Go to a show at the Waiting Room or Mohawk Place on any given week to catch some local acts, and there is a very good chance you will see a band that has spent some time at Quiet Country Audio, an Alden-based recording studio run by Paul Besch. Some of Buffalo's best up-and-coming punk, emo and garage acts, including I Can See Mountains, Cedar Kites and Bearhunter, have worked with the 28-year-old audio engineer and nearly life-long musician.
"I have been playing guitar and bass in bands since I was 12 years old," Besch said. "I spent my late teens/early twenties touring in a rock band, Gracer. Toward the end of the band's run, I started getting into recording our own music. Once we disbanded, I spent four years going to Berklee College of Music where I got a Masters in Engineering and Production. And in 2011, I started Quiet Country Audio."
"QCA started by wanting to experiment with recording my own band and looking for more freedom than I could afford going to a traditional studio," Besch continues. "I also missed the interaction with all sorts of different bands I had when I was on tour."
In addition to offering his music production services, he began a live session series, QCA Sessions, nearly three years ago along with filmmaker Mike Sobieraj, and later with photographer Andy DeLuca. While the first session, featuring friends and long-time Mohawk Place players, On Beta, only premiered in the summer of 2012, the video production side of music has been a long passion of Besch, beginning when he first started attending shows.
"The video aspect really started when I was a kid. Ever since I can remember, I would film every show I went to and come home and watch them on repeat," explains Besch. "There was no YouTube to look stuff up so the only way I could see these bands live again was to film it myself. I always loved finding rare live recordings of bands and thought QCA Sessions was the perfect way to continue what I used to do when I was younger, but with the advantages of modern technology."
Like most new ventures, the quality of the sessions grew with experience, a little money and just the right mixture of people.
"It's really just been trial by fire. I started with myself and two cameras," Besch said. "As it grew, we invested in more cameras, lighting and even gained sponsors for microphones."
"The biggest growth was hiring Andy [Deluca] as our main videographer," admits Besch. "Without him, QCA sessions wouldn't exist today. With every session we do, I see his work get so much better it blows me away. I have also seen a lot of other companies start up and do the same thing as us, which is good because it constantly keeps us backed into a corner where we need to be unique and reinvent what we're doing to fight our way through the crowd."
During QCA's four-year existence, Besch has become a bit of a mentor and even good friend to many of the fresh, young bands that roll through his studio, passing along a wealth of knowledge and experiences to the sometimes wet behind the ears musicians. Regardless of what those musicians may soak up, the impressions that a handful of those acts leave on him is what sustains his drive.
"Some of the bands I am most proud of working with are Made Violent, American Low and the Naturalists. All of these bands possess such a strong work ethic and natural hunger for creativity and care more about the quality of the music than anything else. Nothing could be more important in a world where anyone with $200 can record and release an album in the same day. Regardless of any technology that comes along, you can't buy a computer program or a piece of gear that will create an original, emotional piece of music."
"I've personally seen all these bands evolve in ways I couldn't have imagined and couldn't be prouder to put my name behind them."
"[As for the sessions], I am most proud of '68, The Malones, Captain We're Sinking and The Front Bottoms," continues Besch. "'68 was really the one where Andy and I felt we took everything from the next level and broke us through a barrier. Plus it felt like my guts had imploded from the wall of sound. The Malones embody kind of what I earlier mentioned. Not a lot of people got to see them live, but a lot of people really loved that band because [they] had some amazing chemistry together, and now hopefully one day some kid thousands of miles away stumbles upon them and falls in love with them the way I did.
"The Front Bottoms were the first 'national' band we had come through and I went from the most nervous I had ever been down to the most comfortable. It gave me the confidence and the realization I was onto something really cool and really fun."
A bright future appears to be on the horizon for Besch and his QCA studio, as he continues to work with on-the-rise touring/national acts, as well as see some of his more talented local alums (Made Violent might be Buffalo's next best hope) start to make some national and even international waves.
And with summer approaching, Besch's plate appears to already be rather full.
"We are so stoked to have a part in Herd Fest again. Last year was incredible, and this year, we have a really solid line up of bands we have spent a lot of time working with and know are going to make for a night to remember," he said.
"We just started releasing some new sessions we have been holding onto for a while including Driver Friendly, PUP, The Traditional and a bunch more I can't mention just yet. Aside from that, I'm working on a few ideas that have never been done with live sessions that our audience is going to love."
Mac McGuire is the editor of BuffaBLOG