Noatune Studios: A Writing Camp For Flourishing Talent
The Majoris Music experience of the Noatune writing camp actually started about a road down from the studio in a restaurant-salon-tattoo parlour-cafe, believe it or not.
The vibrancy so often seen in the creative hubs of East London was well and truly alive here, and after coffee Majoris Music was to step into the fabled Noatune studios, housed in a building hosting 100+ other creatively inclined businesses; the foundations of celebrated culture everywhere around. It had been minutes into meeting Kris and starting this piece, but already those creative juices, and the creative spirit that compliments that, were hugely present, alive, and kicking in big ways.
We met Kris in transit on the way to get a bite to eat with one of the groups put together for the camp. Just a bite, of course, because time allocated for break was little in an otherwise very long and saturated list of things to do for him over the course of the camp. From the first hello between us, it was nothing less than 100mph.
Kris Rylander is the founder of Noatune Studios. Getting to spend time with both him and the studio, you come to see that the place has taken and shares a lot of its qualities from the man who, oftentimes back at the start, built it with his own hands. There’s a huge amount constantly going on for the two of them, there’s a free-spirited energy everywhere you look in the both of them, and beyond that all, good things will invariably happen between the pair. It makes both forces excellent to be around. Noatune makes you feel at home with your first step into it, and Kris’ presence somehow helps things place themselves where they need to be. Especially in a musical context, something special is always happening.
So imagine what a Writing Camp would be like.
The Noatune writing camp offers 33 musicians from all backgrounds the chance to come together to inspire the creation of music, challenge those people (often in the early stages of their career) with the key skills they need to progress, and provide the opportunity for a demonstrably talented group to network and build relationships. This year the studio received 130 applications in total, from all over the world. It felt like everywhere you walked over the course of the camp, you walked amongst skill and artistry. This is testament to not only the talent on offer, but also the selection process established by the Noatune team, evident to the fact that this is a studio that can readily select and nurture talent.
As we sat with Kris and Group A for lunch (‘A’ referring to the studio they were housed in for the day), these were a selection of strangers that first met just a few hours before this chat, but the togetherness of the group was clear. This speaks to one of the most immediately humanly valuable things the Writing Camp gives to the people involved. “It’s a real bonding experience”, the group offered in consensus, saying that even in a time-constrained creating environment, they spent their first portions of time listening to each other’s music and so resultantly getting some of the most intimate insights into the people they were about to be working with.
Here, lunchtime, instead of feeling like a bracket of time to escape, more felt like a bracket in which you just tide over, until the opportunity arose again to get back into the room where it happens. For the prospect of creation that was offered through the camp, there was a palpable sense of excitement around the table.
With community being from Kris’ perspective a core part of the Noatune origin story and where its foundations are rooted, it’s no surprise that groups brought together under the many studio roofs at Netil House felt this way; the Noatune way. It was the invariable outcome that over the 3 days we were to see the formation of an ecosystem of the creative field almost celebrating the creative field. These 33 talented and budding musicians were filled with compliments that only emboldened that ecosystem, as they learnt about how each person applied themselves to their craft. One attendee succinctly said that “I just like to hear what other people do”, and in that we see one form of what we were going to see a lot of during the writing camp - Noatune knowing what the artists need, and then giving them exactly that.
This camp, and Noatune in general, really nurture this. Over the course of the experience you could see artists in that learning process, in a place where they felt able and facilitated to do so. These writing sessions felt naturally more significant than most because not only were songs and ideas being developed, but so too were the artists themselves as they were equipped with the ways and means to drive their own creativity to the limit they chose.
And this wonderful setup happened most in the rooms that took centre stage: the studios.
Dropping into each of the three during the camp felt like stepping into a beautifully isolated world of creativity, but in its barest, rawest, most attractive form. What was great about them was that each time you entered a studio you were greeted with this immense wave of talent and were just able to bathe in it in total enjoyment. They were quite welcoming in that respect.
The Studio as a whole takes a lot of pride in the character curated in each of the rooms, with a ‘modern Scandinavian look and feel’ against the backdrop of the latest and greatest technology paired with classic analogue equipment kitting out the spaces. The oldschool/newschool hybrid creates a dynamic where you somehow feel a homage being paid to music itself, but in the most pragmatic and creatively advantageous way. “The place is very inspiring”, one attendee put it at the end of the camp. “The studio is so impressive”, said another, reflecting on where we were whilst speaking.
Along with that sense of creation and inspiration you got from observing each of the groups work their craft, the fact that the whole purpose here was the unfiltered celebration of creation, done in such slick environments, made the experience of the camp - only a little while in - feel like each block had already somehow been perfectly placed. It was the affair in entirety that made everything feel right - the fact that pretty much every detail was right anyway felt secondary.
