Every year, thousands of Cal Poly students scramble to secure housing for the following school year. With limited options and landlords’ prejudices against college students, it’s usually a long and strenuous process to find a house.
But now imagine trying to lease a space exclusively for holding band practice at all hours of the day and night, with not just one band practicing at full volume, but six.
The Sauce Pot co-owners Wesley Price and Billy G accomplished this feat with their 24-hour rehearsal studio off Tank Farm Road. Bassist Price and drummer Billy G are part of the eight-piece live hip-hop band Word Sauce. The band combines styles of funk, punk rock, rap and reggae into a one-of-a-kind sound they call “rock and flow.”
The band was having problems finding places to rehearse its distinctive style because of the strict noise policy in San Luis Obispo neighborhoods. They even got tickets when only a few members were practicing.
“There is a huge problem in SLO with noise ordinances, and we kept getting tickets for having band practice,” Price said. “We needed a space, and so did all of our friends who have bands. We built this place out of necessity, because there were no other options.”
Modifications to San Luis Obispo’s noise ordinance in March 2010 only allowed for one warning before issuing a citation and also issued citations to property owners. These strict changes made landlords even more hesitant to allow tenants who came with more “noise risk” to rent their properties.
After looking at more than 10 buildings and talking to multiple landlords, Price found the perfect place outside of the residential areas, wedged between a mechanic and welding shop.
When Price started talking to other musicians in the area about the issue, their need for space was obvious. Price was able to find enough bands to fill the six studio rooms through word of mouth alone. In fact, all six rooms at the Sauce Pot — opened in 2012 — are each used by two bands who share the rent. There are more bands on the waiting list.
The building’s walls are all sound-treated, though not completely sound-proof, which would require hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bands can rent rooms for $425-500 per month.
“If it was up to me, these rooms would be half of the price,” Price said. “We are operating for as low as we possibly can to just cover our bills. We are just trying to do this to help people out.”
The studio was built by Price, Billy G and the rest of the band. They hung drywall, sectioned out the rooms and even painted the hallways with psychedelic patterns and other artwork with the help of tattoo artists from Southern California.
“We are all artistic people and this is our artistic space,” Price said. “We try to be a community here. Everyone tries to get other bands shows and things like that.”
Kevin Strong, Word Sauce guitarist, volunteered to help Price and Billy G build the space. Strong knew firsthand the need for this kind of space in the area.
“I know a lot of really good musicians in this area, but very few active bands because they either can’t find places to play or they can’t find places to practice,” Strong said.
Not only does the Sauce Pot give Word Sauce a place to practice, it’s helping to fund the band’s first tour and EP. The band recently got back from a 22-show tour from San Diego to Oregon to promote its second album, The Leak EP. Word Sauce even did three of its tour shows with the band that practices next to it at the Sauce Pot.
Band Nada Rasta occasionally plays with Word Sauce and toured a few shows with the group. It found the Sauce Pot because its drummer, Connor Daily, had been renting one of the spaces by himself to practice drums. The rest of the band jumped on the opportunity to play at the studio once they found out about it. Nathaniel Wallace, Nada Rasta’s keyboardist and lead singer, enjoys the community and convenience of the place.
“There are a bunch of different bands here, so you might think that it gets crowded or we step on each other’s toes, but it is actually a community,” Wallace said. “You meet people in the hallway and then you hear about shows and offer to open for each other. Bands that would never get together otherwise meet here.
“It’s not just a place, it’s a creative meeting spot for all different types of musicians.”
The location of the space is also a big draw, considering the band used to have to take a long drive to play at a house in the countryside.
“We play all over California and I teach piano lessons all over the county, so I end up driving a lot,” Wallace said. “Sauce Pot is really nice in that it is really centrally located.”
Price and Billy G are looking to expand the Sauce Pot at its current 245 Tank Farm Road location as well as rent a new unit in Santa Maria to give more bands in San Luis Obispo County the convenience of a 24-hour rehearsal studio.