Somerville studio and DIY space Pink Noise Studios to close

Via blog post

Pink Noise Studios will host its final recording sessions at the end of March, according to a blog post from audio engineer and studio operator Dan Thorn. The East Somerville studio and DIY space located at 15 Ward St. has not renewed its lease for 2022, and will vacate the building on March 31.

“A new tenant is moving in on April 1st,” Thorn wrote last week (February 2). “Sometime before then, I’ll conduct my last session at Pink Noise. I hope it won’t be my last one ever.”

Pink Noise Studios began under the name Boca Studios in 2014, when it was operated by Mathieu Cunha and Parker Crane; Thorn took the reins in 2015 and grew the space into the accessible, affordable resource that it is today. Pink Noise has hosted hundreds — if not thousands — of recording sessions, live performances, and band rehearsals over the past eight years, making its closure another major loss for the Boston music community.

Thorn especially mourns the loss of Pink Noise as performance space, which has hosted everyone from Oompa to VQnC over the past eight years: “During a pandemic that’s cost us Great Scott and ONCE, I’m sad to have to close down another small, independent-minded local venue.”

“For the last month I was hoping that I could find some kind of partnership that’d make the rent make sense, and sign a new lease at the eleventh hour,” he shares. “Given how recently my landlord had spoken to me about his difficulties finding a tenant to move in after the end of our lease, it seemed like a reasonable possibility. But as of Friday I’ve been made aware that it’s not a possibility any more. If Pink Noise exists past April 1, 2022, it won’t be at 15 Ward Street in Somerville.”

Unsurprisingly, Thorn remarks that COVID-19 and the last two years created unprecedented challenges with regards to maintaining Pink Noise. Prior to the pandemic, Thorn’s “day job” paychecks usually covered expenses such as rent, utilities, equipment replacement, and basic toiletries and supplies. Come the spring of 2020, however, the $3,500 to $4,000 monthly studio costs began to weigh on him. 

“I was extremely lucky to work on some incredible albums as a mixing and mastering engineer in 2021, and to host a handful of one-on-one in-person sessions in those furtive weeks between the first and second waves, but as COVID cases kept increasing with no end in sight, I realized how financially unsustainable the lease was,” he notes. “Beyond that, the lockdown caused me, like many others, to reevaluate my priorities, and I began to realize how much of a toll the frantic pace of breaking even on the studio pre-COVID took on my physical and mental health. Even if we returned to pre-2020 conditions, with conditions in the local music scene strong enough to sustain the number of bookings I could count on before, would I even want to go back to what was essentially a second 40 hour/week job that I subsidized with my ‘real’ 40hour/week job?”

Thorn shares that he actually asked his landlord to put the space back on the market in 2021, with the hope that he could vacate the space before his lease ended. But with no interested parties, Thorn remains locked into the lease through the end of March, as originally planned. Pink Noise will remain active for the next two months, although Thorn hopes he can transport the spirit of the studio to a new space or format in the near future.

“Ideally, I’d like to ultimately set up another, smaller studio, somewhere bigger than the closet of a practice space but smaller than the Ward Street property,” he explains. “The biggest obstacles I see to that are 1) even if I rented a smaller space, commercial real estate in the area is expensive and landlords aren’t usually psyched about the idea of using a space as a recording studio, and 2) you can make a lot more noise, and have a lot more space, in a more rural environment, but I would also very much not want to live in a more rural environment.”

In the meantime, Thorn says he’d like to host a final gathering at Pink Noise the weekend of March 18, 19, and 20 before he packs up and says farewell to Somerville.

“More than anything, I’m proud of the times when it felt like there was a real community based around Pink Noise, whose enthusiasm for the space and for what happened in it matched my own,” he concludes. “I wasn’t able to reconcile the contradictions between Pink Noise as a community that was bigger than me, and Pink Noise as a difficult-to-maintain business with me as the sole proprietor. I’m hopeful that we’ll see new opportunities for musicians and engineers in the future that are kinder, weirder, and more resilient than Pink Noise, and I’d be eager to help build something like that in community with you all.”