Musicians find prime practice space at Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios
Practice makes perfect. But what about when you don’t have a place to hone your instrumental and vocal jiu-jitsu—then what? With the sound ordinance and party-crashing police pretty ubiquitous in town (just ask your local bemoaning band about it), Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios (SCRS) is serving up soundproofed rooms for players to get loud in, one hour at a time. After all, if lovers can get it on at an hourly rate, so should musicians.
When SCRS owner Paul Gallacher moved to Santa Cruz in 2003 he, like most musicians, just wanted to jam. For the seasoned bassist who’d previously lived and gigged in the big cities (New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), finding people to play with wasn’t the problem. It was finding where to play.
“There was a place in town that had a monthly lockout rental,” Gallacher recalls his arduous search for an affordable spot to rock. “But the concept of having a monthly lease didn’t work with my budget, and I didn’t want a lease to just jam with people or get a band going.”
Plus, he says, most rentals weren’t built for the musicians’ cause; storage spaces and cramped quarters with little or no soundproofing don’t exactly nurture the amp-stacking creative spirit.
Gallacher, a 39-year-old whose laid-back demeanor and black Doc Martens hint at something other than his buttoned-up business-owner side, certainly has an eclectic, informed background. He drove a kitchen truck on movie shoots for New York teamsters, worked in production for the animation industry in L.A., and worked security for concert venues in S.F., all before transplanting to Santa Cruz as a guitar luthier for Santa Cruz Guitar Company.
When, in 2009, he got laid off from his guitar-making gig, he and his wife Jennifer decided it was time to take the big leap and pursue a new venture. There was a void in town, and they sought to fill it.
“I thought a rehearsal space would be a really cool business to start and the cities were already saturated with them,” he begins, “but here in Santa Cruz I knew there were at least 200 bands and no place with an hourly option.” He adds, “After 10 p.m., if you were practicing in your house or garage, it was anyone’s guess when the police would show up if you were playing loud music.”
Sometimes the neighbors that frequented your childhood lemonade stand can’t stand the acidic edge of your current musical juice, so SCRS now offers four state-of-the-art rooms constructed for aural mayhem. Having opened last February on 118 Coral Street in Santa Cruz, near Harvey West Park, the studios vary in size (with the largest providing a full backline of drum kit and amps), are replete with soundproofed walls, top-notch gear, and basic recording for an additional fee. Rates range from $13 to $17 per hour, plus mid-week deals.
Contrary to the stereotype of the grungy, dilapidated rehearsal locale, SCRS is spacious, clean and safe. Concert posters line the front desk, local art spans the hallway, a Hammond organ sits in one corner of the lobby, while free coffee, soda and snacks are on hand to feed starving musicians during occasional breaks.
As expected, SCRS attracts a lot of rock, punk, and metal bands through its doors, with jazz outfits coming in second. A place where there’s no volume restriction until midnight (every night of the week), it’s accommodated local acts like Archer, Fast Asleep, The Inciters, Koumbembe, Eviscerate, Tether Horse, Ras Midas, Sugar Shack, Noise Clinic and more. Touring bands like Swingin’ Utters have come through for one-offs.
This April, in honor of its first-year anniversary, SCRS will be issuing promotional deals along with commemorative T-shirts, stickers and guitar picks.
But, really, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Gallacher gives GT the inside scoop on what he’s seen and heard within the rumbling blue walls of SCRS in the past year.
GOOD TIMES: What acts other than musical have rented your space?
PAUL GALLACHER: Theater groups, martial arts classes, dance groups and, most recently, the Santa Cruz Jedi Academy was working out in Room 3.
What's the largest ensemble that's practiced at SCRS?
A tie between [11-piece] The Inciters and an all-women's Brazilian drum group whose name escapes me, sorry, ladies. The drum group is definitely the loudest.
Do people collaborate after meeting at SCRS?
Craigslist meetings are always funny, you never know how it’s going to be because everyone’s a stranger, so I’ve helped people find musicians. But I think I’ve had more bands hooking up to gig together—I’ve seen that happen a few times in the lobby.
What's the weirdest encounter with a musician you’ve had?
A [visiting] classical pianist/conductor who wanted to remove his trousers and perform a lewd act right here in the lobby. He came out of Room 2 all sweaty and ranting about how he was under a lot of stress due to an upcoming performance. That was really strange. At least he asked first.
Uh, so what happened?
He wanted to pull down his pants and have a little party, but I told him I was married. And then he went into the bathroom … and I had to go in the bathroom later and clean up. And then he came back for two more days! Of course, I locked myself in the storage room while he was here.
That leads me to the fact that I’ve heard musicians mention how clean your bathroom is.
[Laughs.] Well, I have to use it, too, so it’s in my best interest to keep it clean.
Why do you offer free chips and gummy candy?
Chips and gummy candy should be a big part of any healthy musician's diet. I'm only happy to provide what our customers might not be getting at home. And don't forget coffee. Plenty of coffee.
Best feedback from a musician?
It’s always nice when someone says “We love you.”
Most challenging thing about working with musicians?
Timing. Musicians aren’t good at coming and going on time.
Most rewarding thing about working at SCRS?
It's nice to be around the creative process. … And being my own boss. Whenever I was working other jobs I’d always think, “Oh, I wish I had my bass right now!” Like when you have a song in your head at work but you can’t play because you can’t just sit at your drum kit for 20 minutes—but now I can.
Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios is located at 118 Coral St., Santa Cruz. For more information, call 425-7277. santacruzrehearsalstudios.com
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