Formerly of the Electric Six and Rocket 455 (with stints in the Detroit Cobras, Ko and the Knockouts and the Go), Stephen Nawara has transformed years of exposure to the realities of the music industry into the Beehive Recording Company. Most releases come out of a Woodbridge studio called the Hive, with production, engineering, even much of the artwork done free of charge, simply to celebrate the ingenuity of Detroit music. “Whatever needs to be done,” he illustrates, “I do it.”
Beehive first launched in 2008 as a commercial enterprise, with downloadable singles selling for $2.50, but Nawara soon realized that “pay what you like” was the way to go when standing behind burgeoning artists. “As donation only, we’ve done a million times better than we did selling it,” he admits. “The generosity of mankind is way underplayed… doing this you get to see it on a weekly basis. It’s amazing.” Beehive is now able to release around a single a week.
From swirling and pervasive soundscapes to youthful, dusty 4-track power-pop, Nawara holds no restrictions on what he releases, letting the diversity of Detroit’s creative genius shine: catchy, lo-fi solo home recordings by Johnny Ill, a trio of Townes Van Zandt covers by a banjo-clad Audra Kubat, an Atari-esque rendition of “Gay Bar” by the Wildbunch, holiday-themed releases from The Henchmen, the captivating psych-folk of Aran Ruth. “I want to have polka bands from Hamtramck. I want to have mariachi bands from the southwest side. I want to get that far out.”
While anyone can visit the site and stream music without registering, Nawara urges people to become members—promising never to spam—to download the tracks and to increase the likelihood of ad revenue guaranteeing that the site will remain free. Beehive also plans to throw monthly showcases at lesser-known showspaces around town, such as Donovan’s Pub and Nancy Whiskey’s, along with yearly formal revues. “I want to utilize the entire city of Detroit… it’s a small town in a big city. I think it’s one of the most unique places in the world.
“It’s a very serendipitous thing,” says Nawara. “There’s a living-in-the-present-moment kind of feel to it… it’s all about the freedom of the artist and the benefit of the artist… hopefully it’ll just get bigger and bigger. I don’t see how it couldn’t.”
Check beehiverecording.com this week for a new single by Gardens, who will be celebrating its release this Sunday 02/20 at 8pm at Donovan’s Pub in Detroit with the Johnny Ill Band.
photos of Gardens recording at the Hive and an audio clip: