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Interview: Miles Ryan on 7DrumCity’s Expansion and Move to North Capitol Street

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Photos by Mark Hoelscher for DCMD 

It’s been about a year since I last spoke with Miles Ryan, founder and owner of 7DrumCity who transformed an old rowhouse on U Street into one of D.C.’s best music spaces. It offered local musicians a safe, affordable venue to practice, get lessons and connect with other musicians through community-oriented events.

Since opening the space nearly four years ago, 7DrumCity grew exponentially to the point where Ryan had to find a much larger building for his business. Its rapid growth also meant a name change–from its original moniker of 7DrumLessons to the broader name of 7DrumCity. The new digs, located on 1506 North Capitol Street, will house four practice rooms, a recording studio in its two-story carriage room, a basement room for shows and a patio for special events.

To celebrate its new location, Ryan is hosting a grand opening festival this Saturday, Feb. 25. Nearly two dozen bands will play throughout the day, with plenty of art, food and drinks onsite. Plus, proceeds from the show will benefit local non-profit SOME (So Others Might Eat), so you’ll get to support a great cause and see some great bands all in the same day. Before the big festival, I had a chance to speak with Ryan about the recent expansion of 7DrumCity.

Why did you decide to rebrand as 7DrumCity?

Miles Ryan: Our core services now include rehearsal space for bands. So, if a musician needing practice space saw the name “7DrumLessons,” they might think that it was just drum lessons and nothing more. It was always awkward to say “I’m going to practice at 7DrumLessons.” It was clear that we had evolved past the name. I was deciding between “7DrumCity” and “Drum City Studios,” and decided to keep the “7” part because it was a big part of our identity, and Drum City Studios sounded too corporate. The 7 creates a bit of a question mark in your head, which is apparently good for branding…

What sparked the move to North Capitol?

Our lease at the U Street location ended, and a renewal was not offered. For about six months, I combed through every street near U Street, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Shaw looking for good spots to transplant the mothership. It had to be just the right combination of location, building size, funkiness, and price. Unfortunately, larger commercial spaces didn’t exist in those neighborhoods for under $6,000 per month in rent. I started expanding the search, and realized North Capitol was actually a perfect spot in disguise, located almost in the center of the city, affordable rent, still accessible and in-between growing neighborhoods. I see a ton of opportunity for the music scene to take over this area with all the buildings that are for lease there with good prices. Let’s do this!

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Now that you have a bigger studio, are you planning on adding any new classes, hosting events, etc?

Of course! We’re planning to offer a recording studio in the rear carriage house, coached band classes (for folks that are new to playing in bands), drum camps for kids (and adults), and more small shows in our large basement room. However, first we just need to finalize building, painting and decorating everything.

What do you envision the space looking like in the end? What kind of vibe/ mood are you hoping for? Will it be similar to the previous space?

We have completed most of the work and the vibe has been established already; just painting the doors, replacing the back fence, fixing broken bricks, and other general renovation stuff. Our vibe has always been relaxed, warm, vintage and raw. I achieved this by highlighting the exposed brick, original woodwork on the staircases, cool mosaic tile and original archway architecture. We also have all black trim and an olive wall color that works well with bricks (the same style as the old place.) I copied/stole the wall color from Red Rocks pizzeria on H Street. We also have a cool vintage Kimball piano in the lobby, as well as a fireplace.

Besides size, what is your new studio like compared to you old one? What does the new one offer that that other did not?

Well, size definitely matters. The biggest and most impactful change is that there are more band rooms available to rent at a given time–three as of now–and four starting in March. The old space really only had one dedicated spot, which was always taken. The new studio also features a big front patio we’d like to use for pop-up shops, a separate two-story carriage house in the back that we plan to use for recording, and of course more parking.

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When we last spoke, 7DrumCity had about 90 students, how many do you have now? What do you think is the main reason for the expansion? Has your adult to kid student ratio changed?

We are currently at about 100 enrolled active drum students. The main reason for the expansion is for demand! And continued projected growth and ability to handle larger numbers of people at a given time. There are a ton of bands out there that need to practice and D.C. just doesn’t have enough practice space. The adult to kid ratio is probably still more adults than kids; probably 75 percent adults, 25 percent kids.

What can people expect at your grand opening festival this Saturday?

Twenty-three bands on three separate stages, local art on the walls, and local food and drinks in your stomach. The festival pass includes a meal and a drink.

What kind of preparation has gone into planning the festival? Where did the idea come from?

A lot!! We will have almost 100 performing musicians, so we have to just break it down and delegate roles. We also figured out pricing for food and drinks so that it all made sense. Basically, this is a unique festival because we’re also providing a meal and a drink in the ticket price. The idea came from our good friend Luis (singer for The Prahns and Delta Creeps), who wanted to do a “South By North Capitol” arts festival. However, the timing worked out such that it would be best to just call it the opening festival.

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Do you have anything planned for after the festival? What’s next for 7DrumCity?

I need a vacation! Been working 90-plus hours per week cramming for this. It’s gonna be really really awesome and I can’t wait. However, it might be a good time to do a strategic vacation.

Next steps after we finish buildout and do the festival are to add the recording, group classes, and band ensembles as before. Also, I’m interested in acquiring more property on the North Capitol area that can be offered to musicians and artists–perhaps like an artists’ collective still.

Anything else you would like readers to know about 7 Drum City?

We really want to help out folks that are in need in the community. Proceeds from the festival go to SOME (So Others Might Eat) which we’d highly recommend donating to.

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