Origami Lounge has fast become Chico’s home recording studio
Scott Barwick is a man from another time. His demeanor suggests a sort of old-time Southern hospitality. You will most often find him amenable to shooting the breeze, and he is rarely seen without a fedora. Step into Barwick’s home and you are surrounded by vintage organs, amplifiers, drum machines and synthesizers. A shelf in the dining room is over-flowing with vinyl records.
It’s the atmosphere at Origami Lounge—Barwick’s home-turned-home recording studio—that is arguably one of the main draws for the barrage of local bands and singer/songwriters who have recorded with him in the past few years. Near downtown Chico, Origami Lounge consists of living room and dining room recording spaces, and a bedroom that functions as the control booth. The high ceilings, hardwood floors and timeless décor contribute to what Barwick describes as “trying to make the dream happen.”
“It’s the pay scale,” Barwick says, further explaining why his studio has been so busy. “I’ll do a track for free—and if they like what they hear they’ll come back.”
Originally from Columbia, S.C., Barwick first came to Chico in 1995. He rented an apartment at Fifth and Hazel streets for $150 a month and joined jam band Jordhuga. After a brief stint with instrumental jazz/funk outfit Sci-Fly, Barwick ended up with the live hip-hop group Zzyzx, which performed with such acts as Ozomatli, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Spearhead and Blackalicious. Zzyzx keyboardist Colby Barr would later become Barwick’s business partner in establishing what would eventually become Origami Lounge.
“You start producing because you want to record your own music,” said Barwick. And that was what he and Barr (local entrepreneur and owner of The Naked Lounge) set out to do. Barwick and Barr acquired the space and equipment, which they initially used to record their band Machine Green.
Barwick would go on to produce a CAMMIES Award-winning album for La Dolce Vita, establish doom horror-soundtrack band Horror, Horror, Horror, co-found his current garage-rock-inspired band Candy Apple in 2006 and collaborate with a laundry list of well-established local groups from Swamp Zen to Dr. Becky Sagers, Ph.D.
Having this year alone recorded albums for Black Hole of Calcutta, Candy Apple, Dr. Yes!, The Amblers, Pat Hull (an upcoming full-length album) and others, Barwick also talked about his long-term vision regarding the studio and hopefully starting an independent record label.
“You’re not a label if you can’t distribute,” Barwick said. “I’m not trying to hype myself as anything, or overshadow what anyone else is doing—I don’t want a piece of people, or to own people. I’m just an artist who wants to get the music out there.”
Barwick intends to start the label and begin releasing compilations of unsigned bands in order to reach more listeners. In the meantime, new recording projects continue to line up at the Lounge.
Barwick says that, even though there aren’t a lot of options for bands as far as local recording studios, he has a lot of respect for the other producers in town. At the studio, he held up a bottle of Crown Royal from fellow home-recorder Chris Keene (of Heirloom Studios and the band Surrogate), a gift for the use of Barwick’s fresh-tuned upright piano. He opened the bottle and passed it. “I’m not ready to settle down,” Barwick said. “I’m 36—but I still just want to write music.”