Since Wilmington-based Hourglass Studios got its start in 2010, several local musicians and bands have recorded their work alongside owner and producer Trent Harrison. With years of recording experience and a 2015 Producer of the Year accolade from the Carolina Music Awards, Hourglass Studios has a lot to celebrate at its Artist Showcase Concert at Ironclad Brewery (115 N. 2nd St.) on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 2 p.m. until midnight … or until the music ends.
The concert features acts known for folk, rock, Americana, and an eclectic seasoning of mixed genres. Rounding out the all-day affair are Groove Fetish, Stray Local, Elepant Convoy, L Shape Lot Duo, Imperial, Blend, Brothers Egg, The Scoundrel’s Reunion, and The Midatlantic.
Relatively new to the Cape Fear music scene, the five-piece band, The Midatlantic, formed in 2013. They blend progressive folk and bluegrass with a touch of rock and jazz on a variety of instruments. On drums, guitar and banjo is Ben Sciance, alonside Allan Upham on bass, Will Maxwell on violin and vocals, Steve Schroeder on vocals and guitar, and Jason Andre on vocals, mandolin and guitar. encore had a chance to catch up with Trent Harrison of Hourglass and Midatlantic frontman Jason Andre to talk about what Harrison hopes will become an annual event.
encore (e): Where did the idea for this event stem and why have it at Ironclad?
Trent Harrison (TH): Actually, it stemmed from our original idea for the Free EP Competition we’ve put on the past two years. Originally, we thought it to be a live event—similar to a battle of the bands. We ended up morphing the idea into making music videos and spreading the competition out over a longer period of time with online voting. This year, instead of the competition, we just wanted to take a step back, honor the past, and celebrate some of the awesome bands we’ve been fortunate to work with over the years.
We looked around quite a bit for a venue to host the showcase, but ultimately landed on Ironclad for two reasons. One: their beer! We liked the idea of having it at a brewery to support local beer. Two: the vibe. I know one of their bartenders, Sara Carter. She’s great at helping me find a new beer to try and just making me feel at home when I’m there. Although the place is very big, it still has a cozy feel, which is certainly something Hourglass Studios can identify with.
e: How does the showcase highlight the work of Hourglass?
TH: All the bands are, of course, HGS clients and account for many different genres. We’re recording the show with our new mobile recording rig, which will show the versatility of the studio’s capabilities. We’ll be producing a compilation CD with tracks from each of the bands. What we hope people take away from the showcase is that Hourglass Studios cares about our artists. We want to say ‘thank you for choosing HGS’ by giving back to our artists and the music community. The bands get free professional live recordings and the community gets to hear us make it!
We also want to give the bands an opportunity to give back, too. All proceeds from the event, and from the compilation CD sales following, will be donated to the New Hanover County Arts Education Program, specifically music education. Additionally, the bands will donate some of their merch to raffle off for the charity. We’re so thankful to be a part of the great music scene we have in Wilmington, and we know that music education is important to help the scene grow.
e: How long have you worked with the artists performing?
TH: Well, my intention was to go back as far as I could to showcase some of the artists I started out with. Not all of them were available, so we do have some bands that are fairly new clients or are currently in the studio, like The Midatlantic, for example. The client I’ve worked with the longest is Groove Fetish. We started recording together over two-and-half years ago. Rightfully, they’ll be closing out the show.
e: What‘s it been like working with The Midatlantic?
TH: It has been a great experience. It’s been challenging and refreshing all at the same time. They won the 2014 Free EP Competition and received 10 free days in the studio to make the record. It was challenging because they have a lot going on: tons of instruments, lots of songs and just a lot of moving parts. I definitely like a challenge. I think it’s safe to say both I and the band learned a lot from making the record.
Jason knows a lot about audio. It was really nice because he and I could talk to each other on a higher level, which is not always the case with every project I do. I mentioned before I was trying to get more of the bands from my earlier days at Hourglass. Honestly, I think it worked out great having bands like The Midatlantic and Elephant Convoy as newer clients. We were trying to honor the past, which I think we have with bands like Groove Fetish and Stray Local. But The Midatlantic shows where the studio is today and represents its future. We’re glad to have them be a part of the showcase.
e: What’s it like, Jason, working with Trent from Hourglass?
Jason Andre (JA): Trent is one of the mellowest fellas I’ve ever met. His motto is “relax and record.” He definitely provides a very easy-going attitude, takes his time with everyone, and never gets flustered. He has been incredibly patient, flexible, generous, and accommodating with us and this project. From day one Trent has been the easiest person to work with, from scheduling and engineering, to allowing me to take over the controls and running with some of our ideas. I would highly recommend to anyone who has never experienced working in a recording studio. It can be really intimidating and create a lot of anxiety going into any studio. His personality and work ethic kinda knocks down those barriers, and it makes for a much more relaxing atmosphere—which is huge when isolated in a vocal booth or surrounded by fancy microphones and recording equipment.
e: What’s the songwriting and instrumental arrangement process like?
JA: When we started, we were building everything around the melodies and lyrics I had written. Ben and I began working really well together to collaborate on the instrumental melodies, and slowly we’ve begun to try and write together as a group. I still pen 99 percent of the lyrics and continue to write complete songs on the side. The collaboration process is a tricky beast. It can be really fun when you can make it work with a group, and it can also be a snarling, gnashing beast, depending on everyone’s mood and how in love with certain parts they may be. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s been a huge growing process for me, as well as the rest of the guys, to be open to it. And it’s awesome when it works. Sometimes I look at it like two heads are better than one and sometimes like it’s a six-headed Hydra.
e: What can folks expect from The Midatlantic at the Ironclad showcase?
JA: We have a short set, so mostly all originals—all the material we’ve been recording for the album. We may throw in one cover or a traditional bluegrass tune.
e: Tell us about your studio project.
JA: We have been working with Trent since January on our first full-length album after winning the EP competition he threw last year. We had a great jump start tracking everything, but hit a big lull with everything from work travel, holidays, real jobs, shows, moving, you name it. Then as we listened back, we weren’t happy with some of our performances so we retracked a lot of material, invited a couple family members to collaborate, and now I am excited to say we have sent it out for mixing!
See The Midatlantic and others perform at the Hourglass Studios Artist Showcase Concert at Ironclad Brewery on Saturday, September 12.