Tucked away in a quiet corner of Purcellville, the M80 Recording Studio isn’t where you’d expect to find a world-class space with top-notch equipment. But appearances can be deceiving. The secluded location is, according to studio owner Pete Durand, one of its main draws.
Durand grew up in Round Hill, and after going to Berklee College of Music in Boston, he decided to move back to Loudoun County. He bought the property two years ago, and after teaming up with co-owner, engineer and producer Oskar Sadle, M80 officially opened last summer.
“That was kind of my goal, to create a studio like the one I worked in in Boston and LA and then Purcellville, which is kind of crazy,” Durand said. “A lot of people said that nobody was going to come to a studio in Purcellville.”
But Durand proves them wrong.
“There are so many great musicians out of DC, and they’re able to basically support us, but we’ve also gotten a lot of attention from Nashville and New York,” Durand said. “We have a band coming from Maine next week. People hear records that were made here and they like their sound, which we did.”
The studio is home to over 140 vintage guitars, 120 vintage amps and a range of new gear – pretty much everything you’d expect to find in state-of-the-art big city studios. Part of the space features a ceiling nearly 20 feet high, which sets it apart from other DC and Baltimore check-in rooms. Everything in the studio was wired by Durand.
A year before Durand bought the Purcellville space, he sourced a 1980s Neve recording console from the UK, which sat in his garage for a year before becoming a centerpiece of the studio. Historically, the list of singer voices that have come through the console is an eclectic mix ranging from ZZ Top to Marilyn Manson and Adele.
“I’m always adding to the studio, like I just bought a few new guitars, I just bought a new compressor, so it’s a never-ending addiction to buying gear,” Durand said.
However, it’s not all rock and roll – the space has also been used to record and edit audiobooks.
Up-and-coming Leesburg band Kid Brother recently used the studio to record their ‘Baltimore Street Rat’ album. Durand and Sadle produced and recorded the band’s album over a period of four months.
“The thing with Pete and Oskar is they wanted to come out and meet us and have a beer, which was cool. Then we went to see the studio – it was unreal,” said Christian Neonakis, the singer of Kid Brother. “Working with Pete is a source of knowledge. We now hang out with him and Oskar. I will always record with them, they are not just businessmen, they are friends.”
“I think every engineer and mixer is sort of a perfectionist, and I’m never happy with anything I’ve mixed,” Durand said. “We almost never said, ‘Great, it’s done. It’s more like “I’ve spent 30 hours on it now, better do it or I’ll go crazy.”
As for future plans, Durand has ambitions to build a second studio in space.
“If anyone wanted to do a full album here this year, we’re talking December,” Durand said, referring to studio bookings.