As the day went on, and the music started to actually come alive into its own, you could feel partnerships bonding between the very acoustics in the studios and the newly formed songs being born in those moments. All of the individual musical layers; voice breaks; forgotten lyrics; ‘from the top’s’ and foot taps played a part in forming that distinct relationship that the Writing Camp facilitated. Breaks from creating were filled with… more creating.
We watched a moment of inspiration happen in-situ, as a group turned a voice note purely of ideation into a fully embedded part of the song, making it go from an idea of an idea, to a rehearsal, to a full recording. From recording whilst sat cross-legged on the floor to recording whilst shouting into a guitar - this was music being made, in what felt like the only possible incubator in the world that could have existed to house these individual talents being put together.
These moments of brilliance strung together are one of the great examples of why you get a sense of determinism about the whole thing. “I’m just in love with this guitar… it plays itself”, remarked one camp member of another group, shortly before launching into an impromptu jam that wound its way into being part of the song too.
These moments, in those ways, simply wouldn’t have happened without the existence of this Writing Camp, and you can’t put a price on those moments as they are. Just as well that Noatune didn’t, with entry and access to these standout sets of materials and spaces being completely free of charge to the artist.
Times of creation, times of togetherness, and times of inspiration, or, “how you’re supposed to experience music”, an attendee appropriately concluded at the end of the camp. What’s truly awe-inspiring, though, is the relative scale. Those individual moments were random times in the creative session, which were one of three creative sessions happening that day, which was one of three days happening that week. Noatune’s camp and the immense work Kris, Alex and the rest of the team put into pulling this together amounted to nothing less than a gifted and glorious showcase of that thing we all love - music. If there was to be a rather beautiful long and short to all of this, it would be that.
Briefly on that team behind-the-scenes. The belly of the beast of Noatune finds itself as a long, wooden table with Alex Sinclair - the studio manager and all around runner of show - at the head of it, keeping all things in check. The ship is that beautiful workplace mix of very tight and very loose, with important stuff always happening but in the most casual, ‘this is a recording studio, man’ kind of way. Noatune will always put the focus of the artist first and so we’ll touch on the corporate workings of the studio sparingly, but those elements of hard work, creative approach and having fun whilst you do it are as true in the HQ as they are in the studios. They were both good places to be.
And just the same as each of the studios have their own unique energy and makeup to them, so too did the musical products of the camp from each group. One of the most deeply pleasing things about the camp was that within a few steps you could go from a darker, more melodic and paced song about things like a ‘holy medicine’ to a rap you could genuinely see taking the Summer by storm, ‘keeping it saucy’ with ‘work rate one hundo’. A great diversity of creative direction but a really clear concentration of talent taking it there.
All of the creations throughout the day sounded so clean, and all of them shared the accolade of being songs we’d otherwise come across, add to the playlist, and look forward to listening to again. It’s no coincidence when this happens consistently; music that was really interesting was just… being made. The kicker here, and perhaps the most poetic headline of the writing camp, is that the groups that were creating them were created just mere single digit hours before. There’s something so endorsing of the power of music there. The power of the people who make the music, too.
It was incredible to be so effortlessly transported into these worlds that were all unique in their musical sound, but entirely uniform in the fact that, simply, something really special was going on. We saw the inspirational charge of progression from single bars and testing sounds in the AM to fully fledged, nurtured and cultured tunes in the PM, with songs certifiably “sounding like songs”, as one of the group producers put it. The only metric that really counts, here at Noatune.
And so with the days of the camp gone with the winding road of creation, the wrap and listening party came. It felt like part of the Noatune commandment that there was an event in the end where the artists could be celebrated, the music could be celebrated, and folks had fun whilst they did it too - these are all important elements of how Noatune does things and have been since the very first time we met Kris. There was a feeling of jubilation that filled the air as the people involved from across all three days came together to show off their final products and revel in their achievements and hard work. It was beautiful.
Though the communal area of the Studio had less of an acoustic treatment than the studios themselves, the music from all of the groups continued to sound so good when played to the wider group and guests, and this was no doubt helped along by the fact that, stood in a semi-circle around these speakers, were the very people that poured their time and energy into something great, and into something we were all enjoying as one. “It’s just incredible how much you guys have done”, Kris opened the celebrations with.
It felt like the script-written ending and in many senses it was. The night whisked itself away with doors open to the Noatune community, bringing together people from all walks of the industry and craft under one roof in honour of what came before. There was something meaningful about the whole thing; something meaningful about ending this whole experience celebrating the music and letting that turn into a celebration itself. It was fun, it had spirit, and it felt like being there was just the right thing to do.
In a funny way, though, all of this is really just one simple thing.
It’s just Noatune, with its history, its beliefs, its people, its community, its aspirations, its direction, its role and its approach, all just doing ‘Noatune’. And that’s the winning formula. After the ‘=’ to solve the formula came a really well done Writing Camp, put on by a Studio to match.