Premier Santa Monica Boutique Studio: In a competitive studio scene where other facilities tout their size, flash and all manner of high tech cool, Kathleen Wirt, owner of 4th Street Studios since 1989, is proud of her boutique status running a “special little place where folks have been making stellar music” for close to 40 years. She also touts its location in Downtown Santa Monica, which Conde Nast Traveler ranks as one of the Ten Best Beach Cities in America. Brian Epstein’s Sound Solutions opened in 1978 with clients that included Little Richard, Stanley Clarke, George Clinton and the Beach Boys, who recorded “Kokomo” there. Sonically designed and constructed by the same team that built A&M (now Henson) Studios, the tracking room features a wavy ceiling, no parallel surfaces and bass traps, with walls and floor floating in sand. Wirt’s emphasis throughout has been on being a great hostess, “making people feel comfortable and happy.”
Superstars and Indies at All Hours: Since 1995, more than 20 artists and bands have been signed to recording deals with projects they have made at 4th Street, starting with Fiona Apple’s “Shadowboxer.” Later future platinum artists include Incubus, Alien Ant Farm and Hoobastank. 4th Street celebrated its 25 anniversary in 2014 with a newly installed API console and its 12th RIAA Gold/Platinum award with the Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather.” Wirt and her crew continue their commitment to working with promising indie artists––and even offer half price rates for sessions that begin at midnight. Among 4th Street’s dynamic array of equipment are the Yamaha C7 piano, a Hammond Organ, Fender Rhodes, classic reverbs and many vintage mics.
The Crew and the Vibe: Wirt’s appreciation for the old school studio approach extends to her cultivation of new talent via internships. She also works regularly with three independent engineer/producers, including Sejo Navajas (Weezer, Muse, American Idol), Chris Mulllings (The Neighbourhood, Bryan Ferry) and Chase McElhaney (Regina Spektor). “People tell me they don’t hear this kind of quality,” Wirt says. “Everyone knows you can make things perfect with computers but there’s something better than perfection to us, and that’s human effort that creates something wonderful.”