John Vanderslice

Putting a face to a name is always nice, and I’m thrilled to finally have a set of images to associate with the words “Tiny Telephone.”

I can’t remember how I first heard about John Vanderslice’s Mission District-situated studio, nor have I ever been there, but in the last few years, it’s been built up in my mind to the point where it’s become a place of real significance to me — a pulsing, glowing thing on the other side of the country, where special stuff is made with analog equipment and integrity.

Much of that building-up came from a pair of conversations I had with the gents from Pretty & Nice. All the way back in April of 2011, I was talking to the Boston-based group about this awesome place in San Francisco where they were going to mix their next album, and they sang the studio’s praises again when I interviewed them last month, a short time after that (spectacular) album finally saw the light of day. On both occasions, when they spoke about Tiny Telephone, there was something elevated about their speech, like they enjoyed the taste its name made each time they said it. If I were to extrapolate a bit, I’d guess that enjoyment came not from delight in name-dropping but from a genuine sense of pride at being associated with a place that shares their values. Attention to detail. Respect for good equipment. Love of analog.

As for me, I’d guess that the enjoyment I get from saying/typing “Tiny Telephone” comes from a different place, though I think it reflects just as well on the studio.

It’s never been easier to record a song, and all over the world, people are using laptops and Pro Tools to make amazing music. All told, I count that as a good thing. The more music, the better. I may not like (and will certainly never hear) all of it, but I do like the idea that some unknown person is sitting in a bedroom right this minute, strumming a guitar and recording an album I’m destined fall in love with. That said, when I sense that a studio, record label, or collective of musicians is approaching the art of recording with uncommon pride and joy — really digging into the process and loving every minute of it — I get hooked. That’s what’s happened with Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville, it’s what’s happened with Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb gang here in Richmond, and it’s definitely happened with Tiny Telephone. It’s not that they’re hip or cool or old fashioned; it’s that they care, and they clearly enjoy what they do (the cringe-worthily hilarious Third Eye Blind incident notwithstanding).

Until yesterday, the proof that Tiny Telephone cares was all audio, but with the clip for “How The West Was Won” from his recent release Dagger Beach, John Vanderslice and director Jake Wachtel have captured on video that warm glow that I’ve been sensing from the other side of the country. Check it out above and see if you fall in love with the place like I have.

John Vanderslice — “How The West Was Won” [Spotify/iTunes]

John Vanderslice — “Harlequin Press” [Spotify/iTunes]

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