The Sound Foundation brings the rock and the business tools to aspiring young musicians
Norman Matthew doesn’t think that creating great music has an age requirement. The founder of the Sound Foundation, a Deep Ellum production and rehearsal studio for musicians of all ages, Matthew is seeking to propel young musicians forward while cultivating older bands — all by the time they graduate high school.
“I’m not really into the ‘kiddy rock’ thing,” he says. “Just because they’re younger, why can’t they be a legitimate band?”
With that in mind, Matthew, 30, opened the Sound Foundation in early January 2013 in a single-story building on Elm Street.
“I’m not really into the ‘kiddy rock’ thing,” says founder Norman Matthew. “Just because they’re younger, why can’t they be a legitimate band?”
With a black-and-white color scheme and plenty of references to bands like Zeppelin, Mötley Crüe and The Beatles, the Sound Foundation boasts top-end facilities and amenities available normally only to established bands — that is, grown-ups.
Matthew originally brought in a group of seven young bands that he had worked with before, but the Sound Foundation has grown quickly.
“It wasn't about crushing a business or going into competition with other ‘schools of rock,’” Matthew says. “I just wanted something better for the kids I already had relationships with and to grow from there. They should have the same amenities that my band has, like drum isolation booths, a recording studio and a posh setting.”
In that vein, the Sound Foundation is set up to create an all-encompassing music education for kids. Beside the professional-level practice studios, the Sound Foundation has a small-venue room designed for live performances. And because lessons extend beyond making music into actual production, as well as how to use social media and hustle to promote their bands, the musicians can work on putting on a live show with legitimate crowds.
“A lot of these bands can’t tour yet because they’re in school, and they can get gigs in Deep Ellum, but their friends can’t come to the shows,” he says. “I’m trying to bridge that gap where you can have the show here, and we’ll teach you how to be promoters. You’re applying the skills you learned.”
Matthew says that having bands perform at 7 or 8 on a Friday night works because parents aren’t as worried, but it’s still cool because the kids can say they played on a Friday night as opposed to a Sunday. The bands can even charge admission and try to make some money.
The Sound Foundation aims to give the bands a grasp on the music industry akin to someone a few years into college in a music business major. And the bands get to work on their music.
Matthew says that having bands perform at 7 or 8 on a Friday night works because parents aren’t as worried, but it’s still cool because the kids can say they played on a Friday night.
“My main goal is to take the bands I’ve already got and keep growing them,” Matthew says. “The kids don’t get younger, and Mom and Dad’s investments in lessons, guitars, etc. can go by the wayside if you don’t grow with them. It’s about getting something edgier, something cooler. The younger kids want the goal of being where the big kids are, and the big kids don’t want to be at a place where there’s this kiddy vibe.”
Matthew’s years as a producer as well as leader of alt-rock band Murder FM allows him to call on artists to stop by the Sound Foundation when they’re in town to teach and play. It helps to create a community feeling within the soundproofed walls.
“You walk through the place, and you hear Adele in one room and then folk Americana in another and then the Beatles and then my loud noise-making room,” he says. “It’s like one big gang. They’re all friends, and if they’re not here for lessons, they’re hanging out. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of them, but it’s good because that’s a testament that they want to be here.”
Matthew admits that the Sound Foundation isn’t for everyone. The musicians that come to him have to want to elevate their craft and business acumen.
“I’m not going to give a lesson for the sake of the paycheck,” he says. “If there’s someone I don’t connect with on an artistic level, and none of the other instructs do either, we might say, 'Well maybe you’re better off at another place.'”
Matthew says that the ultimate goal is to create what he likens to The Lion King’s “circle of life” within the the Sound Foundation community.
“It hopefully becomes one of those things where it’s like, ‘I grew up there, I played there, my band records there, and my little brother goes there, and now I’m back and teaching here.’ We want to be the place.”