Buffalo Underground: GCR Audio (with AUTOPUNCH)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being invited into the studio by my friends in the outrageafunkalicious band AUTOPUNCH for a few hours.  AUTOPUNCH is recording their first full length album, a follow up to their self titled EP they released earlier this year, which you can listen to and buy on their website.  As a huge music fan, who also at one time even maybe considered himself a “guitar player” (I was not good), I was thrilled at the opportunity to see the whole process in action.  What I didn’t expect was how amazing the recording studio itself would be.  GCR Audio, tucked away on the corner of Franklin and North just outside of Allentown, is truly a hidden gem of Buffalo.

First a bit of background on GCR Audio.  For the most part, this article on Buffalo Rising can catch you up, but I’ll give you a synopsis.  As you may have heard, there’s this band from Buffalo called the Goo Goo Dolls.  They have a bass player named Robby Takac, who is truly a pioneer for Buffalo music.  Robby started the Music is Art festival, which showcases almost a hundred up and coming music acts every year, and he is a constant image of the Buffalo music scene in general.  Whether you love the Goos or not, you can’t deny the impact that Robby has had locally.  This vision was continued in 2009 when he opened GCR Audio, a state of the art recording studio like nothing else in the city of Buffalo, or even much of the northeast.  The Goos have recorded there themselves, along with other acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, B.o.B, Jessie J, and Buffalo’s own Moe.  Continue on for the story from my visit…

I must have circled around the Franklin/North/Delaware/Elmwood area a few times, since it resulted in me calling my buddy Dan Sheppard, drummer of AUTOPUNCH, to find out where the heck the studio was.  After all, shouldn’t there be a big sign out front?  No way.  GCR keeps it low key.  If not for a tiny sign out front of the apartment complex it shares space with, you wouldn’t even notice it walking your dog.  Considering the amount of money invested into the studio equipment, it’s probably best to keep it on the down low.  Bars line the windows and there’s a buzzer at the door to ring up for someone to let you in.

Upon entering, the décor of the downstairs area immediately impresses.  Wood floors are lined with decorative pattern rugs, providing a comfortable environment right away.  The walls are lined with pictures of rock stars and musicians, ranging from Mick Jagger to Shakira.  Immediately to the left is a lounge area with leather couches and a flat screen tv, providing a space away from the studio to sit down and relax.  Beyond this is the kitchen, fully functional and stocked.  On this day, the smell of a fresh pot of coffee permeated the air, an all important item for a band spending three marathon days of 12 hours each on perfecting their album.  (Check out Buffalo Rising’s article for plenty of pictures besides the pathetic two I took).

After browsing around downstairs, I was led up a wooden stairwell to the area where all the magic happens; the studio itself.  Upon entering the control room, it was immediately obvious I had underestimated what to expect from GCR Audio.  The massive audio board sitting in front of head engineer and studio manager Justin Rose was impossible to comprehend.  The sheer number of knobs adorning the board itself had me thinking how there could possibly be these many levels of adjustment in the medium of sound.  Meanwhile, Justin was capturing a bridge riff being played by guitarist Dan Wallace, who was alone in the studio through the glass separating it from the control room.  The studio itself was beautiful – a space big enough to accommodate a full band, with wooden panels curving and stretching all the way to the ceiling.  The panels even open and close, providing adjustments to the acoustics in the room.  The light shining in the window from the top, along with the hanging chandelier, made it clear this was a cathedral of ROCK.  Justin made the process of sound recording and editing seem easy – feverishly making adjustments and moving clips through the editing equipment on a Mac PC, the monitor situated above the sound board.

I said my hellos to the other members of the band (Luke Hammill, bass, and Dan Burkhardt, vocals and guitar) and took my seat in the corner with my friend Greg and tried not to bother anyone.  A whiteboard stood on the table behind us, listing the remaining tracks needing work, and the various sections of each song that still needed to be recorded.  This was day 2 of recording, so most of the drum, bass, and rhythm guitar lines were already recorded.  Today’s focus would be guitar fills, solos, and bridges, as well as a few atmospheric additions.  Vocals would be day 3.  I watched for the next few hours as items were slowly checked off the white board:  “Burkhardt solo”, “Wallace creepy guitar part”, “Guitar feedback intro”.  After a few takes of each, everyone provided feedback, and it was on to the next one.  This isn’t the Rolling Stones, who have the luxury of sitting in the studio for months while ideas come to them.  These guys had a clear road map before setting foot in GRC Audio, and were using their three days wisely and efficiently.

This process was aided along by resident engineer Justin Rose, who was wasting no time effortlessly pulling up the sections of songs that needed work, and helping the process along at a decent pace.  Justin also provided input on how he thought everything was sounding, and some tips on what tone and effects to use.  A small addition, but something he’s certainly not obligated to do.  After wrapping up recording, Justin will also be handling the mixing of the record.

The whole experience was definitely very cool, sort of like entering a world you didn’t know existed.  It’s certainly shocking to me that such a facility exists in the heart of Buffalo, right at the foot of Allentown.  Prices to use the studio vary, but with most packages averaging around $50.00 per hour, it’s a steal to be able to use such a top notch facility.  I’d especially like to thank AUTOPUNCH for letting me sit in with them.  Keep an eye out for their new album this winter, head on over to their website to see where they’ll be playing locally, and check out their music.  The new album sounded equally awesome and I can’t wait to hear it!  They rock, trust me.

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