Oversized houses with multi-car garages and elegant landscaping line the quiet residential streets near Tuileries Plaza in Kansas City's Northland. They are the kinds of suburban mansions that you expect to see outfitted with top-of-the-line electronics, backyard swimming pools and koi ponds.
One such plush monster of a house has all that, but it also has something you wouldn't expect: a faction of dudes in skinny jeans who pound drums, jam on guitars, and suck down energy drinks at all hours of the day and night. The basement of this manse is the headquarters for Covenant Recording.
One of the producers who works here, Brandon Paddock, and his manager, Drew Loschke, give me the studio tour on a Sunday afternoon. Loschke, who wears a scarf around his neck even though it's warm out, leads me through a wrought-iron side door that separates the musicians' lair from the rest of the house.
Down a few cement stairs and through another door are three big rooms — a full drum kit sits in one; various instruments are stocked in another. Between the rooms, Paddock stands amid three giant computer screens surrounded by infinite knobs, buttons and little lights. There is also a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a game room with a pool table.
This studio's name rings of religion. In the Bible, a covenant is a promise. Both Paddock and Loschke are Christians; so is Jim (last name undisclosed), the middle-aged family man who lives upstairs and owns all of this. But saving souls isn't what this studio is all about, although Paddock and Loschke do talk freely about their faith.
Back in the main room, Loschke shows me a picture of Jim. With his ginger hair, Jim looks a little like he could be Paddock's father, but they're not related.
A mutual friend introduced them about two years ago. Paddock, who is from Lenexa, was soon going on equipment-buying sprees in Chicago for Jim, his new employer. "It was really stripped down," Paddock says of the studio's early days. "When I came in, I brought a huge Christmas list of things we wanted."
That sounds like a dream come true for any producer, especially one as young as Paddock, who is 21. But friends — such as Loschke, who has known Paddock since kindergarten — consider him something of a prodigy. He played "Stairway to Heaven" at his third-grade talent show; in high school, he lit up the request line at KRBZ 96.5 the Buzz with an acoustic version of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" that he recorded for a contest.
Josephine Collective is the biggest act that Paddock has worked with so far. (He used to be a member, back when the Johnson County emo band was known as Josephine Loveletter.) In 2006, his recordings helped nab the attention of Warner Bros. and producer John Feldmann.
Paddock ultimately stopped pursuing his formal education in sound engineering at Chicago's Columbia College so that he could travel with Josephine to California in 2007 and work directly with Feldmann in the studio. "I really just wanted to get in front of someone who is making real rock records," Paddock says. "In school, they can show you what this knob does and what this button does, but they can't teach you to paint a picture."
The sonic pictures he paints are sharply focused and designed to burn into your brain. The best example I've heard: "Nightmarer" by Queens Club is a creepy track with a thumping, danceable spine and a vocal line with a coppery bend to it.
The way Paddock blends harsh and sweet is not unlike Feldmann's treatment of bands like the Used. This occurred to me months ago when I first heard the demos he had worked on for my friends in Flee the Seen.
Paddock's production values are always impeccably clean, albeit occasionally to the point of sterility. This overall crisp, catchy style reflects his mainstream influences. As he talks to me, Paddock name-checks both John Mayer and Maroon 5 numerous times.
Unlike those acts, Queens Club probably won't be appealing to suburban moms anytime soon. But if Paddock can make the rest of that band's forthcoming album sound as good as "Nightmarer," the sleepy neighborhood he works in is bound to notice a lot more rock and rollers lurking around.
"Dust," by Queens Club :