Sea Tea Soundwerks

Sea Tea Soundwerks engineer-producer Ian French (right) and assistant engineer Stephen Handy at work in September.

Courtesy of Sea Tea Soundwerks

Before Dom McLennon joined hip-hop boy band Brockhampton in 2015, he was a rising rapper who felt intimidated by the Connecticut recording studios he frequented, noticing that the more established an artist was the better treatment he or she received. But once the group recorded its acclaimed Saturation trilogy in its Los Angeles home studio, McLennon had an epiphany: A studio could be whatever he wanted it to be.

Soon after, he decided to create his own space with a simple goal: to welcome emerging artists who might be great at making music in their bedrooms but have little to no experience working in studios. “We just tried to create an environment that revolves around this idea of going to your friend’s house -- but your friend’s house has all the music equipment you need,” says McLennon.

Since mid-2018, he and Brockhampton’s manager, Jon Nunes, have been working on getting a studio up and running. In September, the pair opened Sea Tea Soundwerks in Manhattan. The three-room facility offers over 50 pieces of gear, and the space itself was primarily designed by the studio’s sound engineers, who opted for cooler colors like blues and purples based on color theory -- the idea that certain hues can positively affect a recording session for an artist or producer.

But McLennon says he’s most proud of Signal Flow, an artist-curated sound library that draws from bits of studio sessions, allowing artists to contribute to others’ work and get compensated for it later on without “the pressure of turning [every] jam session into a song.” Ownership of the clip -- whether it be a beat, sound or vocal -- is split, for an undisclosed amount, between creator and studio.

Next, McLennon hopes to create nonprofit studios for artists in underserved communities. Having come up with Brockhampton, which recorded its 2018 album, Iridescence, at Abbey Road Studios in London, he says, “When you have experience and privilege, the best thing you can do for anyone else is to create a service that utilizes the best parts of that privilege.”

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of Billboard.

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