by Robin Beaudoin | photos courtesy of Sounds Good Recording Studio
Many veteran Memphians know the building as “the old Black Lodge Video.” But at 831 South Cooper Street stands a building with a long Memphis history. Investor Les Birchfield purchased the property in 1989. Birchfield Renovations accepted the task of removing asbestos siding, stripping the building back to its original 1940s frame. After the building was reconstructed and brought to code, Sounds Good Recording Studio took over the top two floors.
Birchfield wasn’t always interested in music, but Memphis has a way of working music into people’s lives.
Chuckling, Birchfield recalls a sixth-grade year at Snowden elementary. “It had the old 1920s desks with inkwells and everything.” To get out of art class, he hesitantly chose band. “The teacher had a little soul patch beneath his bottom lip, and he looked down at me and says, ‘Cool out daddy, you’ll dig it.’” This beginning led him to play in a band with friend Andy Hummell (of Big Star), in 7th grade. They played a few places, and frequented teenage joint the Tonga Club, to hear garage bands. A music space was certainly in his future.
Chris Swenson, Recording Engineer/Producer
Birchfield recalls, “When I first bought it, the attic was just an attic, so I turned that into a studio. The downstairs at the time was a commercial space for a Southwestern themed gift shop on one side, and on the other side I had a music store. For a time, 831 was the home of Black Lodge Video, but is now exclusively devoted to musical performance and live recording.
“Those two things shut down, and the Black Lodge guys came and rented out the downstairs- they were there for about 15 years, until the end of 2014. During that period, I kept the studio going [upstairs], and I rented it out to them for some time.”
The new Sounds Good includes the whole building, with upstairs levels devoted to recording and practice space, and the downstairs decorated for performance/ live recording and frequent private events. Birchfield desired a certain vibe for the décor, and the Sounds Good crew, including Chris Swenson (recording engineer/ producer/event bar manager), Crafton Barnes (recording engineer), Steve Mayer (sound engineer), and Kerry Cutrell (events director) has reclaimed literally tons of wood from building sites and roadsides to warm up the downstairs space, from floor to ceiling.
The Sounds Good space is available for events
“We just went and scored a big old load of free wood today. The stuff on the ceiling is mostly hardwoods—about seven different types of a hardwood we acquired and laid out. At one point we started finding this scrap wood, at saw mills and construction companies. The floor has three different sections, including the dark section that was already there. The hallway was all old window and door casings. The wood on the right side is all cypress that was given to us, and we did some inlays by the back door with epoxy (in a beautiful turquoise). Everything was scavenged, the bar was given to us. It’s kind of a late-night, private party space.” Who doesn’t like a party, great music, and reclaimed wood?
Kerry Cutrell, Events Coordinator
Artists seem to love the sound at Sounds Good. Recording artists including Black Oak Arkansas, The Band Camino, Paul Sanchez of Cowboy Mouth, Eric Gailes, and Steve Mayer are among performers who bring an audience. Sounds Good has also booked comedy shows and frequent private parties. Sounds Good is receptive and inviting of the LGBTQIA community, and Hoist Men of Leather & Fetish recently throwing a party, inclusive of their personal interests, with performances and food. They have also hosted graduation parties, birthdays, and jam sessions, drawing a variety of Memphians through the doors.