The studio is located in a private courtyard in downtown east Austin. In the course of the 100-year-old cinderblock building's history it has served as an auto-body shop, punk rock squat, and vinyl record pressing plant. Its current name "Big Orange" (Big
Pink + Apple Studio Orange) was casually suggested in the winter of 2003; during that time Matt Oliver and Bill Baird were looking for a place to record their band's debut album together, but found the pay-by-the-hour studios then on offer uninspired or out of their very limited financial reach. The space they found and converted became an established marker in Austin's creative culture, and the name stuck. Matt Oliver has occupied and worked out of Big Orange for the last 10 years, becoming its sole proprietor and operator in late 2007.
For several years before that, Big Orange served as both Oliver and Baird's recording and rehearsal facility, as well as a multi-purpose art space, hosting performances and events as a way to help other low-profile touring performers--including a performance by a then-unknown Dirty Projectors and Y.A.C.H.T. during which a minivan's speakers were used as a P.A.--and as a way to offset whatever repair and other overhead costs they encountered. Today, multimedia arts and musical performances in the studio's private courtyard are less frequent but still take place.
Espousing analog recording methodology had always been part of the studio's character--a high definition Pro Tools rig was finally added in 2012. In addition to tracking and mixing for traditional label release, one of the studio's most regular clients was the music website Daytrotter; somewhere between 500 to 800 of these sessions were recorded at the studio, live with no overdubs, to 2-track 1/2-inch tape. Oliver himself engineered and mixed nearly 300 of these sessions under contract between 2010 and 2011, using minimal outboard processing gear and just a handful of mics.
Though each of the structures on the premises have been converted using whatever original materials could be salvaged, mainly out of economic necessity, and in the spirit of DIY, the space has evolved and transformed into one of the most compelling live rooms in the city. The progression of time has seen the continual addition of tape machines, electromechanical echo devices, iconic and oddball vintage keyboards, pianos, drumsets, amps, guitars, effects, and esoteric outboard gear, all of which add to the studio's character and appeal.
East Austin was historically a working-class neighborhood, a vibrant enclave heavily populated by African-Americans because of an earlier era of segregationist laws — and later, a home to Mexican-American residents. The building that would become the studio was in a dubiously zoned industrial no-man's land across the street from Austin's oldest neighborhood bar, Red's Scoot Inn, and the old Texaco oil warehouse.
Very recently due to Austin's explosive growth, East Austin has become the city’s newly fashionable arts district, with galleries, cocktail bars, cafes and all manner of food trucks popping up on most every block.
Inevitably and unsurprisingly, the growth has brought with it the serious threat of falling into the hands of property developers, much to the sadness of the local artistic community who have rallied to keep the neighborhood's creative legacy alive and well. In a difficult and changing music industry ecosystem, one in which numerous other prominent Austin recording studios have fallen victim to the destructive decline of record sales and label budgets combined with rising rents, Big Orange is one of the few remaining, truly unorthodox creative spaces of its kind left in central Austin.
The following is a list of some of the many artists, producers and label clients who have worked with the studio. It is by no means meant to be complete. Click on the links to find out more about each artist. We apologize if we've left you off the list and you're one of those who may have worked at the studio, and hope you'll drop us a line so we an correct it.
