(artlicle appears in Jump Philly, at https://jumpphilly.com/2016/08/03/headroom-studio/)
The Headroom Studio: Music Mentors.
Kyle Pulley sits at the console in The Headroom Studio, his head flanked by speakers resting underneath two new plants that he’s quick to point out upon entering his workspace.
One hears lots of loud, fast clicks as Pulley expertly isolates instrument or vocal tracks, playing with the volume in the mix or fixing some end of a musical phrase. As the gears in his head turn, he’s seemingly unaware of a few mutters of “that sounds weird” and “hmmm” that he lets slip out.
Pulley has been focusing on this one track for the past six hours. It’s for the upcoming LP of Jersey-based rock band Pine Barons on which Pulley has been working on and off for months. He’s been at it for slightly less time today than the band. After playing a show at The Foundry the night before, they returned to the studio to work and ended up sleeping over.
Working hard and with what time and resources you have has been a mantra of The Headroom since the time Pulley and partner Joe Reinhart started in Big Mama’s Warehouse, a space where they lived and worked recording bands with a few mics and a laptop and sometimes for the payment of $20 and a case of beer.
“We knew a bunch of people who were willing to live like crazy people,” Pulley says. “It was a great space to start, because you could take a lot of risk on bands and work for no money for something you really believed in.”
Pulley and Reinhart moved their studio work into the current space on Coral Street in Kensington in July of 2014 and are now a go-to team for dozens of local bands for a quality recording experience, as well as sought after by out-of-town acts searching for the same thing. Reinhart says he believes they’re valued because of the input they provide during the recording process and the fact that they enjoy being as creatively involved as possible or required.
“We know where bands are coming from; we’ve been in bands our whole lives,” he says by phone while on tour with Hop Along, for which he plays guitar.
Reinhart says this experience in bands also means he and Pulley understand not having a ton of money to record. That’s why they try to keep prices reasonable, bridging the gap between expensive studios and bedroom recording.
“We talk about raising our rates but always come to the conclusion that, right now, we’d still rather be affordable for younger bands and bands who are still starting out,” Pulley says. “I’d rather work on a cool record for less money any day.”
There are plenty of cool bands coming into Headroom and cool records coming out. From well-known local acts like Lithuania and Modern Baseball, to out-of-towners like Joyce Manor, Headroom is gaining ground by word of mouth.
Zoë Allaire Reynolds, vocalist of buzzworthy indie folk band Kississippi, says the band decided to record with Pulley as fans of his current band Thin Lips and previous band Dangerous Ponies, as well as having heard about good experiences from multiple peers.
“Kyle had a hand in motivation and gave us a friendly push to take risks,” she says. “Through this, I discovered things I didn’t know I could do with my voice before. It definitely paid off in the end, not only on the recordings, but at shows, too.”
Pulley and Reinhart are understandably happy with Headroom’s headway. They both admit it’s hard to be so active in the studio and on the road with their respective bands. There have even been instances when Pulley or Reinhart have started a project but a tour opportunity popped up and the other person had to step in to see it through.
“It’s a lot because the people in your band are counting on you,” Reinhart says. “That’s something they take super seriously. It’s their band and it’s how they make a living and you’ve gotta be there for them. Then there’s these other bands, a ton of bands that I’m working with, and they’re counting on you. Their baby is in your hands. That’s a huge responsibility. I take that super seriously.”
Being absent or busy also allows the many assistants and interns at Headroom to get valuable hands-on experience, or even book their own time in the studio. Acting as mentors and working on projects based on passion as opposed to necessity are what keep these two engineers content.
“Every day, every morning I wake up and walk to the studio and I’m, like, pumped to work on what I’mworking on,” Reinhart says.