Silver City Studios Lets Milwaukee Bands Record on the Cheap
What do legendary rock band Nirvana and Wisconsin have in common? The Dairy State is home to Viroqua-born Butch Vig, the widely-celebrated music producer most famous for recording Nirvana’s seminal 1991 album Nevermind in a tiny Madison studio. The now-defunct Smart Studios produced records by other prolific artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and Garbage, alongside countless Wisconsin-based bands. Vig’s star-studded recording career was memorialized in the 2016 documentary The Smart Studios Story.
When local musician Andrew Jambura (Sat. Nite Duets) saw the film at last year’s Milwaukee Film Festival, he was inspired to open a sound studio of his own. He joined forces with fellow scene veterans Graham Hunt (Midnight Reruns, Midwives and others) and Josh Evert (The Fatty Acids) and opened Silver City Studios in April 2017. The artist-run studio’s motto is “Low cost, high reward,” an ethos the founders strive to maintain consistently.
The three musicians have known each other for years, having met through playing in many Milwaukee rock bands. “Josh and I have been friends since the summer of 2009, when he heard my band on MySpace and invited us to play a show in his basement,” Jambura explains. “Graham is a guy we had both known from the music scene for a while. We’re all pretty like-minded when it comes to music and get along well.”
He explains getting the studio off the ground was “a bit serendipitous,” though he and Evert both expressed interest in establishing a place to record for a while before taking the plunge. “I think we were both ready to find a creative space that wasn’t a lightless, subterranean mold cave (read: Riverwest basement). Not to mock basements, as nearly all our previous recordings had been done in them, but we were looking for a space that we would feel comfortable inviting clients to.” Jambura and Evert heard Hunt was also looking for a place to record, and the duo invited him on board.
With a bachelor of arts degree in music technology and a day job recording audiobooks, Jambura has been recording music since he began playing in bands at age 15. He says Hunt and Evert have similar backgrounds and both “have great ears for making music sound good.” Their combined experience ensures every client is provided with a very personalized recording session. “We each sort of operate independently, working one-on-one with artists, but we’ve definitely collaborated and will continue to collaborate in the future. It all depends on what a given project calls for.”
Located in Milwaukee’s Silver City neighborhood, the studio boasts a 400-square foot control room with an 800-square foot live room attached. Clients have the option to track up to 16 inputs separately. A wide variety of instruments are available for artists to use along with an impressive collection of recording equipment. “We purchased a few new things for the studio, but we’ve each been collecting gear for the past 10 years,” Jambura explains. “We realized we could put it all together and have a pretty decent setup.” Silver City Studios ensures that affordability is a high priority. An average recording session costs around $20 an hour, but varies depending on circumstances. “It’s been my experience that the media production business can be pretty profit-driven,” explains Jambura. “There’s an emphasis on knowing what your time is ‘worth,’ which is important and valid, but also off-putting if communicated in the wrong way. I think we’re all on the same page regarding this; we want to provide a comfortable and reasonably priced recording experience. We’re coming at this endeavor as artists, ourselves.”
The studio has so far attracted a wide variety of steady clientele and is currently looking to record with new artists. A few of Silver City Studio’s notable clients to date include Paper Holland, Surgeons in Heat, Bad Wig, Teenage Woman and Pay Up. Jambura says the studio’s goal is to keep recording music and other audio work on a full-time basis. “Beyond that,” he says, “we just want to keep making better music and be involved in more creative projects.”For more information about Silver City Studios, visit facebook.com/SilverCityStudios414.