We recently sat down with Louis as a part of our Behind The Gear series where we talk to the makers behind our favorite pro audio brands. Continue on to read our conversation and learn how Louis got his start in woodworking and why he feels it's important to invest in good, affordable studio furniture.
When I was in college, I wrote a lot of songs and I put out my recordings at the end of the year. Because I was recording myself, I got into audio. I started with GarageBand then Logic Pro and Pro Tools. I would do some live sound here and there and basically learned the hands-on stuff. Along the way, mixing became a fun part of it too. I realized there was so much creative potential in production and mixing.
For the last couple of years, I've worked in post-production for film and TV, dialogue editing and mixing, Foley, sound design, all of that stuff. I work on about a dozen shows in different capacities. I'm still writing music, but of course, there's a little less time for that at the moment!
What inspired you to get started with woodworking? Has it always been a part of your background?
I grew up on a farm in South Carolina, so it was sort of expected that I had the ability to use hand tools and power tools and be somewhat useful with them. When COVID hit, I was home in South Carolina to be with my family. I had my weekends and evenings free, and I was out in the yard trying to find something to do, so I started woodworking. I also really enjoyed watching YouTube videos of other woodworkers and learning vicariously through them. My dad had a woodshop in the backyard, so I was able to start practicing my skills.
Tell us about how Carpenter Studio Gear got started. Do you collaborate with a small team or is it a solo endeavor?
I really, truly, didn't expect this to become a business. I built a rack for myself, and then I built a rack for a co-worker. I thought, "Well, I'll put a photo of my work on Etsy and we'll see." Lo and behold, someone on Etsy bought it and wanted a custom piece. When they put in the order, I went and learned how to build it. After that, the ball really started to roll.
At first, I was alone and it was really sweat equity. I started working in the backyard and then I came back to New York last summer and got a single-car garage here. I would just do all the work alone there on the weekends and at nighttime when I wasn't mixing for film and TV. Finally, as of a few months ago, I gained enough orders, volume and experience to move into a proper industrial woodworking facility. Now, I have an employee who works with me.
My furniture is for the people who are graduating from a Scarlett Solo or something that sits on the desk and are moving towards rackmount gear. They're getting something like a Clarett 8Pre, an Apollo, the new Avid MTRX Studio or their first outboard compressors. I build a lot of desktop racks between 2U and 4U. I also get experienced users who want floor racks with wheels or bigger racks with hairpin legs that are a little more permanent. Small studio customers around my city buy desks, triple bay pieces and custom things from me.
Because I'm nimble, I can do a lot of custom work. My whole goal is to get people away from the nasty black plastic stuff, veneers, metal, cloth, all of it. It isn't aesthetically pleasing, it's overpriced and it's just not an exciting purchase for people. I try to offer something wood, nicely stained and durable.
What aesthetic and/or build qualities set your handmade pieces apart from other brands on the market?
At the end of the day, there are a few things other brands use, one being plastic. That's fine if you're traveling and you want to put it in the truck, an airline carry-on, or a touring van. Go for it. People buy the road stuff for home setups because it's the closest thing to a "look." It at least has some aesthetic, but it's not built for that. The only other options for at-home racks are either veneered or metal. If you're dedicating a room in your house for a studio or upgrading your desks, you don't want to spend money on something that doesn't excite you.
I build out of solid, furniture-grade plywood. There's no particle board, wood chips, or powder. It's solid layers of Russian Birch. It's a super-dense solid piece of wood, and it stains beautifully. I'm able to compete with Gator, SKB, Output, and JamRacks, because I use affordable wood that's strong, beautiful, stylish, and in-demand.
I'm also able to customize stains for customers. They can get white, natural, caramel, chocolate, or customized options. All of it is very easy for me to do because I work with the blank canvas of wood, not factory-printed pieces of black plastic or laminate.
They’re as strong and beautiful as the gear inside of them. That’s what people should shoot for.
I just happened to clock this mid-century look that also coincides with fairly simple building techniques. The mid-century look is very palatable, stylish and goes well with other designs. On all fronts, it's a good fit.
What are some of your long-term goals as a new brand? What impressions do you want audio engineers to have?
I would just love to see a wider adoption of these pieces. I just want as many audio engineers as possible to avoid the stuff that doesn’t make them excited to use their gear. My personal long-term goal is to continue doing what I’m doing; I love writing songs and mixing film and music.
As an audio engineer, I’m a fellow gearhead, so I get excited when I see my LA-2A in the rack. I want that tactile, kinesthetic experience. It adds a level of enjoyment for people like us. We spend so much money on gear, so why put it in a rack that doesn’t excite or add to the aesthetic of our studios?