Inner Ear Studio doesn’t have a neon sign on its door, a flashy building with modern designs or gold records on the wall.
What the Shirlington-area studio has is decades of experience recording D.C. artists, nurturing the local punk and independent music scenes, and, now, the cachet of being one of the eight studios in the country the Foo Fighters recorded in for their new album and TV show on HBO, Sonic Highways.
This Friday night at 11:00 p.m., on HBO, you can watch the Foo Fighters and Springfield, Va., native Dave Grohl record a song for the album at Inner Ear Studio (2710 S. Oakland Street), along with interviews and stories of Grohl’s time growing up around the D.C. punk rock scene. You can watch the preview for the episode on HBO’s website.
Inner Ear started in founder Don Zientara’s basement in the 1970s, when Zientara was in a band and needed somewhere he and his friends could record.
“I was in a band, and we needed to record a demo tape,” Zientara said while sitting at Inner Ear’s mixing board last week. “I had always had tape recorders, but I had a decent one at that time. I borrowed microphones, bought a basic mixer. People started to hear that I had equipment, which was not typical at the time.”
Zientara traveled around D.C. with the recording equipment in his backseat, bringing it to different independent musicians’ houses, or hosting them in his basement. “I happened to drop into the indie music scene at the right time, because it was really not supported by major studios here.”
In 1979, Zientara started the business, doing it as a side project until 1985, when it was successful enough to do it full-time. It was in his basement that Grohl recorded with the band Scream, before he joined Nirvana.
“I remember walking down into that basement as if it were Abbey Road,” Grohl told the Washington Post. “‘Oh my god, Rites of Spring recorded here!’ It was like hallowed ground to me. And then later on, I recorded at the new facility after I was in Nirvana — I recorded some stuff there with my sister and one of those songs ended up on the first Foo Fighters album. But it was cool to see our bass player, Nate [Mendel], walk down the hallways and look at all the albums that had been made there, realizing that the soundtrack of his youth was on the walls.”
In addition to Rites of Spring, Zientara has recorded Fugazi and Minor Threat, three of the bands that defined the halcyon 1980s era of punk rock in D.C. In 1989, Inner Ear moved out of Zientara’s basement — “my wife said ‘you gotta get out'” — and into its current location, and it has continued to record local artists, unbeknownst to many in the area, ever since.
“I had a simple, and one might say ‘crappy,’ system when I started,” Zientara said. “But the stars were there all in a line. This is very serendipitous.”
Last year, Zientara received an email from Grohl asking if he’d be willing to host the Foo Fighters and the HBO camera crews. In February, for a week, there were dozens of people in Inner Ear’s four-room space putting the show together. Zientara was impressed, he said, because recording in a whirlwind, in an unfamiliar place, can be challenging for artists.
“You really have to be a great musician and know your stuff really well,” he said. “It’s a new place, you’re only doing one song here. You have to acclimate to the system. It’s a crazy way to do it, but they took it all in stride and it worked out well.”
Zientara played a “rough cut” of the song the Foo Fighters record at Inner Ear, Feast and the Famine, for a reporter. The hard-driving guitars and Grohl’s trademark scream make it undeniably a Foo Fighters track, but, if you watch the show on Friday, listen for references to D.C., including one lyric about 14th and U Street NW.
Other local references have crept into Foo Fighters songs. “Weenie Beanie” was a track on the band’s first album — a reference to the hot dog stand located just a couple of blocks from Inner Ear Studio. The band’s 2011 album, Wasting Light, included a track titled “Arlandria.”
This afternoon, the Foo Fighters announced they would be playing a show at the Black Cat on Friday, at 1811 14th Street NW, before the show airs, and then hosting a screening of the D.C. episode.
In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers – open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.Middle SchoolIn the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.High SchoolThe High School program is organized by school of attendance and teams are classified by gender. New players will learn the basics in a supportive, welcoming environment. Experienced players will continue to develop their skills, and enjoy competition with other high school programs. The season concludes with a state level championship tournament in late May.All players are guided by experienced coaches who emphasize sportsmanship and good spirit. Ultimate is a fun sport with great camaraderie!YULA does not want finances to limit anyone from participating. Our middle school program offers a “Pay What You Can” cost structure and our our high school program is offering a $50 discount to new players.Visit our website to register and learn more. Sign up with a friend, but don’t delay, the season starts in March!http://www.yula-ulti.org
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village