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For local bands that need a place to practice, this isn’t quite your momma’s basement.
Inside a compact storage container on a Wednesday evening, three band members are gathered for practice. Hailey McCulloch, the violinist for the Raleigh-based Southern rock band The Dapper Conspiracy, sits on a faded carpet eating sushi. Jordan Hensley, the guitarist, takes a perch on a drum throne. The practice room, a unit located in the Ample Storage Center on Capital Boulevard, is dimly lit by a hodgepodge of lamps (with and without shades) casting a faint yellow glow on the cymbals of the band’s two drum sets. In the container next door, a solo drummer fills the air with thunder, his beats reverberating off the shiny metal wall.
For a minute, I almost forget that we’re inside a storage unit. With its strewn about carpets, random wall art and ambient lighting, it feels like I’m hanging out in a friend’s garage or unfinished basement. The band members, enjoying a bit of downtime, radiate a laid-back energy. There’s a sense of homeliness to the space; it feels personable, comfortable, inviting.
The Dapper Conspiracy is only one of many bands that practice behind Ample Storage’s rows of green, metal roll-up doors. There’s also punk rock band Dirty Weekend, Undercover, a 90’s-early 2000’s rock and pop cover band, and Faster on Fire, indie rock, as well as a handful of mariachi bands that, though most everyone seems to have heard playing, none have ever actually seen in person, a cheerful, musical mystery.
While The Dapper Conspiracy is new to Ample, Undercover has been rehearsing at the storage facility for five years, ever since the band’s previous practice space—a dedicated building for bands to rehearse in—was torn down in 2014. Andy MacGregor, a guitarist both for Undercover and Dirty Weekend, heard about renting the space from a mentor, while Ben Byrom, bassist and singer for The Dapper Conspiracy, found out about renting Ample space through a friend on Facebook.
Most of the bands share single units with other bands, splitting the rent and divvying up the days they practice. Members of Undercover and Dirty Weekend share their space; each member chips in about $31 a month. “Going from a dedicated rehearsal space to this felt like a step down, but it’s half the price and you get the same security,” says MacGregor. “It’s kind of no- frills, as you would imagine, but it’s been cool.”
The units themselves are suitably equipped for the bands, providing for climate control, overhead lighting, electrical outlets and security. Ample’s grounds are also monitored with DVR surveillance and night-vision cameras so band members don’t have to worry about their stuff getting stolen. “I do feel really safe there,” says Alex Gabor, drummer of Faster on Fire. “We have thousands of dollars worth of gear that we’re housing and it’s been fine.”
Heather Willoughby, the singer and keyboardist for Undercover, personally enjoys practicing at Ample because the band doesn’t have to worry about being quiet. The locations on Capital is far from any residential areas, meaning the bands can meet up late at night to practice without any fear of playing too loud or disturbing anyone. “It’s nice to just roll up the door and let it rip,” Willoughby says.
The close quarters and diversity of the bands that play at Ample has created a niche community of creatives, a space where musicians in all genres can come together to jam, hear other groups play and facilitate friendships. Byrom of The Dapper Conspiracy makes it his mission to forge relationships with members some of the other bands practicing here. He’ll introduce himself to folks who have their doors open, striking up conversations and inviting new friends to come watch his band play.
“It is curious how each band ends up there and where they’ve been before,” Byrom says. “We’re more social and make a point to get to know our neighbors because we came from a building like that before and brought a bit of that culture with us.”
It’s even more curious, surely, for the thousands of drivers who pass by Ample Storage each day, likely oblivious to the music being made there. For every container filled with discarded furniture, belongings long forgotten and miscellaneous junk, there’s a band in another one nearby, jamming out, practicing for a big show or working on its next hit. So, keep an ear out; you might just hear a breakout session from one of Raleigh’s next big names in music. Or maybe you’ll hear the peppy, jovial rhythms of one of the mysterious mariachis.
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