After operating their respective contributions to the local music scene out of basements, apartments, and even doctors' offices, three Memphians are expanding their music promotion operations to a loft at 1372 Overton Park Avenue.
Matt Qualls has been recording local bands for the past five years. His expertise and affordable rates have made him one of the go-to guys for local bands looking for a cheap way to record their music, even if his ever-moving studio has been makeshift at best. So when Crosstown Arts music promoter Ryan Azada asked him if he was interested in a new space, Qualls jumped at the chance to move into a legit location.
"When I was recording in various places, it would take me about two hours to set everything up. I'd record a band for 10 hours, and then we'd have to take another two hours to break down and pack everything back up," Qualls said. "Ryan asked if I wanted to live [in the Overton Park loft], and I said I wanted to make it my recording studio before I ever even saw the place."
Fat Sandwich Records founder Daniel Drinkard also trusted that Azada had found a reliable place, signing the lease to his record label's future headquarters before ever seeing it. This isn't the first time Qualls and Drinkard have worked together. In addition to playing in the same bands, Qualls has also recorded almost every local Fat Sandwich release, including the critically acclaimed "Coastin" single by former Memphian Cities Aviv.
Azada, a relative newcomer to the Midtown music scene, started booking shows in the basement of the Crosstown Arts office earlier this year. But the shows grew too large for the small space. After successfully booking over 70 bands during his seven-month run in the Crosstown Arts basement, Azada decided he was ready to take on a bigger performance space in the Crosstown area.
"Christian Walker from [the band] Pezz kept calling and telling me about this place above the All-in-One Variety Store [on Cleveland at Overton Park] that was for rent," Azada said. "I knew I couldn't live in here alone, so that's when I called Daniel and Matt to see if they were interested."
A month and over 40 hours of renovation work later, 1372 Overton Park (they're using the address as the name for the studio and performance space) opened for its first show on November 8th, with Fat Sandwich recording artists La Armada and a slew of local bands called upon to break in the new space.
Qualls said he eventually would like to set up audio and visual recording sessions for bands, in addition to providing one of the only all-ages music venues in town. The location in Crosstown is especially fitting for such a use, since the neighborhood is currently being rebranded as an arts district following an announcement earlier this year that the Sears Crosstown building will be repurposed as a medical and arts center.
The 1372 Overton Park space once housed local music giants Lucero and His Hero Is Gone. The new residents are confident they can leave their mark on the Crosstown loft.
"The lease is for six months right now, so we're just going to see how this goes," Drinkard said. "Honestly, it's going to take six months to get it cleaned out and ready, but it's going to be great when it's all set up."