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Local musicians go pro with VibeHouse405, new recording studio on West Franklin Street

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Co-owners Wendy Mann and Kevin "Kaze" Thomas sit in the gallery space at VibeHouse 405.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Wendy Mann as a real estate agent. She is not in commercial real estate. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. 

Franklin Street is gaining a "home of creative rebels" on Friday with the opening of VibeHouse405. Located on 405 West Franklin St., the new recording studio will provide a variety of services to local musicians and artists. 

The studio will begin its grand opening celebration with an open house from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., ending with a free showcase at Local 506 at 9 p.m. 

Co-owners Wendy Mann and Kevin “Kaze” Thomas said they hope their varied interests and skills will help VibeHouse become the diverse creative space that downtown Chapel Hill needs.

Mann used to run a private counseling practice, but now owns commercial property around Graham Street and the western end of Franklin Street. She plans to offer counseling and creative direction to artists if needed, but will focus her efforts on curating the art for the gallery inside the studio. Mann, a Chapel Hill local, recalls that when she grew up the town, there were artists of all genres and the art scene was especially vibrant.

“Because of gentrification, Chapel Hill is really losing its flavor,” said Mann. “I hope this starts to bring it back in an inclusive and powerful way.”  

Thomas said seeing the studio open is a surreal experience — “this is truly like a dream becoming reality.” Thomas attended UNC-Chapel Hill in the late '90s but did not complete his degree, leaving to pursue a career in music. His rapping took off, and he had his first record deal at 25 with Atlantic. Later, he returned to UNC-CH to graduate in 2012.

“The entire time I was there, I couldn't think of a single space that existed to support artists or encourage their collaboration,” he said.

Now having 15 years of serious experience with music, he is ready to counsel other artists. 

“The number one thing that I think is special about this space is that it is finally something that says North Carolina talent is worthy," Thomas said. "I had to leave the state in order to try to further my music career, and it's because people sadly don’t recognize the talent that we have here.” 

Although the idea of VibeHouse has been long withstanding, it came to fruition with principal investment from Al Bowers — yes, the Al of Al’s Burger Shack. With his knowledge of the Chapel Hill business scene and, of course, food, Bowers completes the trifecta in charge of VibeHouse.  

The small, unassuming walk-up has more than an urban feel or proximity to Mediterranean Deli. It has two rooms — the gallery, which customers enter through, and the studio, which is in the back. The team offers services like recording, mixing, photography, design and DJ training. The space can also be rented for rehearsals, shows and small gatherings. 

Although creating a home for local artistry is central to their mission, the driving force behind VibeHouse is the opportunity for collaboration.

“Many people think this is primarily a hip hop studio, but it’s not,” said Thomas. “We want to bring creative people from all walks of life together in one place and produce cross-communication and collaboration.”  

“We just want to support local artists and help them invest in themselves," Mann said. "We want them to know that North Carolinians can be artists and make a living, no matter what their vibe is, and we’ve already seen such an incredible showing of support from people in the community, from all genders, races and ages.” 

Friday’s showcase will do just that — bringing rappers, R&B singers, southern-style rock artists and more altogether under one roof. Durham artist and activist Gemynii  will be DJing, and the UNC Student Hip Hop Organization will be performing. And don't worry if you miss this one — every few months a similar showcase will take place, highlighting all that VibeHouse has to offer. 

You can follow VibeHouse on Instagram @vibehouse405 or check out their website here. Interested artists can contact management at booking@vibehouse405.com.

@gabbybulgarelli

city@dailytarheel.com

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