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Always Look on the Bright Side

Bright Street Recorders occupies a spot just off Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood, California, in a charming area of the San Fernando Valley—a location that founder and co-owner Kenny Woods describes as a “classic, back-lot kind of feel.”

The control room at Bright Street
Recorders features a 1974 Quantum
Audio Labs QA-1010 console that was
once owned by James Brown.
Bright Street Recorders occupies a spot just off Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood, California, in a charming area of the San Fernando Valley—a location that founder and co-owner Kenny Woods describes as a “classic, back-lot kind of feel.” The legendary Wally Heider had a place just around the corner, and NRG Studios is another neighbor located just down the street. “The room itself is fantastic,” says Woods, who stumbled on the facility about six years ago while driving around and responding to advertisements for available commercial space.

The building seemed like the perfect choice since not only was it situated in a charming locale, but, in fact, had been a studio in previous incarnations. Woods says that it only took a couple of months to get it up to speed and running before he was able to invite clients in. “It just needed some cosmetic repair and a few acoustic tweaks,” he reports. “I spent a couple of months just going through layers of paint and soldering.”

Fast forward about three years later. One of Woods’ surfing buddies told him about a potentially ideal business partner for the studio, someone who was passionate about music and recording and who could help push the business to the next level: Pierre de Reeder. “Pierre and I had both been playing in bands around the area, and we knew a lot of the same people,” Woods recalls. “It just so happened that I was looking for somebody to come in and breathe some new life into the space. Since then, it has been a perfect fit; it is great to have somebody else who is super-dedicated to getting bookings and putting out the word.”

“Getting bookings” is a bit of an understatement. Over the last couple of years, both Woods and de Reeder have spread the word and attracted satisfied high-profile clients including Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Ben Harper, Robyn Hitchcock, Five for Fighting and others. “For a relatively small studio, we have cast a really wide net,” explains Woods, who says they appreciate working in multiple musical genres. “I have done things with Rickie Lee Jones, Robyn Hitchcock and heavier bands like Night Horse and Ancestors.” Woods says that Hitchcock was looking for something different in a recording studio. “Robyn is a very particular character, and I don’t think he really wants to be in a posh, conventional studio environment. He was looking for something a little different, but something that could handle a professional level of work.”

What is the draw of Bright Street, after all? “I think the overall draw is the mix we have of comfort, vibe, great sound and reliability,” says de Reeder. One of de Reeder’s producer friends brought Ben Harper to the facility for what was originally supposed to be a weeklong session. “Ben liked it so much that they stayed for five weeks—they tracked a whole record from the ground up,” de Reeder states. “As budgets are shrinking, we’ve put ourselves in kind of a sweet spot. There are just not as many studios out there where you can stay for an extended period of time and just be creative,” he says.

The studio is modestly priced yet sports plenty of space for bands to get comfortable. Among the client amenities are two well-appointed lounges, one of them a more recent addition. The extremely versatile live room features good sightlines and measures approximately 25×40 feet with 18-foot ceilings. It contains three isolation booths: one optimized for vocals and two others for guitar cabinets. Woods and de Reeder call the live room at Bright Street “one of the best-sounding drum rooms in Los Angeles, at any price.”

The control room, which features Dynaudio BM6A and Auratone monitors, has a wide orientation, measuring 15×12 feet and utilizes a Pro Tools|HD3 system with a host of requisite plug-ins, along with a vast collection of vintage analog gear. At the center of it all is a 1974 Quantum Audio Labs QA-1010 console that was originally owned by none other than the Godfather of Soul and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business: James Brown. The desk features 16 channels of Reichenbach transformer-balanced mic pres with inductor-based 3-band EQs. De Reeder says the combination of classic analog gear and Pro Tools HD simply presents more options: “By and large, it is all about a hybrid way of working for me,” he says. “We use the board mainly for summing, as well as its preamps. I am a big fan of making the best of both worlds.” For those who prefer an analog mix down, Bright Street has a vintage Ampex ATR 800 deck on premises.

There are plenty of preamps for clients to choose from in addition to the ones on the console (the latter of which de Reeder says sound fantastic). “We have a rack of 24 SSL 615e’s, which all have Jensen transformers. These sound great and, to me, sound very similar to API 512s.” Other preamp choices in the studio include API 512s, Avedis Audio MA5s and Aurora Audio 1073s among others. In the compression department, Bright Street has plenty of vintage selections including UREI LA3As, LA2As, 1176s and a pair of Daking Audio units, which are used principally for bus compression. It’s not only important to have a great collection of gear, says Woods, but it is also important to maintain it: “Everything here works, and all the gear is on par. There are no surprises.”

As the new year comes into full swing, Bright Street Recorders will likely keep doing more of the same. “I just want to keep things simple and keep the same tack we’ve been on. We aren’t booking too far out, and we are fortunate that our clients keep coming back,” he says. “So far, we have survived mainly on word of mouth. We originally told a few friends, and it has taken on a natural progression from there.”

Bright Street Recorders

Jeff Touzeau is a regular contributor to Pro Sound News and author of five pro audio related titles, including Making Tracks: Unique Recording Studio Environments.