(Im)Perfect Sound Forever
Robby and Jennifer Rux greet me at the front door of an old brown fourplex, nestled comfortably on a tree-lined street in Fort Worth's Fairmount Historic District. Their apartment, covered in posters, tapestries and age-old vinyl, serves as one of the few exclusively analog recording studios in North Texas.
Together, the married couple — Jennifer always with her sunglasses on (even at night) and Robby with his dusty Converse and pearl-snap shirt sleeves rolled up — run Dreamy Soundz Recording Studio with a little help from their dog, Shadow, whose pitter-patter across the hardwood floors is a signature of their in-house recordings.
If you recognize the name Dreamy Soundz, it might be because they are the masterminds behind the 2008 debut album from Fort Worth garage-rock trio Fungi Girls. Since then, they've recorded dozens of local artists, and say 2013 holds a lot of new business, including a Fungi Girls full-length, new material for their own bands (Year of the Bear, Solo Sol and Bitch Bricks), and a compilation of Fort Worth acts called Group Therapy Vol. 1 with Lo-Life Recordings.
As I sink into the cozy couch and pet Shadow a few times, I look around at equipment the likes of which my twentysomething eyes have never seen, and engage in a long chat with two people who appear to be reviving a dying art.
Talk about when you first got your feet wet with recording.
Jennifer: It was towards the end of 2008 that I started dabbling with recording and we put together our band Solo Sol. That's when the Fungi Girls approached me about recording analog. We recorded Some Easy Magic. When I first started recording the album, I didn't even have any compressors. I mean, I was just getting started. I didn't have all of the equipment that I needed. It turned out the way we wanted it to sound, but it took a lot more work because I had to try all kinds of things to get it to sound right, instead of just sliding a little compressor and going, "Oh, yeah, that sounds good." I feel like I pretty much cut my teeth on that album.
How is the Dreamy Soundz record label separate from the recording studio?
Robby: We just recently started being a label. We released our own stuff on our own label.
Jennifer: It's kind of gotten mixed up because people don't realize that we started our own label, and then we have the recording studio, and they are separate. People got confused and thought that we had recorded Skeleton Coast's record. We just want people to hear it. We thought it was a good full-length to put out. We've put out 7-inch releases from Year of the Bear and Solo Sol, but this was the first full-length that wasn't our bands.
Robby: We released the Skeleton Coast, but we didn't record them. Bobby from Skeleton Coast came over and he was showing us the rough mixes of the album, just because he wanted to get our opinion of it, and I was like, "Wow. This is really good." Actually, the first song played and I was like, "This is pretty good," then the second song played and I was like, "This is really good." And by the third song, I was like, "Damn. These kids, man." They're all young guys.
What bands have you recorded and what recordings do you have coming up?
Jennifer: We recorded The Longshots. They have a 7-inch about to come out on Pau Wau Records in Austin. We just did a compilation with Lo-Life Recordings. It's going to be released in February. We did Bitch Bricks, which I play bass in. We did a Longshots and Bitch Bricks split. We did an EP and a 7-inch for Solo Sol. We're doing the Year of the Bear 7-inch this year. We've done the Fungi Girls' full-length and three 7-inches for them. Their upcoming full-length is about three-quarters of the way done. We recorded Madràs. The lead singer of Madràs was a student at TCU. He was originally from India then moved to Dubai. When he was here, he formed this band called Madràs, this amazing band that is so inspiring.
Robby: Madràs put the full-length down; he got a whole bunch of press and then he was going to have to leave the country because his visa ran out, so the night before he left we went to Stay Wired Coffee. A friend of ours worked there and had the key, so we went over there and from midnight to 4:30 in the morning, we just recorded a live set. We set some mics up and said go for it. We're finishing that up right now. We're going to have to write the story on it because it's so sentimental.
We're going to do an album this summer called Friends of the Bear. It's gonna be just all of our friends from other bands stepping in and recording a song with us. Before Madràs left, we went ahead and recorded his track. We want to get our full-length out first, but we'll eventually make Friends of the Bear with War Party, Sealion, Siberian Traps. Jake Paleschic we're going to record, too. He's more of a folky, Ryan Adams kind of guy. He's in the Longshots, too, but his solo stuff is a little different.
Tell me about the upcoming compilation.
Robby: The compilation is with us and Lo-Life Recordings. We recorded most of the bands on there. Lo-Life is like a little DIY indie punk label. They don't do any recording. It's mostly Fort Worth bands on the comp. Once we got their instrument track done, we'd bring them over to the house to record the vocal track.
Jennifer: There are 16 bands on the compilation. We rented out The Where House for a day and recorded eight bands there. Some of the bands we recorded here, like Bitch Bricks, Year of the Bear, Fungi Girls. There's a split 10-inch coming out on Psych Fest's record label, Reverberation Appreciation Society. It's with Fungi Girls and a really cool Costa Rican punk band.
What equipment do you use, and why do you prefer analog to digital?
Jennifer: I record all the tape. It depends on the band and the project. It depends on what kind of sound they're going for. If they're a really lo-fi punk band I might use my cassette four-track, which I did all of Bitch Bricks on, because it has a certain sound. And then I have an eight-track reel-to-reel. It's an '85, but it's '60s throwback technology. It has two playback heads. It has a natural delay because there's a space between the heads. It's not a fancy reel-to-reel by any means. If you're using 2-inch tape, which I'm not, then you're losing quality when you go to digital. Digital just does not have the bandwidth that tape does. It cuts out highs and I got really frustrated recording digital. I couldn't get my guitar to sound right, I couldn't get the drums to sound right. Some people can do it pretty well, but most of the time you're trying to get it to sound like it was recorded on tape.
Robby: The reel-to-reel gets most of the use. It's real warm and old-school sounding. It's been used on a lot of recordings. Thee Oh Sees use one. Fresh and Onlys used it, the Sick Alps, Ty Segall — all of those cats use one. The Black Keys used one on their first record. It's really good for recording live. We're careful about it, because you can actually go the opposite direction. If you go hi-fi analog, it's actually way more hi-fi than any digital. If you ever listen to disco recordings from the late '70s, you can tell that the tones are way hi-fi. Drums are hard to record digitally. It drives me nuts. It cuts the sound off. Midlake's digital recordings sound analog, though. Some guys really know how to do it.
What sounds are you trying to achieve?
Jennifer: The bands I'm in are somewhat psychedelic, so that's drawn a lot of people to want to record here. I'd say Solo Sol is the most mid-fi out of all of it. If you're going for a 1965-1967 sound, what you're going to have to do is use our mics. Even though my board is newer, it's the same technology. The first song we recorded on this one mic was with Fungi Girls and it sounded so good. It's timeless. It's our magical mic. Every time I try something else, I'm like, "Why even try anything else? This is the mic to use." But I like experimenting with different stuff. As far as folk or blues go, it needs to have a little grit. I want it to sound like you're standing in the room with them, not like you went into the studio with them. The artists feel a lot more comfortable here because, for one thing, we don't charge by the hour. And it's more relaxed, being in the apartment.
What are some of your goals?
Jennifer: We've had a hard time getting our website up. I had somebody quit on me because I didn't want it to be that professional. I'm like, "I record in my apartment. You don't understand. I put the guitar amp in the bathtub because I like how the reverb sounds. I don't want people to think by looking at the website that they're coming into an RCA studio."
Robby: My nephew is the drummer in Fungi Girls. They live back here. Lots of musicians live here. They've got a little commune going. One thing with me and her is that we're getting older, so helping some of the young bands get going is a really big deal for us.
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