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'Underground' musicians find a home at Studio Anatomy

If you’re a fan of indie rock, punk rock or heavy metal, you’ll find there aren’t many live-music venues in northern Michigan featuring local artists playing their own original material.

In the heart of downtown Traverse City, one underground club is looking to meet the needs of fans and bands alike.

Studio Anatomy on Front Street offers a recording studio, a practice space and, most importantly, a place to perform live. Owner Brian Chamberlain was looking for the perfect spot to start up a recording studio when he happened upon the basement space two years ago.

“I love that you can walk down here and it’s like you’re taken to another place,” said Chamberlain. “You could be anywhere in the world. It’s literally underground.”

A place for original music

At the time, the former music shop was a bit of a fixer-upper. In punk rock DIY spirit, Chamberlain and a group of friends tore down the old walls, ripped up the old carpet and set to work creating something new.

The basement stage is a great place for a show.

“There needs to be a place where local bands can go to be able to perform,” aid Chamberlain. “I had that when I was in high school, in a band, playing original music. I wanted to get out there and play. (For) bands here, there aren’t really places right now for them to go.”

Studio Anatomy holds shows here just about every Friday night. The shows are an eclectic mix of different musical genres and styles. Sometimes they’re acoustic and sometimes they’ll rock your socks off.

Most of the bands are local – like TheDroogs or Friday Night Hero – but Chamberlain is also drawing musicians from out of town, like the indie rock group Banned From Detroit.

The recording studio

The shows are a labor of love for Chamberlain. He puts a lot of work into them – even designing the posters himself – but the thing that keeps it all going is his recording studio.

The studio is a mix of state-of-the-art and old-school. There are new microphones and a new digital mixing board but there are also a few analog artifacts, like a 24-track Sony tape recorder that saw its heyday in the early 1990s.

Chamberlain says he likes working with digital but at heart, he’s an analog kind of guy.

“I love that hands-on,” he said.

Chamberlain started out recording his own music on an analog tape machine while growing up in North Carolina. He took his love for recording to Traverse City a few years ago.

With 6,000 square feet, there’s plenty of extra room in the basement. There’s a ping-pong table, a few comfy old couches and in a back office, one of Chamberlain’s most prized possessions – a 1963 Seeburg jukebox that’s been in his family for years.

Chamberlain’s jukebox is populated with a little bit of everything, from the Beatles’ White Album to DC punk band Fugazi. It’s the kind of music Chamberlain wants to bring to his basement.

“Unfortunately, these bands that are playing this kind of music – this harder rock or indie rock – they can’t really fit into these other venues where these other artists are playing,” said Chamberlain. “It just doesn’t work. People say … it’s too loud. I see it all the time. I go into a place and people are doing their own thing and there’s a band playing off in a corner. No one’s paying attention. It’s sad. That’s what I want to do here. I want people to come down and say, “I’m coming to see this band.”