Dare Studios’ Jono Steer and Julia Wallace on helping people make good music

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Dare Studios’ Jono Steer and Julia Wallace on helping people make good music

Dare Studios
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

As the studio finds its feet, opening to the public and announcing themselves as a studio that is, above all, inclusive, accepting and a safe space for everyone.

Dare Studios is reborn under the watchful eyes of Jono Steer and Charlotte Abroms. Having existed in another capacity, Dare Studios was recently revamped, as well as having a plethora of new gear carted in, engineers Jono Steer and Julia Wallace are ready to work their magic on whatever music might walk through the door.

Dare Studios is one of but a handful of female-led creative spaces, fostering an environment for everyone to be heard, understood and most importantly, enabled to create their best work.

Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.

We had the chance to chat after the studio opened with Dare’s engineers, speaking to the workflow of the space, as well as the flexibility of the rooms to maximise creativity.

Dare Studios

“It’s an existing studio, so the building itself has been around for about ten years, built by Gideon and Daniel Frankel.” Jono begins.

“A few years ago it was coming up for lease, they were looking for someone to take it over. I’d just finished up in Castlemaine, I built a studio in Castlemaine and was looking to get out of that studio for about a year, eventually had to make the sad decision to sell that studio and move back to Melbourne.”

“So I was looking for a space, I was renting a space in The Aviary for a while, and then this popped up. Perfect opportunity. Charlotte and I decided to go in together because we’d worked on so many projects together over the years. It was a really natural collaboration to collaborate on a studio space.”

“With the official launch, I’ve been setting it up, doing my own projects for about a year now, so the official launch has happened where we’re opening it up to the public and it’s all ready to go. [We] ironed out all the kinks and have a really great team together, with Julia,” he pauses, motioning to Julia Wallace, another in-house engineer. “It’s a really warm and welcoming space.”

Julia Wallace

Julia explains that she’s just moved to Melbourne, and was straight into the studio with Jon showing her the ropes of the new space.

“I’m excited to just work out of that space and work on new projects for people. This is my first venture into a real decked-out studio!”

I pivot here, having noticed that the live room and control room have been switched in this new iteration of Dare Studios.

“Yeah, so I’d worked there for nearly a year with it the other way around,” Jono begins. “And it was really good. Great having a huge control room and having that space, space to spread out with your clients. With a whole band you’ve got plenty of room to sit around and listen to what’s going on.”

Dare Studios live room

“But I just felt like the tracking was a little bit limited in what you could do, so you could get really nice sounds out of that smaller room, but you were very limited. That was ‘the sound’, and you couldn’t change it much.”

“Swapping them was a bit of a magic decision, we just tried it one day. I’d tracked some vocals in the control room while it was set up that way, and that was always good so I thought ‘Why don’t we just put a drum kit in here?’, see what it sounds like.”

Jono goes on to explain that despite the bigger live room, there’s baffles available to get a tight, intimate sound if needed, but the size of the room allows for more. This lends itself to baffling other instruments and musicians as well.

I ask about their workflow with the new arrangement, whether they’ve been doing bands live or isolated and one-by-one.

“I’ve done a bit of everything in there so far,” Jono begins. “Great for a whole band. One of the first things we did with the larger tracking room was a full band, so we had drums, bass and electric guitar in the tracking room with an amp in a separate booth and keys in the control room. It’s hard to see in the photos [on the website], but there’s another booth for vocals.”

Julia chimes in, explaining she’s mainly been recording things one at a time.

“It’s mainly between me and one other person in there, but we’ve been doing recording in both the live room and the control room. There’s a couple of really nice pianos in the tracking room and we’ve been playing with room mics, getting cool sounds out of different spots out of the room that we can nudge in a little bit.” she smiles.

We shift here, chatting about how important the space is in a recording. As young engineers, we often think mic and preamp choice are the make or break, and while they’re important, they’re always ultimately capturing the space they’re in so it’s important to have a nice room.

Jono Steer

Jono goes on to explain the booking system for Dare, with either a dry hire via an initial induction process to make sure you understand the workflow of the space, or to hire Jono, Julia or a third engineer Connor. Alternatively you can book the space with an assistant available to help you get started and remain on call for the sessions.

“Once someone’s been in there, they can have a link to book it as a dry hire. Yeah, very flexible, always open to whatever people want to do in there.” Jono explains.

Jono goes on to explain that studio manager Charlotte has prioritised efficiency, aiming to eliminate dead time like set up and pack down, minimising everything except “making noise” Jono says. The studio lines are all normalled, headphone sends ready to go to ensure you can make the most of the time you’ve booked.

This is all in a bid to maximise creativity, ensure people are taking breaks and not working for too long at a time, but still getting things done!

As an engineer coming into the space, Julia explains she was understandably nervous going into a new space, but “it’s set up in a way that it literally took me one or two days to get my head around everything.”

“And now I can go in and things are really nicely labelled, thanks Jono!” she laughs. “You can just try something and patch it in, it makes sense straight away. There’s always a way to troubleshoot it straight away.”

Dare Studios control room

Jono goes on to say there’s templates in Pro Tools and Logic available, again to save time and maximise efficiency. The studio runs on Lynx Aurora (n) conversion, with its own internal templates, so Dare Studios can pull up saved headphone templates for a particular engineer if they like to work a particular way.

The Dare Studios control room is filled with nice pre[amp]s and compressors that you can patch in, but the purpose of the studio is to allow people to put mics up and go if they wish to as well.

Pivoting to Dare Studios ethos as a whole, being a female-led inclusive space, Julia explains “You’ve gotta feel free in a space where you’re making a song. If there’s all these factors that are contributing to the stress, I think creating a space that is just really welcoming and people’s egos not trying to get on top of each other.”

“‘We’re just here to make a song.’ Doesn’t matter how qualified anyone is, we’re just gonna make a song that sounds good.”

“I just love making things that sound good,” she continues. “And having a female-led space, personally I feel like I’m free to make whatever I like in there. I don’t have to prove to anyone that I know exactly how things work.”

Jono chimes in here, explaining how hard he found it to rise through the ranks despite his privileged position as a male in the audio industry. “It was still hard. That’s driven me to think that if someone in my position found it really hard, what about people who are less privileged or less represented in the industry? I’m at that point now where I just want to give other people opportunities and not get in the way of people being able to do stuff.”

Jono states that so far the feedback has been great, it’s a comfortable and welcoming space, coupled with the streamlined workflow making for easy sessions making music.

Julia explains she’s has shifted from being a session musician to the studio, stating that the bottom line is about helping people make good music. As a recording artist herself, the environment informs the finished product unequivocally.

“I think that Dare and people are keen to make the experience of making music exciting. I’ve spoken to a couple of people who love to write music, love to perform, but find the recording process really draining.” she says.

“I think if we can make the recording process as exciting as those other things, then it will make everything so much more enjoyable and encouraging for everyone. To be open to all sorts of things and make mistakes, and try things out differently.”

On the subject of mistakes, Jono explains that Dare Studios has been hosting residencies where people can get in the studio, explore their sound and improve their skills. They can make mistakes, over-compress or dial in outboard gear. The freedom of exploring is often met with a financial hurdle to access nice studios and nice gear, and Dare Studios is aiming to change that.

Keep reading, book time, or read more info at Dare Studios here.