In 2005, Jimmy and Francesca ran The Dirty Rider Club, running club nights at various venues around London (Tufnell Park, Kentish Town, Richmond, Kentish Town Bethnal Green etc). In 2004, they had started their own venue in Kilburn, North West London, above Southern K, which in itself came to be known as The Dirty Rider Club. The Dirty Rider Club is now no more and will not be revived.
Jimmy formerly played lead guitar in The March Hares, a London based independent underground band, and before that The Infidels. In the past he taught Guitar, Piano and Drums, and is currently also working in music journalism. Francesca is a trained actress, acting in theatre, TV and film. She has huge passion for music and plays the guitar and drums.
It is through the experiences that we have had from coming into contact with bands at the club (over 600 in the last 18 months of the club alone), and through our contact with bands on the underground music scene, that that we have realised that many bands find it hard to find a good rehearsal studio without breaking the bank. Jimmy at the time was looking at starting a recording studio, as he has been engineering on many sessions. He had just finished his studies in sound engineering and music production. We received some help from The Princes Trust both in helping with the business plan and also in getting the funding the get the studio going. At first, we thought we would just open up a recording studio, but we were hoping to find somewhere that also gave us the option of having another rehearsal studio. It seemed sensible as so many of the bands we had come in contact with had said that if we found a good rehearsal studio, they'd be interested in using it.
We were originally going to be based in Bermondsey, in an already established studio complex just as a recording studio. We were there for all of 1 hour 15 mins before we, to our huge disappointment, realised that it was not as sound proofed as we needed it to be. It was a real emotional wrench to have to load everything back into the back of a taxi van and bring everything up to Tottenham, where we were living at the time, but we had always said that unless the premises were ideal for the recording and rehearsals, we would hold out for a better venue. After looking for a building that would lend itself well to rehearsal/recording studios, for 12 long months of over 650 potential properties and numerous fruitless leads, we were coming to the end of our tether. On a rare day off, Jimmy went out to a guitar shop in North London, where he spied a poster for a rehearsal studios complex in Tottenham. Having lived in Tottenham for over a year, and with Jimmy having spent up to 5 nights a week rehearsing and carrying his guitars all over the place on the bus, he was somewhat surprised that he hadn't heard of a studios in the same part of town as he lived. He decided to call them to see if they had a room that they didn't use as much, and Jimmy could maybe take it on in downtime for recordings. Upon calling up, to our delight, we found out that the owners were looking to sell the whole set up, which had 2 main rehearsal studios, and a 3rd small studio which was not fully soundproofed yet. The third studio had recently been let out monthly to a band who had just signed a publishing contract. Even better, we realised that by cutting across the Tottenham Marshes, it was only about 12 mins walk from where we were living at the time. Unfortunately, 2 years of working as full time band promoters who had a policy to not rely on bands to bring people to gigs, but instead to really promote each gig, with the considerable cost of advertising, meant that we were pretty much broke. We got turned down for 7 loan applications, and finally, after going back to the same place for the third time, we finally got just over half the money needed to take on the studios. (We suspect they gave us the loan not because they believed that it was a good business, otherwise they would have invested in us from the start, but because they were getting sick of us keeping asking for the loans). 2 maxed out overdrafts, and 2 maxed out credit cards later, we were nearly there money wise, and we struck a deal with the current Sync City owners to pay off the rest of the balance from the first 6 months trading.
We were toying with the idea of maybe keeping the already established name, as so many people knew it as Sync City. After calling up bands who had been to the studios before and hearing that they wouldn't want to come back, as they were not happy with the conditions of the studios before, we decided to go under the name that we had originally intended, and Sync City because Bally Studios on 19th October 2005. This was the day that we officially took over the running of the studios from the previous owners.
Straight after taking the studio on, the work began. Over the first 6 months of the studios, we sold 3 guitars that we had (An 1982 Tokai Stratocaster, a Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul and a modified Fender Telecaster that Jimmy and Fran had between them), and spent the money on tins of paint to freshen up the place, getting 4 amps repaired, buying a snare drum (at the time, the place had 2 shell kits, with no cymbal stands, snares, stools, kick pedals, etc) and buying some hardware on ebay. This involved travelling for up to 4 hours in a day to collect a good quality kick pedal that was within our budget from someone's house on the other side of Essex. We sub let part of our office to a guy who was starting a courier company to help meet the rent, and agreed to pay the landlord of the building every week with whatever money we had leftover, agreeing never to go more than 1 month behind in the rent.
