A chat with Woodriver Studios, By Ryan Williams / by Kian West

I’ve known Liam, Joe and Isaac from Woodriver Studios for a long time. They touched base about getting something in Mirage last year. It’s probably the longest lead time we’ve ever had for an interview. The truth is that Woodriver Studios has been operating in secret for the past year or so. Under darkness and robes and secret handshakes. A sort of secret musical society thing, building, building and building.

Now the robes are off. Everything is out in the open. The building is build-ed. I caught up with the boys and talked about their plans for the future of their recording and teaching space at 3/850 Newcastle West.

How did everything come about with Woodriver? 
Liam: We found the space...then planned everything around that [laughs].

Do you have some before and after pictures?
Joe: Yeah, across all the different stages of the build. The floor, carpeting, soundproofing and all that.
L: We should go through all our respective phones and put it into one folder. 

How would you describe this place to some person from off the street? Is it a school or a studio?Isaac: It's both – at least 50/50 recording studio and teaching space. It's a scho-dio.
J: Quote him on that.
I: The whole area we have is actually two separate leased shops – it's literally 50-50 studio and teaching.

You've had a few artists in already to record, haven't you?
J: Yeah – we were recording the new Suburban Haze album as we were finishing the building off. Hanging treatment from the walls while the engineer was setting up.
I: I think we tend to work better to strict deadlines.

Whose idea was it to put this all together?
I: It's a concept that had been thrown around for a while. Originally, we had a lot more people keen to be involved.
L: There were around seven of us at the start.
I: We all worked for other music schools.
L: I saw this come up online for a very, very cheap price. It was a pretty good chance to have a crack.
I: Between all of us we'd been looking at different properties for years. It got to the point where we'd run out of new places to view online. Liam found this place and we all jumped on it. Everyone was at work, so Joe was the only one who saw it before we signed the lease. It's perfect. That was about a year ago now; originally we signed up for three years and we were all really worried. It felt like such a long time. Now we're a year in, it's all finally built and finished. I think we need to look at extending it.

Was it on and off, building the thing?
J: We didn't start on the studio until July last year. It was happening in two-week blocks, then nothing. Very patchy.
I: We got through the teaching side fairly quickly. We wanted to start teaching here as soon as we could. 
L: It only took us six weeks to get this side going. 
J: Painted, floored, carpeted.

All yourselves?
Not the carpet. That is a little bit too involved to tackle.

Yeah, of course [laughs].

Are there particular genres you're working with here?
Anything at this stage. We did a few projects in here before it was finished. I was working on the Jacob album in the big room as it was. It was a bit more haphazard. I recorded another hardcore band in this teaching/waiting room. It was pretty interesting –  there's a lot of different angled walls, so there's a nice reverb.
I: Very lively.
J: But yes, I don't want to record the same thing over and over.

Do you hire the space out for rehearsals?
Tired Minds and Safe Hands currently have the spaces. 

Of course.
It's not a priority, but if the room is empty, we definitely will offer it to bands. 
J: I'm normally around editing photos or doing some design. It's an easy reach.
I: We're pretty open-minded when it comes to what happens here. If someone was to come and request to use the space to paint or draw, we'd be totally up for it.
J: There's not much hierarchy to deal with.

I was doing some snooping on your website and noticed you have a mailing list. What goes into a good mailing list?
I don't know yet... 
I: We're focusing on that side of things now that we've built it. 
J: To be honest, I really hate being on mailing lists. 
I: Primary target market is the mums and dads of our students. A newsletter at the start of the term, what's happening, etc. 
L: I think that's where the separation of the school and studio comes in. We don't really want to bombard anyone with our stuff. We're trying to look professional.

Is there much planned outside of the stuff you've already mentioned for Woodriver?
Ultimately, I would like to do more group-orientated lessons here. There are programs out there like Drumbeat – this three-day program that is skewed toward using percussion as therapy for younger children with attention deficit disorder or autism. Groups like Allambee team up to put on this course with djembes. It's a great way for the participant to externalise anything that's going on in their heads. You don't really need a great understanding of music theory or complex rhythms to get something out of it. 
The other thing is eventually putting on small-scale art shows here in this big room. Maybe using the studio room as a more interactive exhibition.
J: If we can get a few things like this happening here, we'd all feel good about extending the lease beyond 2019. A little bit more job security would be nice.