that will not only catch the ears of the listener, but the eyes and hands all together. Lumadrifter has created a music visualizer app featuring three Moon Magnet bands: déCollage, Channel Strange, and Carrot Eater, which will be out on Android, iPad, and iPhone on April 28 (today).
“We were talking about the visual way of looking at an album. Physi3d, they 3D printed Moon Magnet rings, and they printed Channels Strange these TVs that look really cool. So getting into unique ways of releasing albums, and music, because they have QR codes where you can listen to an album, and Carrot Eater had necklaces that had a download link to their album,” says Fuchs. “Finding unique ways to use technology and integrate it with music is something we’re really all about.”
More about Moon Magnet Studios can be found at its website, including contact information, upcoming releases, shows, and projects in the works.