Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun photo
February 25, 2013
Years ago, Chris Freeland and dozens of his friends would stage epic dodgeball games at Hillcrest Elementary School in Catonsville.
"It turned into these 80-on-80, gladiator-type dodgeball wars that were incredibly intense," Freeland said. "I thought it would be a good idea if we formed a band to play at the dodgeball games."
Freeland's idea of a "band" was himself, Baltimore rapper Height and another musician, all banging on floor toms. Their career didn't last long ("maybe 25 seconds in, people started throwing dodgeballs at us"), but their name, Beat Babies, stuck with him.
That's what he named his recording studio, which he's been operating full-time out of his parents' basement in the isolated town of Woodstock, Md. for the past five years. There, he's recorded the Baltimore indie bands Wye Oak, Lower Dens, White Life and a number of other groups.
Despite being only a half hour from Baltimore, Woodstock feels remote, Freeland said. He lives in Hampden, and works in the studio during business hours; he pays some of his parents' bills and they let him use the basement.
"A lot of people give me a funny look when I tell them my studio is in my parents' basement," Freeland said, "mostly because they're shocked my parents would deal with that kind of noise. But in reality, making a record is only 10 percent loud."
To get the right sound, Freeland asks bands for reference points before recording. Often, they'll pause in the middle of a session and listen to, say, a Cheap Trick song, noting the way a certain breakdown sounds. His brother, Mickey (who goes by Mickey Free), is also a producer, and they often swap ideas.
Freeland has come a long way in the past few years -- and is still growing as a producer and engineer. One of his favorite Wye Oak tracks (he recorded their last album, "Civilian," and the "My Neighbor, My Creator" EP) is the song "I Hope You Die." He's still critical of his work on the track.
"One of my biggest regrets is, I was not a good enough engineer to mix that song when it came out," said Freeland, 34. "That was right before I understood a lot of stuff. I would love to remix it."
Freeland may be his own biggest critic, but his parents also like to weigh in from upstairs. Lately, he's been working with the Baltimore singer/songwriter Bosley, who is one of their favorites.
"They always have something to say," he said. "Sometimes if my mom doesn't like a singer, I'll come up and she'll just roll her eyes at me. But for the most part, they're excited." -- Sam Sessa