Studio Tour: Recording Retreats

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The bustle and heat of this city can spark new collaborations and ignites our creative fires. But with the sweltering summer months upon us, we sometimes find that the very elements that attract us to this teeming city begin to repel us away.

City bands retreating to the countryside to work through the creative process is nothing new. Artists from Led Zeppelin to Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver to this guy, have all generated some of their most recognized work while shacked up in makeshift cabin studios. But sometimes, an environment that offers a little more control and a proven track record is in order – especially when time and money are of the essence.

For instance, Sean Boyd’s Art Farm Recording reminds us of just how much space and peace remote studios can provide to artists willing to embark on a quick 2-hour drive.

Art Farm’s live room

Built in a remodeled century-old barn, Art Farm features 25-foot cathedral ceilings, a Toft console, Pro Tools HD system, and respectable mic locker.

With rates as low as $400/day, or $750/day including gourmet meals and lodging for the entire band, this massive music space proves just how far a few hard-earned city dollars can go.

Similarly, Woodstock/Saugerties NY’s Applehead Recording offers a scenic recording retreat on a working 17-acre farm, but ups the ante with a classic Neve console resurrected from NYC’s original Dangerous Music Studios, a staggering 30,000 cubic foot live room, and an ample collection of vintage mics.

Since 2001, Applehead owner Michael Birnbaum and crew have been playing host to a range of artists including Blondie, Lisa Loeb, Bad Brains, The B-52s and Lou Barlow.


The Applehead Neve

Also no stranger to big names, Lou Gonzalez tried to get out of the studio business, but just couldn’t make it happen. Not long after selling his stake in NYC’s renowned Quad Recording Studios, Gonzalez built what was supposed to be a humble studio in his Greenwood Lake home – before it ended up taking over half the house.

The resulting studio, Quad Lakeside sleeps eight and includes a private guest house, SSL AWS900+ SE Analogue Console, vintage Steinway, Studer 827, Pro Tools HD system, and Gonzalez’s prized 1910 slate regulation billiards table.

Quad Lakeside, disco ball and all

Henry Hirsch is an engineer best known for 20 years of career-defining work with Lenny Kravitz.

Recently, Hirsch has moved his personal Waterfront Studios upriver from its original Hoboken location to settle in the emerging arts epicenter of Hudson, NY.

Built in an expansive 19th century church, Hirsch’s new studio sports acoustically treated stretches within the main sanctuary, giving those spaces “a very focused sound while leaving the main room for the most beautiful orchestral sounds.”

This striking and rare room is completed by vintage Helios recording console and 3M 24-track tape machine.

Henry Hirsch’s church-studio

…and large control room with Helios console

If you have trouble deciding between booking recording time at a lakeside studio or in an enormous re-purposed church, Hopatcong NJ’s Barbershop Studio has you covered.

Merging two of the reoccurring themes that have cropped up in our recording retreats roundup, The Barbershop is built in an old church on the side of Lake Hopatcong known as (no joke) the River Styx. The enormous space houses a 72-channel SSL XL 9000K that feeds a Griffin Speaker system and 5.1 surround system, and the building comes equipped with its very own (still not kidding) 3-star Italian restaurant.

The Barber Shop: 453 River Styx Road

Inside The Barber Shop

For those who want to get away but just can’t leave the trappings of the city behind, SonalystsPower Station New England has erected a nail-for-nail recreation of what is now Avatar’s world-famous A-room.

Located on a multipurpose creative compound in Waterford, CT, this Power Station features a Neve VR, and can be booked at a fraction of the original’s cost.

Recognize this room? Behold Power Station New England

Amp Farm, Power Station New England

Some of these remote studios have become famous in their own right. Over its 30 year history, Carriage House Studios of Stamford, CT has seen artists like Diana Ross, Pantera, The Pixies, Johnny Winter and Beyonce Knowles make use of their SSL 4048 and private sleeping quarters.

Notable current-day indie artists like Nicole Atkins, Ted Leo, Rachel Sage and Marissa Nadler, have also gravitated to this residential studio that sits just an hour’s train ride from Manhattan.

Carriage House Control Room ft. SSL 4048 E/G console

Carriage House Live Room with Steinway Hamburg B

In 2008, drummers Jerry Marotta and Pete Caigan teamed up with original owner Joel Bluestein to revive the once-active Dreamland Recording Studio. Before its reopening, Dreamland was the site where over 350 records were recorded, including the B-52’s Love Shack, and releases by 10,000 Maniacs, Suzanne Vega, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, and Yo Yo Ma.

Already busy next-gen engineers like Chris Coady and John O’Mahoney and indie darlings like Beach House, Fleet Foxes and The Panics have begun to take advantage of the startling acoustics of this revamped 19th century church in West Hurley, NY.

Dreamland is housed in what was once St. John’s Church est. 1896.

Dreamland Live Room with 1934 Steinway B piano

Also noteworthy is Rhinebeck’s Clubhouse, a high-end residential studio owned by engineer/producer Paul Antonell (Natalie Merchant, Rusted Root),

This complex is built around a 19th Century barn, that offers four queen-size beds and a private lounge located just 5 minutes from the local Amtrak station.

Outfitted with a classic Neve 8058 console, Studer tape machines, Pro Tools HD system and an enviable collection of outboard gear and microphones, this studio combines convenience and well-measured refinement in an earthy, bucolic setting.

Clubhouse control room ft. Neve 8058

Natural (country) light fills The Clubhouse control and live room ft. 1922 Steinway B

On the other end of the spectrum, landlocked fans of T-Pain and The Lonely Island will be happy to know that they can now make a record “on a motherf*ing boat.”

Steve Young of Media Recording Studios has finally decided to pair his twin loves of sound and water to create a something significantly more badass than sonar ever was. Ladies and gentlemen: Yacht Recording.

Although it may not prove to be quite as cost-affective as making a record on dry land, there’s something to be said for the unique ambience and sheer ballsiness of finishing your next album on open water.

Three private staterooms provide accommodations for 6 guests, while an HD-based recording system helps you capture the sounds and mood of the sea in a way that would make Hemingway and Melville look like sissies.

Straight flowing on a boat on the deep blue sea….

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based producer/engineer who works with uncommon artists, and a journalist who writes about music and how we make it. Visit him at

  • Tony

    Awesome look at some great studios…..

  • Mdswersky

    all great studios.. here is another one.. in Long Branch,NJ.. old Helios and more outboard/instruments  than you can imagine, 1/2 mile from the beach….

  • Rachael

    I just visited Barbershop as listed above and it is amazing. I went in for a tour for my son to take some classes and did not want to leave this building. It is filled with such a great atmosphere and the most wonderful people working there!!!

  • Wildthreads

    Who cleans these amazing studios? I notice duct work in a couple of the photo’s for…? The wood work…