Early last year, RFT Music featured a story on local punk rock entrepreneur, Mike Jones, and his record label I Hate Punk Rock Records. The end of the article alluded to a huge project Jones had in the works. After numerous visits from building inspectors, countless trips to hardware stores and lumber yards, and more emptied pizza boxes and cases of Stag than one could count, Jones officially opened the doors to Encapsulated Studios.
Perched just off the corner of Bellevue and Manchester Avenue in the heart of Maplewood, the 5,400-square-foot building legitimately serves as a one-stop rock n'roll production depot. The facility offers multiple practice spaces (equipped with PAs), a professional studio, and a kitchen and loft area for guests. It also houses a full-on screen-printing operation: It can print posters, CD or record sleeves, beer koozies, posters--essentially, any damn thing you want printed.
Jones and I Hate Punk Rock have been offering most of these services for years just on a smaller scale. But it wasn't until he moved into the Maplewood facility when the recording studio concept came into fruition. Encapsulated houses a state-of -the-art sound room, vocal booths, and a spacious live room. Jones tapped local sound engineers Matt Amelung and Gabe Usery to hold down recording duties. Between the two, they have each run studios, played in bands, and recorded artists such as Story of the Year, Everything Went Black, Greek Fire, and The Disappeared (which Usery drums for).
Usery in particular couldn't be happier with the current setup, and he prides the studio for its reasonable rates. "As far as dollars go, yours will go further here. We charge by the song or the project as opposed to hourly," says Usery. "I know from experience that most people don't realize how fast the hours add up. If you want to end up with a quality product on all levels, worrying about rushing things to save a few bucks is definitely not the way to achieve it."
Josh Nelson, of Kansas City punk band Bent Left, recently spent a week holed up with his band at Encapsulated to record its next album. "Within the first few hours of working with [Amelung and Usery] in that environment, I knew my band was going to walk away with a product good enough to tour the world behind," says Nelson. "Matt and Gabe have an excellent understanding of how to use their software and equipment to capture sounds and emotions. And when it comes times to translate all of these elements into song, their innate musical abilities play a huge part in achieving an outstanding mix."
Above all though, the place has a welcoming aura. "A lot of people have said it just feels like home," says Jones. Whether he knows it or not, it's no secret why. Encased in frames that cover the walls are ticket stubs, flyers, and posters from hundreds of punk, hardcore, early emo, and ska shows from the past twenty years. Those who step foot in Encapsulated to practice, record or have merch produced most likely went to those same shows and had the same flyers taped to their bedroom walls. And it was those shows that likely inspired them to go on and form bands of their own. They may just be framed pieces of paper on the wall but they are also symbols of intimacy and inspiration, which is the very glue that holds Encapsulated together.