Rockers launch recording studio in Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Making noise late at night in Middlebury can earn you a visit from the local constabulary.
Unless, of course, you’re making music at LionTone Studios at 66 Main St. (above Mendy’s). Operated by local musicians Clint Bierman and John Wallace, LionTone is a new studio at which established or aspiring artists can come in with a musical concept, perform it and walk out with the tunes etched on a newly minted compact disc. Just make sure to time your performance for between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., because while there are no sleeping neighbors to rouse, there are businesses — such as Mendy’s downstairs — that might want their customers to shop to a different tune.
“Any time at night we can roll full-on with guitars and drums,” Wallace said during a recent interview. “We have never had any complaints or problems.”
LionTone came together rather serendipitously through a collaboration between two musician friends.
Wallace is an accomplished drummer by night with such local groups as The Horse Traders. By day, he operates the Autumn Gold jewelry store, right across from LionTone, at 61 Main St.
Wallace had been renting the LionTone space for storage as well as for jewelry fabrication and repairs for the past six years.
“We had a lot of extra space,” he noted.
Enter Bierman, another top local musician who many know as a guitarist with The Grift. He and Wallace took a look at Autumn Gold’s surplus space and decided to turn it into a recording studio to further their own musical compositions as well as material produced by others. Together, they assembled some sophisticated recording equipment to go along with material Bierman had already been using at his home, including an analog board, a high-end audio/digital converter, a compressor, pre-amps, a hear-back monitoring system and outboard gear. They envisioned it as a temporary set-up, not knowing what the outside demand might be.
Demand proved much bigger than either anticipated, prompting the two friends to give LionTone a permanent roar on Main Street.
Bierman has been the main presence at LionTone, based on the fact that many of his day hours are free — as opposed to nights, when he is playing shows with The Grift.
“It’s great, because I have a son who I drop off at daycare and now I just come into work every day and it’s my first ‘job’ in like 12 years, which is awesome,” Bierman said with a smile. “It’s a place to go and be creative.”
While Bierman can’t entertain live drums beats or electrical music in the studio during the daytime, he can work with the “unplugged” variety, such as acoustic guitars and vocals. He can also mix tunes that have been previously recorded. And he can also conduct music lessons at LionTone. As instructor of the Town Hall Theater’s “School of Rock” (soon to be renamed “Rock-It Science” due to copyright issues), Bierman leads a merry band of youthful musicians, many of whom engage Bierman privately for lessons to hone their skills. And now they can cut their own CDs at LionTone. There are several young bands in the area, made up of local high school students and Middlebury College students.
“We are at the very beginning stages of what could ultimately happen here,” Bierman said of the business, which has been operating for around three weeks now.
Wallace and Bierman believe that LionTone could become a magnet for not only younger acts, but also for middle-aged professionals who always had a talent for music but were never able to fulfill their rock and roll fantasies. The two men believe such individuals could be drawn to LionTone as part of a Vermont vacation package during which they could jam and leave with a CD of their own creation.
And with today’s technology, LionTone can work with clients all over the country doing mixing work submitted electronically.
“We are just getting started,” Bierman said. “We have (recorded) two full (five-piece) bands.”
Indeed, the duo has not been struggling to find things to do.
“I could be working 24 hours a day, every day,” Bierman said of the early demand. “Who knows if that’s just the timing, but that was our one concern. We had asked ourselves, ‘Does the area warrant a high-end recording studio?’”
The answer — so far — is a resounding “Yes.”
“It’s crazy how many people write songs and want to record them,” Bierman said.
“There is enough business to warrant this, and much more than this, I would say.”
LionTone has also provided a venue in which the two partners are refining recordings for The Horse Traders and The Grift.
Down the road, Wallace and Bierman believe LionTone could be transplanted into its own building. For now, they are content to work the odd hours.
“Most recording studios don’t get going until after noon anyway, and go until late at night,” Bierman said.
Town Hall Theater will celebrate LionTone’s opening with a dance featuring The Grift on Friday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. The THT’s huge floor will be cleared for dancing, and a cash bar and snacks will be available. Tickets may be purchased at the THT box office (Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.) or at the door.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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