Keeping the local music scene alive in Baton Rouge has been a labor of love for a lot of people. Over the years venues found strewn across various crevices of the city, would bring in new genres and styles that would inspire local musicians, as well as provide a gateway for people to become part of a community.
Nowadays, there seems to be a change in the wind, as cliched men say, coming from within the scene who are trying to preserve it. Venues like the new Beauvoir Park and Mid City Ballroom, are coming up with ideas to keep things interesting, and we are continually seeing more and more shows being thrown together in a DIY fashion.
Behind the scenes of it all, four musicians have been providing a much-needed service for musicians – recording.
In an above-ground bunker, disguised as a building, Earthship Records produces and records albums for bands and musicians found all along the musical spectrum. Started by brothers Ben and Jeffrey Livingston, Justin Brent, Earthship began as a means for Ben, Jeffrey, and Justin to record their band Relatives.
Like most studios getting their start, they used whatever equipment they had and recorded in a bedroom. In this case Justin’s. After moving to several locations, they eventually operated for two years out of a shed behind the house Ben was renting.
Once that route ended, they meet up with John Tully, who had previously worked with them by mixing Relatives’ record and recording one of Jeffrey’s previous bands, Moon Honey. At the time, Tully’s Gallery Bohemia was one of the few spots bands could record in Baton Rouge, but once his studio partner moved to New Orleans, Tully began looking for a change of
“It just so happened to happen at the same time when we were moving into our current space,” said Justin. “We needed to find somebody to go in with us. It’s a pretty big building with a pretty high rent cost for just Ben and I. We also needed another person we can trust, and luckily Tully was looking for the same thing.” While the group works together for certain projects, Tully does his own recording and mixing under the name The Legendary Noise Floor.
A significant dynamic for what also drew them together was their similar ethoses, as Tully puts it. Each member plays multiple instruments and is equal in their in-depth knowledge for gear, effects pedals, and recording equipment – in this case, their love for analog recording over digital.
They aren’t purists by any means as they combine the two methods, but there is something to be said, gratification wise, to recording onto tape rather than directly into a computer. For them, this allows the process to be much more tangible. “We’ve spent our entire lives fiddling with a mouse. It’s just nice to have this type of equipment,” said Justin. “It comes with its trade-offs like technical difficulties. That’s one of the things to try and get everything together and make sure everything functions properly.”
The outcomes from this are well worth the trouble, as it provides more depth and realism to a recording. “A simple analogy for analog would be drawing something versus making something on Illustrator,” Ben explains. “Not that either one is better, it’s just when you draw something you have a more hands-on connection that you wouldn’t really get from designing digitally.”
A more hands-on approach is precisely how they prefer to record as well. Currently, Earthship Records provides recording, mixing, and mastering any audio, whether it be for the musician looking to make an E.P. or to a local podcaster getting in their weekly show. Depending on what would be considered the best way to capture the sound, they offer their gigantic live room for a more lively sound and their isolation room for drum tracking or vocal recordings.
One of the things they’ve managed to accomplish is writing instrumentation for bands and songwriters who are looking to expand upon their sound but may not have access to the proper gear or the musicians to do so. It’s something they like doing since it always keeps everything unique as more and more recording requests come in.
Equipment is nothing short they lack. It’s an impressive collection of instruments, amps, pedals, pianos, and synths that would make any gear head get lost in experimenting with sounds for hours on end – something that feels welcomed and encouraged. “We want bands to be able to come in without any of their instruments or whatever they got, and just come in and use what we got,” said Justin. “Some musicians want to use their stuff, but we want to make things easier for everybody and provide that option for them.”
It may seem like a good bit to get them going, but they’ve got a bigger vision for Earthship. As a small label that has released records for Hydra Plane, _smoothcat and The 9th Life, Neon Mountain and Relatives but the next big thing is to provide a one-stop shop for bands. Thanks to Jeffrey’s background in screenprinting, Earthship hopes to not just produce albums but also provide merch, tour posters, and other artwork. By recognizing the importance of diversifying to help them make an impact as a studio, they are not naive in the notion that we do live in an age of the home studio world. “These days, everybody’s a recording engineer,” laughs Justin. “You can get a computer with some software and go buy inexpensive equipment and make some decent recordings. Not everyone has space or the technical know how to get to a finished product. That’s where we want to help with it all.”