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Down at Five and Dime

Harry Koniditsiotis chooses the studio over the stage



Local musician Harry Koniditsiotis has been a staple of the underground music scene in Memphis for more than 13 years, leading punk and post-punk influenced acts like the Angel Sluts, the Switchblade Kid, Twin Pilot and the Turn-It-Offs to both general and critical acclaim. But in between all that, he's also been running a successful recording studio, 5 and Dime Recording, mostly on the strength of his clients' recommendations.

"It's always been word of mouth," says Koniditsiotis. "A lot of the bands that record here have heard and like my records, or are in bands I've met on tour."

Until recently, however, the studio has mostly taken a backseat to Koniditsiotis' musical pursuits - chalk it up to an insanely busy touring and personal recording schedule. But for now, he's putting the lion's share of his energy into 5 and Dime.

"The summer is coming up and I hate the heat. I'm done with sweating my ass off playing," Konidisiotis said.

Koniditsiotis first came to Memphis back in 2002. At the time, he was a New Orleans-expat looking to relocate to Chicago. But Koniditsiotis never got farther north than the Bluff City. He quickly found a job engineering at a local studio, Cotton Row Recording, and then formed the Angel Sluts. The band would play its first show the following year.

The Angel Sluts quickly attracted a loyal following on the strength of the band's raucous live show and solid punk-pop hooks.

"We were very like-minded in wanting to do a rock-and-roll-type punk band," Koniditsiotis says. "We thought a lot of bands were just boring live. The band really started because we realized we could get free bar tabs when we played and we would just let all our friends in for free to come party. So it was that kind of thinking."

But Koniditsiotis wasn't quite satisfied. From there, he branched out with more eclectic groups like Twin Pilot and the Turn-It-Offs and established himself as a versatile and dependable creative presence in Memphis music.

In 2004, Koniditsiotis purchased a house in the Cooper-Young neighborhood with a backyard garage and quickly decided it would be a suitable space for a recording studio. By 2006, he had grown weary of playing second banana at Cotton Row and wanted to launch his own endeavor; that endeavor would become 5 and Dime.

The studio started small - Koniditsiotis initially worked primarily on his own projects and those of his friends. But the positive word-of-mouth proved to be a strong endorsement, and he found himself attracting bands from around the country looking to record albums on a modest budget.

"Bands like coming to Memphis. We give them a place to stay," Koniditsiotis says. "There's kind of a B&B side to the studio. I've been told over and over by bands how it's an incredibly relaxing recording environment. So that's one of the attractive features for out-of-town groups. Bands generally like the gear that's already in the studio so it makes everything super easy. Most of them will just bring in guitars and drum sticks."

"The first word that comes to mind is comfortable," says local singer-songwriter Tony Manard, who has recorded two albums at 5 and Dime. "It's an eclectic mix of equipment and kitsch that's a little worn around the edges and just feels right to me. 5 and Dime is a great room for recording a band together at once. There's a collection of vintage tube amps and effects pedals. There's also a nice drum kit, Hammond M3 and Fender Rhodes. The room is pretty live, and Harry knows where the sweet spots are."

The year 2012 saw the demise of Koniditsiotis' main project, the Angel Sluts (last week's impromptu reunion show at the P&H notwithstanding), and he eventually decided to consolidate his various influences and inclinations into one unified project, the Switchblade Kid.

"The bad thing about being in the Angel Sluts was being stuck with the stigma. The joke of the name ran its course long ago and I was feeling very limited music-wise by it," he says. "At the same time, I was playing in two other bands and after a while realized playing in three original bands at the same time was just stupid. I was running myself ragged and decided to combine the three."

Not long thereafter, Koniditsiotis also married his longtime girlfriend and backing vocalist/percussionist in the Switchblade Kid, Jenny Hansom. Which brings us to the present, where the highly prolific Koniditsiotis is now "settled down" and focused on running 5 and Dime Recording as a fully fledged business.

"It's nice to be focused on one person rather than a bunch of musicians. If anything, it's made me realize the things I really want in life and for once it's nice to have them," Koniditsiotis says.

Koniditsiotis has registered the studio with the Cooper-Young Business Association and has taken out ads in numerous indie/punk music publications including Maximum Rock'n'Roll, Razorcake, and City Trash. He's also made some improvements to the studio itself.

"There's always trial and error with gear, but I think I've got a nice Barbarella/Warhol Factory vibe now," Koniditsiotis says. "It went through a bunch of phases to get to this point though. I gutted it a few years ago and got more gear, so it's just been an evolution. Most of the gear is from the '60s and '70s, but I record to Pro Tools. I like ribbon mics.

"One of the pluses is that [5 and Dime] also functions as my personal studio so everything is mic'd up and ready to go at a moment's notice. Setup time is always a big killer for a band's momentum so I try and keep it fast. I like to work quickly myself when I record so it's easier to just leave everything set up and ready to go. There's a convenience factor when you have a recording studio in your backyard that I love."

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