Feature: Relay Recording

  • Photo by Tessa Berg
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From the January 5, 2012 edition

Seeing your recording studio turned into a parking lot is not kind on the psyche.

“I was a grumpy bastard for about a year,” said Jon Fintel, whose Relay Recording was silent for more than a year after State Auto, which bought the building on Washington Avenue during Fintel’s six-year tenancy, decided to flatten the studio into a parking lot.

Fintel had long been a fixture in the Columbus music landscape. After leaving Ohio State to major in audio production at Florida’s music-centric Full Sail University, he returned to Columbus in 1994. A short stint at now-defunct Metropolis Recording Studio and five years at John Schwab Recording led to Fintel opening the first incarnation of Relay in a house in Bexley in 2002.

By 2004, he moved into the Washington Avenue location, where he worked with the likes of Flotation Walls, Brainbow and Sinkane. That era came to a close abruptly in April 2010, which sent Fintel scrambling for a new facility.

He and his lawyer, Todd Collis, drove around endlessly looking for the right building. A deal for one prospective location fell through when Fintel’s fellow investors backed out. In the meantime, he did mixing and mastering work from home, took on freelance video production work and recorded some sessions at his friend Brad Keplinger’s space at film production studio The Backlot — coincidentally in the same room he worked in when the building housed John Schwab Recording.

Fintel finally hit the jackpot about a year after his Washington Avenue space closed when he noticed a “for rent” sign in the window of a former bar called Pyramid 2 on North Sixth Street in the Discovery District. After meeting with Fintel, the landlord agreed to lower the rental cost to fill his vacant space, and Fintel’s friend Jessica Strimbu agreed to rent a room in the building for her business, Tin Roof Vintage. Fintel could now afford the lease, but he had to undertake a massive renovation project to convert the barebones bar into a high-tech studio.

“It was trashed forever,” Fintel said. “I was like, ‘How are we ever going to make this into a recording studio?’”

It took half a year to pull it off, along with lots of help from friends, particularly Adam Coate, Fintel’s longtime bandmate in the groups Jinx Palm and Stations, and Keplinger, Fintel’s video production friend.

Some of Fintel’s clients traded man hours for recording hours, too. Dan Francis of Babes in Cages pulled from his background in construction. John Hastings, a.k.a. electronic producer Rumtum, painted. Members of She Bears helped move 160 sheets of drywall.

Relay resumed operations in November, with Babes in Cages laying down the first sessions in the new space. It’ll get a proper reintroduction Friday, when the studio hosts a concert featuring Eye, Ease the Medic, She Bears and Harboring Ghosts, a development that has Fintel back in his right mind.

“It’s kind of an amazing feeling,” Fintel said. “I feel like I’m back in the community.”