Minnesota bands such as Hippo Campus, Poliça, Low and Trampled by Turtles won’t have to travel to Los Angeles or even Eau Claire, Wis., anymore to work with burgeoning producer/engineer BJ Burton. The North Carolina native and longtime Bon Iver affiliate is setting up his own recording studio and mixing space in northeast Minneapolis.
Burton, 31, bought the artfully redesigned, two-story studio facility that used to house the Humans Win recording studio.
He had been bouncing between rented rooms in Minneapolis and L.A. — and was actually looking to resettle in his hometown of Raleigh this spring — when friends who owned the building offered him the chance to buy it.
“I was literally in the middle of house-hunting when I got the text,” said Burton, who saw it as something of a serendipitous sign. “I see this as a jumping-off point. I’m ready to make Minneapolis my base to do a lot of beautiful work in the coming years.”
The good news of Burton’s permanent arrival, however, is tempered by the bad vibes surrounding the exit of Humans Win studio operator Lance Conrad from the space he has helmed for the past 10 years.
Conrad said he was long promised the building by its entrepreneur owners, Tyler Erickson and Varun Kataria, and was very close to buying it when he was suddenly informed of “a better offer.”
“I’d been caring for the property for years and invested so much time, energy and emotions into it, only to have them pull the rug out from under me at the very last minute,” said Conrad, who did work there for everyone from Dessa, Gramma’s Boyfriend and Heiruspecs to Lissie, Belle & Sebastian and Grammy-winning jazzist Irvin Mayfield.
Through his friends at the advertising/film/TV-placement company Black Label Music, Conrad is working out of a new studio space in the Lumber Exchange building in downtown Minneapolis.
But he’s still discernibly hurt over losing his old space: “They lied to me; it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Brooklyn supper club
Kataria disputed Conrad’s claims, going on to explain that he and Erickson simply thought that the studio space would do better in Burton’s hands.
“Selling it to Lance was just one option, but like in any landlord-tenant situation, it’s not up to the tenant,” he said.
“We all built that place together from the ground up. Tyler and I wanted it to live on in the best incarnation possible. BJ, I thought, would be the best continuation. He has an amazing community of artists. I love his music. Having him in there would make [the space] relevant in a way it hasn’t been of late.”
Kataria and Erickson are now turning their attention to a bold plan to open a Wisconsin-style supper club in Brooklyn this year.
The son of Dakota Jazz Club co-owner Richard Erickson and part of the family behind Holiday gas stations, Erickson recently bought up the amenities from the shuttered Turks Inn supper club in Hayward, Wis., to transfer to the Brooklyn property, which the partners also are calling the Turks Inn.
Obviously, they would like to see a lot of cool Midwestern musicians come to perform.
Conrad said they were “trying to get more of an inside connection” to Burton’s stable of artists to bring to the New York venue by selling the studio to him.
Kataria described the sale as “building synergy between the Minneapolis and New York music scenes.”
Burton, for one, said he wasn’t in on “the politics” behind his purchase of the property. He said he hopes to add to the goodwill he has built up among his many Minnesota and Wisconsin collaborators.
A former member of the Merge Records-backed Raleigh band the Love Language, Burton first made his way north to work with Megafaun at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studio near Eau Claire, and stuck around to help lay down tracks by Bon Iver, Francis & the Lights and Sylvan Esso, along with all the local acts.
One of his first musical tasks at the northeast Minneapolis space will be finishing a new Hippo Campus album, which he and the band largely recorded in town at the Terrarium in December.
“There’s such a vibrant music community here,” Burton said. “I’m stoked to be a part of it.”