14 July 2023

Darling Street Studios: A midnight vibe for the Canberra Music tribe

| James Day
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Daniel sitting at the desk where he does the bulk of his work at Darling Street Studios

“I never thought I’d be able to do this as a job,” says Daniel Keo. Photo: James Day.

Strolling down a long Canberra driveway, the last thing you would expect to find next to a motorcycle shop is a music studio.

Although the occasional excited customer might let one rip on their new Harley, Darling Street Studios’ founder Daniel Keo says there’s no competition for the eardrums when he’s at work with musicians.

Following his music degree at the ANU, Keo took on a job at their music studio where he learnt the ropes of managing a space for artists to produce their work. But while the institution’s facilities were educational and technically supreme, he didn’t feel the same comfort he’d had in all his DIY bedroom setups growing up.

So he got to work putting together a space that captured the “midnight vibe” of those late evenings he had as a teenager, when his art freed him from the world. With help from his mates, Keo built his own on Darling Street.

He chose the industrial suburb of Mitchell as a central location for all the “north-side hippies” to congregate and create.

Another fan of the area, local rapper Kojo Owusu-Ansah AKA Citizen Kay booked out Keo’s space for two weeks as his first client and now has his own one-room studio down the road.

Daniel Keo standing in front of a psychedelic painting in his studio.

Before entering the recording room, you’ll pass through a corridor that immerses you in the midnight vibe. Under the dark light is a Tommy Ballogh painting, which Keo got for free but now goes for thousands. Photo: James Day.

Despite splitting his time between Canberra and Wollongong, where he mixes the work produced at the studio, Keo finds opportunities for musicians like Kojo and Jack Biilmann to come through and jump on each other’s sessions.

“I’ve got a stack of artists’ contacts ready to go for when we need that certain something for a song,” he says.

“It’s all about trying to catch that wave of inspiration, so it’s great to have the community around and supporting the process at that most critical point.”

Keo moved around Australia a lot growing up, but he says the Canberra music scene’s level of diversity and depth of talent is unlike anywhere else. He believes this is due to the variety of people who come here from all over Australia and the world to create this great big melting pot of artistic influence.

Although surf rock is at its peak, Keo says the studio sees a new genre every week – from acid jazz to EDM rock.

After two and a half years, Keo says the studio has found a good rhythm of work unlike those early days when bookings were few and far between.

“It’s been way harder than I expected to get this going,” he says, “but I’ve been amazed by all the support I’ve had from the many angels who helped keep this place afloat.

“From the start I’ve never really known what I’ve been doing, but I’d like to continue growing the community and helping younger local artists get their chance to shine.

“I don’t care if you aren’t the most talented, just bring your passion and we’ll make something beautiful.”

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