All right. It's mid-February. Everybody's got the flu. The wind cuts Haverford's campus like it's coming off the Mersey River in Liverpool, or something...Five sweaty guys are hunkered down in the Dining Center basement lounge wielding electric circular saws; there are plenty of paint fumes, 2X4s, tons of sawdust and piles of insulation scrofula...Chris Kingsley '05, who'd tried to get the Atlas Recording Studio up and running three years ago but didn't make it (because Students' Council, which had promised to back it, ran out of $), has brought his barking dog Galen along...Nobody had asked the Facilities people whether it was all right to drill holes and lay wire in the Band Practice Room (which was becoming the ARS), because they'd feared bureaucracy...'Hey, you can't use a # 9 on drywall, kid!' The place looks like a war zone, and some of the student volunteersâ€”who'd come in through notices on the GO boardsâ€”are slaking their thirst with beer (ARS was being built on weekends)...
So just then a campus security officer, who happened to be female, shows up. She looks the guys over. They're unshaven. Their drawers are sticking up above their cargo pants. They stare back. They're sitting in a bomb site. She rolls her eyes: "Could you please take your dog outside, sir?" the officer says to Kingsley. He, of course, complies.
ARS gets built, little by little.
It just seemed to a lot of Haverford musicians and music fans that it was ridiculous not to have a recording studio and a record label (though ARS and Black Squirrel Records, the brainchild of Evan Pugh '07, and Jim Dupont-Reyes '07, are not officially connected). This was the computer/synthesizer generation. 'Ford students dug indie rock, reggae, hip hop, synth pop, alternative, metal's various declensions, chill, grad punk, ska, and even doctorate folk...Kingsley, a kind of guru engineer, who was helping younger men and women learn recording technology, had chiefly been interested in a studio. But, Pugh and Dupont-Reyes realized, "Hey, we have a recording studio, let's make a label...[because ] it's one thing to have recorded music and it's another to get it out there on CD and on the web...[the idea was] Let's get the music out there...we don't have to like [it] personally...it's artâ€”hard to stick to sometimes."
Thus Black Squirrel Records, now two months old, boasts artists on its first CD, "Acorns Vol. 1," as diverse as ANC, a New York-based reggae band fronted by Haverford's Julien Joy '07 (sample track: "Gettin' Off"); Mitch Denisovic and the Shoes, an indie-rock collaboration by Dupont-Reyes and one of his homies ("Astro Turf"); "In the Parking Lot" by Philly band Racecar, with Dupont-Reyes again on guitar and backup vocals; Zoe Irvine '05, a singer-songwriter ("Shattered"); jam band Johnny Devine and the Straight Nines, led by Lewis Bauer '06, who often dispenses with vocals ("Flying"); joke band F*ck Missile, which plays the loudest metal possible in hopes of offending listeners ("Friends Keep Changing, I Still Lose"), with Matt Klinman on guitar; and Evan and the Argonauts (Pugh's band), which does acoustic American rock in the spirit of Counting Crows and Ryan Adams ("Disbanded"). Musicians include Pugh on guitar and vocals; Joe Chai '06, lead guitar; Rob Korobkin '08, drums; and Will Longo '07, bass.
So far BSR has sold about 100 CDs at $5 each, which recouped recording costs (there are 300 more, contact www.blacksquirrelrecords.com , or email@example.com). The label gets some help from Students' Councilâ€”$400 cash and a loan of another $100, the amount it cost to press "Acorns Vol. 1." It will also raise money by selling the CD for $6.50 at the Haverford Bookstore and $10.99 online, and starting next fall, by charging admission for live concerts by BSR bands at such venues as Swarthmore College's Ye Olde Club and Bryn Mawr College's Cambrian Row. Pugh said: "We'd also like to have more [appearances] in Philadelphia at venues like The Fire, The Grape Street Pub, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, and [out this way], Villanova."
The Atlas Recording Studio is funded separately by Haverford. During the 2004-05 school year, ARS had an operating budget of $3,000. Next semester, Pugh will head the studio as well as serving as co-honcho at BSR with Dupont-Reyes. Those involved in building Atlas included: Chris Kingsley; Greg Greenberg '05; Eli Sweet '05; Zoe Irvine; Nick Ogawa '05; Caleb Jaquith '05; Sunny Singh '08; and the ever-popular Rob Korobkin '08.