By Emily Eveland
By Sarah Stanley-Ayre
By CP Staff
By Zach McCormick
By Jack Spencer
By Sarah Stanley-Ayre
By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
"It's a beautiful process, making a record. That's what I'm love with," says Zach Hollander, co-owner of the Pearl Recording Studio. Zach and his brother Noah opened the studio last September, an accomplishment made extra impressive by the fact that Zach is just 27 years old, and Noah a pup of 24.
There is homeyness to the Pearl, from the retro Spanish-lady painting in the lounge to the Oriental rugs and velvet curtains, the walls jeweled tones of red and green ("That's Martha Stewart's Okra. I spent two weeks sampling paints," Noah says). It's easy to imagine late-night sessions in this space, the fireplace blazing and the guys serving Manhattans. It's enough to make anyone want to record an album there. It's enough to make you want to move in.
When the Hollanders rented the space, it had been sitting empty for 18 months, a former heavy-metal studio frozen in time—crusty carpeting on the walls, sad furniture infused with cigarette smoke, dust, and boy-sock smell. The brothers claimed that they filled a dumpster 10 times to empty the place. In exchange for their efforts the rent is dirt cheap, allowing them to pass the savings along to the baby bands they long to nurture.
Noah, who recently earned his degree in entertainment business from IPR, is the one you'll see out at shows chatting with the bands, the one who designed the logo and promotional lighters. Zach is the mad musical scientist, a fanatic about recreating the luscious tones found on vintage recordings like those by the Everly Brothers and girl groups from the '60s. Zach searched for years and finally found a rare EMT plate reverb, the exact model the Beatles and the Beach Boys had, the one used on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
"They are so proud of the place; they take photos, they document it, they are there every day," says Red Pens drummer Laura Bennett, who has done several sessions at the Pearl. "It's really the best room I have ever heard to play in, especially for drums."
Born in Minneapolis, the Hollanders moved to Rockerville, South Dakota, when they were ages 8 and 10. Rockerville, a mining town minutes from Mount Rushmore, was a tourist attraction in the '50s and '60s, later decimated by highway expansion. Fake Old Western store facades still stand, abandoned; the place has been dubbed a ghost town.
But there was a punk scene forming in nearby Rapid City, and the brothers headed toward the din. "There was this weird house that had free punk rock shows. We'd heard the music and decided to go over there one night. That changed everything," says Noah.
Zach started as a guitarist, but felt unfulfilled. "I want to be all over the music. I wanted to understand everything," he says. After earning a degree in recording arts from Full Sail University in Orlando, Zach spent four years at the legendary Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls. "Pachyderm was this mystical place to me. When I started, I was the guy cleaning six toilets. But later that day, I'd watch Polyphonic Spree record their rhythm section." Zach began as an intern and eventually moved up to the studio's B-engineer, working with the younger bands on small budgets while simultaneously running a studio out of the basement of his home as his wife and two young sons padded around upstairs.
The Hollanders find their greatest joy in discovering new acts and recording them with care. "In the old days, you'd have a demo recorded on a crappy four-track and there was something really cool about it. But these demos now that are recorded on a computer microphone, it's a shame—those beautiful performances should be in front of good equipment," says Zach. "A band's first record—that's the one I want to make."
The brothers are also establishing a garage-rock label, Hollander Records, with their first release, a compilation of their favorite bands, expected in early 2012.
The Pearl already has an impressive client roster including a 40-piece Kenyan choir, R&B singer Ann Nesby, indie-rock band Sleep Study, and pop signer-songwriter Dan Rodriquez, who says, "The place just oozes creativity and vibe. Those guys just treat you like royalty—every artist that walks in there just feels like the coolest person in the world."