In the Hudson Valley, the village of New Paltz is giving rise to a healthy music scene. With venues like Snug’s Harbor and Oasis Cafe, and bands including The Other Brothers and Upstate Rubdown, Castle Studio arrives as a key component to the scene. Castle Studio serves as a welcome recording and practice space for bands in the area who seek to stay local while playing and recording music in the midst of touring out of the greater lower Hudson Valley region. Open for less than two years, Castle Studio is the preeminent recording studio in the area, and Danny Berger spoke to NYS Music about the early history of the recording space and how the studio benefits New Paltz area bands.
Pete Mason: What inspired you to open Castle Studio?
Danny Berger: Two years ago, Jim Kramer had bought this really stunning 4 acre property just outside of New Paltz, and I went to check it out for the first time in August 2015. There was all this extra space on the property, including this garage-workshop that was in its own building. It was like looking at a blank canvas. I knew I wanted to do something creative with it and proposed the idea of turning it into a cool music rehearsal space. I’m a musician, so I wanted to use it for myself, and I also felt there’d be a demand in the community for a fully equipped studio, especially among the college students. Jim’s company, Organic Harmony Music Management, manages the local band Upstate Rubdown, and they needed a place to rehearse at the time, so he was into the idea. So we started the project as part of his company.
PM: Where did the name come from?
DB: When Jim worked full time in the music industry, he and his friends lived in a mansion they nicknamed “The Castle.” Fast forward a few decades and my friend Henry, who is also Jim’s son, dubbed the new property “The Castle” in reverence to the mansion of yesteryear. Plus, it really was a shock to see such a beautiful and expansive property after living in college housing. We all sort of knew it was much more than just a house, but at the time we didn’t know what form it would take.
PM: Castle Studio is not just a rehearsal space, but also a studio and music venue. How has managing these three focal points contributed to your success? How has it hampered success?
DB: The main focal point has always been rehearsals, and we’re doing well in that regard. This past fall, as the space was starting to take shape, I realized I needed to get creative in order to get the word out about the studio. I got a bunch of my friends in bands to play a show to get bodies into the space to see the mural that had just been finished by my talented friend, Mel Berardicelli. I think it was really successful. A lot of people showed up, the bands all sounded great and everyone had a blast. But once you promote a show, and it goes over well, you get bit by the bug. It’s kind of a high, and you have to do it again. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. So I put on a couple more shows and I think it’s provided additional publicity as well as being a ton of fun.
The first time we did a recording session was a surprise. The Other Brothers had booked a couple of days and brought in my friend Max Siegal to engineer the session. It went really well, so Max and I decided to offer recording services to anyone who wanted them. For me, Castle Studio is a rehearsal space first, but if someone likes the sound of the room and thinks the view of the mountains is pretty enough to hole up for a recording session, we’re more than happy to have them.
PM: What background do you and Jim Kramer have that makes you confident in the future of Castle Studio?
DB: Jim and I both have strong backgrounds in music, but in different ways. He used to work in the industry as a booking agent for a lot of big bands, and has a solid business-oriented mind. Plus, I know the local scene in New Paltz. I know the young musicians and some of the long-time veterans. I have connections at the college and some of the local music businesses in town and they’ve really helped me out with referrals. The reciprocal, collaborative nature of the music community here has really been a blessing.
PM: What variety of events do you currently hold at Castle, and what long term ideas do you hope to explore and bring to fruition over the next two years?
DB: There are a lot of ideas cooking in the pot right now. Yoga classes with live music, monthly jam sessions, big cookouts with great local bands, live art installations during concerts, flow arts, hopefully even a mini-festival. I think we’ll just have to wait and see.