Acrylics / Admiral Radley / AgesandAges / Akron/Family / Alberta Cross / Alejandro Escovedo / Alela Diane / Amanda Palmer / Amazing Baby / American Princes / Andrew Jackson Jihad / The Antlers / ARMS / The Artificial Heart / Asleep at the Wheel / Asobi Seksu / Astronautalis / Atlantic Records / Atari Teenage Riot / Autolux / The Avett Brothers / Avi Buffalo / the BBC / Balmorhea / Band of Heathens / Banjo or Freakout / Bass Drum of Death / Beach Fossils / Beats Antique / Belle Brigade / Benjy Ferree / Big Harp / Bill Callahan / Bishop Allen / Black Books / Black Joe Lewis / The Black / The Black Angels / The Black Lips / Black Fiction / Blair / Bob Mould / Bodies of Water / Bop English / Bosco Delrey / Bosque Brown / The Boxing Lesson / Brazos / The Bright Light Social Hour / Brother / Brother Ali / Busdriver / Cadence Weapon / Capitol Records / Carl Broemel / Case Conrad / Cass McCombs / The Cave Singers / Caveman / Cerebral Ballzy / Charlie Faye / Chateau Marmont / Chris Brecht and Dead Flowers / Class Actress / Cloud Nothings / The Coathangers / Colin Stetson / The Comas / Communion Records / Corb Lund / Corto Maltese / Country Mice / Crooked Fingers / Crooks / Cymbals Eat Guitars / Daedelus / Dan Mangan / The Dandy Warhols / Daniel Johnston / Daniel Lanois / Danny Barnes / Dashboard Confessional / Dax Riggs / The Death Set / The Depreciation Guild / Diane Birch / Dignan / Dios Malos / Dom / Dresden Dolls / Drive-By Truckers / The Drums / Dungen / Dwarves / Eastern Conference Champions / The Echocentrics / Edwyn Collins / Efterklang / Empress Hotel / Erin McKeown / Errol Siegel / Eugene Mirman / Eux Autres / Everest / Feather Face / Femi Kuti / The Fiery Furnaces / Film School / Foundry Field Recordings / Frank Turner / Freddie Gibbs / Fresh Millions / Friendo / The Futureheads / Future Islands / G. Love / Generationals / The Get Up Kids / Glasvegas / Gold Beach / Gold Panda / Golden Boots / Goldheart Assembly / Gomez / The Gourds / Grouplove / Hanni El Khatib / Happy Birthday / Harlem Shakes / Hayes Carll / He's My Brother, She's My Sister / Heavy Cream / Helen Thura / Herman Dune / The Hold Steady / Holy Ghost! / Holydrug Couple / Hundred Visions / Hymns / Interscope / Iran / J Mascis / J Tillman / Jacob Golden / Jacuzzi Boys / Jakob Dylan / James Hand / James McMurtry / Javelin / Jesse Dayton / Jessica Lea Mayfield / The Jim Jones Revue / John Grant w/Midlake / The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion / Josh T. Pearson / Julie Doiron / Juliette Lewis / Junip / Kaki King / Kid Sister / King Tuff / The Knux / Ladybug Transistor / Laura Stevenson / Liars / Lightspeed Champion (Dev Hynes) / Little Boots / Little Dragon / Little Hurricane / Little Lo / The Little Ones / Lord Buffalo / Los Lobos / Love Inks / Low / Luaka Bop / Luke Temple / The Luyas / Malajube / Man or Astroman? / Mark Olson & Gary Louris (Jayhawks) / Marnie Stern / Martin Sexton / Mason Jennings / Mat Kearney / Matt Morris / Matthew and the Atlas / Meat Puppets / Megabig / Memphis Industries / MEN / Merge / Metric / Middle Brother / Mike and the Moonpies / Mike Watt / Milagres / Millionyoung / Mister Heavenly / Mona / Moonhearts / Mount Kimbie / The Mountain Goats / My Education & Theta Naught / My Jerusalem / Neon Indian / Nik Freitas / No Joy / Noah and the Whale / The Octopus Project / Ola Podrida / O'Death / Ocote Soul Sounds / Oh No Ono / Old 97's / One Hundred Flowers / The One AM Radio / Oupa / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Parlophone / Pete Yorn / Peter and the Wolf / Peter Moren / Peter, Bjorn and John / Peter Matthew Bauer / The Pharcyde / the Pharmacy / Pink Nasty / Porcelain Raft / The Posies / Presidents of the United States / PS I Love You / Pujol / Purling Hiss / Quasi / R. Stevie Moore / The Radar Brothers / Rafter / Railroad Earth / Ramesh / Raphael Saadiq / The Raveonettes / Ray Wylie Hubbard / Real Estate / Reggie Watts / Residual Echoes / Retribution Gospel Choir / Richard Swift / Robert Ellis / Robert Randolph & the Family Band / Rocky Votolato / The Royal Baths / Rough Trade / RX Bandits / S. Carey / Sahara Smith / Salesman / Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside / Sam Roberts / Samantha Shelton / Scott H. Biram / Sea Wolf / Secretly Canadian / Seryn / Seth Kauffman / Shabazz Palaces / Shakey Graves / Sic Alps / Silversun Pickups / Simon Dawes / Sleeping in the Aviary / Smith Westerns / The Soft Pack / Soft Healer / Sondre Lerche / Sons & Daughters / Sound Team / Sparrow House / SPEAK / Spoon / The Stepkids / The Strange Boys / Surfer Blood / Suuns / Swingin' Utters / T Bird and the Breaks / Tacks, the Boy Disaster / Teen Daze / The Ting Tings / The Vaccines / The Very Best / The Wave Machines / The Well / Theophilus London / Thursday / Tim Fite / Toro Y Moi / Trevor Hall / Tricky / Turbo Fruits / TV Torso / Twilight Hotel / Twin Shadow / Two Door Cinema Club / Ty Segall / Ume / Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Voxtrot / Wavves / Wax / Wayne Kramer / We Are Scientists / Western Vinyl / Whalers / White Denim / White Dress (Arum Rae) / White Lies / White Mystery / Wild Beasts / Will Johnson & Sarah Jaffe / Willy Mason / The Wooden Birds / Yo La Tengo / Young Maths / Young the Giant / Yuck / Zee Avi / Zlam Dunk / 1,2,3 / 31 Knots / ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead