After some recent upgrades and renovations, Saint John’s Monopolized Studios are ready to capture your music in bigger and better ways.
We’re only as strong as our weakest link. That analogy has been used to describe political parties, team sports, families and pretty much every organized anything since the dawn of time. But it’s also a fitting analogy to use when describing a music scene. Bands need places to rehearse, venues to perform in and of course, recording studios to capture the fruits of their labours.
For the past few years, Saint John’s Monopolized Studios have played a key role in supporting musicians from all over the province. Engineer and studio owner Corey Bonnevie has been the ears behind a slew of recent releases including projects by Subtle, Butcher, Ladd & Lasses, Crossroad Devils and many more.
What is now considered by many to be the city’s go-to studio, Monopolized Studios began simply as a hobby for Bonnevie after moving in with his Little You, Little Me bandmate Geoff Smith.
“Originally I just started out by living in a house with Geoff and I had an interface and couple pieces of gear here and there,” said Bonnevie. “I started out just recording my own stuff and had never really recorded any other people’s music. Later I started taking on other projects, recording friend’s bands and more of that. Now I do lots of that stuff.”
After more and more musicians came knocking on his door looking to record demos, EPs or full album projects, Bonnevie decided it was time to make some long overdue upgrades to his studio space and his equipment.
“Last year was really, really busy and that pushed me to upgrade my gear,” he said. “And because I have new gear now, I have to change my workflow a little bit.”
Some of the recent upgrades to Monopolized Studios include a pro-grade digital interface and the addition of a 24-track tape machine, a piece of gear Bonnevie has been wanting to work into his set-up for some time.
“I’ve had a tape machine here for a while but most people didn’t even know I had it,” he said. “I kind of tucked it away in a corner and put blankets over it because I knew I needed some money and some time to really mess around with it. Tape demands a lot of your time. A lot of people don’t realize that back when tape was the standard, there was actually a Tape Operator. That was an actual job. Someone to just make sure the tape machine was working properly because they are so demanding.
“I’ve used tape in the past but they were more on the prosumer side,” said Bonnevie. “They were definitely more user friendly. The one I’m using is a two inch 24 track tape machine so it has taken me a little more time to get comfortable with.”
Having the option to use tape is an attractive one for some musicians with deep pockets, although they’re a rare breed. With that in mind, Bonnevie aims to work the analogue system into his digital set-up as a way of providing the warm tones of tape in a way that doesn’t make recording cost prohibitive.
“I’m definitely still very much a digital studio,” said Bonnevie. “I don’t think anyone can really afford to do a session solely on tape because a reel of tape is about $500 dollars and that will get you 30-40 minutes. Most people I record, that’s their entire budget for the project.
“But I found a way I can do it that’s affordable for people,” he said. “I bought a reel and can actually do a hybrid set-up where I’m recording on the tape machine which is feeding to the computer simultaneously. This way it gets that the tape sound but I have the flexibility of the computer. This way I can reuse the tape until it starts to deteriorate. It’s a bit of an experiment right now. Hopefully it gets justified.”
With these recent upgrades which include some minor renovations to the physical space as well, Bonnevie hopes to better accommodate a broader range of artists.
“Now I have the gear that may help attract a wider client base instead of just operating as a home studio,” he said.
To get familiar with his new gear and his recording setup, Bonnevie has been using his own band to test the waters. Little You, Little Me are currently recording the follow-up to their last full length record, I’d Watch The Day Til It Died. The band’s most recent release is the 4 song EP, In Under Fourteen Highly Concentrated Minutes.
“I’m using Little You, Little Me as kind of a guinea pig for some of my new gear,” he said. “We’ve been playing around with different tones and different mics and we’re doing everything track by track instead of live off the floor. We’ve been playing a lot of the new stuff enough to the point that it’s tight enough to record with a click versus ‘it’s tight enough, let’s just do it live off the floor’. It’s a slow process for this record but it’s also slow because we’re being very particular.”
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Listen to some recent albums recorded at Monopolized Studios: