Vault Studio is a music studio in Hyattsville, MD, founded three years ago by performing artist Fairin Moon (Hightower) and producer Jake Vicious (Grotticelli).
Vault provides many services to all types of artists and creatives – It contains three different parts for all the unique uses you can think of: Studio A, Studio B, and its “Cyclorama” Wall. Its website describes it as “a safe, secure, and full service studio with a 3000-square-foot imagination emporium, halfway between NYC and ATL, our space touts state of the art recording facilities, video production spaces, and a staff with a track record of commercial success that can help take your media projects to the next level. Welcome to your new creative home.” It is a dream space for any creative, and it was Moon and Grotticelli’s mission to provide a space for creatives, by creatives themselves.
Fairin Moon, from Philadelphia, holds a B.B.A. in marketing from Howard University, and a M.M. in Contemporary Performance from Berklee College of Music. She has immersed herself for years in the music industry, and “prides herself in having a balanced understanding of art and commerce. She enjoys helping others find and develop their own creative skills, and takes special interest in creative projects that cater to youth.” The Co-Owner of Vault Creative LLC manages day-to-day operations and partnerships, while also working on her own success as a musician.
Vault Co-owner Jake Grotticelli has been “Making music since before he could conceptualize words, Jake has always had a passion for creating and performing music. Since graduating Summa Cum Laude from American University, Jake has been working with some of the biggest contemporary artists of his era as an engineer, producer, and songwriter. Multi-Washington Area Music Award nominee, Jake’s work shapes and changes the music landscape for the Washington metropolitan area.” He serves as a Governor for the Washington D.C. Recording Chapter.
The two certainly share the same passions in running this exciting venture, and dedicate many hours to make artists’ lives easier. Grotticelli has been around the DMV for a while – “I’m a producer/engineer by trade, so I love to build stuff,” he explains. “I love to put things together, and that includes songs and emotions and people. So that’s kind of my role here, is I run sessions and do records on occasion, and build/clean stuff when I have to.”
“It’s year three now,” Moon says. “In this creative space, we have rooms for music production and also a space on our wall for photo and video shoots. We have a lot of diverse clients coming in and out, doing all different kinds of creative, broad projects.” Vault even hosts events every now and then, she explains: “We have a content series that we produce called ‘Live from The Vault’, where we like to feature local artists and talent on our walls doing stripped down covers and original songs, and like to open the space up to the creative community to come and enjoy that as well,” she says. “We just want to nurture the creative community and create a safe space to be your creative self, to come lock in and just explore all the different possibilities.”
“One of the most exceptional studios I’ve had the honor of collaborating with to date,” says Wammie-Award-winning jazz artist Dominique Bianco. “They possess an impressive range of offerings and make remarkable contributions to the music community across diverse genres and styles.”
“We do a lot of sick stuff with film and TV,” Grotticelli says. “We’re working on some cool movies and some really fun stuff. And, you know, bands – everything from gospel groups, to rap albums, to army bands.” (Stay tuned!) “It started as a way to showcase different artists and different genres … The CYC wall space we have is one of the bigger ones in the area, almost 1000 square feet. It’s a really deep wall where people can perform – this all-white thing. So it was my vision to do a super acoustic stripped down … a little more of a blank canvas. So the color is very obviously specific,” he says. “It’s been so much fun.
When asked about their individual day-to-days, Moon says, “I feel like our day-to-days are very different. Like Jake mentioned, he’s an engineer as well, so he’s here pretty much every day, boots on the ground, running sessions and making sure that this place is open. I am right now more on the administrative and operations side.” She explains that she is based out of Philadelphia, so she makes time for the DMV once or twice a week. “We do have a staff of creatives who really help us out a lot and assistants who are here and help with clients, engineers, producers … But we’ve really been carrying most of the load together. And so I think we’re excited to grow,” she says. “I think it’s only going to get bigger and better from where we are.”
“Day-to-day is crazy,” says Grotticelli. He explains the variety of upcoming gigs, from an army band to a fashion shoot to a rap video with a car. “It can be hectic, but it can also be fun and different, which a lot of people crave, and I kind of crave.” Moon adds, “I love days like that when there’s so many different things, because different artists and creatives will cross paths, and they may have never met, and then that’s an opportunity for them to potentially collaborate.”
The people are the best part about what they do, Grotticelli says. “I think we’re lucky enough that we have a community of people that are not just clients but are friends. For example, when I’m working on a movie project, there are people I can just call who are amazing vocalists and amazing guitarists and amazing drummers who will just donate their time to be a part of something special … I’m still the kid who was with the guitar in the backyard trying to make a song that’s special and trying to make a difference. So that’s my favorite part – even after a long week and a million overnights and a million stressful meetings, if I can push play at the end of it and it makes me happy, that’s everything.”
The jobs can also be stressful, like any other, but they always push forward. “We’re learning as we go,” Moon says. “I had a conversation with one of our staff members where they were just like, ‘I’m just so happy to be a part of this team. I love what we’re building. I’m so excited,’ And I’m just like, ‘You know what? That just makes it all worth it.’ And we really are building this brand and this community that’s excited about supporting other artists and creatives,” she says.
The studio has felt uplifted by the DMV community in its past three years. “I’ve enjoyed being able to meet so many of the different creatives here,” Moon says. “There’s immense talent in this area, and I think that in the past few years, and even before Vault started, I’ve noticed more interest from other areas noticing what is going on … I’m just excited that we are in a position now to just support that, however we fit in it – I’m just excited to grow with the potential that I see in this area.”
“The great thing,” Grotticelli adds, “is it’s doing almost better than ever. There’s a lot of artists in the city getting noticed and getting signed – not just musicians. Obviously COVID crushed a bunch of venues, so when those venues got crushed, it took a while for everything to come back. But then the venues started coming back; now you’re seeing new pop-up venues everywhere from the ‘Pie Shop’s of the world – all these other cool DIY places that make it good for indie artists to start circling up,” he says. “There’s an opportunity to grow here.”
The duo had some advice for artists wishing to bring their visions to life: “Just practice,” Grotticelli says. “Get on it … The first one, probably not going to be great. I hate to break it to you. But once you get through that barrier, you’ll just understand that it’s repetition.” He says not to worry about whatever it is being terrible, especially in the beginning. “If you’re scared to show anybody, show your dog and then start from there.”
Moon says to not compare yourself to anyone else, even if it is difficult. People will care about what you’re doing. “I guarantee there’s something unique about what you have – Nobody has the exact ideas, or thoughts, or personality that you have,” she says. Fame also shouldn’t be the end goal, she explains; just enjoy making music and you will be fulfilled. “You have something in you that’s creative, and you want to get it out. Once you do that, that in itself is a success.”
Make sure you keep updated with Vault Studio and its upcoming events like “Live from The Vault.” Here is a playlist of what the studio is currently spinning!
Emma Page, a recent Journalism graduate of The George Washington University, possesses a passion for music journalism and storytelling in all its forms. Originally from Baltimore, MD, when she is not writing, she can be found at a local concert or making music of her own.
Queer duo Witch Weather discuss new album and the influence of the DMV on their sound.
Philadelphia-based queer punks Witch Weather have a message for anyone who feels hopeless and worthless: you are not alone. With an irresistible sound that draws from 80’s goth and lo-fi grunge, the indie duo wears their heart on their sleeve, giving voice to complex emotions that many would opt to suppress in the recesses of their minds.
Join Alchemical Records as they connect with Witch Weather to discuss the band’s new self-titled album, their search for a sense of belonging as members of the queer community, the important element that keeps the duo’s creative bond strong, and the influence of the DMV on their sound.