Locals Only: : The needle and the homework done

The Vibrating Needle Recording Collective looks to provide strength in numbers for local home-recorders

Katherine Sontag

Mike Detmer

Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz said it best: "There's no place like home." And with all the comfort that comes with home, what musician wouldn't want to record in their PJs? Home studios are happy places for artists to go and try out ideas before pursuing audience critique.

According to Mike Detmer, the un-spoken "brainchild" behind The Vibrating Recording Collective and a singer/songwriter best known for the groups The Spectacular Fantastic and Folk?, the ever-evolving home recording studios that saturate modern music production are quintessential crap filters. Musicians can tinker with song ideas and put the bad ones to bed before they reach our ears.

"Today, most independent musicians produce and print homemade studio albums to get their music exposure without incurring the potential debt of professional recording," says Detmer.

Finally, anyone with a mic, a good computer and a three-prong outlet can turn out the tunes. But don't be swindled. Not everyone can turn out a tasteful, quality song, a fact Detmer acknowledged when piecing together his collective.

The goal was to join the humble forces of lo-fi, do-it-yourself bands in Cincinnati to form a collective.

Detmer began by pitching the idea to a handful of carefully chosen local bands with a reputation for innovative sound and resourcefulness. The VNRC consists of Folk?, For Algernon, Kermunklin, Suchanuglything, Tessitura, The Minni-Thins, The Minor Leagues, MercuroChrome, The Silhouette and Santa Cruz's The Slow Break.

Don't confuse the VNRC with a "record label." The goal of the cooperative is to simply put like-minded home recording artists into one easy-to-swallow vitamin. No contracts. No fees. Strictly self-motivated musicians working towards exposing more people to their music.

"Labels too often try to dictate the creativity of their artists," explains Detmer. "A lot of home recording artists are secretive about their musical endeavors, like closet recorders. By having the support of other innovative musicians, these guys feel more confident. It's safety in numbers."

Detmer explains that the collective will strive to help each other produce only good music ... and by good music he means "music that isn't crap."

"When it comes to crap music, let's not be that band or artist," demands Detmer. "If someone in the collective wants to put out crap, or what a majority of us feels is sub par, then we would try to find a different approach or offer constructive feedback."

The beautiful thing is that none of the VNRC bands appear capable of such a crime. Detmer might keep the fidelity limbo bar as "lo" as it can go, but the artistic standards are high and self-inflicted.

The melting pot of sounds spans from gut-throbbing Indie Punk to Nintendo Power Pop. Detmer says cross-promotional attention is a key benefit. For instance, if someone checks out For Algernon's Web site and clicks the Vibrating Needle link, they are instantly exposed to everyone else in the collective.

Sean Sullivan of the newborn Silhouettes already feels the association is a reciprocal relationship. "The Vibrating Needle Collective is an incredible opportunity for a young band such as ourselves because it puts us in direct communication with seasoned musicians," he says.

"The other thing that the collective allows for is consolidation, so audiophiles and other curious seekers of sorts can go to hear new local music without having to go out to a show, pay a cover, listen to entire sets by bands they might hate and walk away feeling empty-handed," emphasizes Suchanuglything guitarist/vocalist Rob Ford. "There are certainly those who enjoy these kinds of outings, but not everyone does."

The collective plans to brand itself on each band's 2005 release with a small record player logo. It's simplistic strategizing to turn the spotlight onto the home-baked goodies these Cincinnati (and beyond) bands have to offer.

THE VIBRATING NEEDLE RECORDING COLLECTIVE's Web site (vibratingneedle.net) has info on all participating bands.

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