Along a dusty road off of Closner Boulevard in an industrial part of Edinburg stands a rather unremarkable building.
Oil workers come and go in dirty trucks, and the buildings surrounding the business remain empty with “For Lease” signs out front.
Beyond the dirt and oil, nestled deep within the unassuming structure, however, is a state-of-the-art, custom-built recording studio named Sound of Rain Studios.
“It’s a diamond in the rough, isn’t it?” said Roland Trevino, the owner and designer of the studio.
Trevino, 33, who runs the oil business that houses the studio, also works as a producer and musician (he is the founding member of tejano band Llueve). After graduating from Full Sail University in Florida where he studied both the art and business sides of recording and entertainment, he returned to the Valley with a plan for his own music.
Sound of Rain Studios began as a practice room for Llueve, but soon became much more.
Both the tracking and control rooms have vaulted ceilings, they’re completely enclosed by rich cedar planks and the floors are covered with plush Persian rugs.
“(Cedar) is on the upper end of the soft wood, so it’s not entirely soft enough to absorb all of the sound, but it’s not hard enough reflect the sound,” Trevino said.
A massive soundboard takes up a big chunk of the control room and is warmly illuminated by three hanging light fixtures. In the corner sits a recording relic: an analog tape machine.
In the tracking room: a variety of mics, guitars, amps, pedals, a piano from the ’30s and a drum set.
Generally, artists like Bobby Pulido, The Young Maths, The Vangoes and Sick/Sea record at the studio, but the producers and engineers are open to recording, producing and mixing any genre.
“Anybody who wants to put anything on tape or computer is welcome to come in,” Trevino said.
The spare room seemed a perfect place for Trevino and his band.
“I had this open space here. I didn’t expect it to be this,” he said. “At first, honestly, it was going to be a practice room for my band so we would have a place to practice in the nine hot months of the year.”
Little by little, the practice room grew into a full studio. Trevino decided to build a control room to house his mixer. Then he decided to add the wood and other accoutrements. Two months later, he had a complete studio.
The first band (other than Llueve) to record in the studio was The Chimies, which included Shawn Elliot.
When he posted a status update on Facebook, his cousin, local producer and musician Charlie Vela, was instantly interested.
“He posted a picture on Facebook and … I just called him right away and was like, ‘Where is that?’ Because I’d never seen anything like that down here,” Vela said.
Vela has played drums for several local bands, including The December Drive and currently Dignan. Since high school, Vela has lived for music, recording and engineering. Almost immediately following the purchase of his first house, he turned one room of it into a home recording studio. Over time, though, the studio began to take over his home.
“It was about 90 percent studio and I lived in a room,” he said.
He dubbed it Pillow Fort Studios and recorded practically every local band in the Valley. Vela knew he needed to change his set up in order to have more house than studio, but hadn’t made any solid plans yet. Then he met Trevino.
Vela immediately drove to the studio to check it out. A few fateful occurrences led to Vela and Trevino comparing recording knowledge into the wee hours of morning.
Trevino said he wasn’t quite impressed when Vela walked in, pointed out ProTools 10 and a console he recognized.
“I was like, ‘OK, cool. Another guy who knows.’ You know?” Trevino said. He continued to record the band while Vela watched the session.
Then Trevino got a call from some of the oil workers about an issue that had to be resolved.
“I turned to Charlie and was like, ‘You know about this console? You know about ProTools?'” he said. “And he was like, ‘Yeah.'”
So he left the session under Vela’s direction for a while and when he came back, he said everyone was lounging around. Vela had finished the recording.
“I was like, ‘Let me press play. Let me listen to what you did.'” Trevino said. “Sure enough, he’d finished the track.”
The two producers stayed up for hours talking about what they both wanted out of a studio, what kind of gear they wanted to use in the studio and how to run a business.
“We were just on the same page and everything clicked,” Trevino said.
Vela’s first full recording at the studio was with local band The Young Maths, and he brought along a few pieces of gear.
“It’s like the studio equivalent of leaving a toothbrush,” he said.
It didn’t take long for him to bring over the rest of his equipment. Now the business pair shares the studio, which constantly stays booked with local, regional and national artists. Vela said that the partnership made for a better product, a testament that two heads are better than one.
“You can do a lot with a laptop, but … chances are most of the records that you like weren’t done all on a laptop, and they weren’t done by one person,” Vela explained. “A lot of the magic in making records is collaborating with not only people who have the equipment, but people who know how to use the equipment and understand songwriting as a process and understand a band as a unit and a dynamic.”
Including the gear Vela lugged over to the studio, Trevino estimates they’ve accumulated about $300,000 worth of equipment. And it’s all safely secured by a password-protected door — the only way in and out of the studio.
Vela continues to drum for the restructured band Dignan, which is currently in the middle of songwriting.
Initially, Vela didn’t want to commit to a date for their next album release, tentatively sticking to “sometime time before Christmas.”
Trevino pushed him to give a date. After a bit of hestitation, Vela made a decision.
“Let’s say it will be out by Dia de Los Muertos,” he said.
“Yeah, they’re going to be so pissed off,” Vela laughed.
Trevino and Vela are considering offering classes or seminars at the studio when they expand, but for now, they’re keeping busy recording.
“We’re still pursuing the idea of it, it’s just that this year has been so busy with one room,” Trevino said. “Like I mentioned before, there’s going to be some sort of expansion within the next six months to 12 months, but right now with one room, we have so much business, we’d have to work through the weekend to teach. And that’s one thing … the first rule when Charlie came in was we need to take weekends off because he was already burning himself out working eight days a week.”
Though Vela loves the work, he said pacing himself is important, not only for his own sanity and health, but also to ensure high quality of work.
“In this business, it can be very feast and famine — you can work for very short periods of time and then you have your slow months during the year,” he said. “… It should always be an enjoyable place to go.”
On the door to the tracking room are autographs in silver from all those who have recorded at Sound of Rain Studios. The glass door to the control room is currently blank and saved for those who record at the studio and win a Grammy.
“You’ll see us there this year,” Trevino predicted.
He held up a brand new copy of his band’s latest album Vueltas, which dropped earlier this week.
“For sure,” he said.
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Amy Nichol Smith
Copyright (C) 2013, The Monitor, McAllen, Texas