The Record Factory: A look inside the Converse Rubber Tracks Studio at Lovejoy Wharf

Converse Rubber Tracks
 
 

Since opening in Brooklyn in 2011, Converse’s Rubber Tracks recording studio was designed to give new and unsigned bands a chance to be heard — not just by potential new fans, but also the bands themselves.

“It’s rewarding,” says Brad Worrell, studio manager of Converse Rubber Tracks’ New York facility. “They literally hear themselves for the first time. I’ve had bands even look at each other and go, ‘Oh, this is what we sound like.’ These are baby bands. Sometimes all they need is to hear themselves in the monitor.”

Bringing bands out of the basement and makeshift bedroom studios has been part of the mission of Converse Rubber Tracks, and over the past few years a handful of Boston and New England acts have passed through the doors of the Brooklyn studio. But come July 1, Boston will have its own facility, and a true stake in the local music scene: A brand new 1,100 square-foot studio designed by acclaimed studio mind Fran Manzella, located at Converse’s new 10-story world headquarters at Lovejoy Wharf. The space is located next to the TD Garden on the edge of the North End, with scenic views of the jellyfish-filled wharf waters and the Zakim and Charlestown Bridges.

“The Ben Affleck Bridge — that’s what we tell people,” says Converse Rubber Tracks in Boston studio manager Evan Kenney with a laugh about the latter. “We ask them if they have seen ‘The Town.'”

Photos by Corwin Wickersham

It’s rare that a recording studio is met with applause over the views, but this is no dark, dingy basement space. The polish is still fresh and the equipment, including a mixing board designed by Rupert Neve, is ready for a five-bands-a-week schedule, with each act getting their own day, between the hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it’s also the vibe of the place that should immediately make it a breeding ground for musical creativity in Boston.

“As a brand Converse owes a lot to music, and we wanted to give something back,” says Jed Lewis, Converse Global Music Marketing Director. “We wanted to build a state of the art recording studio that any artist can come in and record for free.”

Bands are selected by a Rubber Tracks team and invited to come into the studio for an eight-hour session. Their pace and desired output is up to them. Some bands, Kenney says, want to create that one perfect single. Others are eager to bang out a full LP. And they can either bring in their own equipment, or use what’s provided by Rubber Tracks. The bands keep their recordings and own all the rights to it.

“There are just so many good bands in Boston, and studio time to them is not easy to get, it can be overwhelming,” Kenney says. “We can show them what to do, and put the focus on the band getting the best product. We’re focused on great sounding product.”

Photos by Corwin Wickersham

While the Boston’s Rubber Tracks studio — only the third of its kind, following the Brooklyn space and a studio in Sao Paolo, Brazil, that opened in February — was under construction, Converse directed bands to record at Somerville’s Q Division. It not only developed a relationship with what’s regarded as the area’s best recording facility, but also was able to build a relationship with homegrown bands.

Somerville electric folk act Eternals were one of the bands that set up shop at Q Division, and songwriter and frontman Stephen Konrads came away impressed. He was included on a panel at yesterday’s media session to help show off the new space.

“It’s been really special,” Konrads says. The musician joked that his previous recording experience including a makeshift console and a bong, but of Q Division, he adds: “It’s a very expensive place and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to record there otherwise. It was really cool… Free studio time is an invaluable resource. To work in a world class facility is such a learning experience, and you learn a whole lot from it.”

Another extension of the Converse Rubber Tracks brand extends beyond the studio and into the rock clubs. Back in April, their massive, week-long Rubber Tracks Live series at the Sinclair pulled together bands like Passion Pit, Slayer, the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., and others, all to not only celebrate the new HQ coming to Boston, but also illustrate its commitment to music and the local scene.

The headliners for the five-night stand, as well as the touring-act bands for the other 14 Rubber Tracks Live shows in the Boston area, all hand-selected local openers who have recorded at Rubber Tracks. Passion Pit selected Radclyffe Hall, and the ‘Mats and Dinosaur Jr. selected the Young Leaves. Last night, when Matt & Kim played the 20th Converse Rubber Tracks Live show, they selected the Barbazons. And when Wild Nothing played a few weeks ago, they tapped Eternals.

“When we saw Wild Nothing selected us out of a handful of other bands, that was really cool,” says Konrads.

As Lewis spoke yesterday about the pillars that make Converse Rubber Tracks a success — from the recording experience to the 20,000-strong royalty-free sample library to pop-up studios to the live shows — one thing he mentions sums up it all up rather easily.

“We are here to give these bands an opportunity,” Lewis says. “We listen.”

Bands interested in recording at Converse Rubber Tracks Boston can sign up here. Here’s a look inside:

Images supplied by Converse