Alumni offer recording to local bands

Alumni offer recording to local bands

Lovey Cooper

For many bands getting their start in Boone, gaining popularity outside of the town is hard without traveling to other gigs, a nearly impossible task without an album to tour behind.

“I’ve seen so many good bands get formed here, play a couple of good shows and then disappear forever,” Appalachian State University alumnus Ben Mercer said. “They never had a product to sell.”

Mercer is half of Wet Bandit Audio, a new record label located in the basement of a residential house in downtown Boone. He and Matt Gaylord, who graduated from Appalachian in 2006, started the company in hopes of recording their own music and filling what they see as a gap in the market.

Gaylord is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology. He returned to Boone from Oxford, Miss., where he played music and worked as an amplifier repairman. Having no professional experience in the musical realm, he moved back in hopes of rediscovering the town’s charm, music and genuine people, he said.

“For a long time, Boone has had a great music scene, and it’s really on the cusp right now, but one of the glaring deficiencies has been a good recording studio or a for-hire recording space,” Gaylord said.

He wanted to find a place where he could jam and record his own work while still working as a professor, Gaylord said.

Although he originally didn’t have any concrete plans to start a recording studio, Gaylord knew he would like to get back into the local music scene.

Before moving, he wanted to make sure he’d have someone to jam with. After researching online, Gaylord discovered local Boone band Swift Science, and decided that Mercer, the band’s drummer, would fit perfectly with his own playing style.

After moving from Mississippi, Gaylord became acquainted with Mercer, and they met up for a jam session in the basement of Mercer’s house in what is now the Wet Bandit recording studio.

Last year, a vacancy opened up in Mercer’s residence. Gaylord, who had been collecting and repairing cheap vintage music equipment for the past 10 years, moved himself and his equipment into the house.

The house now offers not only a recording studio and performance space in the basement, but also a place for traveling bands to stay.

In 2012, before the two met, Mercer had single-handedly recorded Swift Science’s first album with one mid-quality microphone, piece-by-piece and track-by-track.

“That was how I learned everything about recording and editing, that album,” Mercer said.

When the two decided to record their own music under the band name Rubber Checks, they emerged with a unique vintage production sound that they now market to local bands.

Gaylord stresses to his students that what you study in school does not have to be your life, and he sees himself as an example of a self-taught professional.

“I guess [Mercer and I] are products of that, the university of auto-didacticism,” Gaylord said.

Since becoming officially incorporated around the end of October, the two have had nearly no time to record their own work. Instead, they have been swamped with requests from local bands eager to lay down tracks.

They have already completed recordings and mixing with local bands such as Brain Paint, Drawlstrings and Mont Saint, with other projects in the works including Chrome Scene and the Naked Party.*

Ultimately, the two hope mix full-time, as well as expand Wet Bandit’s presence to include live shows, remote recording and album release parties. While their house is not guaranteed for their use indefinitely, they hope that by establishing the brand with a portfolio of local bands, they can become a Boone staple.

The two believe they offer a unique and individualized experience for bands that the school’s recording studio can’t offer, and are excited about the opportunity to introduce younger musicians to the recording world.

“They’ve probably never played through a vintage, 1965 Fender tube reverb – they probably don’t even know what that is,” Gaylord said. “We get them around this and get them educated about this stuff. Hell, I wish I had been able to do that.”

*CORRECTION: The article mentions a band named the Naked Party. The group’s actual name is The Nude Party. The Appalachian apologizes for the error.

Story by Lovey Cooper, Senior A&E Reporter