Vator Sessions: A recording studio in a grain elevator

By in Culture

Vator Sessions is a project started by a group of people who wanted to showcase Saskatchewan artists. They give a new platform to local artists in an unexpected way — through recording sessions that happen in a grain elevator.

A video and audio crew tailor the sessions to the artists, resulting in each one being “unique in its own way, both sonically and aesthetically,” says Owen Gerrard, one of the founders, in an email to the Sheaf.

“We can talk about how it sounds acoustically in there or how cool it looks on camera for days, but it’s also about as homegrown Saskatchewan as it gets and we love that aspect of it,” Gerrard said.

The grain elevator has been set up with sound equipment as a jam space for some time now, but COVID-19 presented an opportunity for creative and intimate live sets that have turned into quite the project. 

The Vator Sessions team started working with local artists with the idea of hosting private sessions and posting them on Youtube for everyone to view at home, given that large gatherings are currently off the table.

“Our main goal with Vator Sessions is to allow a platform for musicians in the local scene to perform and get the exposure that isn’t really otherwise available,” Gerrard said.

An immense amount of hard work goes into getting all of the content they need and creating a high-quality video with mixed audio.

The four people that started Vator Sessions, Michael Vidal, Brett Arnelien, Owen Gerrard and Darian Dutchak, are in charge of the audio. They record during the set and send the band a mix afterwards, produced by Vidal.

Jourdain Basaraba and Katle Neis are the masterminds behind the cameras, providing the video footage and band photos. Using different lighting colours tailored to each song, they capture the performance and energy the artists create in the unique space.

Everyone brings their talent to the elevator, working together and providing shows that fans can enjoy in the comfort of their home. Gerrard says it is the culture of “people choosing to support each other” that brings Vator Sessions together.

“That’s especially relevant during this time of distance and struggle,” Gerrard said. “Arts and culture are a huge part of what makes Saskatchewan’s local economies thrive, and keeping the artists connected to an audience is essential for that right now.”

Since starting four months ago, the crew has done nine different sessions in the elevator. They have worked with several punk rock style bands such as Bicycle Daze, Shirley & The Pyramids, Hattie, and The Sex Geckos. Featuring more indie style artists, they also have shows with Taylor Jade and Dump Babes, as well as alternative indie artist Greg Orre. The last two sessions include hip-hop artist The Logs and the rock band, Nightjays. 

Some of these performances are available on YouTube, with more to come.

The talents of the Vator Sessions team really shines in how they tailor the elevator setting to the artists. Behind the scenes for Hattie’s set, they made the inside of the grain elevator ideal for their sound through unique decorations and a smoke machine. Little details such as having the artist write the set list on a chalkboard, promoting them on social media and letting the band do as many takes as they want makes the day at the grain elevator an experience to remember. 

Showcasing all of these Saskatchewan artists, in a grain elevator of all places, is vital for the music scene in times like these.

Gerrard says that both artists and audiences alike are “trying to play a part in keeping that connection alive, which luckily is a lot of fun for everyone involved.”

They hope to continue to provide the exposure local artists need right now. For now, Vator Sessions has wrapped up their first season in the studio and will resume once the cold weather eases up.

Holly Gilroy

Photo: Creative Commons | Bernard Spragg