What’s Up! Bellingham Soundcheck

The video starts in what looks like a small barn. Small leafy green shrubs and straw surround the band, who are playing a decidedly country tune with a mandolin, an acoustic guitar and of course, a fiddle and banjo. The band is Juniper Stills (then recorded under the name Wyatt Parks and the Mute Choir)and the video is recorded for Bellingham Soundtrack, which takes the musicians out of the studio and into more creative settings.

Part band interview and part audio recording, a Soundcheck episode follows the same idea of a Day Trotter session: put an interesting band in an interesting location and see what happens. Ferrin named Day Trotter and the similar site La Blogothèque as inspiration for the project.

Behind this project is Alex Ferrin, a recent Western Washington University graduate and audio engineer. “I like to put bands in a cool setting,” Ferrin said. “It’s also to expose people to bands they may not have heard yet, and get a really high quality audio recording for bands who maybe don’t have access to a studio.”

As far as the location goes, Soundcheck episodes have been shot in stairwells, beaches and on a corner of downtown Bellingham.  “I could shoot bands in a practice space, but it doesn’t seem natural that way. It’s not the character of what I’m trying to capture,” Ferrin said. “I try and imagine where they’d want to play, and where their music sounds like it’s from.”

For one video, he envisioned the folky melodies and soaring vocals of Vervex in a space that would provide plenty of reverb. The end result is four songs and 17 minutes of music shot in a non-descript stairwell.

Bellingham Soundtrack produced its first video in June of 2012 with local favorites The Palisades. Since then, there have been four more Soundcheck videos, with a fifth of Bellingham pop darlings Candysound on the way. The project started with Ferrin doing sound and a team of people doing video, but the operation has since dwindled. Ferrin now runs Soundcheck with rotating volunteers. While this gives him total control over the entire production process, it also means he is unable to produce videos at a regular pace. A single video can take up to six hours of editing, and some have taken as long as 18.

Ferrin says the tedious editing process has given him a new perspective. “One thing I like about all of them is that when I’m editing, I have to listen to and watch the band over and over again, ad nauseam, and it makes me appreciate stuff local bands do,” Ferrin said. “Even with [local band] Specters – I played with them before and I didn’t know the songs as well then as I do now after editing their video. Just listening to bands over and over again makes me want to record more bands and do more [Soundcheck] sessions.”

Lack of gear and equipment has been a problem for Ferrin, who has come to rely on his own recording equipment. He says he has plans to eventually set up a Kickstarter campaign or host a benefit concert to raise money to fund more Soundcheck episodes, but as of now the idea is still in the works.

For more information, follow the Bellingham Soundcheck Facebook page.