Behind an unmarked white door on the fourth floor of the Viking Mill is where the studio sits. It’s where a number of high profile albums have been made over the past three years, ever since Kyle Pulley and Joe Reinhart opened the place.
If you venture over to the corner of Hagert and Coral streets in Kensington, you’ll find a seemingly boring old brick building. Once you get inside of the five-story brick structure, which was originally constructed as a garment factory in the late 1800s, you’ll find Headroom Studios if you search hard enough.
Behind an unmarked white door on the fourth floor of the building is where the studio sits. It’s where a number of high-profile albums have been made over the past three years, ever since Kyle Pulley and Joe Reinhart opened the place.
Both Pulley’s band, Thin Lips, and Reinhart’s band, Hop Along — both of which have earned high regard from outlets such as “Spin” and “Rolling Stone” — have recorded albums there. But the studio was also home to local Philly indie band Katie Ellen when it recorded its debut album “Cowgirl Blues,” which was released earlier this year. Same goes for Pine Barons’ “Acchin Book,” Hurry’s “Everything / Nothing,” Alex G’s “Live at the Headroom” and loads of other bands from the area who are responsible for making Philadelphia the indie rock and roll capital of the world over the past 10 or so years.
The studio is just one of many artist workspaces in the building rented to local creatives in the city. The studios are also rented by jewlery makers, T-shirt printers, visual artists and photographers — not just musicians. Pulley calls it a “workspace collective.” In fact, the building has a name — it’s called Viking Mill.
The guys moved into the studio about three years ago, right before Hop Along recorded its sophomore album, “Painted Shut,” which “Rolling Stone” put at №36 on its list of 50 greatest albums of 2015, and right after they “outgrew” their old studio at the corner of 5th and Thompson.
“There’d be noises,” said Reinhart about why their old spot just wasn’t working for them anymore. “There’d be dogs barking, there’d be other bands practicing in different rooms, it just wasn’t a spot we really felt like we could grow with. In the beginning, it was like you’re surrounded by all these musicians and all these instruments and all these bands and it was a great place to start, but at some place we wanted to up our professionalism and honestly up the quality of the recordings [so] we just needed to move.”
Pulley, who is 32, and Reinhart, who’s 34, originally met at an Algernon Cadwaller show at the Veggie Plex, a now-defunct house venue located at 47th and Springfield in West Philly.
They soon recognized each other from their classes at Drexel, where they both earned their degree in audio engineering.
After that Reinhart and Pulley would frequently find themselves using the Drexel studios late at night. They eventually became friends.
“We were kind of always there really late at night just hanging out,” Pulley said. “Once we graduated, we both wanted to record bands and we needed a place to do it, so we moved into [the] warehouse space [at 5th and Thompson] with like eight other people.”
Pulley and Reinhart are grateful to leave their mark on Philly’s music scene, which they hear good things about from lots of people all over the nation when they tour the country with their respective bands.
“I was traveling the whole country and everybody knows about Philly,” said Pulley, who grew up in Southampton, N.J. “I moved to Philly because I was stoked on the music scene when I was 16, 17, you know, going to shows at the First Unitarian Church and loving bands like Kid Dynamite and Horror Show and all these old punk bands and stuff. And so Philly was just the center of my world when I was growing up in New Jersey.”
“I’m pretty hyper aware of how awesome it is,” Reinhart said. “Especially because I get a lot of bands from out of state [and] multiple states away who are just like holy [crap] this place!”
Reinhart maintains that calling the studio a “a business is a bad idea,” but they guys do make money off the studio. They say it gets rented out every day of the year except sometimes on Christmas.
But, “it’s not like finance,” Pulley said. “It’s not like having a coffee shop. It’s like selling handmade jewelry or painting pictures about your feelings. We’re recording bands.”
Check out more about The Headroom over at the studio’s website.