by Eryn Brothers
What is success and how is it measured? At feel.flow studio, run by Jake Miles and Mary Bryce, these concepts are measured in many ways. Tucked in the heart of West Campus, the house studio modulates with each visitor, creating a cozily ramshackle air of the verge of something great. This is the first success.
The second of many successes are walls built by Bryce and Miles themselves, movable sound proof structures hand dyed blue and oceanic. The temptation is there to refer to it as bohemian, with low light lamps conflicting with the crisp outdoor glows that come from the main engineer room. There’s something very reminiscent about this studio- it harkens back to the first place you called your own: built and made not out of luxury, but necessity, postering like a first apartment adorned with hand me downs and the rustic memories of youth.
Simply put: it’s charming.
Charming doesn’t cut it on my first day at feel.flow, which has nothing to do with the studio itself, but everything to do with me. Staring down the barrel of a microphone, the first step to making my first album is absolutely terrifying. Jake plays a click over and over again to try to get me to nail a certain harmony. I make Jabba The Hut noises in frustration. “You’re almost there! But you actually need to sing this,” Jake exclaims, and sings a harmony too complicated for a brain that only thinks in thirds and fifths. I become a human brow furrow, and sing it back to him. I want it to work the first time around, I want so desperately to not fuck up, to be successful right off the bat. “Yeah! You got this,” he says. “ Want me to loop this so you can practice till ya got it?” I’m scared shitless. “I think so? I’m sorry, I know that this is annoying,” I respond. I can hear Jake smile through my headset as he says, “You know, I have infinite patience when it comes to stuff like this. We can do a million takes, we can loop this until you’re ready, whatever. Don’t worry about it. You got this. I’ll start the loop again…now!”
It would make sense for Jake and Mary to have infinite patience. If you’ve ever seen or heard the band SMiiLE (Jake and Mary’s main project outside of feel.flow,) you probably know that composition and practice are huge for this group. A live performance of theirs includes complicated harmonies sung by Bryce and Annie Long, well constructed pop structure, interesting progressions, polyrhythmic spices and all the high energy that a younger me dreamed of seeing in local bands back home in my small town. Their recordings cannot even begin to convey the energy that this band cultivates live, but they do a fine job of being beautiful examples of musicality, the homework required of being a musician.
This is what makes feel.flow so special. Given that the studio itself is inside Jake and Mary’s house, the beginning stages of this step of their musical life have a very intimate, welcoming feel. Beyond the minutiae of that and fuzzy cats (Fats Domino and Lil Richard respectively) it’s obvious that Jake and Mary have done an immense amount of home work and preparation to make records.
Jake and Mary make it very clear to me, upon sitting down with them to talk shop, that the biggest part of this step in their lives is due to making mistakes. We talk algorithms for social media, for Spotify. Beginning experiences with recording. Stage fright, the giant leap of sharing your work. It’s humbling to hear them speak so candidly of their failures given that I have never seen SMiiLE play to an empty room. It’s always humble beginnings and mistakes that lead us to the places we belong, and feel.flow is no different.
Named after one of The Beach Boys’ most experimental numbers, feel.flow’s ideology follows suit. “It’s one thing at a time. It’s a hole you crawl deeper and deeper into, you become fascinated with all the button and knobs. Learning to record myself was one of the most liberating things of my life,” says Jake. These two oneironauts build off each other’s ideas. The studio is still forming its branding and thesis, but it’s made very clear by Mary that feel.flow’s ultimate goal is to create an intimate, safe space for musicians to grow in. A space that will consistentantly evolve in an ever moving city.
Recently, Jake and I had a long discussion on the terms of success and the work put out by creatives. Feel.flow was built, ultimately, out of frustration. Jake and Mary were tired of not being able to put out their own work, and tired of seeing their community members not be able to generate success by being inhibited by financial struggles and the politics that come with that package.
There’s still distribution to worry about. How an album will be received. Social media networking, which company to press a record with, merchandise. A studio that encourages mistakes, trying, experimenting, and community building is special in this world where everyone is trying to be heard while making a buck.
On the porch with Jake and Mary, everything feels possible.The seductiveness of being heard is so plausible. Success feels like a minute away, even though it might be a musician’s minute and take years. Even if its face changes. It’s good to feel hope, it’s good to feel safe. It’s taken me years to be on this porch, and it took work like theirs to get me here. The benefit of openness and the willingness to thrive in spite of the fear of failure is intoxicating. Success in this sense, for me, is the fact that I am trying, and that simple “trying,” is “doing,” with people like Jake and Mary.
Back in the studio, on that first day, before my struggling with harmonies and insecurity, we are waiting for the root track to load. Jake and I are talking about music videos, and he turns on Mick Jagger’s “Let’s Work.” It’s a pulsing number from his solo 80’s album Primal Creature, featuring Jagger’s ecstatic dances over a green screen of a highway, different kinds of workers and people dancing and running alongside him. The lyrics are fun and strangely inspiring. “No sitting down on your butt/ The world don’t owe you/No sitting down in a rut/I wanna show you,” Jagger sings as the track is fully loaded. Jake turns to me. “Let’s get to work.”
And we do. I fuck up, I fix it, I succeed. I’m learning. It feels good to do it with feel.flow.
feel.flow studio’s launch party is next Thursday, October 24th
Eryn Brothers is a poet, writer, musician, and all around jerk of all trades. A high school dropout who never graduated from Possum College, Eryn has published comics, essays, and poetry with Venison Mag, LIFE RAFT ZINE, RAWPAW, and the up and coming BIBLE BELT QUEERS. She also is currently working on her own sad bastard indie country that eventually will be public. Eryn can be found idolizing Nick Cave at your local bar and singing Robyn loudly from her bike. Follow her on Spotify for a dose of weird on her friday playlists. They’re a hoot and half a holler. (Which is, surprisingly, how tall she is.) Follow her at @regaldebbie on IG for righteous memes, musical opinions, and weak attempts at yodeling.