Sound Proof

Sound Proof

“I remember making a Ports of Spain album in a closet in your house,” Sam Carlson says to Patrick Dalton on the fourth floor of 770 Chapel Street. While some tenants at 770 Chapel still refer to them as “the studio guys,” New Haven’s music scene knows them more precisely, as the principals of Sans Serif Recording.

At Sans Serif, a painted mountain lion surveys his domain from behind the door. A book on flying saucers—apparently they’re Here and Now!—lies on a mirrored table beneath an acoustic panel pinned with local band buttons. A low-backed couch ends at the desk where Carlson and Dalton record, mix and master from their orange swivel throne, looking through a window into a larger room equipped with a Rhodes keyboard, an upright piano, a sparkling champagne drum kit, guitars, amps, pedals, mics. From a magazine rack on the floor, Carlson and Dalton proudly produce a ’70s New Haven zine called Oasis D’Neon, perhaps an ode to their own oasis.

Not that they aren’t willing to go elsewhere in pursuit of sound. “I’m curious about the stairwell,” says Dalton, reflecting on its acoustics. We talk about the potential of unconventional recording spaces such as laundromats and billiards halls, Carlson and Dalton placing special emphasis on the process of matching bands to locations. The duo sometimes even records in their building’s vacant factory floor basement, a room the tenants have collectively nicknamed the Okie Dokie Country Club. “Eventually you go completely nuts and you’re like, ‘This deli would make a great recording studio. Look how sloped the ceiling is,’” Carlson half-jokes.

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This larger studio space is new for Sans Serif, which previously operated out of two small rooms at the end of the same hallway, a space they leased 10 days before the pandemic. Before that, they recorded at The Zone—their affectionate name for an industrial room at the New Haven Business Center at 91 Shelton Avenue. Their current space, transformed over a period of six months with help from friends, just opened in December, looking buttoned-up even as it feels DIY—or, as their Instagram puts it, “unprofessional in all the right ways.”

Carlson and Dalton first began collaborating in 2012, when Carlson joined Dalton’s New Haven based alt-country band, The Proud Flesh. But their individual interests in sound production had long been percolating. Carlson’s father wrote radio jingles and commercials in the family’s basement, soliciting the help of his young son. “When I was a kid, I would go and help him because he wouldn’t want to hit ‘record’ all the time. I got really used to hitting ‘record’ and hitting ‘stop’ and hitting ‘record’ and hitting ‘stop,’” recalls Carlson, who would later, as an adult, run a mobile recording service, traveling to bands’ practice spaces and homes. Dalton, who majored in music at Keene State but first picked it up in the fifth grade, was also recording local bands in addition to running live sound for local venues such as The State House and Space Ballroom. Finally, after working on several of their own albums together, they made the decision to become business partners.

As for the name Sans Serif, credit goes to Carlson, “a big font nerd” who majored in English at Southern Connecticut State. “I wanted something that signified everything you need and nothing you don’t,” he says. But that sense of restraint doesn’t seem to apply to the passion for the work. “Sam and I both got to these points where, ‘Yeah man, life is short. Let’s try to do something with it that we’re not going to regret,’” Dalton says, with Carlson adding, “I’m not a stubborn person in most ways, but I’m very stubborn with what I will and won’t do for work… I decided to start telling people that this is what I do. I just started telling people that I make records.”

The strength of New Haven’s music community has been key, they say. The pair have worked with punk band Killer Kin, indie band Glambat, indie-alternative band The Tines (of which Carlson is a member) and fusion rapper Ceschi, to name a few. “We wouldn’t have been here for as long as we have if not for the people,” Dalton reflects. “Nothing but love for the New Haven music scene.”

Sans Serif Recording
770 Chapel St, Fl 4, New Haven (map)
(203) 216-5592 |
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Written and photographed by Lindsay Skedgell.

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