Rustic log walls overlook a rack of guitars amidst top-of-the-line microphones and speaker cabinets. The soft glow of a massive computer screen reflects off of worn metal horseshoes set within elegant hardwood floors. A mural depicting an aerial view of the South Shore in winter spans an entire wall, bathed in hues of soft colors that change with the clapping of hands or the pulsing beat of a bass note.
These are the surroundings at Heavenly Tracks, a newly opened recording studio near the top of Kingsbury Grade. Nestled within an unassuming house amidst pine trees and ski condos, the studio is the brainchild of founder, engineer and producer Alex DeLuca.
Raised in New Jersey, DeLuca moved to the San Francisco area at age 18, studying music theory at Santa Clara University, then attending audio recording school. After graduating, DeLuca knew he wanted to open a recording studio.
“I knew for awhile I wanted to be in the studio business, I just didn’t know where,” he said. “Because in the Bay Area there’s, you know, a studio on every corner. I kind of did some research before going into this, and there wasn’t anything up here.
“I was kind of getting sick of living in the city, because I was living in San Francisco for almost two years,” he said. “I’d been coming up to Tahoe since I’d been living on the West Coast. I’ve been snowboarding forever. So it didn’t really click at first, but the more I did research on it I just knew that this would be a good destination location for a studio.”
DeLuca bought the property in 2010, settling in for a two-and-a-half-year process of design and construction.
“We got a studio designer from San Francisco, and we basically just gutted this,” he said. “This was a first floor apartment, pretty much, and we just gutted it and built it from the ground up. Every room has its own floor and own sets of walls, that’s why the walls are so thick. All the glass is double paned — two inches thick — so it’s all just very specialized material and it took a long time to order it and plan.”
Heavenly Tracks consists of a control room, a main recording room and three isolation rooms. DeLuca estimated that around three miles of cable were built into the studio’s walls.
Recently, North Tahoe band Dead Winter Carpenters made a trip south for the first-ever recording session at Heavenly Tracks. The group holed up at the studio for four days in July, recording three tracks for an upcoming EP release.
“It was basically just a test run of the studio, making sure everything worked,” DeLuca said. “I’d say 99.9 percent of everything worked.”
“It was an overall incredible experience,” DWC guitarist and singer Jesse Dunn said. “It was a really beautiful setting. As cliché as it sounds, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air — a brand new, state-of-the-art facility. Alex is really great and knowledgeable guy, very accommodating and welcoming.”
As well as a one-stop studio, Heavenly Tracks includes a three-bedroom, two-bathroom living quarters above the recording space, complete with microphone lines linked to the main control room. The band took advantage of the convenient hospitality during the sessions.
“We stayed at the studio, stayed right on site,” Dunn said. “We made all our meals there, and really dug in as far as possible for the whole experience.”
Dead Winter Carpenters plan on returning to the studio soon to record a follow-up EP, Dunn said.
While DeLuca is largely focused on fine tuning technical and sonic aspects of the studio in the immediate future, he looks forward to working both with local musicians and bands from out of the area. Although he built Heavenly Tracks with a premiere destination studio in mind, he also plans on offering discounted rates to area musicians, he said.
Philadelphia producer Dan Hammond was in the studio with DeLuca recently, finishing work mixing a track by reggae band The Movement. The track, a reggae version of “Alabama Song” (made famous by The Doors — think “Whiskey Bar”), was commissioned by San Juan Music for a compilation of Doors songs.
An old friend of DeLuca’s, Hammond was clearly enjoying his pal’s new digs.
“It’s just a world-class studio, everything that’s in here is all top end,” Hammond said.