On the first day of cleaning the studios, we went through 6 hoover bags on an industrial vacuum cleaner, and Jimmy spend 60 hours over 2 weeks repairing guitar, speaker and XLR cables that a friend of his had thrown out. We added extra doors so that all of the rooms had a double door system (some of them actually have a quadruple door system), In March 2006, we decided that our office was way too big, and it was silly to have so much space wasted, so Jimmy split the room into 2 with a double wall (each layer being 10 inches thick and with there also being a layer of lead and an airgap between the 2 layers. 3 months of intensive hard work later, we had our 4th rehearsal studio, all of the money from this went into getting up to date on all of our bills, and wiping the credit card debt. All the time, we were spending, over the first year, on average £350 a month in getting new equipment, and thankfully, word of mouth was serving us well, so we never needed to take out an adverts. This meant that we could keep our rates low. We opened our studio shop for strings and spares, and slowly the studios started to grow. In the first 4 years of the studio up until June 2010, Fran and Jimmy only had 89 days off, including Weekends, New Years Eve, New Years Day, Christmas Day, Birthday's etc. Old plugs were replaced, speakers re-coned, light fixings upgraded, etc
From 2005 - 2009, the studios had gone from a sleepy 2 room complex to a bustling 5 rooms complex, and all of the equipment, (the guitar amps, bass amps, PA systems, microphones, etc) have been upgraded, and the service has dramatically improved. Extra sound proofing has been undertaken on all of the studios, and we now offer strings, plectrums, as well as various other things that a band will invariably need at the rehearsal rooms. In 2005, before we took on the studios, there was an average of 1.3 bookings per day. 2006, we had 2 rehearsal studios, and averaged 2.1 sessions per day. In 2007, now having 4 rehearsal rooms, we averaged 4.7 rehearsals a day. In 2008, we averaged 4.9 rehearsal sessions a day. In 2009, we opened our 5th room, and averaged 5.6 rehearsals sessions a day, in 2010, we broke the 6 rehearsals a day barrier, with 6.1 bookings per day, and the studios popularity continues to grow. This is only counting "by the hour" sessions, not including long term rehearsals, of which we also have quite a few. The recording side of the business had now reached the stage where there was an 8 month backlog for recordings, mainly due to the fact that many of the bands that Jimmy works with on record labels we have strong connections with really like the raw live sound that our recordings have. In early 2011, we are looking to open more studios, both recording and rehearsal, as well as a dedicated 26 studio complex not far from the current premises.
The main thing that we feel sets us apart from many rehearsal rooms is how much we put into our studios. We're not happy enough with doing the least that we can in order to get your money. We value all of our customers and we really try our best to make sure that your rehearsal is as successful as possible. Small things that many rehearsal rooms are unconcerned about, such as a tom that is stuck in slightly the wrong position, or a microphone stand that is not staying exactly in place, we're happy to put extra effort in, if these things are causing you problems. We have a great community board that many of the bands use to recruit extra band members or to look for gigs, and we remember the bands that come to us, and let them know how much we appreciate their business. We have a small chill out area now that bands use to relax in, and there really isn't a week that goes by without us making some sort of improvement in the studios. Many of the bands that come to us become good friends of the studios, and we even have a community called The Fractured City Collective, which is a collection of bands that rehearse at Bally that pool their collective resources and efforts to put on their own gigs, promote their music and generally support each other. All of our staff members currently play in bands, and all live locally to the studio, within a 2 mile radius.
So if you're looking for a new rehearsal rooms, please consider us. We are very friendly, have great equipment, aren't exorbitantly expensive, have nice air conditioned and comfortable rooms, and we're sure that you'll find yourselves pleasantly surprised at the standard of the facilities at the studios, particularly if you have visited Sync City prior to October 2005. If you need any other info, feel free to call us if you can't find the relevant information on the website.
We are based In Tottenham Hale, and we're happy to be. We don't pretend to be located in the hippest part of town. We know that most people only ever come to Tottenham Hale when they are going up to Stansted to catch a flight, or to use the retail park outside the tube station, but we think the area isn't too shabby. Crime statistics show that it is relatively safe, and we can say, hand on heart, we have never had any bands that have ever run into trouble coming into the area to use the studios. In fact, in May 2006, due to them working so much at the studios, Jimmy and Fran moved flat a flat just at the bottom of Mill Mead Road, where the studios are located, and we were happy to live in the area. We don't have boutique shops on our doorstep, or have a exotic cafe on our site; we're based on a trading estate in Tottenham Hale and we're proud to be. We can make a whole lot of noise here without bothering people, and as the main bulk of our work is between 5pm - midnight weekdays, and on the weekend, it means that we get to benefit from loads more parking than most places. Within 2 mins walk of our studios, 200 metres, are over 20 business that deal in music, be it record labels, publishers or independent radio stations and project studios. We are in the same building as people who have won Grammys, Oscars, Mobos and Brit Awards, bands that have gone platinum in places as diverse as America, Nigeria, China and Europe. We have a great relationship with loads of them, and it's unusual that we go more than a few weeks without seeing them all. And remember, it's 11 mins from Kings Cross. We think you'll like it here. Find out more about the area we are based in here
Also, if you're bored, compound that boredom with 30 things you never knew, (or wanted to), about Bally Studios. Or check out our Blog Page, which is very interesting.
And fun photos...
Jimmy Mulvihill, Francesca De Luca & Mark Edwards.