by Priya Banerjee
[originally published Summer 2021]
If you’ve been at Oberlin for a while you might remember a little something called Studio B. Though, if you’ve been at Oberlin recently, or within the last year, you probably haven’t heard too much from the once infamous little sister of WOBC. Studio B is Oberlin’s first and only student-run recording studio. It is most known for broadcasting the aptly named live radio show Live From Studio B. The musical guests featured on the show range anywhere from your friends’ band (that hasn’t yet been introduced to the world outside of the South practice room), a community member with a proclivity for classical guitar, or a kinda famous pop-star touring the country who decided to make a little stop in Oberlin. The group was created by TIMARA student Charles Glanders (OC’14) in 2013. The Studio B that Glanders created eight years ago has certainly changed, and the current members would argue that it has changed for the better. What was once a space that hosted exclusively white-guy punk bands has now become a venue that strives to diversify both the musical guests invited to perform, as well as the types of music brought into the space.
Since COVID, Studio B has struggled to remain operational after having lost access to the space due to social-distancing restrictions. The lack of adequate ventilation and open-able windows meant that the studio had to be shut down completely until Oberlin lifted all COVID restrictions this past May. The combination of having no access to sound and recording equipment alongside being unable to invite visiting artists to campus left the group with very few options. I sat down with Julia McCormick, Jeanne Hill, and Jane Rissover-Plotke, the last survivors of pre-pandemic Studio B, and they told me about how they are bringing the studio back to life. Here’s our conversation…
PRIYA: Hi Guys! So we’re at Studio B. We’re in the studio. Can you tell me a little bit about what goes on in here, and what’s happened to it recently?
JULIA: Well first thing we should say is that this is only the second time we’ve been in here for a year and a half, and it feels really good.
PRIYA: I bet. I’m feeling it too. But...what happened? Why haven’t you guys been able to do this whole thing in so long?
JEANNE: There’s no windows.
JANE: The ventilation is all wrong. What happened was we didn’t get funding for our program to go on last year. Since it was COVID we couldn’t have any travelling artists come perform on our show, and we couldn’t even have anyone in here [in the studio]. We weren’t even allowed it in here...It was locked forever!
JULIA: No one was allowed in here, not even our ExCo which we attempted to do. We did a workgroup in the Spring and an ExCo in the Fall, but it was difficult to keep it alive because we just had no motive to keep our club together in a lot of ways because they basically cancelled us––don’t use that word!
JANE: We had to completely reimagine what Studio B could be since we weren’t able to use our studio and all of our equipment in here, and it was hard to do performances outside. We tried to think of new ways that we could have the show live on, so we did little interviews with people in Wilder Bowl, and we played little games like ‘tell us a joke’ or ‘what’s your favorite smell’, silly things like that. We had hopes to do more but it was really hard because we weren’t getting paid.
JEANNE: I think the morale of the student body at Oberlin was at an all time low. And we were also trying to edit old videos and audio, and there were a lot of problems with trying to get audio and video from people who already graduated that were dealing with the pandemic in their own ways.
JULIA: And we weren’t all on campus, so our group was kind of split in two. When it came to introducing Studio B to the student body we had a difficult time because in the past that mostly happened through our ExCo or our workgroup or doing videos and asking people questions. But really, the way that Studio B is able to be accessible and come through to the student body is actually being able to be in this space because it’s very unique and you don’t really get to be in these kinds of spaces all that often when you’re our age and don’t really have experience. And I think what our ExCo was about in the past was actually getting your hands on a camera, actually being around sound equipment… [to JEANNE] I don’t actually know what you guys use for the sound stuff [little giggle]…
JEANNE: Oh you know, a mic, and a mixing board, and DI boxes…
JULIA: And when Studio B is open you don’t have to take an Oberlin class to get access to all that stuff.
JANE: Yeah. It was so hard because we tried to have our ExCo and our workgroup happen, but so much of our curriculum we weren’t able to do because we needed to be in the space and have the lights, and the cameras, and the mics, and the cords. It was challenging, but we’re looking forward to having it happen again in the future.
JULIA: We are SO looking forward to getting it back on track and making it better than ever before. And teaching new people for the future so that when we leave very soon Studio B will have a bright future. It’s an eight year old program, so it's young. I think it’s really important to keep it going because we don’t want it to have only eight years total.
