Safe Space: Orleans Studio, Record Label Aims To Build A Musical Community

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Business , Local Music , Orleans news , live music

Clarke Doody of Harwich gives a tour of his recording studio, Checkpoint East, located beneath Trove Art Gallery and Boutique in Orleans. Doody has also started his own record label, Safe Harbor Records. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – Clarke Doody hasn't had a paycheck in three years, and he's never been happier.

In 2018, he left his job in corporate America behind and relocated from his native New York to Harwich, where he traded in the comfort of a steady job and good paycheck for the chance to make a life out of pursuing his passions, namely music and art.

"You wouldn't have recognized me," Doody, 39, said of his former life as a regional manager for an energy efficiency company. "I was kind of a suit."

Not anymore. These days, Doody runs Trove Art Gallery and Boutique, which he opened on Route 6A in August 2019. In the basement, he also runs Checkpoint East Studios, a recording studio he opened last year that doubles as the base of operations for his own label, Safe Harbor Records.

That might sound like a lot to take on, especially in the midst of a pandemic that has tested local businesses across the board. But Doody and his partner on the label, 22-year-old Logan Tichnor, are soldiering onward. Together, they see potential for building a community for local bands and musicians across the Cape.

"I'm making negative money still, but it's an investment," Doody said of the studio and label. "I'm much happier. I'm going to live 50 years longer by doing this."

Checkpoint East, by design, is very much a DIY operation. A small foyer outfitted with a couch and a minifridge greets visitors as they enter. Behind it is a small control room, while drums, a piano and other assorted gear are situated in another room on the opposite side of the glass.

The no-frills setup in many ways captures the culture and environment Doody hopes to create for the space, an ego-free zone that's welcoming to bands and musicians of all musical stripes. That includes everyone from established artists like Garrett "G. Love" Dutton to the 15-person acapella group that's due to record at the space soon.

"You have to lay a good foundation," he said. "There needs to be quality to what we do, there needs to be a certain energy, and you have to commit to a certain set of values that you don't change."

Out of the studio grew Safe Harbor Records, the name of which not only acknowledges Orleans' coastal environs, but also echoes the egalitarian philosophy Doody strives to cultivate. He met Tichnor one day while working at Trove, and the seeds for an easy partnership were quickly formed.

"We hadn't met, but I knew all about him through Instagram, so it was cool," Doody said. "He mentioned he wanted to do some engineering, which was great because I really needed that."

Tichnor, also of Harwich, caught the rock bug after first being introduced to Metallica and Deep Purple. By the age of 10, he had picked up guitar and began playing in bands. He also developed a curiosity for recording and engineering, which ultimately led him to taking online classes at Berklee College of Music in Boston and earning his ProTools certification.

"I'd get upset whenever [band] practice got canceled," he said. "I wanted to play, so I'd play by myself and record it. It just went deeper from there."

Last August, Doody and Tichnor put on a show outside the studio to celebrate the release of a new record by one of Tichnor's bands, Canon Hill. Several local bands played, giving the duo the idea to team up and form Safe Harbor.

"We used this loading dock as a stage," Tichnor said. "We booked five bands, and they were all incredible, all from Cape Cod. We were like 'There's a lot of really good talent here.' We wanted to have a home for this and represent these people and put them out."

"I knew I wanted to start a record label," Doody added. "Once we started working together, I knew this could be a really good fit."

Safe Harbor broadly caters to what Doody and Tichnor call "indie" music. That could include the more folk inclined stylings of Doody's band, Working the Tide, Tichnor's current project Don't Act Bad ("Sort of like Sublime and G. Love, but a little more emo," he says), or heavier music that leans more toward punk rock and metal. While sonically different, Doody and Tichnor see a commonality in spirit among the bands they work with.

"It's got to convey emotion," Tichnor said.

Currently, Doody and Tichnor are preparing to release a massive collection of music from a singer/songwriter working under the name Beware Wolves. The duo have close to 100 songs to work with, and they plan to put them all out digitally across nine releases in August. Batches of songs will be put out each Wednesday and Saturday during the month.

Doody's hopes are high for Beware Wolves, which he said could put Safe Harbor and Checkpoint East on the map locally.

"His release could be what breaks us out, because it's so good," he said.

Adds Tichnor: "When someone comes to you and says 'We have a hundred songs,' you think 'Ok, well how many of them are good?' They're all good, and it's a totally different thing."

Safe Harbor plans to release music through digital platforms such as Bandcamp to start. Looking further down the road, they'd eventually like to put out physical releases on vinyl.

The Cape is home to a vibrant art community, but the region largely lacks a hub through which local bands and musicians can play shows, network and collaborate. Doody is hopeful that Safe Harbor and Checkpoint East can fill that void. When all is said and done, he said he wants to be able to look back and know he gave something to the community.

"If I can pay my bills, have a good life on Cape Cod and help other people succeed, then I'm happy. I don't need to be rich."

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com