Hiding behind a tasty deli in Covina is a two-story structure that holds more than three members and their ideas, but opportunity, art, and an endless amount of possibilities within the local music community.
Upon entering the confinement, I noticed a homely appeal, and welcoming invitation that presented effortlessly by their door frame. It wasn’t a trinket, or welcome sign. It wasn’t a bright color of paint. No, it wasn’t even being near great food. It was the frame that held it all. The trimmings that stood next to the downspout that made you want to step inside. It didn’t resemble a studio, but a place that welcomed all.
Art Zavala Jr, Dominic Reyes, and Anthony Reyes, hail as the collective behind The Up&Up, and ultimately some of the pioneers aiding the building of a bridge into a stronger era of artists working together. Constantly working, from day-jobs to editing at the studio, the self-funded project strains not for recognition, and stays true to the relentless adage; actions speak louder than words.
What started as a goal in 2014 between Zavala and D. Reyes to host shows together of local, unknown artists, took to The Airliner in DTLA, where their eye and ear for talent cultivated mini-shows. The success was built on positive vibes and showcasing hidden talent. Through these countless shows, there came a time where Zavala and D. Reyes needed more “creative freedom” and reached outwards into cultivating their own work space.
“(We’re) coming from a place where we’re not trying to get anything out of artists or trying to like manipulate in any way. Even our shows, we’re trying to give a space for people to do stuff; and the best way to not bend what we are trying to do is self-fund, and the three of us have a say of what goes on and what to do,” explained Zavala of the creative freedom.
D. Reyes then further added, “We want to have control over the type of work that we do, and so we chose to keep our day jobs so we could do what we wanted to do and not end up like DIY spaces that are not necessarily doing things that they care about or they want to do, renting the space to people….”
Full involvement of the three truly grants more “control” of what they can do. Offering recording, live sessions, live shows, to collaborative displays of artistic pieces. How is it possible to achieve all of this from purely self-funding?
“We just all have day jobs that we work long hours, like everybody,” laughed Zavala, “but we invest our money and our own funds here. Everything just comes from our day jobs. Anthony and Dominic have done videography and photography, so they have their equipment from that and still do shoots. I recently got into recording bands after wanting to do my stuff for about a year now so I heavily invested in all my equipment. Since we have all that we don’t have to charge the bands or do any of that.”
Now on their 7th live session, The Up&Up Studio’s generosity towards bands are slowly starting to come into the limelight. With their most recent live session of Los Angeles dream-pop band, Mind Monogram, the LA locals raved of Zavala and Dominic and Anthony Reyes’ ideals.
Christian Caro, guitarist for Mind Monogram, stated, “It’s really cool that they’re trying to help out the local community because I feel like the I.E., and this area, South East LA, they don’t have a lot of outlets and there’s live locals here in South Gate. Up&Up, they’re giving a lot of bands around here an opportunity to have a professionally shot session, or interview, and make them seem more credible, because everyone, like a lot of labels look for bands that might not sound good but like look professional, and a lot of bands are very good but they just don’t have the resources. It’s awesome that they’re providing that kind of resource, especially coughing up that kind of money to get really good gear to make these bands sound really good. That’s fuckin’ awesome. “
The mission was always the same though- help local artists. Recently joining the project was Anthony Reyes who reflected back on how he became involved.
“So Dominic and I are brothers and we kinda grew up liking the same, or even similar styles of music, and then he met Art. So, I met Art when these two guys hooked up in 2014, and just from the get-go it seemed like that was their mission, you know…so when I jumped on board this year we all kinda had a similar mindset from what we wanted from the space, and (that) helped us collaborate and set a goal and game plan.”
The theme from the members seemed to be “control.” Not in a negative way, but in the aspect that this was the only way to create their vision successfully. When you’re fully invested and interested, the overall product will always be better. As each member informed me, they do everything, from running the door at the shows, to promotion, to sound. This type of “freedom” allows for the best environment.
With their precise attention to detail, with sound and imagery, The Up&Up knows exactly what they want to divulge.
“Accessibility to artists,” said Zavala when referring to their vision. “Giving them (artists) a place. I do a lot of recording here and I try to charge a decent rate as best as I can for artists who I believe in, and want to work with, and I spent a lot on equipment, like too much – so I give the best quality to artists that wouldn’t be able to afford something like that.”
