Every day the space at 4400 York Boulevard is bombarded by passersby who are curious at the construction going on inside. During smoke breaks, sweaty, tired young men come out of the building and gather in front under the large oak tree. Neighborly sidewalk chatter leads to heads poking into the space and asking, “What are you working on in there?”
Putting hammer to nail and hand to wallet, co-owners and Eagle Rockers Sam Darring and Spencer Cox are turning an old property into a high-end, professional recording studio with a mix of DIY can-do, technical skill and local support.
“People want to know what’s happening on York,” said Darring, a 28-year-old engineer. The project, he added, is “a minimalist perspective at business.”
“The minute we saw it, we thought, ‘we gotta be here,’” said Cox, 24, who calls Eagle Rock the next big thing. “Artists are here. People are here.”
“Here” is a light industrial stretch of York Boulevard, off Eagle Rock Boulevard, that is full of auto body shops and mini-dealerships. The property’s location and zoning make it ideal to record music, without concern for noise or residences. With people living stacked together in apartments, and side-by-side in houses, the co-owners see the space as a high-end recording venue that can double as an art installation/gallery.
It’s an affordable, positive place to record and display art, Darring said. “It happens to be an empty room … In Los Angeles, people like that. They like empty rooms because they can do whatever they want in there [musically, artistically].”
The partners said they had just installed a high-tech lighting system and were working on building an isolation booth to allow for simultaneous activity in different parts of the space.
“I’m isolating the control room and the isolation booth from the rest of the building, too,” Darring said. “It’s awesome for us because we get to provide something to our community and the people that we work with.”
For the things the team can’t do, they hire carpenters. But everything else, from painting to wiring, is done by Darring and Cox.
“We want to create a place that allows artists to use the space in different ways,” Cox said, calling it a flex space for any kind of project. “Obviously the music is the main focus, but hopefully we can do photo shoots and things of that kind of nature.”
Local artists’ mixed media already hang on the walls, and Darring Studios was an unofficial participant in Saturday’s Eagle Rock Art Walk.
When the space is completed, the promotion/production partnership will entail Darring handling the engineering and the technical side, while Cox will run the event space for what the partners call essentially two separate businesses. With a network of bands the duo is connected to, buzz is growing for launch.
“That’s one of the beautiful things about being up here,” Darring said. “It’s not hard to find.”
Darring, from upstate New York, and Glendale-born Cox, met in a Santa Monica College study abroad summer in Guatemala and became fast friends.
At the time, Darring recorded Venice Beach rappers in his apartment, while Cox worked as a bartender, a position he stills works on the side.
“I was recording rappers in my apartment in Venice — mostly the terrible rappers on the beach,” he said.
After four years, Darring had grown tired of the musically limited venue scene and moved from the beach to the Eastside, landing in Eagle Rock after the two discovered the studio. But just as the two were hashing out plans, Cox decided to go abroad again and left for a year in Denmark, working a child development program. Upon returning, the two reunited and reignited their entrepreneurial spark.
ADAM POPESCU is a Los Angeles-based journalist and artist who can be reached on twitter @adampopescu and via his blog at westcoastchops.wordpress.com.