February 20, 2013
In 2007, Chester Endersby Gwazda found himself like many recent college graduates -- living at home with his parents and growing restless. So Gwazda packed his car with a sleeping bag and pillow, and booked a tour up and down the east coast.
But he wasn't playing concerts. Gwazda reached out to friends -- and made new ones -- to record and produce other bands. He says his talent and degree from Purchase College, State University of New York, qualified him for a sought-after internship at a recording studio in Manhattan, but the now-28-year-old Station North resident chose to hone his production skills an unconventional way.
"I'd spend five days a week recording," Gwazda said. "I was working for food and a place to sleep."
The "tour," which included a stop in Greenville, N.C., to record Future Islands' debut, "Wave Like Home," solidified Gwazda's decision to become a professional music producer. (He also drives a truck for an art-handling firm, but hasn't done so since last May.)
Since the trip, Gwazda has emerged as the city's best producer of indie-rock. His unobtrusive touch can be heard on acclaimed local projects (every Future Islands full-length) and beyond, including the self-titled 2011 album from Cleveland quartet Cloud Nothings.
For the latter project, Gwazda was specifically asked to elevate the band's sound, which was known for its singer's poor-sounding but promising home recordings. The label asked for "more punch in the drums and a beefier sound," but aimed to retain the group's rough edges.
"I have an ear for the lo-fi thing, which is crazy to say about a producer who's getting paid to make things sound good," Gwazda said. "It's tricky to make things sound good in a bad way."
He's speaking on the phone from London. Gwazda, who met Dan Deacon at Purchase, is currently on tour with Baltimore's best-known electronic musician. Their relationship has grown over the years, with Gwazda co-producing Deacon's dynamic albums "Bromst" and "America."
"When I work with Dan, he's got everything planned out," Gwazda said. "My job is to keep track of everything. He's written everything electronically, and we're trying to bring the electronic makeup of his work to life with live instruments."
When he returns home, Gwazda, a singer-songwriter in his own right, will focus on writing the follow-up to "Shroud," the eight-track album he released via Bandcamp last March. He's also producing the next album by Outer Spaces, a solo project from Georgia's Cara Beth Satalino. Paid in sandwiches, Gwazda first recorded Outer Spaces on his 2007 recording tour. He remains selective when choosing the bands he works with.
"I don't need to record bands to make money," he said. "I'd rather drive a truck than record a band I don't like. If I do like them, it's the best thing in the world. It's nice to have that luxury."