The audiovisual magic of Miri Music Studio’s live sessions

Earlier this year, up-and-coming local indie rock band Gestalt entered a realm where pink skies drip down a cityscape made of gemstones. As they explored, they encountered mandalas on snare drum heads, potted palms, and a sleek (but comfy) leather couch.

They had breached the portal of Miri Music, a new full-service recording studio created and managed by Ramel Sanchez. Its striking, prismatic and illusory interior is the work of muralist and tattoo artist Justin Wood.

Even Denver’s most passive music purveyors, for whom Sanchez’s name may mean nothing to them, are often blessed with his sonic talents. He plays drums in Oxeye Daisy and bass in Nuancer, is part of Babelord and directs sound at the Roxy Theatre. (Those who’d rather dig deeper into the real dirt than the local music scene might know his landscaping company, Miri Earthworks.)

Although the studio accepts bookings for recording, mixing and mastering, its main feature is live music video sessions.. To execute them, Sanchez assembled an audiovisual team. Audio mixing alongside Sanchez is Stephen Pamas, who also plays guitar in Oxeye Daisy and fronts the band Hello, Mountain. Video producer Andy Borgione—whose work has a lo-fi flair—and photographer Jake Cox, whose style is sleek and clean, together create the visual magic of Miri Music.

For each month of 2020, a local musical group will perform a live session at Miri Music, which the studio records and releases for free for artists. The January session featured Big Dopes, while Gestalt plays in February. Because Gestalt performed two unreleased songs during their jam, Miri Music will release separate videos of each track. They’ll be releasing the final two videos in the coming months, just as Gestalt officially releases their new tracks. The first installment of Gestalt’s live session – in which they perform their 2018 song “do i look lovely” – premiered today.

The intended function of Miri Music within the local music industry is threefold. First, Sanchez wants to show the new growth happening in various pockets of the scene. When it comes to selecting artists for a live session, he said, “I really try to find people who, to me, represent these kinds of different core genres in Denver, that way you get a full tasting of everything we have.” The Velveteers, Wildermiss, Star Garbage, The Reminders and Ramakhandra have all expressed interest in Miri Music’s sessions. Church Fire will be the featured artist in March.

Sanchez also knows firsthand what it’s like to navigate the local industry as an up-and-coming musician, and he leverages that knowledge to make it easier for other artists. He said, “To have someone who is willing to provide you with something quality so you can get started and start getting gigs – that to me is huge for the artist.

Third, as a performer, Sanchez has participated in many live music video sessions, but many of them felt impersonal to him. He found that ingenuity does not translate into a sterile environment with little to no variation in lighting or staging between performers. Therefore, the Miri Music team is more than willing to customize the session production to suit the personality of the band.

Another propagator of this impersonal feeling is the studio’s lack of preparation.

“As an artist, I’ve been in live sessions where there’s just, like, a lack of foresight and everyone feels a bit awkward and doesn’t know what they want,” said Sanchez. “I put a lot of thought into making sure our sessions are seamless for the artists – where they can just show up, grab some snacks, hang out with their friends, play a few songs, and then go home.”

Sanchez, Pamas, Borgione and Cox work long hours behind the scenes to keep showtime running smoothly. They run through several mock sessions without the band, testing out various set designs, lighting tactics and camera setups.

Despite Sanchez’s successful history in bands, his cinematic flair and passion for backend orchestrations predates his love of performance. In high school, he took a music technology lab class, where he was tasked with composing little beats on GarageBand and creating different jingles for popular commercials.. Of those projects, Sanchez enthused, “I just loved it. I got really, really attached to making music that way. It was the first time I merged the visual and audio worlds.

Students in this lab would also score videos made by their peers enrolled in a filmmaking course a few doors down. Some of Sanchez’s friends took this course, and when they later became college film students, they continued to send him their projects to score. He still has aspirations for composing films.

