C-U alt-rocker brings unique music, bar to Tolono

Earth Analog Studios’ live-in apartment for guest recording artists features a rooftop garden at the 7 N. Bourne St. location. 

By Masaki Sugimoto

Throughout the 1990s, the alternative, grunge rock movement rose to prominence, a genre aimed at attaining a gritty and raucous guitar sound with lazy and imperfect vocals. One group that contributed to the takeoff was Hum, a Champaign-Urbana-based, four-piece band consisting of Matt Talbott, Tim Lash, Jeff Dimpsey and Bryan St. Pere.

Although the band has since called it quits, apart from a couple reunion shows here and there, their two albums and touring legacy continues to gain a devoted fanbase, and has been credited as the muse behind albums of modern-day bands.

Today, while half the band has relocated elsewhere, some of it members remain in the area — and Matt Talbott has managed to become one of the busiest music socialites around.

In 2001, he opened his own studio and label, Earth Analog Studios and Earth Analog Records in Tolono, Ill., about 10 miles from Champaign. Since last August, Talbott has expanded to opening a bar, Loose Cobra, just a block down the street.

“The property values in Champaign for what I needed were prohibitive,” Talbott said. “Once I thought of the idea of it being somewhere other than Champaign, I got intrigued by it, and thought that this was going to be cool since it wasn’t in Champaign, but close enough that I can get away.”

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Earth Analog Studios are dedicated to recording a majority of their music in analog, which means that bands record their songs to tape, and there is barely any digitalized intervention. From there, they use analog processing during the mastering of the album.

The studio, a corner building on Bourne Street, is constantly renovated to compete as the best recording space in central Illinois.

Recently, the studio gained a bit of momentum with a recorded artist, Cloakroom, landing their album on several of Billboard’s charts, including #10 Best New Artist Album and #19 for Best Vinyl Album.

“It seems that in the past two and a half years, with the help that Brian Perry gave me with the renovation of the control room and a few significant freelance engineers from the Midwest that have adopted my place, we are gaining more attention,” Talbott said.

The studio, which doubles as an apartment for recording artists that are from out of town, is also seen as a place of tranquility and distanced from distractions, specifically for those traveling from large cities.

Vattnet Viskar, a band from New Hampshire who just wrapped up their 10-day recording session at Earth Analog, said recording at the studio has been one of the best experiences of their lives.

Sanford Parker, a Chicago audio engineer that was working with the East coast band, is one prominent Midwest engineer that returns to the studio several times a year.

“There are no real distractions for the bands,” Parker said. “Tolono is a place that we can feel like we’re at home really quickly.”

That is especially true as bands can walk a block to get to the Loose Cobra, located at 113 E. Main St. in Tolono.

Talbott, who had always wanted to open up a bar, felt that the location was perfect for his clients, but also a nice change of pace from Champaign-Urbana.

“I’m serving two markets at the same time,” Talbott said, referring to locals of Tolono and friends from Champaign-Urbana who make regular trips to the shows put on at Loose Cobra. “I’m doing things that other local bars aren’t, like supplying a variety of really nice bourbon, a diverse collection of beers, but then keeping the drinks that locals expect me to have.”

One of the most distinct qualities of Loose Cobra is its appreciation for vinyl. Anyone can bring in their own personal collection, or go through the supply that the bar offers, and spin the music they want to hear while playing pinball or darts in the Christmas light-lit space.

Talbott has high hopes for the Loose Cobra; he hopes to eventually add food to the mix and plan outside parties once the weather cooperates. He’s even looking into a Loose Cobra edition limo to bus individuals to and from Champaign.

For now, the Cobra is continually booking shows, with their next one being on Feb. 22 with the local band Bookmobile!

For travelers from Champaign-Urbana, the Loose Cobra will split the cost of visitors’ cabs.

Fran can be reached at [email protected].