If you’re like me, you discover a ton of new music from radio in-studio sessions. They rule! These sessions are an easy way to keep up with new music or your favorite bands.
Emerging bands will often route their tours around Audiotree and KEXP sessions. Because of this, cities that value their live music scenes find a way to document their local artists and touring bands they want to see again.
Luckily for us, Raif Box of Holy Anvil Recording Co. has teamed up with KUAF to present The Anvil Sessions. Raif already has a YouTube channel with killer studio sessions from The Chads, John Charles And The Cold Cuts, Fight Dream, Lost Cause, The Phlegms, Protohive, The Salesman, and TV Preacher. By partnering with KUAF, these sessions will reach a wider audience and attract touring musicians.
I’m looking forward to hearing more.
I talked to Raif about his studio and the new partnership…
Hi Raif. How did you start Holy Anvil Recording Co.?
I was playing in both Bones of the Earth and Judason Void at the time. Both bands were fresh and writing new music, so we were thinking about places to go and record. At some point, I started tossing the idea around of buying some equipment and trying to record some things myself. I took the plunge, bought some gear, and started learning as much as I could as fast as I could. I took some classes on production and engineering techniques and just jumped in. All of the people around me were so encouraging and it turned out that I really enjoyed the whole process, so I just kept diving deeper and deeper into it. I kind of dreamed about building a studio in an old abandoned church, and I was joking with one of my buddies about how sick it would be to have an actual full-sized anvil to strike and put it in recordings. Of course there would also be a rooftop pool and we would have our own helicopter, and probably like some motorcycles to ramp over the building or something.
Instead, I have a two-room setup at Huntsville Road Studios, because the owner Mike has a heart of gold and believes in me more than I would ever expect. My Mom bought me a tiny anvil that has “John Deere” stamped into it that I keep on my desk, and my friends, family, and fiancé all have this unwavering faith in me that I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand, but I will always love them for. And I think that’s way cooler than the fantasy version.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m mixing The Chads’ new album, just wrapped recording on The Phlegms’ new album, and I’m always working on Anvil Sessions. I can’t wait for people to hear those albums, both bands put an insane amount of work into them and they’re turning out awesome.
You recently partnered with KUAF on your Anvil Sessions – how did that happen and what can we expect from those in the future?
I’ve watched Audiotree and KEXP videos for forever and I always thought that was such a neat idea, and a cool way to create a platform for artists to get some exposure. That’s why I created The Anvil Sessions. I modeled it after KEXP. So I contacted Leigh and Tim at KUAF a little while back and asked if they’d like to collaborate somehow. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what that would mean, but KEXP is an NPR affiliate in Seattle so I thought it might be wise to contact the NPR affiliate here in Northwest Arkansas. Leigh and Tim were very welcoming and incredibly nice and came to check out the studio. We talked for a long time, brainstorming ideas and just kind of getting excited about growing Anvil Sessions and how we could work together to grow it into something truly special and unique.
Now we’re partnered up and working towards just that. We have some big ideas, but the goal is to grow the reach and involve more and more artists. I’m going to start incorporating visual artists as much as possible. I’d like to eventually increase the length of the sessions and add in interviews with the artists. We want to host events. We want regional and touring artists to come through for a session. We want people 10 years from now to look back at these and find a diverse archive of Arkansas music from the amazing people that live here and travel through here.
You just recorded an audiobook. How was that process?
It was very interesting. I’d never recorded spoken audio like that before, but I was contacted by a casting director for a national audiobook company to record some narration. They asked for two minutes of spoken audio as a test run so naturally I performed a small excerpt from The Hobbit, voices and all (I had plenty of practice from years of playing Dungeons and Dragons). Of course, the book ended up being titled “Good Enough Parenting” and it was published through the American Psychological Association, so in hindsight I probably went a little overboard there. But I did get to meet Tim Cavell and Lauren Quetsch, who were extremely pleasant and an absolute joy to work with.
Big question: Can you give us your Top 5 songs or records and how they affected your approach to recording?
Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
Possibly my favorite Elder album? It’s hard to choose. I love Elder. Elder teaches me about composition more than anything else, and how important it is to arrange songs in a deliberate way.
Birds in Row – Gris Klein
This came out last year and I just love the production on it. My first listen left a lasting impression on me due to their vocalist’s emotional performance. Everything else supported it so well.
Greenleaf – Trails & Passes
Greenleaf is just fun. Their drum sound on this album was so roomy and everything has that kind of “live” feel to it that I love so much.
Kowloon Walled City – Container Ships
AKA my favorite drum / bass sounds on any album ever.
Quicksand – Interiors
Love everything about Quicksand. This album in particular is just a classic good mix to me. Everything moves like I want it to and sits where I like it.
The Sword – Apocryphon
Threw this on there because I recently rediscovered how much I like this album. I disregarded it a long time ago but after revisiting it recently I found out I loved it! I miss The Sword.
What’s your advice to artists before they come to record?
Practice, practice, practice! We aren’t setting out to get “perfect” performances, but we are setting out to get the best performances we can. To do that, everybody involved has to be attentive, patient, and inspired.
If you care about what you’re creating, those things come naturally, so just lean into it. The instruments we use should be prepared to sound as good as possible as well. So, yeah, go get your guitar set up and bring a couple packs of strings. Bring new drum heads so we can get the kit tuned up in the live room and make it sound massive. Go easy on your voice for a little while before coming in for vocal sessions. We’re going to work together to create something that we should all care deeply about. Something we can be proud of. Something we’ll want to show off to the world.
How can bands contact you about recording?
Send me a message on socials, email me, or call / text. Everything you need is on my site at holyanvilrecordingco.com/contact.
What are your plans for 2023?
Grow Anvil Sessions into something so big that people outside of our regional area are watching. Record as many of the incredible artists around here as I can. Give back to the local artist community however I’m able to. Help to create music that lets people feel welcome here. 2023 is shaping up to be my best year yet, not only as a business, but as a person. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and I can’t wait to celebrate it with as many people as possible.