Studio Spotlight: Parr Street, Liverpool

As part of our regular Studio Spotlight feature, in association with AllStudios, we hear from the team at Parr Street Studios over on Merseyside.

Located in the heart of Liverpool’s city centre, Parr Street is a quiet musical sanctuary set in a large, multiple-use former factory, close to restaurants, shops and travel links.

For the past 25 years Parr Street has played a pivotal role in shaping the careers of some of music’s finest acts – it was home to the first two Coldplay albums (Parachutes and A Rush of Blood To The Head), Paulo Nutini’s debut, and much more.

Its Client List crosses all musical genres and has seen artists as diverse as Black Sabbath and Barry Manilow make albums in the building with more recent clients to grace the studios including Drake, Donny Osmond and Miles Kane.

To find out what has prompted high praise from the likes of engineer/producer Steve Harris (U2, Kaiser Chiefs) and producer Tom Broderick (Wiley, Marina and The Diamonds), we asked in-house engineer and studio manager Chris Taylor for his perspective on why Parr Street stands out.

"We offer a range of services from band recording to online mixing, as well as singer/songwriter tracks and voiceover work," he told us. "Our two traditional large-format recording studios (Studios A and B) are both ideally suited to ‘live’ band tracking, while Studio C is well-equipped for overdubs, editing or tweaking a mix."

Taylor also points out Parr Street’s 360-degree virtual studio tour, which not only gives valuable insight into the layout and equipment specs of each room, but also helps artists visualise how their session might run and which room(s) might best suit their needs.

Parr Street’s Studio A offers a naturally-lit 1,500 sqft live room with wooden floor, complemented by stone and fabric walls and a high ceiling. According to Chris, “this room is the centrepiece of Studio A and it also plays host to a fantastic selection of backline, including some boutique guitar amps and keyboards. Off the main room, behind glass doors, is an all-stone chamber, useful for adding natural ambience to a recording in the main room or as a separate space in its own right.

"At the other side of the main room is a ‘dead room’ with fabric walls and carpet. There are two more isolation booths, a Hammond organ and the baby grand piano used on Coldplay’s Clocks making Studio A truly world-class. We also have an enviable microphone collection including a rare valve Neumann M269 (the European version of the U67).

"Studio A’s large control room is based around a stunning Neve VR60 Legend. Recording is taken care of via Pro Tools HD or a Studer A827 24-track tape machine, and there is a wide and varied selection of outboard from the likes of Urei, Tube-Tech, GML, SSL and Avalon. The jewel in the crown is an EMT 140 Plate reverb, the reverb time of which is controllable from the centre section of the desk.

"Behind the studio is a back room ‘chill out’ area/kitchen which is perfect for taking a break from any busy recording session and where bands also get to cross paths over a cup of tea. Coldplay met Elbow in our kitchen. So, you can see Parr Street is a pretty magical place."

Studio B is centred around a 24-channel Audient ASP8024, with 24 inputs and outputs going to Pro Tools HD. Its unique, creative vibe makes it equally suitable for artists with or without a lot of studio experience, even for those working to smaller budgets.

Microphones, backline and outboard (on request) can be shared with Studio A.

"The space is ideal for capturing that mythical ‘live sound’, as the fledgling Coldplay did when recording their first hit Yellow." Chris explained. "In fact the studio also features the upright piano that The Scientist was written on. Studio B’s outboard racks boast classic pieces from Urei, Neve, SSL and Empirical Labs all working together to provide a seamless workflow for both artists and producers. Carpeted floors and curtains combine to create a live room which is much tighter sonically than the grandeur of Studio A. Studio B is an environment in which you can closely interact with your art whilst retaining a feeling of openness and excellent separation."

Studio C is Parr Street’s smallest offering with a compact control room and vocal booth available for overdubs and for finishing projects. It has recently been upgraded with BlackMagic video cards to allow ADR and voice for picture. The extensive microphone collection and backline stock is shared between the studios. Similarly, monitoring across all studios is taken care of by Genelec 1031s and NS10s.

Chris explained why this was so important: "We recognise that budgets are now tight across the board, and so we’re really trying to utilise our spaces as efficiently as possible. We’re working on loads of records that start with drums being recorded in Studio A, guitars tracked in Studio B, and vocals added in Studio C. This keeps budgets down, but, as we don’t want to sacrifice quality, we’ve implemented the same monitoring and Pro Tools systems across the building so we can really move about without any issues.

"Last but not least it must be said that people also love coming to stay in our on-site four-star hotel. Some have even been known to potter down to the studios in their slippers to record!"

For more information Parr Street Studios, click here.