Welcome to The Wreckroom

Published February 21, 2013

ABOVE: THE WHEELER BROTHERS. IMAGE COURTESY OF JODY DOMINGUE STUDIOS

Adrian Grenier might be one of the most trusting celebrities in the world. For the past year, the actor, best known for his portrayal of Vincent Chase on Entourage, has opened up his home in Brooklyn to a slew of underground bands—often, when he’s not even there. (They record when he is traveling.) Grenier, along with Damien Paris, Mike Frankel, and Brian Koerber have created a free space in multiple  senses of the word—both free of cost and without creative guidelines—for musicians to write, record, and perform. When the songs are done, The Wreckroom does its part to get bands heard by streaming the recorded tracks and videos on their website and encouraging sharing by visitors and fans.

We spoke with Damien Paris and Mike Frankel in Grenier’s home/recording studio about using Grenier’s space, creating a hybrid company, and finding random talent along the way. On the day we visited, country-pop act the Wheeler Brothers were recording their catchy rock track “Struggle With It All You Like” (from the band’s album Gold Boots Glitter, forthcoming April 2),  and we’re happy to premiere the fruits of their efforts below.

ILANA KAPLAN: How did you get involved in this project? How’d you end up here?

MIKE FRANKEL: I got involved because I used to always go see Damien’s band. Damien was in a hard rock band called The Giraffes. Well, he’s still in it. He actually started doing this project with Adrian in January?

DAMIEN PARIS: Yeah, some shit like that.

FRANKEL: They were just getting their sea legs at the time. I followed The Giraffes on Facebook. They were the first recorded band. I was like, “Oh, that looks cool. Let me get involved.” I didn’t even know that Adrian was involved. I just showed up at the door. I graduated in June from business school, and I was looking for something to get involved in. I worked in music startups on the side, and I was looking for something to get involved in. I run a website called FreeIndie.com.

PARIS: I love this dude. He does such a good job that I’m pretty sure Adrian says, “Oh, I found Mike.”

FRANKEL: We really started taking this seriously in June. We started getting better bands and better talent. What we do, is we do this session track. We’re kind of a hybrid—a live video production company where we actually do a studio session. We spend a lot of time on the actual recording and getting a good quality recording out of it, so that we can do more than just have a live track. We can also chop it out and give it a second life. We can put it on a compilation disc, so it’s not just a live compilation disc. There are the benefits of working at a studio that come from that. Damien goes in and shoots videos around these.

KAPLAN: Do you do more of the audio engineering and production part?

FRANKEL: Me? No, Brian does more of the audio engineering and production part.

PARIS: He’s busy working, unlike the rest of us. Brian is our whiz kid. He’s a little mastermind. He’s able to get sounds and make these bands sound great with very little. Little time, little gear, little everything. To add to that, there’s a lot of websites that do this. We’re no different, except that we spend a little more time on the track. It’s just how I shoot it: having the luxury to do a bunch of takes and go home and really concoct something better than what you’re used to seeing. Better than a one-, two-, or three-camera, slapped-together thing. It has a different appeal to it. Personally, you want bands to come in and have a pretty cool time. It’s our job to make them comfortable, be super cool, definitely not take themselves too seriously, and have a good time for the six to eight hours they’re here. That’s my job: to be “on,” be funny or be myself really.

FRANKEL: I think he does a good job of that. It’s a very comfortable environment. We’re trying to encourage some sort of creativity that they don’t get in other studios. Hey, it’s free. It’s not going to cost the band anything. They’re not investing $2,000 on a session that they have to get right.  That gives them the openness to try something new, try something different that’s outside of their comfort zone.

KAPLAN: How do you go about choosing bands to bring into the studio? Are they friends of friends?

PARIS: It started as friends of friends. When Adrian had the idea, he threw it out there. Being a guy who has been playing in bands in rock-‘n’-roll for 17 years in New York, we knew a few people. We got them in. It was friends of friends. Then at some point we were running out of that, so that was why Mike was like, “Oh, I’ve been working with bands for many, many years.” He’s brought in some talent. What we’re doing also is giving a band that a lot of people haven’t heard, hasn’t gotten the proper exposure or doesn’t have an intimate proper representation of what they do in a “live setting,” that representation.

FRANKEL: We’re working on all of these different methods of distribution. Our goal is to become a launching platform for bands, give them these singles to run off and give them that extra boost that they need to get to the next step.

PARIS: You want to work with people who are awesome and work with them again and again. Hopefully there will be some repeat offenders. We’re up to our 47th post.

KAPLAN: I really loved The Skins’ session.

PARIS: Who doesn’t? They’re fucking badass.

KAPLAN: What’s Adrian’s role in all of this? Is he the original founder?

PARIS: Daddy Warbucks. You know Daddy Warbucks and Annie? I’m little Annie. Who are you?

FRANKEL: [laughs] I’m like a lost orphan.

PARIS: Adrian… this is his house. It’s kind of amazing. We bust his balls all of the time. He’s got a lot of needs. He expects so much from his team. Sometimes it’s just not humanly possible, but that’s what’s beautiful about him, because he just believes in us so much. What other celebrity do you know that would welcome you into his house when he’s not even there? Or, nonetheless, after him being away, working, coming home, and having a full-on rock band in his basement. It’s amazing. He just has this energy. I’ve never really met anyone else in his position that is so generous in that way. We’ve been buds since high school.

KAPLAN: Really?

PARIS: That’s why he loves and hates me. He trusts me and then asks the world, a pound of flesh. He deserves it, and it’s really cool what he’s done here. He definitely makes his aesthetic known.

KAPLAN: Is he here most of the time, or is he traveling a lot of the time?

PARIS: Half and half. When he’s here, he’s here. He’ll jump down and say hi to the band.

FRANKEL : He’ll jump on the instruments and play with the band sometimes. He’s doing it because he’s very passionate about it.

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