WALLINGFORD — Evil Kitty Media Studio (EKM) has lived in the space attached to Columbus House on Ward Street for the last two years, mainly as a recording studio, but also as a venue for all things creative.
EKM hosts live music, art galleries, film screenings, zumba classes, and swing dancing. It also offers instrument and voice lessons, as well as sound engineering.
“We're starting to do more than just music because there are people that are in the music scene that have other skills and other art,” Ren Knopf, the studio’s co-owner said.
Usually Knopf and business partner Andreas Pappas are busy recording their own music to publish, which means selling it to TV shows, movies, and advertising campaigns. They’ve had songs used in Redbull ads, the TV show “Lucifer,” and on Discovery Australia.
On weekends, Knopf and Pappas push all their recording equipment off to the corner so bands can perform.
A lot of the bands are local, but some come from around the world. The studio has a no-alcohol policy and is open to all ages.
The weekend shows have a generational history in the space at 190 Ward St., first starting when the American Legion would book shows in the early 2000s.
Pappas used to go to shows in the same hall when he was a teenager living in Meriden. Now he watches today’s teenagers doing the same thing, in the hall he now owns.
“This summer we had a punk fest over two days, and there were kids coming in that were like 16-years-old,” he said.
Knopf started the business three years ago when she was DJing and hosting karaoke after leaving a teaching career. She realized people weren’t happy with how some of the karaoke tracks sounded so she started making her own tracks for people to sing to, working out of her basement at first.
“I noticed that I really liked doing that, but I needed help,” Knopf said. “I needed musicians, I needed singers, I needed people to help me with it and I didn’t want everybody hanging out in my basement.”
That’s when she decided to move into a space that would be dedicated to her music.
EKM Studio’s first home was smaller than the current location. When 190 Ward St. became available, she jumped on it.
Josh Carlson, owner of the Wallingford music store Redscroll Records, first started selling CDs in the parking lot of the same American Legion.
“I was there every weekend almost,” he said. “It was being rented out for bands all the time.”
He started the Redscroll record label when he was 15 and in 2007 he opened in a storefront at 24 N. Colony Road.
Pappas and Knopf first met when Pappas’ band was a guest on the studio’s podcast. A week later he was hosting that podcast, he said.
“I was getting involved in the studio as a musician, and then I basically realized that if I stay in construction I won’t do this for the rest of my life,” Pappas said. “And this is the perfect opportunity to make the dive.”
The studio is truly a result of the pair’s passion for music.
“I left a steady paycheck, I left tenure, I left my pension, I left all of that to do what I love,” Knopf said.
It’s not just the music itself, but the music scene and the talented and surprising people they meet all the time.
“We are kind of like the land of misfit toys,” she said. “Like everybody looks big and scary in the parking lot and will be sitting there talking about their social anxiety. It's like, we're all just the weird misfit toys.”
Knopf and Pappas both say they’ve grown as people, as well as artists, through their ownership experience. Pappas has learned to be more responsible and business-minded, and Knopf has opened herself up to new people and learned to be easygoing when it comes to the business side.
They want young people thinking about a career in music to know that there are more options in the industry than just being a performer.
“I didn't pursue music in college or anything like that, because I was always told — and I believed — that you wouldn't make a living unless you're a celebrity,” Knopf said. “And there's so many things you can do in music that has nothing to do with being on stage.”