The next step for any music artist, after penning some genre-defining compositions and getting their hair just right, is to set about practising and recording their songs. Whilst technology has opened up countless ways to make music at home, nothing can beat the experience of playing in a fully-fledged rehearsal room or studio. This is the point where somewhere like Brighton Electric Recording Studio becomes invaluable.
The vision for this facility started in 1999, with a £700 investment and a whole lot of hard work. “We built the first studio ourselves and learnt how to do it along the way,” Brighton Electric’s director James Stringfellow tells me. Based on the lively Lewes Road, just next to the bus company’s depot, it’s become the city’s professional music hub. With extensive rehearsal suites, premier-league recording studios, a newly installed bar and a café, bands need never leave the building except to sleep or smoke. The mission is to offer genuinely high end studio and equipment facilities at affordable rates. It’s why they’ve found this building and its three nearby sister sites positioned at the centre of the Brighton music community. “We continually strive to be the best studio in the world, through on-going investment, training and improvement.”
As I turn up, there are plenty of musicians loading in their gear. Clearly used to manic periods like this, the staff book in the musicians and sort out varying equipment concerns. Even when the drummer from a certain local band strolls in he’s greeted like a dear friend rather than the world-famous star he is. An employee stresses the studio treats everyone with the same warmth and respect. Even the biggest artist can expect a stress-free and friendly atmosphere when turning up to work. There’s often plenty of opportunities to get over-excited though, with artists including Mumford and Sons, Alison Moyet, Pendulum, Florence Welch, Foals, Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Wytches, Passenger and The Cure amongst the notable clientele. On a busy day almost 50 bands will pass through the Electric’s beautiful tiled entrance hall.
Built in 1897 as Brighton Tramways’ head office, this Victorian building brings old-world style together with a high-end recording and rehearsal complex. Dotted around it are 17 welcoming practice studios, each equipped with its own drum kit. A series of bright, high ceilinged spaces, these range from the modest to the huge. Continuous across the building is a comfy home-like feeling, something that is entirely intentional. Their main recording studio features a large day-lit live room, separate vocal booth and a 70s Neve 5316 console. Pair this with the unrivalled Pro Tools HD software on hand and any band will be well on their way to recording authentic and coherent sounds. The studio next door to this is controlled by similarly gorgeous Neve BCM10 and PSM12 consoles. These desks might all be old school in nature, but the warmth and character they lend to recordings make them world class.
Alongside the rehearsal and recording rooms, there are several mix studios, a small venue for showcase events, a mastering suite and storage facilities. Signs around the latter show that acts like The Go! Team, British Sea Power and Architects all store kit here. Even bands without lengthy equipment lists can hire instruments and amplifiers from the Aladdin’s cave of music technology next door. The facility can effortlessly facilitate most live performances as well, offering rentals of pro audio gear, tour buses and even tour management services.
While the advances bands receive from labels have been shrinking for over a decade, the biggest share of revenues from on-line streaming now go to the record companies themselves. This appears to have rejuvenated the industry a little, so there is optimism for the future of British music. “Recording budgets appear to have stabilised somewhat and may even improve. There has also been a significant rise in self-financed artists and we are well placed to meet this demand.” Stringfellow and his staff are also noticing a renewed interest in starting independent record labels. Increasingly artists are doing their own thing and not following trends in their attempts to get signed. This is contributing towards a more diverse and interesting music scene.
As runner up for National Studio of the Year Award by Music Week in 2010 (losing out to the legendary Abbey Road), the Brighton Electric experience has deliberately been made open and accessible to everyone. From hobby bands looking for somewhere to fully express themselves to globetrotting superstars, this imposing Lewes Road building holds a versatile range of music facilities. “It’s great to participate in something of cultural and creative value for Brighton. And have some fun along the way.”
Brighton Electric Recording Studio, Tramway House, 43-45 Coombe Rd, Brighton BN2 4AD