A-T recently sat down with Leesta Vall Sound Recordings founder and principal session producer Aaron Zimmer to talk about the studio’s unique live vinyl recording process. Leesta Vall is a niche record label based in Brooklyn, New York that’s known for its Direct-To-Vinyl Live Sessions. During these sessions, artists perform live in-studio to produce limited-edition, lathe cut record releases in real-time.
With more than 500 Direct-To-Vinyl Live Sessions recorded to date, Leesta Vall has redefined the process of recording vinyl. Singer/songwriter Marina Strah recently recorded a Direct-To-Vinyl session at Leesta Vall using a variety of A-T products in the studio setup, including the ATM250 for kick drum, the AT4060a for drum overhead, the AT4081 for acoustic guitar, the BP40 for vocals, and the AE2300 for both snare drum and electric guitar cab. Read more about her session and Leesta Vall’s unique recording setup and process in this exclusive interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about Leesta Vall Sound Recordings and its founding?
The business was founded in late 2012 as a booking agency. The label portion of the business began later as a way to help our touring artists sell a physical product on the road. In a world where the value of an MP3 is approaching $0, and CDs are nearly extinct, providing short-run, lathe cut vinyl releases for our bands to sell directly to fans from their merch tables had immense value.
The limited nature of those short-run 7” releases got me thinking about how scarcity could play an important role in music business, both for the artists and for us as a label. And from that, Direct-To-Vinyl Live Sessions was born. That project quickly became the business’ primary focus, and we’ve since discontinued the agency portion of the business altogether. We’re happily operating strictly as a vinyl-based label these days.
Your studio offers unique Direct-To-Vinyl Sessions. Can you describe this process and what it entails?
Leesta Vall Direct-To-Vinyl Live Sessions are live musical performances that take place in our studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The performance of each song is cut live in real-time directly to its own 7” lathe cut vinyl record, resulting in a truly unique one-of-a-kind musical artifact. Each individual vinyl record contains its own performance (or “take”) of a song that only its purchaser will have/hear… a very special thing. Think of these records like audio Polaroids… each a little different from one another.
For each session, a dedicated preorder campaign page is set up and artists promote in advance of their session. Essentially, through the artist’s promotions, we take in orders before the session and then cut each buyer’s record specifically for them. This preorder method is great for many reasons, but most importantly, it allows the artist to personally thank each buyer right on their record before they go into the performance, which drives the value way up. And we can even let buyers choose the song. Take a look at our active preorders here: https://leestavall.com/collections/preorders
How many Direct-To-Vinyl Sessions has Leesta Vall hosted?
I believe this morning, we will start with session #523. We have 2-3 sessions booked nearly every day.
What differences can be found between recording the vinyl cut versus recording in the studio for digital files?
These Direct-To-Vinyl Recordings are like audio Polaroids. They are the polar opposite of an MP3. The fact that every record we ship is literally a one-of-a-kind sets us apart in the marketplace. But more importantly, it also creates a product that fans can really cherish. Imagine your all-time favorite band cutting a performance of your favorite song directly to a vinyl record. And then knowing you have the only copy that exists in the world. That’s pretty special.
Your team recently recorded a session with singer/songwriter Marina Strah, can you explain the pre-production of preparing for this session?
All of our sessions’ records are sold to the artist’s fans exclusively via preorder through our website. The artist will pick the songs they’d like to make available, and from that a preorder page is created on our site. Like these: https://leestavall.com/collections/preorders. The artists promote in advance of the session, and then come in on their session date to cut each record individually for every person that bought one.
Can you describe the recording set up for the session?
As studios go, we have a pretty simple rig. Fully analog, all outboard preamps and effects. Once the artists are all miked up, we mix and master each live performance (or “take”) on the fly, and that signal is sent to a vintage record cutting lathe that carves the grooves into a blank record in real-time as the artist is performing the music that goes on it.
What is the best part of recording a Direct-To-Vinyl Session?
I’m in love with the direct artist-to-fan nature of the Direct-To-Vinyl Live Sessions program. Every single record is made by the artist specifically for the person who bought it. This is so different than the way we typically consume music and support artists that we love.
Where can fans find other Direct-To-Vinyl Sessions?
Lots of info about the sessions, both upcoming and archived, all at our website: www.leestavall.com
What do you think about the unique Direct-To-Vinyl Sessions that Leesta Vall offers? Let us know in the comments below!