GREENPOINT, BROOKLYN: Winters in Anchorage, Alaska are epic. And, as it turns out, ideal incubators of NYC studio innovators.
Erik Braund, chief proprietor of the intriguing new Greenpoint facility known as Braund Sound, explains the musical connection between the sub-Arctic outpost where he grew up, and the 24-hour metropolis that he now occupies.
“Alaskan winters are the coldest, darkest, longest seasons you can imagine,” Braund explains. “Music was a wonderful escape from that. It’s an easy place to hole up and woodshed on guitar and drums – because it’s cold outside! It’s dark outside! When the thermometer reads minus-ten degrees, you don’t really want to go out.”
Eventually, however, Braund did step outside – way out. (4,367 miles out, to be exact.) The result is a paradoxically distinctive home base in Gotham, where a one-room studio in-the-round houses an ambitious multimedia venture.
One Room, Many Uses
Although he’s just 27, Braund appears to have jam-packed his time on Earth with action aplenty. His life was massively altered by the arrival of Nirvana’s Nevermind, and he went from playing hockey to being a proficient guitarist and drummer. Bit by the recording bug early on, he set up his first studio in Anchorage (“a dump with a shitload of gear”), which was funded by his fiscal success managing SEO campaigns for Web clients.
A fourth-generation Alaskan with extensive family ties to Norway, the enterprising Braund began producing and engineering heavily in the US and Europe (credits include A Place to Bury Strangers, Strange Shapes, Jared Woods, The Whipsaws, Delmag, Bowerbirds) as he dropped in, out, and back in to some of America’s finest educational institutions. Not long after graduating from NYU’s Clive Davis Dept. of Recorded Music (he also spent a year at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program), Braund felt ready to carve his own niche out of NYC’s crowded audio scene.
Not surprisingly, the spot he was selected is as far North as you can go – in Brooklyn. He found that relatively affordable space was available in the bustling Greenpoint Lofts building at 231 Norman Avenue, an artistic beehive that hosts an interconnected community of filmmakers, designers, and other studios.
After a careful assessment of the 1,600 sq. ft. space, Braund came to two – seemingly diametrically opposed – conclusions: 1) that the uncommon one-room studio-in-the-round design would be necessary for Braund Sound’s first phase, and yet 2) it would be an ideal HQ for multiple content-related business models, ranging from recording to audio post, video content production to an indie record label.
“If there’s one thing that’s at a premium in NYC, it’s space,” Braund acknowledges. “It’s not huge here, but I have space. I can record full rock bands here. I can make great live videos of them performing, or I can put up a green screen and create something else entirely. This is my headquarters. I like working with my friends, and I have a good network of people I respect that I’m excited to work with.”
Making the Studio In-the-Round
As he’s done with his life, Braund has packed a great deal into the 1,600 sq. ft. studio space of Braund Sound – while still making it all an enjoyable experience. Two racks of Distressor-dominated dynamics, API/Neve-flavored mic pres and effects are connected via 32 channels of Aurora Lynx A/D/A into a “vintage” Digidesign Pro Control 24-fader worksurface running Pro Tools HD2. Genelec, Yamaha and Mackie monitoring are available, with a Dangerous Monitor system.
Instruments on hand for recording are plentiful, including an ample supply of electric/acoustic guitars and basses; two beautiful DW plus one Slingerland drumsets with Craviatto snare (six more snares available) and 1922 Estey baby grand piano. Mics on hand to capture it all include hand-picked models from Neumann, Josephson, Schoeps, Blue, and Royer. A 10-foot video screen with HD projector dominates the wall facing the mix position.
A bonus at Braund Sound is the presence of a peppy Pomeranian named Goonie. Adding to the Alaskan wildlife experience is the cat Buffy, who resides full time in the adjacent sunlit lounge, complete with foosball and the indispensable Goldeneye Pinball Machine.
Despite the significant gear and instrument manifest, the Braund Sound space has plenty of room to breathe, create, and – most importantly – collaborate. With no control room, Braund revels in the advantages of recording in the same room as his clients.
“The biggest benefit of a studio-in-the-round is communication,” he states. “You have constant eye contact, and you can take your headphones off and talk to each other, instead of the fishbowl effect of pressing the button and saying ‘Go’ from another room.
“There’s no chance you can be texting during tracking, or otherwise ignoring your client here,” he continues. “I’ve been on the other end of that. This scenario requires everyone to be present. If you’re in here, you’re in here.”
Braund acknowledges that a studio-in-the-round setup can have its perils – the slightest audible shift in his chair could blow a breathy vocal take happening a few feet away. But ultimately he sees it as a perfect match for his recording style, which emphasizes creative connectedness between producer/engineer and artist. “I was expecting more glitches, but I’ve gotten totally comfortable working this way,” says Braund. “I find that the focus is heightened when everyone is in the same room.”
By maintaining his roots in the highly active Alaskan and Norwegian rock scenes, Braund Sound has quickly established itself as a welcoming space for far-flung clients trekking to NYC and his Brooklyn studio. Even though he’s just opened in May, so far Braund has already tracked sessions for 25 clients in the space. Word is spreading to the advertising community as well, with agency clients finding that the spacious open room helps get quick results from talent in time-sensitive VO sessions.
And while Braund Sound has acoustics that make it a smart match for a wide range of styles, its founder is unabashed in his allegiance to the rock & roll that got him started. “The musical niche here is rock band tracking, if I had to sum it up,” Braund says. “Because I’ve played drums and guitar, I can speak drums to the drummer and guitar to the guitarist. And as a producer I bring my influences and taste — which is not the best taste, and not the worst taste. It’s just mine.”
A Smarter Studio Business
Braund may be young, but he knows that simply setting up a shingle as a recording/mixing studio in 2012 is a risky bet.
That’s why Braund Sound is every inch a multimedia venture. His Web channel “Live at Braund Sound” demonstrates the facility’s capabilities for shooting/editing video, as well as mixing to picture. The Braund Sound label is working steadily alongside, providing him with an angle to work closely with his friends from Alaska, Norway, NYC, and anywhere else on the planet that harbors talent.
“This is my Erik Braund hub,” he says. “I’m not just trying to be in the studio business. My goal is not for the room to be booked every day of the week. Instead, it’s about creating an environment to work with good people in different ways, whether its video, recording, editing or producing. This place is creating the space for that.”