Converse opens free recording studio for local SXSW artists


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GIBSON

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Posted on March 14, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 15 at 10:14 AM

AUSTIN -- The sounds of funk and soul aren't what you expect to hear coming from the shack in the back on East 4th Street.

Musician Sam Powell describes it best saying, "It's like a present whenever you walk in the building."

The gift is a recording studio.

"Giving artists an opportunity to come into a world class studio, a recording studio, and give them time to be together with their fellow artists, and record is something very special," said Converse Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Cottrill. 

And it's free.

"We paid, you know, over $1,000 for our last little bit of studio time," recalled Powell who is the keyboard player for the band Soul Track Mind. 

This week, Converse is picking up the tab. The company known for its Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, a favorite among musicians, opened the Rubber Tracks recording studio in Brooklyn, New York nine months ago. Then decided to bring it to South by Southwest, to an old recording studio on East 4th St., for five days during the music festival.

"This is our way, Converse's way, of saying 'thank you' to artists who have been so good to us for so long," said Cottrill. 

Bands, including Soul Track Mind, applied online and five Texas groups, three from Austin, were chosen to have the studio all to themselves for eight hours each.

"Our practice space right now is a kind of a glorified garage, and we have, we do have some recording equipment that we use, but it's very primitive and not as high quality, so it's always good to be able to come in here," said Soul Track Mind lead singer Donovan Keith. 

The artists and Converse executives say the heart of the project is restoring the SXSW festival and music to what it used to be.

"I think in general, there's a movement going back to, to what real music used to be with real instruments and maybe a little less electronica," said the band's trumpet player Zach Buie. 

"SXSW has changed so much over the past 10 or 15 years," added Cottrill. "It's become so big, and the idea of what SXSW was when it started was about young, independent artists, you know, looking for a way to have their voice heard."

Converse is giving them a way to not only be heard, but to capture the funk, and it doesn't end with SXSW. Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn is open year-round and gives artists the chance to record their music for free in a new, state-of-the-art recording studio.

Click here for more information on Rubber Tracks.