Words by Baz Bardoe
Photography by Meg De Young
Rehearsing a band is more than just going over tunes. It is a delicate balance of talent, internal dynamics and vibe. The feel of a rehearsal space is of vital importance. If it is too sterile or the staff are a bit arrogant or the rooms just don’t feel right, you will never quite get the result you’re after.
Midian Rehearsal Studios fits the bill perfectly because you feel relaxed the moment you set foot in the place. There are nine rooms in total and they have all the equipment you would expect. They manage to be functional while also welcoming…more like a friend’s lounge room than a doctor’s waiting room and in a very nice touch, a few are also equipped with mood lighting.
As you would expect, Midian has decent PA’s in each room and you can even hire rooms for solo practice at very affordable rates. But they also offer some nice additional services: a recording room for one thing. You bring your own recording device, but it is set up for a sixteen channel mix, which is great for capturing live performances and knocking out a demo. You can also hire a space for photographic requirements; we all need a decent publicity shot. Then you can hire instruments and buy strings and so forth. They even have free internet so you can check lyrics, catch up on emails, etc.
Arlo Cook from Midian has fifteen years experience playing in bands. He currently has two (bands) and balances this with his work at Midian and two other part time jobs. I asked him about Midian’s extremely ‘rock and roll’ ambience.
“It’s not really done on purpose, it’s just the way it is. I don’t like clinical rehearsal rooms…it’s just rock and roll…just a vibe”. This ‘organic’ approach has seen the likes of Magic Dirt and Bob Log III use the facilities as well as countless other bands. As soon as you enter Midian, you are confronted by hundreds of band posters testifying to its significant contribution to Melbourne music history over the last thirteen years.
Cook has some interesting thoughts about the music business and being a musician himself; he has firsthand knowledge and is in a good position to comment on the evolving nature of the business. “We’re in a major in between phase. There are lots of bands touring professionally, and it will never die out. People will always want to see live bands. But recordings have almost become ‘commercials’, not your main source of income”. He believes that merchandise and a rigorous touring schedule have become vital for bands who want to be professional. In a way it is the “exact reverse” of the old industry paradigm where a band toured to support an album.
But with dwindling sales of actual recorded product, this approach is not some quick fix. “It is really hard”, he says. “It is almost impossible for a new band to break even…and when you are out touring you still have rent to pay”. He compares it to starting a new small business that is almost “destined to fail”. His advice for new bands is to ensure they “have a great fucking time doing it”. If they approach it in a fun way and treat touring as a chance to do what they love while seeing a bit of the country, they stand a better chance in his view. He has seen a lot of young bands get bogged down in how tough it can be and eventually burn out. But while it is tougher than ever in the industry, there are many positives. He points out that Bandcamp is just one example of how easy it is to get your music before a global audience and you can make some income from it. There has never been a time when you can potentially reach so many people and using online resources correctly means more people hear your music and potentially come to your shows.
The industry is in a state of change, but for Cook live music is an eternal and evolving beast. With its rock and roll soaked ambience and dedication to providing absolutely everything you need, Midian looks set to continue playing a strong role in Melbourne’s live music culture for a long while to come.
For rate info, head to www.midianrehearsals.com