Five towering racks of analog audio equipment loom over the occupants of the small, stuffy studio control room at ElectroMagnetic Radiation Recorders in Winston-Salem, NC. The unassuming studio, a small, dumpy building with boarded windows, holds a history much more glamorous than its physical appearance, including the recording of several of the Avett Brothers’ early albums.
In the studio on Saturday afternoon are the three members of the Chapel Hill folk group, Mipso Trio, who will take the stage at Cat’s Cradle for the first time Saturday.
The group is at work on its full-length debut with Doug Williams, sound engineer and owner of EMR Recorders. Even though it’s Mipso’s first time in a professional studio, the band feels at home in Williams’ haphazard accommodations.
“I love Doug’s philosophy of recording and I like the way this place feels,” says Joseph Terrell, guitarist. “Doug is interested in getting the live sound of the connection musicians have, rather than using smoke and mirrors with a bunch of fancy programs.”
The lack of stringent production on the recordings mimics the laid-back atmosphere of the sessions themselves, which involve impromptu Petty covers while double bassist Wood Robinson tunes his behemoth of an instrument. When an instrumental take is lost in an accidental deletion, Terrell jokes, “We’re that bad — it won’t even record us,” while mandolin player Jacob Sharp proclaims, “It’s Wood’s fault.”
When the joking lasts a bit too long, Mitch Collman, the band’s manager and owner of Robust Records, gently reminds the young men that they’re in the studio to record an album. He helps the band stay on track and navigate its quickly-expanding territory.
“There’s absolutely no pressure being in the studio,” Collman says assuredly. “The goal here is to make the best possible representation of their work, however long it takes.”
Collman, a cardiologist at UNC-Chapel Hill, started Robust Records in 2008 as an outlet for his love of music and to support local acts.
“I’ve been going out to shows in Chapel Hill for quite some time and I decided that I wanted to get involved,” Collman said. “Not having any musical talent, I thought that my role could be to assist talented people that need help, either by virtue of funding or business skills.”