Reflecting back on past indie labels with terrible recording seemed to be a pet peeve of Zavala, yet even more of a motivation to continue to serve the best to local artists. “I want to document what is going on here music wise. In a way, I don’t think that’s being served enough.”
“Yeah like Bad Bikini, they were great and released a tape but didn’t reflect their best work,” explained D. Reyes.
Zavala continued, “We loved their music and was so disappointed when their stuff came out because everyone got this idea of really crappy, lo-fi style of recording music, even if it didn’t fit (the) music; it’s just lazy and that’s my biggest thing….put out work to be proud of. ”
Instead of working and showcasing an artist in one light, The Up&Up works “with the artists” to see what they would like to sound like and what they would like to look like.”
A. Reyes explained that, “it’s more of an expression for the artist, it’s such a big thing as an artist, to worry about ‘they’re gonna represent us in a weird way.’ He continued to explain the process as “spit-balling ideas” back and forth until an understanding is made. “It’s cool to see them express themselves in an organic and natural way. Giving a platform for an artist to fully express themselves.”
The Up&Up seemed to harness an organic magic that other’s cannot replicate. Bryan Mejia, drummer of Mind Monogram, also disclosed in my last interview with them that he’s seen “live sessions come and go” but their “consistency” in working hard is why they are successful. From a musician’s perspective, Mejia noted how they are growing and if not sooner or later, “a lot of bands will be hitting them up.”
Their difference from other live sessions segments resonates from their approach. Dominic and Anthony Reyes will listen to an artist non-stop to truly “absorb” what the artist is trying to get across. From studying the artists, each is able to interpret it in the way they know best: visually. Once again they will try to understand what the artist’s intent is, and through earned trust, the overall product in itself matches the artists’ work.
“Planning comes natural, it’s whatever we feel first,” stated D. Reyes. “I’m the editor so I will say we need to get these shots for this edit to work. Little different for live sessions, since it’s all hand held…I don’t know how it works with other sessions, but we’ll play the whole song and ask ‘ok how did you feel about that take?’ I think they trust us more. It gives them the comfort to kinda, just take the stress away from them. They know they’re working with people who care about whats going on.
“(We) make sure our shots are set up. We do a lot of communication during the actual shoot (a lot of baseball signals) and just a lot of watching. I don’t know how we do it sometimes like, I don’t know if Art wants the world to know but we can’t hear most of the time.”
Zavala laughs, and soon explains further. “The way I record, well everything is obviously going through my system and I have the band wearing headphones so that I don’t have bleeding sounds, so I minimize that by not having in-room monitors, and I have them with headphones, but the problem with that is they can’t hear anything except for the guitar hitting strings.”
“So that’s why it’s really good to listen to the set four or five times, five days in a row….so when we’re saying we’re listening for two days in a row, that’s when this all comes into play because we’re like ‘hey the solo’s gonna come,’ and you can just hear the strings getting slapped with no music,” A. Reyes said.
The chemistry between Dominic and Anthony Reyes have led to a tailored ear, vivid imagination, and stronger chemistry between each other during the actual shooting, relying on instant glances and telepathic communication.
“That’s all the time you have, is just one to get the shot right,” D. Reyes stated.
The Up&Up holds more than live sessions and music, but art in any form without an ill motive. Endless nights on editing, planning, and ultimately relying on word of mouth propels the growth of The Up&Up. As each member is an artist in their own way, the motive is to “document what’s going on” and to witness the excitement in others of what they are doing.
By sharing, or attending an event, an art lover will do their part in giving back to the values that hold this studio. With another benefit show coming up, Nov. 5th, which will mimic last years’ show where they received donations to build hygiene packs for the homeless, there is an endless amount of selflessness that lives at The Up&Up. The gentlemen behind it don’t advertise to the extent of what they do, and simply ask to share the work.
“We know that there’s great art out there, we know that there’s great people out there, and that’s one of the biggest things, we just want to find it,” expressed D. Reyes.
“Yeah, just no fire,” laughed A. Reyes.
“Oh yeah, no fire. Our first show somebody’s like ‘I think I can do this thing with fire’…no.”
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