A slightly disheveled Jason Mariani sits at the control board. His scraggly beard lit up by the colored lights and blinking l.e.d.s in the room, he looks like some sort of estranged space pirate. His mostly eaten breakfast sits beside him on the floor and there are guitars strewn about everywhere. The kind of guitars that most people put in glass cases sit on the floor here, having been recently played and recorded. Someone left a bottle of gin by the couch at the rear of the control room, most likely a previous client. The aroma of coffee hangs in the room.
Jason’s eyes close and he slowly inhales sound waves, allowing the sound to wash over him. Occasionally he conducts the instrumentation like an orchestra; with a wave of his hand the violin part in the left-side channel comes in right on cue. An impartial observer would not need an education in sound wave mechanics to know that this he has profound and fundamental understanding of the way sound works. This is a man who lives, eats, and breathes sound recording. He has a small apartment that mainly contains his clothes, books, and a bed. The rest of his 10 to 14 hour days are spent entirely in the control room at Brotheryn Studios in Ojai, CA.
I am very fortunate to have spent 2 days at Brotheryn working with Jason to get our latest recordings mixed for The Tipsy Gypsies. This is the kind of place where magic happens. I spent a good part of the time catching up with Jason, having not seen him in about 3 years. I used to spend more time in the southern California music scene where I made some amazing friends but in the last 3 or 4 years I have spent less time down south. Jason, and the two other owners of Brotheryn Studios - Jesse Seibenberg and Todd Hannigan - are some of the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I got to see everyone while I was there but spent most of the time with Jason while he worked his magic on our record.
Brotheryn Studios recently won a Grammy for the work they’ve done on the ‘Big Easy Express’ documentary - about the tour of Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show. They are proud of that fact and see it as a sort of vindication of the work they’ve been pouring into their studio for the last 6 or so years. I spent many a drunken evening on their studio couch in the early days when they were setup in a re-purposed goat barn on the Haley Ranch just outside of Ojai. Those days are gone now and they have upgraded to a nicer facility that has about twice as much equipment. Although I get the idea that the owners still take advantage of that privilege every now and then (there was a sleeping layed out in the piano room while I was there).
Since I was unfamiliar with the new studio I had Jason give me the tour and show me his new toys. One notable piece of equipment is their recently acquired studio monitor speakers. He tells me that he went into debt to purchase them. I ask how much and he says too much, but then he explains why he bought them. It was almost as if he was preaching to me about a new religion, “My life has changed completely now that I’ve found God these speakers”. Later I found out they were about $9,500 for the pair. “But they are worth every penny,” Jason says. The dedication to his craft is abundantly clear.
We spent two days in marathon mode and mixed about 5 of the 13 tunes. He puts so much magic juice on my tracks they sounded completely reborn and polished. I emailed the tracks to the rest of band as they were being completed and everyone was completely blown away. It sounds so..... so.... so damn good!
Jason has a great sense of humor, and as a man who grew up in Queens, NY, there was a healthy dose of f-bombs dropped here and there. Jason also has tremendous patience for musicians which is truly heroic. We are typically a self-centered bunch who can be infuriating to deal with. When Todd Hannigan came in to listen to our progress we talked about Jason’s use of multiple reverbs and eq’s to get that perfect blend of sound, that certain je ne sais quoi, that everyone desires so.
I am extremely fortunate to know this talented group of guys and it was truly a pleasure to have experienced their world-class treatment for our recording. The two days I spent down there in beautiful Ojai, CA were two of the best days I’ve had for some time. I can’t wait to hear what comes out of Brotheryn Studios next.