For Taylor Greenshields, a recent conversation quickly morphed into hosting a local music festival.
The Ypsilanti audio engineer, producer and drummer chatted with Ma Baker guitarist Guy Williams about putting on a daylong music event at Frog Island Park.
“Both of us have talked about how cool it would be to have something on the stage at Frog Island. We were sitting on the grass, and I said, ‘I’m done talking about it. Let’s do it for real. I’m going to follow through on this idea,’” said Greenshields, who owns and operates Ypsi-based recording studio Fundamental Sound Co.
“This year, I invested in a bigger PA system. After that, I thought, ‘We have to do this because I don’t want to have all this stuff and not use it. It’s meant to be used for the people and the community. I’m so lucky to work with so many amazing, dope artists that it’s like, ‘Well, why not?’”
That epiphanous “why not” quickly led to Fundamental Sound Co.’s Fun Fest, a one-day Ypsi music festival showcasing a star-studded lineup of local artists at Frog Island Park on Saturday, Aug. 7. The festival will feature ANA, Al Bettis, Ma Baker, Travis Aukerman, Jesse Clayton, Dani Darling, The DayNites and a secret set with some special guests, plus visual artists and vendors.
“It’s so eclectic with Travis and Al each bringing their own jazz vibes for you to bask in. Jesse’s set is going to be more electronic, and he’s going to take you on a roller coaster of all sorts of dynamics. They each will bring something different,” said Greenshields, who’s previously recorded, produced and performed with all the artists on the Fun Fest lineup.
“I’ll be playing with Dani, Jesse and the secret set, which will include some familiar faces. People might get called up from the audience to jam during the secret set.”
The Evolution of Fundamental Sound Co.
Fun Fest also will allow Greenshields to spotlight the evolution of Fundamental Sound Co. from the studio to the stage. He opened the studio in 2018 after recording Ma Baker, Funkwagon, Honey Monsoon, Act Casual and other local acts for several years in his mother’s garage.
“The original times were spent in the garage trying to figure out how to do it, and I recorded Honey Monsoon’s first album, Rose Gold, and Act Casual’s first EP. Those were the test runs for recording, and people were digging it,” Greenshields said.
Greenshields traded his mother’s garage for a new basement studio, which he opened up after visiting Sun Studio in Memphis and the Motown Museum in Detroit. That recording studio became known as Fundamental Sound Co. and soon grew to include live and mobile recording, live sound, mixing and mastering, podcast production and sound design.
“I have livestreaming in the works, and I want to carve out my niche to be mobile recording. I’ve recorded bands outside of the studio in a totally different element and tried to see if that inspires a performance out of them,” Greenshields said.
“Eventually, I want to get a mobile power rig that I can plug in anywhere and set up on the side of a mountain and record. I want to go deeper into that realm as well as the software realm. I’ve also got a few inventions I’m working on.”
Greenshields started working on music at age nine while growing up in the Plymouth-Canton area. His father bought him a drum set for Christmas, and Greenshields taught himself how to play drums by watching YouTube videos.
“I play the drums left-handed and not a lot of people play it that way. When I first started playing, I tried out AC/DC songs. I thought if I can play this, then I can get it together. It later grew into this crazy thing where I got obsessed with funk, jazz, rock, metal and folk,” he said.
By high school, Greenshields played in metal, rock and funk bands and learned about live sound from the late Jiri Fridecky, who worked as a live sound engineer at The Token Lounge, Blondies and other southeast Michigan venues.
“Jiri taught me the basic things from how you wrap a cable to how you set up a mic stand so it doesn’t fall over in the middle of a show. He passed away maybe seven or eight years ago suddenly, but he was a huge part of my audio learning world,” said Greenshields, who studied sound at Schoolcraft College.
“Jiri also had a studio in his house. It was my first time seeing that you could record in your house and get a really good sound; you don’t have to go to a million-dollar studio. I picked up from him the idea of putting a microphone in my bathroom, and it ended up being such a cool sound.”
Honey Monsoon and More
Outside of the studio, Greenshields honed a cool sound with Ana Gomulka, aka ANA, and other members in Honey Monsoon, a jazz-soul-funk-world group. As the band’s drummer and engineer, he performed on and recorded their two spellbinding albums, Rose Gold (2017) and Opal Soul (2019).
In May, Honey Monsoon released their first new material, “Soul Samba,” in more than two years. The peaceful jazz-world fusion track instantly transports listeners to a sunny, relaxing seven-minute getaway.
Hypnotic electric guitars, delicate cymbal taps, peppy bass, soulful drums, sheeny synths, tranquil percussion and buoyant horns ease the mind and spirit. Gomulka sings, “Following the shoreline/To the place where I’m alone/Tethered to the green waves/Feeling better when I’m gone.”
“Soul Samba” features Gomulka (vocals, guitar, music, lyrics), Greenshields (drums, percussion, recording, production, mixing), Sam Naples (lead guitar), Binho Manenti (keys, bass, panderio), Ben Green (trumpet), Zoe Culter (trombone) and Kayleigh Wilder (baritone sax).
“We had recorded that song two years ago with Binho before he went back to Brazil. We recorded it just to get it down and wanted to see what it sounded like. The following winter we revisited it and recorded a full horn section on it,” Greenshields said.
“It sat again for a while until quarantine when I remixed it and sent it to ANA. Then, we redid the vocals, remixed it some more and decided to put it out.”
Greenshields also played a pivotal role in three new projects released through Washtenaw County’s Amplify Fellowship, which provides Black artists with 40 hours of studio time as well as engineering and production support for a new project.
He performed on and recorded Dani Darling’s The Future EP and played drums on two tracks for London Beck’s The Black Satin Sessions album as well as on a track for Kenyatta Rashon’s The Art of Keeping It Real album.
“I was lucky enough to be involved with each artist’s project, but there were so many other people involved. It was a whole community with the producers, musicians and creatives on all three of those records,” Greenshields said.
Greenshields continues to support and record several new projects through Fundamental Sound Co., including ones for Ma Baker, Dani Darling, ANA, Funkwagon and Mercury Salad.
“We’ve been working on a new album for Ma Baker for quite a while now. We’re getting closer and closer to that. We’ve been working on a new Funkwagon album, and we have everything recorded now. Mercury Salad also has a nine-song album coming down the pike,” he said.
1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7 | Frog Island Park, 699 Rice St., in Ypsilanti
Tickets: $20 (suggested donation)
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