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Local Musicians Give Back to Valley Music Scene

Mellow Toad gives unique recording opportunities for local bands.

It’s one thing for a local band to perform at bars and small venues, but recording and releasing music can be a whole different story. The biggest hurdle is that most bands simply cannot afford to pay someone at a recording studio to produce their songs. Amber Victoria Singer met with a local musician looking to change that. 



AVS: In less than an hour, The Strings, a local band, has transformed a Scottsdale home into a makeshift recording studio. The foyer is filled with a mess of cords connected to electric guitars and a keyboard. Blankets are pinned to the walls and hung over a drumset to absorb sound. The band is warmed up and ready to go - they’re just waiting for their producer. 

(door creaking)

Greg Hahne: Hello sir.

Quinn Ayres: Hello.

GH: Have you met Amber yet, Quinn?

QA: Yeah, like, unofficially. I’m Quinn.

AVS: I’m Amber. It’s nice to officially meet you.

QA: Nice to meet you, yeah, I like your jeans.

AVS: Thank you!

[QA: My name is Quinn Ayres, I’m 18 years old and I’m trying to be a production artist- a music production artist… I put all my gear in an orange suitcase that was my mom’s and then I bring it to the house and just unload.]

AVS: Quinn and his best friend and bandmate Max produce music under the name “Mellow Toad” for seven local bands. He says he’s charging a pretty fair hourly rate for his services. 

[QA: Right now 35 because it’s a portable studio so I’m going to people, it’s costing gas money, too…that’s like really cheap. I’ve heard like, 45 an hour up to like 100 an hour. I’ve spent over $600 on one song before, so I knew never to do that again.]

AVS: Jon Suru owns Lazy Ape, a recording studio in Scottsdale. 

[JS: I am a recording studio button-pusher… We charge 75 an hour, or we also do 500 for the whole- for like eight hours.]

AVS: That’s almost twice** as much as what Mellow Toad charges. Greg Hahne is a member of one of the bands Quinn records with.

[GH: I am 24, journalist by day, guitar player/multi-instrumentalist in a band by night… Our band is called The Strings. We make alternative rock music, but that’s kind of an all encompassing term that feel like, I feel like it can be hard to define… Quinn is just very easy to work with…he has good rates… It’s very nice that he can come and record at my place, because it makes us all feel a little bit more comfortable that we’re not in an alien space. We’re just in a space that we’ve been recording in and playing for years now.]

AVS: After a full afternoon of recording isolated vocals and instruments, this:

(raw guitar & vocals)

AVS: Turns into this.

(finished song)

[QA: With unlimited redos. When in a studio, it’s usually like, they mix it, and then that’s what you get, that’s what you paid for. I try to make it to their liking. Because that’s why I’m doing it…so I don’t have to abide by someone else’s rules or mix…Like this! And it’s gonna turn out good, I hope.]

AVS: Quinn isn’t just helping other bands make their music, he started out producing songs for his band, Freud.

(sound from freud @ nile)

[QA: I’m the singer, drummer and keyboardist for Freud. (What type of music do you guys make?) Every single type of genre, with a psychedelic twist. (That’s a good way to describe it.) Yeah. (laugh) (How long has the band been together?) Four years in November.]

Quinn’s mom, Cindy Ayres, says that he always had a love of music.

[CA: Way back when when he was an infant we knew that he was a little different when lullabies wouldn’t put him to sleep to sleep we had to play Led Zeppelin, kind of loud, and it would knock him right out (laugh)… When he was ten I got him some drum lessons because he was just banging on everything driving his brother crazy in a rhythmic matter.]

AVS: Quinn is only 18, he just graduated high school and still lives with his mom. So I asked where he sees himself in 10 years. 

[QA: Owning a studio in Colorado. And having bands want to like come across state or across state or across the world to help record. Hopefully touring with my band, too…I’ve never been much of a city guy, and I love trees.]

AVS: Cindy said almost the exact same thing when I asked where she sees her son in ten years. 

[CA: He’s following his soul. His soul’s purpose, what feels good to him. And he’s driven, it’s all he thinks about. He wakes up and he starts mixing. Or he goes straight to the- after a cup of coffee- straight to the drums, and he won’t quit. So I think it’s his drive that will get him anywhere he wants to go and give him opportunities.]

AVS: Today Mellow Toad is pretty much just a kid with a big orange suitcase. But hey, maybe it’ll become a fully-fledged studio in the next decade or so. If you want to hear Quinn and the rest of Freud for yourself, they’ll be performing at Alibi House in Mesa next month. Amber Victoria Singer, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Phoenix.

** Lazy Ape actually charges more than twice as much as Mellow Toad

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