“I would still like to do something like Hans Zimmer eventually. It feels like a distant dream,” he admitted. “Once I left school, I felt like I had chosen the performance route instead, while composition would have taken me the other way. That’s kind of why I still want to go back. But then I found this love of playing in bands like Oxeye Daisy, so I was like, “Hey, the performance isn’t too bad!”

303 Magazine, 303 Music, Miri Music, Miri Music LLC, Denver Recording Studio, Denver Live Music Video Sessions, Ramel Sanchez, Jake Cox, Stephen Pamas, Andy Borgione, Josie Russell

Ramel Sanchez

Miri Music’s live video sessions chart a path across the country that lies between the seemingly divergent paths of composition and performance, as Sanchez’s passion thrives where audio and video overlap. It aims to visually capture sound and translate visuals in ring.

When I asked him to describe the relationship to music and video, he stopped. “Incredible,” he finally breathed. This nebulous relationship between sound and image — how, in our minds, one calls the other — dazzles Sanchez. He raved about the endless “feedback loop” that occurs between all the different people involved in filmmaking, including actors, musicians on film scores, set designers, lighting designers, directors and screenwriters. “I like big production stuff,” he admits. “It’s exciting for me to see a creative vision championed by so many artists. It’s a process of greatness, and…” At this point, he broke off, as if rendered speechless by the deluge of sounds and images his imagination was producing.

At many other points in the interview, Sanchez spoke at a mile a minute, gushing in particular about the people in his life and how grateful he is to have reached this point. (He also didn’t recount his thanks in that hollow, repeated way of award winners — his displays of gratitude were genuine.) But there are dreams that are too precious for words.

It wasn’t the only moment during Sanchez’s time with me where his imagination transformed his speech. When I inquired about his ideal version of Miri Music, he first responded with statements in the future tense – “I would like to have a commercial space where we could rent out to practicing groups”, “I would like a place where Justin Wood could also do tattoos” and “It would be more of a collective source of what they want to hear and see.

Then something curious happened – the cafe we ​​were sitting in faded from his mind, and an ideal vision of Miri Music materialized in its place.. Since he could see it in his head, he simply described it to me, this time using the present tense instead of the future tense: “It’s a recording studio. We are doing the live session there. We rent it out for photo shoots… Artists have peer-to-peer relationships and talk about the new great music they love about town.

303 Magazine, 303 Music, Miri Music, Miri Music LLC, Denver Recording Studio, Denver Live Music Video Sessions, Ramel Sanchez, Jake Cox, Stephen Pamas, Andy Borgione, Josie RussellI’m not the only person who marvels at the vastness and dynamism of Sanchez’s dreams – and his ability to make them come true – especially as the miasma of indifference engulfs so many other creative sights. similar. Big Dopes lead songwriter Eddie Schmid remarked in his Facebook review of Miri Music that “there’s not a whiff of profanity” within the studio and its staff.

I read that part of Schmid’s review aloud to Sanchez, then asked him if he thought it was easy to be jaded in his industry. Without hesitation, he replied, “Oh yeah. Super easy. I mean, just because Schmid couldn’t smell it doesn’t mean he’s not there. No, just kidding!” Sanchez assured. Still, he went on to say:

“But I think it’s easy to be jaded because you put so much stuff out that doesn’t show, and when you finally put it out in the world, people either evaluate you, or don’t care, or no one will listen to you. We are very human, and we are insecure, and small validations are important for anyone to continue. Music is definitely a hard quest in the sense that you don’t always get them, which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong either – it’s a hard thing to achieve.

So how do Sanchez, Pamas, Borgione and Cox keep weariness from seeping into their studio?

“None of us ‘make-it’ right now,” Sanchez replied. “We all want to succeed, don’t we? But nobody does it for that. That’s why I love these people – they’re into this artist’s struggle, and they can’t stop even if they wanted to. It’s special for me.

For the creatives behind Miri Music LLC, the reward is in doing so, and what they do for the local music industry is priceless.

Check the Miri Music website if you want to book the studio or do a live music video session.
All photographs by Jake Cox.