JANE: It was really on the up-and-up. Everyone across campus and a bunch of alumni knew what Studio B was and knew how important it was, and then COVID threw a wrench in it. It made us lose touch with the younger people because we couldn't talk to them and show them the space because we just weren’t allowed to see anyone at all.
PRIYA: What was Studio B before COVID? What have we lost?
JANE: So we are WOBC’s Live From Studio B. We’re a live radio show, and we have musical guests and other performers come on the show every Sunday from 2-3pm. We interview them live on air in-between songs or poems or comedy. We’ve had a bunch of different artists come on the show. We tape the performances with cameras and mics, edit the videos, mix and master the music, and then release about eight minutes worth of content on our YouTube channel (Type in: Live From Studio B WOBC!).
PRIYA: Who are some of the musical guests that have come in here?
JANE: Frankie Cosmos, Girlpool…
JULIA: Black Belt Eagle Scout. That was cool...
JANE: That was epic…
JULIA: Lots of Oberlin groups as well. We’ve had OSLAM.
JANE: We’ve had a lot of people from the Con, but we’ve also had a lot of people from the Arts and Sciences who just love music and create their own bands here.
JEANNE: Community members too. So people in the Oberlin community that are in bands...I feel like it’s really special to have a mix of different artists from all over the place because then you have these students getting excited for their friends that are playing, and that gives us more recognition. And then we have touring bands that come to the ‘Sco or in Cleveland and then they come in and film them, and when we put their stuff up online somebody that’s Googling this band will come across a lesser known student band and get them some listens.
JULIA: That’s why I feel like it’s important for us to continue because we are basically building a collection of all these different artists that support one another through our platform. We provide free mastered tracks and videos for anybody that comes in. We don’t pay anyone to come visit us and they don’t pay us for any of the work that we do. It’s just kind of like...we are happy to have them in our space and they can use whatever we make for whatever they want to.
JANE: And bigger artists come on the show so that they can support up-and-coming artists and students from Oberlin or community members. And like Jeanne and Julia were saying, that benefits the community members and students here because of the YouTube algorithm and Google searches and all of that kind of thing. It promotes new people to get new fans.
JEANNE: And we also like to have a lot of non-men not only in the studio but in the ExCo as well, because especially in the audio world it’s so white-male dominated. So it’s very important to us to have staff that would not normally have the opportunity to work with people and have a community and have access to all of the equipment we have. And same with our performers––we try to get non-white men when we can.
JULIA: Something that we show in our ExCo everytime is that we really came from a White guy punk band fanbase. The White-guy punk band Oberlin students created Studio B, and that’s a lot of groups that were on in the beginning.
JANE: Yeah like all the love to Charles Glanders, but, Studio B is a lot more diverse than it was before and we are really striving to take that further. The people that take our ExCo and the artists we have on our show and the people that know about Studio B, we would love to just expand and diversify that. We hope to reach all corners of every area.
PRIYA: Wow it seems like Studio B is so fucking awesome! Is there anything else you guys wanna throw in?
JEANNE: We’re going to have an open house and a barbeque...and we’re going to make tote bags!
JANE: And we want you to work for us! We need new members! We need one of each! We need an audio producer, a video producer and an executive producer. So if you’re interested and are a first or second year....Look out for our application.
JULIA: It’s a wonderful experience. I’ve only ever had the best ever experiences in Studio B. It’s thrilling. It’s exciting. It’s amazing. Let me tell you some of the dates of the things that we are going to have going on.
JEANNE, JANE, JULIA: Applications for our audio, video and executive production roles are out NOW! You can find them on our instagram (@livefromstudiob) or on your grad year’s facebook page. We just released two sessions, one with a Philadelphia based band Highnoon and one with Katherine Paul also known as the talented Black Belt Eagle Scout. You can find the tracks and videos from those sessions on our Live From Studio B Youtube page, our Bandcamp or on the WOBC website. We also have an open house coming up on the evening of Thursday July 22nd. We want you to come hang out with us, check out the space and learn more about Studio B. Stay tuned for more info on that event. We may have nice tote bags for you there. We’re also planning on hosting a house show and a barbeque…keep your eyes peeled for a bunch of fun and don’t forget...Studio B loves you!