Wet Bandit recording studio opens

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Feb. 27 | Modified: Feb. 27
Wet Bandit recording studio opens

It’s not all fun and games for, from left, Ben Mercer, Matt Gaylord and J.D. Rust. The trio of musicians recently opened a Boone-based recording studio with hopes of promoting local and national acts.

Photo by Jesse Campbell

Deep down, they might think they’ll never get rich playing or recording music.

But for Ben Mercer, Matt Gaylord and J.D. Rust of Wet Bandit Studio, it’s not about the money, but rather the passion and satisfaction of putting out a well polished record.

These Appalachian State University alumni and musicians are beginning to leave their mark on the local music scene, while also helping to shape its direction.

They also want to bring notice to — and perhaps even revive — a Boone music scene that has evolved from a funk, party jam-based style of playing to an alternative and Indie rock vibe.

“I’ve seen plenty of good bands come and go in this town without leaving any evidence that they were here,” Mercer said.

“Boone is a town that’s definitely changing,” Rust said about the musical shift sweeping the cultural center of the High Country.

While contemplating opening their unsuspecting basement studio that overlooks the downtown district, the musical entrepreneurs were worried there wouldn’t be enough local talent to feed the fledgling startup.

This notion quickly changed when they started putting word out about their studio, which features a special one-day session for a premier EP.

“The music market is so saturated with talent,” Mercer said. “People were literally coming out of the woodwork.”

“There’s a much bigger market than we thought,” Gaylord said. “One of our initial worries was that Boone wasn’t big enough to support this. For a lot of bands coming to us, this is their first time going into a studio. They are learning a lot and learning how to use their instruments in different ways.”

Unlike larger corporate production studios, Wet Bandit — a reference to the ne’er-do-wells from the 1990 film, “Home Alone” — offers a personal touch that can help ease the nerves of first-time musicians.

“It’s not a cold environment here,” Mercer said. “A lot of the bands that come through here end up being good friends of mine.”

Despite a more laid-back recording experience, an aspect of professionalism is not lost upon the young recording engineers.

“We push them harder than they would’ve probably went, because we want them to sound their very best,” Gaylord said. “We are not a (music) factory. We begin the whole process by having our first meeting with a new band at Black Cat (Burrito). I will ask them about their favorite sound or album, and I might say, ‘Well this is how I think you achieve that,’ and help them get there.”

Although they typically think “local first,” Mercer, Gaylord and Rust stress they are ready and more than willing to accommodate bands from across the region.

“Our overall mission is to facilitate the making of albums they (the bands) can be proud of and that we can be proud of, too,” Gaylord said.

The location of the studio seems to be a good fit, as well.

“Boone is two hours away from everywhere,” Rust said. “It’s a great location. People are always looking for an excuse to come up to the mountains. We’ve even had several bands on tour stay at the house, and that has helped us make a lot of connections.”

For more information, visit http://www.wetbanditaudio.com, or call (704) 779-2057.

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