Words // Keith Morrill
Photos // Monika Rivard
If a rock band descends upon the forest and nobody is there to hear it, will it make a sound? It might if the band is lucky enough to have found its way to a certain house cloistered amongst the trees in the Northeast Kingdom.
This is Rebel Yell, an off-the-grid recording studio and artist’s retreat on 140 acres of land in Craftsbury. It’s the brainchild of Alex Lalli and Dave DeCristo, co-owners of Signal Kitchen, a Burlington-based marketing and design company.
Though Lalli and DeCristo have long been entrenched in the Burlington music scene with Signal Kitchen, Rebel Yell just opened its doors at the end of January. The project had been kicking around in their brains for a while, but didn’t come to fruition until the owner of the property, a friend from Boston, moved to California. DeCristo and Lalli recognized the potential in the house and acres of accompanying land, and pitched him the idea of forming a partnership. He was receptive, and Rebel Yell was born.
It’s no surprise he had faith in their concept: the pair has had great success with Signal Kitchen and, individually, extensive background in the music industry. Lalli attended Berkeley College with the intent of becoming a musician, but along the way discovered his passion was for production. DeCristo, a Vermont native, lived in Los Angeles for a few years where he built and ran a number of recording studios before moving back to his home state.
It took six months to hammer out plans for Rebel Yell and another year and a half to renovate the house and build the studio. The result is a space that allows musicians to live, work, and record new material in solitude. “Everybody was wondering why we were spending so much time in the woods,” says Lalli, “Now they know.”
Although indie rock bands Into It Over It and Foxing, the former of Chicago and the latter of St. Louis, have each spent a month writing new material at Rebel Yell in the brief time it has been open, Burlington’s very own Villanelles were the first to record there. This past May, the indie rock band laid down five songs for an upcoming EP titled “No Drinks On Me.”
The Villanelles laud the experience, citing everything from the acoustics of the live rooms and DeCristo’s studio engineering wizardry to the heightened focus they experienced by ducking out on their day-to-day routines. “The space kind of forced us to finish stuff that wasn’t finished,” explains bassist John Rogone. “It’s nice to get out of Burlington for a couple days.”
Lead singer and guitarist Tristan Baribeau echoes the sentiment. “The space lends itself to good sound…It’s the full package. It sounds awesome and it’s this beautiful remote spot.”
The locale’s remoteness is part of the appeal, explains Lalli, and although the idea was originally built around the recording process, it has blossomed into something more. The plan is to eventually cater to other creative types — anyone from authors to visual artists. Elsewhere on the property, the crew is renovating a small cabin which is destined to serve as another creative space with a Thoreauvian minimalism, and by 2017 to have several such cabins spread across the property.
“You can’t really write it, or market it, or tell people what this feeling is that you get when you’re this far away from other people,” Lalli says. But he recognizes that most creative types share that feeling, that desire to isolate themselves and focus on the creative process. The hope is that the property becomes a refuge for artists; that the forest of the Northeast Kingdom will be filled with the echo of the Rebel Yell.
For more information on Rebel Yell, visit www.yellrebel.com. Find the Villanelles on Facebook or www.villanellesmusic.bandcamp.com.