Christy Barrett and Ryan Schilling posted a disclaimer on a recent musical project: “No albums were hurt in the making of this video.” But the duo derives great pleasure from carving grooves into soft wax with a diamond stylus until the material wails — and a new record emerges.
The couple owns American Vinyl Company, a shop that makes custom vinyl albums, and American Sound Truck, a mobile record-cutting studio kitted out with authentic retro equipment. In minutes, Barrett and Schilling are able to make field recordings for anyone with a song, poem, or comedy bit to share.
How’d you guys meet?
Christy: I tried out for his band. We started to date and kicked the other band members out. Touring was much better with just two of us.
Ryan: It’s the icon of music in physical form. And vinyl recording still competes or exceeds in today’s high-fidelity technology world. But it’s an archaic form, where you are carving into wax and it’s vibrating. There is magic there.
Christy: We listen to most of our musical influences on vinyl, and to me the sound is fuller. The music is more in the forefront.
What type of vehicle is American Sound Truck?
Ryan: A 1987 Ford Econoline. We’re trying to bring character to music, and this truck is character on wheels. It feels like you’re aboard a Star Wars ship in the 1950s and you’re recording Hank Williams.
Christy: Every weekend for the whole summer of 2017 we worked on it. The floors were rotted out and we had to strip the walls and put in sound tiles. It was kinda fun.
But doesn’t your daily ride still leak?
Christy: The window’s broken. Snow comes in on us. We have a bucket to catch the rain. But I think it’s a good thing for us and our music.
Christy: I tend to write more if I’m not super comfy. And we don’t want to get spoiled and soft, because when we tour we live in our vehicle. With [the American Sound Truck], we wanted something to support our music, and bands don’t make a lot unless they make it big. Even for a leaky-car lifestyle, it’s not sustainable.
How’d you learn to cut vinyl?
Ryan: At first it was just researching as much as possible, fixing old machines, and endless trial and error. After saving my lunch money for a long time I got to fly to Germany to get trained [by] an older man who teaches out of an old barn in rural South Germany.
How many other companies are doing what you do? Is this a trend?
Ryan: There are definitely other cutting companies out there, but we all have our own stamp on sound … we really wanted to make vinyl an interactive medium.
How do vintage recordings get that characteristic crackle and hiss?
Ryan: Either the record was originally cut with a worn-out cutting stylus or the record has some wear and/or dust in the grooves. We’ve grown to like these imperfections .. maybe it humanizes the recording? There’s always a noise floor with cutting a record; we just try to get it as low as possible.
American Vinyl Company, 8 London Road, Asheville. The American Sound Truck is available for special events. For more information, see americanvinylco.com or americansoundtruck.com. Also: christylynnband.com.