“How do I get to the Assembly Hall?” the young man carrying a violin case asked the taxi driver at Worthing station. “Son,” she said, ”you gotta practice!”
Only 15 years ago bands rehearsing for their gigs at local venues of the time such as the Fountain (now Slug & Lettuce), Inn on the Prom (now Brio Restaurant), Maggies Bar (now Tangerine) or Divines (now AMC) might rehearse in the basement at the Conservative Club Union Place, at the back of the Vintner’s Parrot, or any number of pub, church or school rooms. But there would always be noise complaints.
Choirs can rehearse at places like Heene Community Centre, St Botolph’s Church Rooms, and almost every local school, where you just need a space and ideally a piano. But pop bands tend to be very loud, which doesn’t go down well with the neighbours, and they usually need a drum kit, amps and PA for vocals.
That always used to mean each and every rehearsal involved the loading and unloading of cars. On a weekly basis, just in Worthing, there could be twenty bands or more, all heaving their Premier drums and Marshall stacks back and forth, months before they would be heard performing at a venue.
Thirteen years ago, one Worthing band decided there was a better way. Derrech and some friends started a rehearsal studio, where drums, amps and microphones could be set up all the time, and where bands could just turn up with guitars and drumsticks, plug in and play. They found premises in Ivy Arch Road, and Ivy Arch Studios was born.
Fast forward to 2018, and there are now three separate fully equipped rehearsal studio complexes, all within easy walking distance of Worthing Central Rail. Here & Now visited all three, and each were busy with bands of all ages rehearsing, having lessons, and writing songs.
It’s Thursday night, and Richard Yandle is on the Ivy Arch Reception. “We’ve now been here thirteen years. It’s run by Derrech, Nige and Chris. There’s lots of band movement here. Royal Blood used to rehearse here back when they were a three piece. Next thing we know they’re on tour in America with the Foo Fighters.
“We don’t just do rehearsals, bands can record here as well.” I can see there’s some interesting band gear for sale, something we found across all three facilities.
H&N: Is there space here for new bands?
Richard: “On the ivyarchstudios.com website, you can check schedule online and then call us.”
H&N: How about prices?
Richard: “We have four different rooms at different prices. If you want a block booking, we’re always up for a deal!”
In the largest studio room which is 30’ x 26’, Ivy Arch have been hosting 60s legends The Pretty Things, rehearsing for their Final Tour. Fitting that they should be ending their long careers here, as they were one of the stars of the infamous Worthing Phun City Festival, 24-26th July 1970, which Thomas H Green covered in our July 2017 issue (check our blog if you missed it!).
Worthing-born 70s Rock star Keith Emerson, of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who sadly died in 2016 opened the studios, and they were thinking of renaming the place in his honour. “In the end, we’re known by everyone as Ivy Arch, so we didn’t rename, but we are considering renaming one of the rooms.” Richard speaks very highly of Emerson. “He was a lovely guy.” He goes on to say “We like to support and produce bands from here. We work with a great original Rock band, with a late 60s Garage sound which plays here, called Break The Fable.”
It’s not all bands at Ivy Arch though: there’s also a radio station based there:
Sunshine Radio (if you’re looking for a new online Worthing-based radio experience) has its studio just by the reception desk.
They have also been hosting a Summer Holiday Rock club called Mad 4 Music for 11 to 16 year olds, which runs for a week and ends with a gig.
H&N: What would you say the ethos of Ivy Arch is?
“I’d say always that we’re reasonably priced, that the rooms actually work with sound, bands like the sound. And we’re relaxed. We don’t make a fuss!”
Almost next door to Ivy Arch on Ivy Arch Road is Sound House Studios.
Where Ivy Arch looks quite low key from the outside, you can’t miss the flags and signs announcing Sound House.
We spoke to owner and musician Steve Gardner about how they started. “When Northbrook College vacated this building to occupy their built-from-scratch recording studio complex in West Durrington in August 2016, the owner came to one of my band’s gigs [also called Sound House] and told me he had somewhere for us to rehearse. But when I saw the place, I saw the potential for something special.
“We moved in two months later and have continued to significantly upgrade the facilities ever since. Currently we have eight rooms, including our largest room and two smaller booths, all with drums, amps and PA, but watch this space, because we have plans for much more!” Some have air conditioning, which can make a hot summer night’s practicing a little cooler.
It’s not just band rehearsal space here. There’s the Dance House studios (entrance on the West side of the building) for dance and martial arts, which Steve runs as a separate business. Drumming lessons are available with Louis, High Tyde’s drummer. Steve has also extended into band management, with local bands Jacob Aaron & The Reign, Teal and My Pet Shark, and into live gig promotion, with a charity gig with soul band The Last Word, and new band nights at St Paul’s. Sound House has plenty of spare amps and guitars, so it’s possible to walk in empty-handed and still be able to rehearse.
Steve’s background, with many years in the corporate world, shows when he talks about Sound House’s ethos; “Highest quality facilities and great service to support young bands.”
Noticing the bands in tonight are all male, I ask Steve what the gender split of his clientele. “About a 70/30 gender split male to female. We’re getting more and more female bandleaders and bass players.”
It’s clearly a busy music evening. I ask Steve how busy it is generally.
“I count two hundred and forty bands on our books so far. And we still have spaces, particularly weekly daytimes.” This was much the same picture with all three facilities; busy evenings, but plenty of free space during traditional working weekdays. Worthing bands, consider getting some days off in the week!
Newest kid on the block is brothers Yianni and Andreas’ project in the little Southcourt Industrial Estate just next door to Worthing Central Rail’s car park. It has taken three years since getting into the two storey building to opening this February. Both rooms have the necessary music equipment, but are lit and furnished more like cool venues. One is called the Ridiculous room, the other the Cool room. There is neon – or LED – or possibly laser lighting, which means you have a choice of colours. There are paintings on the walls.
They tell me “we built it ourselves! We’re musicians, and in Brighton we’ve been rehearsing for years and asking each other ‘Why don’t they have this? Why don’t they have that? Simple things, like ‘this wall should be pink!’ and we promised ourselves that one day, we would have a rehearsal place that looked cool, and felt inspiring. We’ve also put air conditioning in both rooms. If musicians need little extras, often we won’t charge them. For instance, we have a digital multitrack recorder, and if a band wants to record a song, they can use it for free.” Plus we saw there’s a spacious kitchen and chill-out area upstairs which will soon have a pool table. Yianni and Andreas have created something quite unique which fits nicely into an expanding sector in Worthing’s cultural life.
Today’s little tour only tells part of the story for rehearsal-hungry Worthing area musos. Further out of town, but within the city limits, are more music facilities, which we’ll explore next month.